PART 3: FEEDING INFANTS, YOUNG CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS
FEEDING THE NEWBORN AND INFANTS
BREASTFEEDING: SOME BASIC FACTS
- Your milk is the ideal milk for your baby. All
substitutes are not only inferior, but can be harmful.
- Women of all ages with small or big breasts can
breastfeed their babies. Breastfeeding does not spoil a woman’s figure. Women employed outside the home can also
- Colostrum, the first milk, is vital for the baby. So breastfeeding should start in the delivery room itself,
soon after your baby is born. Colostrum, in the first
few days, and the milk produced in your breasts later on is
all that your baby needs for first 6 months. No water is required even on a very hot day.
- From 6 months onwards, fruits and home made soft foods are to be added to
- Breastfeeding should be continued into the second
year of life.
- A 1-year-old requires almost half the amount of food
an adult normally consumes. The child should have homecooked food.
- In view of their small stomach capacities, most young children need to be fed more often than adults. The diet
should include fruits, vegetables and sprouts.
- To reduce the bulk, oil or ghee may be added to the
- Do not let your child get used to much salt, sugar, fried foods, maida (refined flour) preparations and
- Basically, the Indian diet (including vegetarian) is
well balanced. Imbalances occur because certain families may be poor or due to misconceptions prevalent in several
sections of our society. For example, some families wrongly starve the pregnant mother so the foetus remains
small to facilitate an easier delivery; others overfeed
her. Some families ignorantly start supplementing
breastfeeding before the desired age of 6 months, others delay it till the child
completes one year. All these issues need
to be addressed.
The Secret Of Successful Breastfeeding
I am convinced that all modern mothers want to
breastfeed their babies. However, to ensure that breastfeeding is joyful,
please keep the following points in mind:
- Conviction: You must be
convinced that breastfeeding is not only vital for your baby, but is also good for your
own health. The advantages of breastfeeding enumerated in
this chapter will help convince you.
- Right information: You
need to educate yourself on breastfeeding to be able to confidently oppose relatives
and even health workers who may harbour outdated notions
about breastfeeding, and may suggest a bottle feed to ‘top’ up the breastfeeding.
ADVANTAGES OF BREASTFEEDING TO THE MOTHER
Loving Bond With Your Baby
Breastfeeding facilitates a close, loving bond between
you and your baby. This may also help your child to form good relationships with other people. In the case of
bottle-feeding, the baby might be fed by someone else, and is likely to
get less stimulation.
Lowered Risk Of Bleeding After Delivery
Breastfeeding the baby soon after birth helps to stop
bleeding from the uterus (womb) after delivery, and assists in the expulsion of the placenta.
Iron deficiency is very common in Indian mothers. Exclusive breastfeeding reduces this risk as it delays
the return of menstruation, and thereby prevents iron loss through menstrual flow.
Delayed Risk Of Conception
As long as a woman does not have her periods and
exclusively breastfeeds, she gets 98% protection from pregnancy in
the first 6 months after delivery. However, the couple is
also advised to use other family planning methods
suitable to them.
Reduced Risk Of Cancer
The risk of cancer of the breast and the ovaries is
reduced in breastfeeding mothers.
Quicker Regaining Of The Figure
Contrary to popular belief, a woman who breastfeeds
regains her figure faster compared to a woman who does not. This
is because a breastfeeding mother utilises the fat that is normally accumulated during pregnancy in different
of her body for production of breast milk. Moreover, as the
baby suckles, the mother’s system generates hormones that
make her enlarged uterus contract. As the uterus goes back to
its normal position, the abdomen of a breastfeeding mother regains its shape faster than the abdomen of one who
As far as the breasts are concerned, having a baby
alters the breasts —whether or not a woman breastfeeds. Most changes, however, that are seen in older women are
partly due to age. Wearing a well-fitting brassiere will ensure that the breasts have a good shape.
Breast milk is always ready to be given to the baby; it
does not need any preparation. It does not get spoilt in the breast even if the mother is not able to feed her baby for a
number of days.
Then there is the economics of it; a mother has to spend about Rs. 1,000 a month to feed her child with powder
milk. This amount does not include the time costs of preparing
an infant formula.
Artificially fed children are also more prone to
illnesses like diarrhoea and pneumonia. The family may have to spend a
lot for the treatment of such diseases.
For many women, breastfeeding confers a sense of calm
and satisfaction, which is probably related to the helpful hormonal changes while breastfeeding.
ADVANTAGES TO YOUR BABY
The human brain has to grow very fast in the first years
of life. Breast milk is ideally suited to fuel this growth.
