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By Priya Kathpal


We hear a lot about first six months only breastfeeding and yet by the time the baby turns 4 months or so many new mothers wonder if only breastmilk is enough. An August 2017 report  by UNICEF and WHO in collaboration with the Global Breastfeeding Collective says no country in the world fully meets recommended standards for breastfeeding.

The Global Breastfeeding Scorecard, which evaluated 194 nations, found that only 40 per cent of children younger than six months are breastfed exclusively (given nothing but breastmilk) and only 23 countries (India is not one of them) have exclusive breastfeeding rates above 60 per cent. It is surprising and disheartening to see these numbers when there is nothing but good about breastmilk that too evidence based.

Research shows that breastfeeding has cognitive and health benefits for both infants and their mothers. It is especially critical during the first six months of life, helping prevent diarrhoea and pneumonia, two major causes of death in infants. Mothers who breastfeed have a reduced risk of ovarian and breast cancer, two leading causes of death among women.

A 2009 review recorded several benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for first 6 months. These advantages include a lower risk of gastrointestinal infection for the baby, more rapid maternal weight loss after birth, and delayed return of menstrual periods. No adverse effects on growth have been documented with exclusive breastfeeding for six months. Till about 2012 AAP (American Academy Of Paediatrics) suggested exclusive breastfeeding for first 4 months but this was changed to 6 months after many reviews and studies supported WHO stance.

What is ‘exclusive breastfeeding’??

When a baby receives only breastmilk and no other liquid or food including water its exclusive breastfeeding. This also means not offering things like gripe water, vitamin drops (unless suggested by a trustworthy qualified expert for a reason)etc.

How can you make exclusive breastfeeding possible??

  • Insist on feeding the baby within the first hour of birth and inform your family about the same too. In all probability they will be the ones who have to speak the hospital staff. You can also inform your gynaec about this before hand.
  • Be Aware – The first few weeks, you may be nursing eight to 12 times every 24 hours. Infants move their hands toward their mouths, make sucking noises or mouth movements, or move toward your breast. Don’t wait for your baby to cry. That’s a sign he’s too hungry.
  • Be Patient – Breastfeed as long as your baby wants to nurse each time. Don’t hurry your infant through feedings. Infants typically breastfeed for 10 to 20 minutes on each breast.
  • Comfort – This is key. Relax while breastfeeding, and your milk is more likely to “let down” and flow. Get yourself comfortable with pillows as needed to support your arms, head, and neck, and a footrest to support your feet and legs before you begin to breastfeed.
  • Images of mothers breastfeeding their babies make it look simple — but most women need some help and coaching. It can come from a Lactation Consultant, nurse, doctor, family member, or friend, and it helps mothers get over possible bumps in the road. Reach out to friends, family, and your doctor/LC with any questions you may have. Most likely, the women in your life have had those same questions.
  • Never doubt your supply, if there is genuine concern reach out to an expert and get things cleared. Eat well balanced meals, hydrate and keep calm.
  • If you plan to get back to work within 6 months read about pumping and storing milk to achieve the exclusive 6 month milestone.

Everyone can breastfeed but there definitely are some situations that may need considerations

    • You are HIV positive. You can pass the HIV virus to your infant through breast milk.
    • You have active, untreated TB.
    • You’re receiving chemotherapy for cancer.
    • You’re using an illegal drug, such as cocaine or marijuana.
    • Your baby has a rare condition called galactosemia and cannot tolerate the natural sugar, called galactose, in breast milk.
    • You’re taking certain prescription medications.

    Talk with your doctor before starting to breastfeed if you’re taking prescription drugs of any kind. Your doctor can help you make an informed decision based on your particular medication.

    Having a cold or flush should not prevent you from breastfeeding. Breast milk won’t give your baby the illness and may even give antibodies to your baby to help fight off the illness.

    Breastfeeding is a natural, healthy process. But call your doctor if

    • Your breasts become unusually red, swollen, hard, or sore.
    • You have unusual discharge or bleeding from your nipples.
    • You’re concerned your baby isn’t gaining weight or getting enough milk.

    Its not easy for everyone and it takes a lot but the most important thing is you make informed choices about infant feeding. Not breastfeeding due to lack of awareness or wrong information is something that I feel strongly about. This piece is dedicated to that!

About priya


  • Arva Bhavnagarwala
    12:31 PM - 20 November, 2017

    Hi Priya. This is a very informative article. But, I personally started semisolids for both my kids as soon as they turned 5 months along with breastfeeding too.

  • Neha Sharma
    3:59 PM - 20 November, 2017

    This is some great info, but really sad to read those numbers and knowing that India is not among those countries which have exclusive breastfeeding rates above 60%

  • Nayantara Hegde
    9:33 PM - 20 November, 2017

    Priya this takes me back to our early days.. where we would discuss breastfeeding so much. How far we have come. I am glad you are sharing these tips. It will help so many women.

    • Priya Kathpal
      6:35 AM - 21 November, 2017

      Yes it seems it was just yesterday when we shared notes 😛

  • Nandita Gupta
    4:09 AM - 21 November, 2017

    A very informative post and I am sure will help a lot of new mommies out there.

  • seema
    4:24 AM - 21 November, 2017

    This si so informative and it took me back to my breastfeeding days with my toddler… Thank you for sharing…

  • Neha
    7:19 AM - 21 November, 2017

    Very informative post,I am still breastfeeding and keep going until she wean off herself

  • Sapna Krishnan
    3:53 PM - 21 November, 2017

    A very informative post but the numbers are so heartbreaking. I wish new mothers were informed or given classes on the importance of breastfeeding. Even the gynaecologist can provide a pamphlet. But nobody gains anything out of promoting breastfeeding so nobody wants to do it. 🙁

  • Roopika
    4:49 AM - 23 November, 2017

    Breastfeeding- I would say, is not difficult, but it’s definitely challenging!
    Very helpful info.. sharing it with new moms in my group!

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Exclusive Breastfeeding for first 6 months – What’s The Big Deal????