It provides complete nutrition for your baby in the first 6 months. Quickly and easily digested, it contains the
most suitable protein and fat for your baby and in the right quantities; more lactose (milk sugar) which a human baby
needs; enough vitamins and iron; enough water for your baby even in an extremely hot climate; the correct
amount of salt, calcium and phosphate and a special enzyme
which digests fat.
The absorption of zinc and iron from breast milk is unsurpassed by any other source in early infancy. This
protects the baby against early zinc deficiency and iron deficiency
In later infancy, the ideal balance of amino acids
provided by breast milk adds to the quality of protein in the
total diet, which is frequently deficient in other sources of
protein. That is why breastfeeding is recommended well into the second year of your baby’s life. Being a rich source
of Vitamin A, breast milk reduces the risk of Vitamin A deficiency and blindness.
Breastfed babies do not need multivitamins and Vitamin C drops. Take these vitamins yourself if you are not
taking enough fruits, vegetables and sprouts in your diet. Your breastfed baby also does not need digestive enzyme
preparations, carminative mixtures and gripe water.
Moreover, some of these preparations contain alcohol, which is not
good for your child’s health. If the baby does get colic,
see Crying in the chapter on
THE A-Z OF CHILDHOOD
Protection Against Infections
Research has shown that, in developing countries, a non-breastfed infant is 14 times more likely to die from
diarrhoea, 4 times more likely to die from respiratory diseases, and 2.5 times more from other infections when
compared to an exclusively breastfed infant. Breastfed
babies also have less risk of cholera, newborn sepsis and meningitis,
amoebiasis, giardiasis, ear infections and appendicitis.
Breast milk also enhances the infant’s immune response to certain vaccines.
Breastfeeding during diarrhoea and other infections
helps a baby to recover much more quickly. This protection against infections is provided by a host of substances present
in your milk, like antibodies, white blood cells, bifidus factor, lactoferrin and several others. They protect the baby
against many bacterial and viral infections.
Fewer Allergic Disorders
Allergic diseases like asthma and eczema are less common
in breastfed babies. If you have a family history of
allergy on your or your husband’s side, it is important to avoid
adding on artifical milk, egg, cocoa and wheat and peanut preparations to
your baby’s diet until she completes 6 months.
Reduced Risks Of Cancer
There is evidence to show that the risk of certain
cancers (like lymphoma) is reduced in breastfed babies.
Other factors being equal, your breastfed baby is likely
to have a better configuration of the face and alignment of teeth. Caries in the teeth are also less in breastfed children.
Lowered Risk Of Diabetes
There is a reduced risk of insulin-dependent diabetes
mellitus among breastfed children.
Protection Against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), also called cot
death, is ascribed to deaths that take place suddenly in healthy infants without any obvious cause. The risk of this
tragic condition is probably reduced in breastfed babies and
babies put to sleep on their backs.
Recent research appears to suggest that babies who are breastfed attain their milestones of development earlier
and turn out to be more intelligent than those who are not.
Catering To Unique Needs
Recent research has shown that the milk of mothers who deliver prematurely (before the expected time) has a
different composition compared to that of mothers who deliver at
the expected time. Nevertheless, in both cases, the milk is
ideally suited to their babies, as if matched for each other.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
When Should My Baby Get Her First Breastfeed?
As soon as the baby is born, the doctor will hand her to you. Hold the naked baby against your chest for direct
skin-to-skin contact. Depending upon the temperature in the delivery room, both of you will be covered lightly
with a sheet, with or without a blanket. Most babies,
especially those whose mothers have not been doped, are alert for about 40 minutes to an hour after delivery. Take
advantage of this period. Try to see if she might be interested in breastfeeding right away. You will find that some babies
turn their heads to one side and start looking for the nipple. Some succeed in getting hold of the nipple and
start suckling. You will be thrilled to see this happening. If
she does not attempt this on her own, you can gently bring
her mouth nearer one breast and see if she wants to suckle. Do not force her if she is not interested.
This early contact with your baby is important for
bonding with her and for giving her the valuable colostrum.
It has been observed that the suckling reflex of a
newborn is at its height 20 to 30 minutes after birth. If the
infant is not fed at this time, the reflex diminishes rapidly to
reappear adequately 40 hours later. It may be further delayed if
the mother is ‘overdoped’. On the other hand, if the
baby is put to the breast within half an hour after birth, she takes
the breast properly and early weight loss, which is so common in newborn babies, is
Nursing soon after delivery also has a laxative effect
on the meconium. The early evacuation of meconium tends to decrease the reabsorption of bilirubin (the yellow
pigment responsible for jaundice). This pigment is liberated by
the breakdown of cast-off red blood cells present in the
intestines. Decreased reabsorption of bilirubin reduces the appearance of
jaundice. Even if the jaundice does appear, effective evacuation of meconium reduces its severity.
What Is Rooming-In?
The practice of rooming-in means that the baby is kept
in the mother’s room throughout the hospital stay. Contrary
to popular belief, the mother who has her baby beside her
feels less anxious about her and sleeps better. Even if she is sharing a room with another mother or mothers, she is
not unduly disturbed.
The risk of your baby picking up infections from other babies in the nursery is very high. If one baby has
acquired an infection, she is infectious even before she manifests
any symptoms of it. At that time, she can pass on the
infection to other babies kept together in a crowded nursery.
Even if the nursery is not crowded, the nurse may not always have the time to take each baby to her mother
every time she cries; this may interfere with breastfeeding.
Babies who do not get adequate amount of the antibodies-rich colostrum in the first few days are at great risk of
getting infection. Moreover, the nurse herself may be carrying germs
that she may pass on to the babies under her care in the nursery. Each time a baby is to be touched, it is
essential that the nursing staff wash their hands properly. But it
could be that this is not done properly.
It is true that a mother may also have germs that she
may pass on to her baby. But the point worth noting here is that the mother makes antibodies against such germs in her
breast milk, which she then passes on to her baby to protect
her against getting infected. Even when other mothers share
a room with their babies, the distance between two babies
is much more than in the nursery.
Rooming-in, more than anything else, helps in proper initiation and maintenance of the breastfeeding that
provides the baby with all the anti-infective factors, and this
protects her from catching an infection.
What about visitors infecting the baby? My experience of working and teaching in a public hospital which caters
to the poorer socio-economic stratum, as well as in a private hospital, indicates that poor exclusively breastfed
babies kept exposed to visitors have less risk of getting infections compared to babies kept in the nursery of a private
hospital away from visitors. However, to play it safe, you may
put a notice outside the room or on the cot, requesting people not to visit the baby if they have a cold or a cough or any
other illness, and to avoid touching the baby.
Rooming-in facilities reduce the workload of the
hospital staff who then have more time for the babies whose mothers are ill. It gives you a chance to respond to your baby
right from the beginning. You can feed her or hold her when
you want to. It increases your chances of successful
breastfeeding. A study has shown that mothers who had the rooming-in experience were more self-confident with their babies.
By the time they were discharged, they could understand
indications given by their babies’ crying better than mothers who
did not have this facility.
What About Breastfeeding?
After a normal delivery, you and your baby will be taken
to your room. If you are not heavily sedated, keep your baby next to you
in your bed. You may like to cuddle her if she is still
awake. In private hospitals, a baby cot is provided next to your
bed. You can decide if you want to keep the baby all the time in
your bed or partly in the cot and in the bed according to
If you delivered by a Caesarean section under general anaesthesia, you may be on a drip. Even then, the baby
shoul be given to you for breastfeeding after about 4 hours of the operation, when you recover from the
effects of anaesthesia. You will need the assistance of
a hospital attendant or a close relative to give your
child th first breastfeed. As you lie on your back, the nurse may place the baby on a pillow raised to the level of your
breast, so that she can conveniently reach it.
Here it must be mentioned that if your first child was delivered by a Caesarean section, it is not mandatory
that the subsequent delivery has to be Caesarean. You may raise
this issue with your doctor. But leave the final decision about whether an operation is needed again or not to him.
Also a word about episiotomy. This is a cut made on your skin just outside the birth canal for easy delivery of
the baby. It is possible that you needed it and you should accept
it if it was inevitable. However, you could mention to your
doctor that as far as possible, you would like to avoid episiotomy. Episiotomy may be needed with a first
delivery and can
often be avoided in subsequent deliveries.
I touched on this subject because following a Caesarean
or an episiotomy, your doctor may give you sedatives or pain-killers which can adversely affect your close
interaction with your baby and proper initiation of breastfeeding.
In case your doctor decides to do the episiotomy, he may prescribe drugs to relieve the pain of the stitches.
Doctors have found that if the baby is given to the mother soon
after delivery for skin-to-skin contact, the mother gets so engrossed in her baby that stitching is often done
without taking recourse to drugs for suppressing pain.
A word about the duration of the first breastfeed. The
first feed could be given in the labour room or after you come to your room. This feed might last from 10 to 45 minutes
and may be from one or both breasts.
Please Explain About The Production Of Milk.
The ability to breastfeed does not depend upon the size
of your breasts. Milk is produced in the milk-producing
gland tissue (alveoli) inside the breast. The size of the
breast depends upon the supporting tissue or fat in the breast.
As the baby suckles at the breast, the mother produces a hormone that helps milk production. This hormone is
called prolactin. As the baby continues to suckle, the mother produces another hormone that helps the milk to come
down from the alveoli to the dilated milk ducts (lactiferous
sinuses which lie under the areola— the circular dark skin around the nipple). This second hormone is
oxytocin, and the
mechanism by which the milk comes down from the alveoli is called
the let-down reflex. Breastfeeding immediately after birth stimulates the production of these
hormones and of breast milk.
Small swellings are present on the areola. These are glands that produce an oily material to keep the
The breasts of most mothers, especially first-time
mothers, often feel soft and empty for 2 to 3 days as if there is
no milk. These breasts secrete a small amount of colostrum —
the yellowish first milk. After 2 to 3 days or even after a week, the breasts may suddenly start producing too much milk.
They now feel full and sometimes hard. After a week or
so, the breasts feel soft again. The mother starts wondering whether milk production is reduced. This is not true.
The mother is producing enough milk as per the requirement
of her baby; the supply and demand are now well adjusted.
The milk produced in the alveoli flows into the milk
ducts and collects under the dark portion of the breast called
the areola. To get enough milk, the baby must therefore take enough of the breast into her mouth so as to empty the
lactiferous sinuses with her tongue.
Therefore, baby should breastfeed and not nipple-feed.
How Does The Mother Position The Baby Correctly At The Breast?
Positioning your baby correctly will ensure that she is breastfeeding and not nipple-feeding. This means that
the baby should be taking not only the nipple into her
mouth, but part of the breast as well.
For effective transfer of milk from the breast to the
baby’s mouth, you can choose a sitting or lying down position. The important thing is that you should feel comfortable. If
you are sitting, you will find it more comfortable if your back
Lift your breast with your palm and offer the nipple as
well as the breast to the baby. Do not pinch the nipple or
the breast or try to push the nipple into the baby’s
mouth. Touch the baby’s lips, preferably the upper lip, with your nipple. If
the baby opens her mouth a little, do not offer the
breast and the nipple. Again touch her lips with your nipple. As
soon as she opens her mouth wide and shows interest in feeding,quickly move her on to the breast. Let
lower lip be well below the nipple. This helps to get the baby’s
chin close to the breast so that her tongue is right under the
lactiferous sinuses containing milk. Then the nipple is positioned
above the centre of the baby’s mouth, so that it points
towards the palate. As soon as the nipple touches the palate, the
baby starts suckling and when her mouth fills with milk, she swallows it.
To make sure that your baby is positioned properly at
the breast, check the following points: (Fig. 4).
- Your baby’s entire body, including her neck,
shoulder and abdomen, should be facing you and close to your body. Her chin should touch the breast.
- Her mouth should be wide open with her lips curled outwards.
- More of the areola should be visible above the baby’s upper lip and less below the lower lip. But if the
areola is big, more of it may be visible, even if the baby is positioned properly.
- The baby should be taking slow, deep sucks.
- After the feed, the baby should appear relaxed and satisfied.
- You should not feel any nipple pain.
- You should be able to hear your baby swallow, but
this is not essential.
After offering the breast to the baby, keep your other
hand free to stroke her hair or play with her fingers. Do not
put a finger on the breast near the baby’s nose to prevent
any difficulty in breathing; this is unnecessary and may interfere with proper milk transfer to the baby.
What Is Comfort Suckling?
Some babies like to suckle more than others even if
their hunger is satisfied. Your baby may be one of those who may continue to suckle for comfort. For the same reason, she
may start sucking her finger or put her hand in her mouth.
You may then think that she is hungry; if you are not sure,
offer her your breast. You do not have to worry about
overfeeding your breastfed child.
How Long Should A Breastfeed Last In The First Week Or Two?
Some doctors wrongly advise that the baby should not be
fed for longer than 10 minutes at each breast. They fear that a more prolonged feed may result in the mother developing
sore nipples. This is not true. Do not time a feed. Let
your baby suckle in the proper position for as long as she
wants. The first breastfeed - given in the delivery room or
after you come to your room - may last from 10 to 45 minutes and
may be from one or both breasts.
In the first day or two, the baby may suckle for a
prolonged period but may demand a feed after 4 to 6 hours and sleep in-between. After 2 days, she may want the feed very often but may suckle for a shorter period. Towards the
end of the
week, she may settle down to 2 to 4-hourly feeds.
As the days pass, the feeds are likely to become
shorter. But if your baby is taking more than 45 minutes for a
total breastfeed after the first week, you should check
whether you are positioning her properly.
Some Friends Tell Me That I Will Not Have Enough Milk In The First 2 To 3 Days. What Should I Give To
The Baby Till Then?
Your newborn baby does not require anything other than colostrum — the milk that the breasts make in the
first few days after delivery.
Do not let anyone squeeze the breasts for milk. Simply
let the baby be put to the breast when hungry. Elderly relatives sometimes feel that colostrum is harmful to the newborn.
Try to explain to them that colostrum is essential for the
baby and, though secreted in small amounts, is enough to meet all
the needs of your baby. It is rich in Vitamins A and K and
zinc. It contains large amounts of antibodies and other factors
that protect the child against life-threatening infections.
It also has an immunoglobulin that coats the lining of the baby’s immature intestine and
prevents large protein molecules
from entering the newborn’s blood system. This reduces the
risk of her getting allergic diseases like asthma and eczema
later in life.
What Is The Harm In Giving Water, Honey, Glucose Water Or Artificial Milk In The First Few Days?
Such feeds given to newborns before the free flow of
milk from the breasts are called, prelacteal feeds. These can
be harmful for you as well as your baby and should be
If prelacteal feeds are given, the baby may not suckle adequately at the breast as her stomach is already
full. Consequently, she will not get colostrum. Such feeds may
also be contaminated and result in serious infections. Allergies are more common in babies given animal milk
(including powder milk) in the first months of life. If
these feeds are given through a bottle, the baby may not make
the required effort to suckle and empty the breast. This either results in breastfeeding failure or may cause
engorgement and infection of the breasts.
Some health workers give prelacteal feeds to otherwise normal babies who happen to be rather big in size or are
small. They fear that these babies may get hypoglycaemia (less sugar in blood). This fear is unjustified.
Colostrum is enough for these babies.
Some health workers give water or glucose water, fearing that the baby may get dehydrated. Babies are born with a
store of water and such feeds are therefore unnecessary.
Sometimes, a prelacteal feed is given as a ‘test feed’
to safeguard aspiration into the lungs in a rare condition
called tracheoesophageal fistula. In this condition, the
trachea (the windpipe) is connected to the oesophagus (the food pipe).
These health workers do not realise that colostrum is a physiological secretion. Even if it is aspirated into
the lungs, it is not irritating and gets readily absorbed. On the
other hand, sugar, water and artificial milk are quite irritating if aspirated.
Being aware of these facts, if your doctor still feels
that the baby needs any feed other than colostrum, he may
prescribe it accordingly as an exception.
What Is Exclusive Breastfeeding? How Long Should My Baby Be Exclusively Breastfed? What About
Supplementing Breast Milk With Water, Fruit Juice, Soup, Other Milk, Gripe Water, Etc?
The term ‘exclusive’ breastfeeding has gained
importance because babies thus breastfed are far more healthy than those
partially breastfed. It means that your baby is given
only breast milk from the moment of birth upto the age of 6 months. This is all she needs. I therefore recommend
that all infants be exclusively breastfed for 6 months, but
at least until the completion of 4 months of age. Breastfeeding
should then be continued up to 2 years of age or beyond with
the addition of adequate complementary foods from 6 months of age.
Some doctors have a habit of prescribing fruit juice or
soup from the age of 6 weeks. This is harmful. I do not recommend this.
Even in very hot, dry weather, breast milk contains sufficient water for your baby’s needs. Additional
water or sugary drinks are not needed to quench the baby’s
thirst. In fact, they pose a definite risk of contamination and of
causing infection. Also, if you satisfy the baby’s thirst with
liquids other than breast milk, she may not suckle vigorously at the breast and this may lead to less production of breast
milk. Gripe water may contain alcohol and extra sugar, and is
Do Breastfed Babies Need Multivitamins And Vitamin C Drops?
Some hospitals routinely recommend these vitamins. They are not needed. In any case, multivitamin drops also
contain enough Vitamin C to prevent any possible Vitamin C deficiency in a baby. So it is irrational to prescribe
Breast milk in malnourished women can be deficient in Vitamin K, the B group of vitamins and Vitamins C and D.
I have not yet come across a single case of deficiency
of Vitamins K, B (except Vitamin Bl2) and C in the
breastfed babies under my care. It is possible that these babies
get enough colostrum, which is rich in Vitamin K. I also
advise mothers to take seasonal fruits, vegetables (leafy as
well as raw), milk or milk products and sprouts, as these provide an adequate amount of these vitamins in their breast milk.
However, if a mother follows a diet that does not include such foods, I would prescribe multivitamins for her rather
than for the baby, whereby both would benefit.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause anaemia and brain and nerve damage. I have seen severe anaemia and serious
effects on the mental faculties of 2 breastfed infants whose
mothers were on a strict vegan diet.
Regarding Vitamin D, I have come across 4 cases of
rickets among the thousands of breastfed babies that I have seen. It is interesting that in each of these cases, my advice to
expose the babies to the morning sunlight for 10 minutes or so
was ignored by the parents or by the maid who felt that the
child’s skin would become dark if exposed to the sun. Our skin
has a pro-Vitamin D, which needs to be exposed to light for conversion into Vitamin D.
In these cases, we are referring to normal newborns,
born at the expected time. Premature babies may need extra vitamins and certain minerals like calcium and iron.
However, it may be worthwhile to note that rickets occurs in a growing child. Around the age of 9 months, I like to make sure
that the child does not have rickets, so that treatment can be
given if required.
Do I Have To Give Calcium And Iron To My Breastfed Baby?
Breast milk has enough calcium to meet the normal requirements of the baby. Even if your baby is teething,
you need not give her calcium. Your milk also has one of the
best forms of iron that is absorbed into the baby’s system remarkably well. Till the child triples her birth
weight, all her iron requirements are met by your milk alone.
In one study reported in the Journal
of Pediatrics, none of the infants receiving human milk as the only milk in
the first 12 months of life, without other foods containing
iron, were anaemic at 7 months, compared with 43% of those breastfed for a shorter period. Good iron status was
found at 12 and 24 months of age. However, we recommend addition of foods other than your milk after the baby
completes 6 months of age. That provides her extra iron
from other sources as well. I have seen iron-deficiency
anaemia in breastfed children where introduction of other foods was delayed much beyond 6 months. Such children can become
irritable and develop loss of appetite and may need more breast milk, iron-containing foods and, at times, iron
in medicinal form.
Does My Child Need Extra Calcium For Healthy Teeth?
No extra calcium is needed in breastfed children born at
the expected time. Caries of teeth are common in bottle-fed children. Breastfed children can also get caries, but
this is extremely rare. It is generally seen in children who
have an inherent tendency to get caries and who, even after they
have started teething, have a tendency to go to sleep on the
breast after feeding.
It is important to note that breastfed children can also
get diseases seen in bottle-fed babies. But it must be appreciated that the incidence of these diseases is much higher in
artificially fed children. Don’t stop breastfeeding if a dentist tells you that prolonged breastfeeding causes caries of
teeth; follow his advice regarding ways of preventing caries (see Teething
And Care Of Teeth in
the chapter on THE A-Z OF CHILDHOOD
Should I Breastfeed My Child At Night Or Not?
Yes, you must do so as long as you want to. You can breastfeed in a lying-down position. Breastfeeding at
night increases your milk supply because more prolactin is
secreted at night than during the day. This also plays an important role
in preventing another pregnancy.
What Is Demand Feeding? How Frequently Should My Baby Be Breastfed?
You must breastfeed whenever the baby wants to. This is called demand feeding or unrestricted breastfeeding. The
more the suckling, the more breast milk will be
produced. It also helps to prevent engorgement or undue fullness of your
Breast milk is digested easily and more rapidly than artificial milk. So your baby may want to feed
frequently. She may feed irregularly at first; only a few times in the
first day or two, then very often for several days. Every baby is different, but most settle down into some sort of rhythm
after a week or two.
However, follow your instincts and recognise when your child’s cries are not for a feed. This is termed ‘intelligent
demand feeding’. For example, if your baby had a
proper feed and then starts crying within half an hour or so, the reason is
probably not hunger but something else. It could be a
wet nappy. The baby may need to be wiped or may want to be picked up for more body contact. She may be feeling hot
or may want to be covered up. After ruling out these possibilities, if the baby continues to cry, try nursing
her again. A breastfed baby is not likely to be overfed.
What Should I Do If My Baby Does Not Demand Milk Often Enough Or Wants To Be Fed Too Often?
There are a few babies who are rather quiet and do not
cry when hungry. They do not pass urine frequently, nor do they gain weight properly. Such babies may have to be
awakened, say at 3-hourly intervals, and breastfed.
Babies who exhaust their mothers by asking too
frequently for breastfeeds are often not being breastfed in the
proper position. Proper positioning helps such babies.
Sometimes, the baby may want to suckle for comfort although she is not hungry.
What Should Be The Duration Of A Single Feed In An Older Infant?
It can vary from less than 5 minutes to 20 or more
minutes. Some babies are slow feeders. But they take the same total amount of milk as fast feeders. If we stop a slow feeder
before she is ready, she may not take enough milk. Also she may
not get the energy-rich hind milk that she needs to grow normally.
Please remember that suckling for a prolonged period
does not cause sore nipples.
Should I Breastfeed From Both Breasts Each Time I Feed My Baby?
Take your cue from your baby. She may want to have milk from one or from both breasts at each feed. You can
start feeding her from, say the right breast at one feed and
from the left at the next.
Tell Me A Little About Foremilk And Hind Milk.
At the beginning of a feed, your milk (the foremilk)
normally appears watery and bluish. It is rich in protein,
lactose, vitamins, minerals and water. Towards the end of the
feed, the hind milk looks whiter because it is rich in fat.
Babies need both foremilk and hind milk. That is why it is
important that your baby is allowed to keep suckling from one side till she gets the hind milk and leaves the breast on her own.
Only then should she be offered the other breast. If you let your baby do this, suckling from only one side may
While suckling, some babies rest in between taking a few deep sucks. Their eyes may be closed, but they have not
yet had their fill. You may wrongly think that the baby has
gone to sleep after finishing the feed and remove her from the
breast. In this case, the baby will not get the hind milk and
may appear dissatisfied.
If, for some reason, the baby has to be removed from the breast before the feed is finished, do not pull her
forcefully away. First, break the suction by pressing her chin downwards or by putting your finger between her cheek
and your breast and then press the breast gently away from her.
How Does One Prevent And Treat Engorgement Of The Breast And Breast Abscess?
You may get congestion of the breasts after 3 to 4 days
of delivery. As soon as you feel that your breasts are becoming taut, remove some of the milk by expressing it with your
hands. If you like, you may drink this valuable expressed milk instead of throwing it away. Unrestricted feeding or
demand feeding a baby would also help to prevent engorgement.
Even if your breasts develop an infection, it is safe to continue breastfeeding the baby. If you do not want to
do so, continue expressing the milk from them. Hot water fomentation is helpful. You must take enough rest. An 8
to 10 days course of antibiotics may be needed.
If an abscess does form, surgical help may be required.
You should start breastfeeding from the operated side as soon as possible. This does not delay healing of the wound.
Can Engorgement Of Breasts Give Rise To Fever?
Usually not. Some mothers do get fever, but it is not
high. The fever is not accompanied by symptoms like chills,
‘a general feeling of being unwell’ and body ache, and
does not last more than a day or two. If it does, your doctor may consider the possibility of an infection that may need
In the presence of an infection, the mother feels unwell
and may also have a chill.
What Is A Blocked Or Plugged Duct?
As mentioned earlier, the milk is produced in the
alveoli of the breast. This flows down the milk ducts and collects under
the dark portion of the breast called the areola.
Sometimes, thickened milk may block a particular duct. The milk
starts collecting behind this obstruction and this leads to the formation of a hard lump. In case of only a blocked
duct, the mother does not have any fever and looks otherwise well.
A blocked duct must be treated. Otherwise, infection can set in, leading to mastitis and breast abscess. In
mastitis, a portion of the breast feels hot, swollen and becomes
painful. In an abscess, the swelling, when examined, appears to
be full of fluid.
A lump due to a blocked duct should be gently massaged towards the nipple to help empty that part of the
breast. The baby should be fed more frequently from that breast. If
you have been feeding lying down (which is otherwise correct), try feeding in a sitting position. You can also try
holding the baby under your arm, instead of across the front. All
this may help to remove milk more efficiently from the blocked segment of the breast.
What Causes Soreness Of Nipples?
Some mothers get sore or cracked nipples in the first week of breastfeeding because of poor positioning of the
baby on the breast. The baby does not have enough of the breast in her mouth and she suckles only the nipple,
thus hurting it.
Do remember that frequent or prolonged suckling does not cause sore nipples.
Another possible cause of sore nipples is introducing
the child to artificial ‘nipples’ like the teat of a
bottle, a pacifier or a nipple shield in the first weeks of life. This can
affect proper suckling at the breast, resulting in sore nipples.
Also, if a mother takes the baby off the breast without
first breaking the suction (by putting a finger between the breast and the baby’s mouth), she may get sore nipples.
Breastfeeding must be continued despite sore or cracked nipples. However, the baby should be positioned properly
on the breast with enough of the breast in her mouth.
Expose the nipples to air (and also the sun, if
possible) and apply a drop of hind milk to the cracked nipples.
The soreness usually settles down within a few days. If
the soreness persists or if it suddenly appears after a week
or two of delivery, it is usually due to a fungal infection.
The area around the nipple feels itchy and the pain seems to shoot down into the breast. The baby may also have thrush
(white curd-like patches inside the mouth that are not easy to remove). Your doctor will prescribe a local application
for the nipples as well as the baby’s mouth. Sometimes, you
may also need to be given an oral medication.
It is important to remember that a little tenderness of
the nipples, when you begin to breastfeed, is quite normal
in the first 2 or 3 days after delivery.
Would Washing The Breast Before And After Each Feed And Application Of Any Cream Or Ointment Help
In The Prevention Or Treatment Of Sore Or Cracked Nipples?
No. It is just the opposite. Daily bathing is enough.
Never wash your nipples with soap. Frequent washing or
cleaning of the breast is likely to remove the anti-bacterial
lubricating oil produced by the Montgomery’s glands present in the areola.
This can lead to dryness and thus contribute to soreness
of nipples. Avoid using creams or ointments sold in the
market for the prevention or treatment of sore or cracked
nipples. They may actually add to the problem.
My Nipples Are Flat. Will I Be Able To Breastfeed?
Yes. Successful breastfeeding does not depend on the
size of the breast or the size of the nipples. Just touch or gently rub your nipple with your fingers. If it becomes slightly
more prominent, it is protractile. A flat or a small nipple
that becomes prominent (even a little) on being touched is
normal. So the size of the ‘resting’ nipple is not important.
In rare cases, a nipple does not protract. If you try
and pull it out, it goes deeper into the breast. This is an inverted or retracted nipple. The baby has even more
difficulty suckling from an engorged breast with an
inverted nipple. In such a case, the mother should express the
milk until the breast feels soft. This helps the baby to take enough of the
breast in her mouth. If she finds it
difficult to express adequately, the husband can suckle her
breasts to help relieve engorgement.
Some mothers with inverted nipples may need the help of
a disposable syringe (see Fig. 5). The nozzle end of a 10 ml plastic disposable syringe is cut off (Step one). The
piston is introduced from the ragged cut end side (Step two). The mother then applies the smooth end to her breast and
pulls on the piston gently and holds it in that position for about a minute (Step three). The nipple protrudes out into the
syringe. The mother reduces the traction while releasing
the syringe. The nipple stays protruded for some time; and
the baby is immediately put to the breast. As the nipple is
easily taken into the mouth, the baby is able to suckle in a
proper position. The nipple retracts again after a while, but
not to the same extent. The procedure can be repeated several times
a day for a couple of days. This corrects the retraction permanently in almost all cases.
My Baby Is One Month Old And Has Been Exclusively Breastfed. How Do I Know That She Has Been Getting Enough Breast Milk?
A baby who is having only mother’s milk and nothing
else and who urinates 6 to 8 times or more in 24 hours is getting enough breast milk.
If you fail to count the number of times she passes
urine, look at the colour of her urine. A light-coloured urine
most of the time is an indication that she is getting enough
breast milk. An occasional passage of dark urine can be ignored. However, in the first few days at the hospital after
delivery, the frequency of urine may be less as the colostrum has
less amount of water in it. Also, if the baby is kept wrapped
up al the time, she may sweat and thus may pass less urine.
This urine may also appear dark in colour.
But Why Do Most Of My Friends Complain That They Are Not Getting Enough Breast Milk?
If a child cries more often, many mothers, grandmothers
or maidservants start assuming that the baby has been remaining hungry and is not getting enough breast milk.
They often forget that crying in a baby is not always due to hunger. She probably wants to be held and cuddled for more body
contact. She may need to suckle the breast simply for comfort. She may have a wet nappy or colic or may be
feeling hot or cold or just not feeling well.
A large number of mothers also start assuming wrongly that they are not producing enough milk if the child’s
hand goes to her mouth and she starts sucking her fingers.
This sucking is due to the rooting reflex. If anything
touches the baby’s cheeks, including her own fingers, she tends to
turn her mouth in that direction. This is called rooting.
Mothers also worry that the baby is not getting enough
if she feeds for a prolonged period or if she finishes her breastfeed fast. Some babies are fast feeders; others
are slow. Also, as babies grow older, they may finish the feed in
a shorter time compared to the early days when they
suckled for a longer period.
Some mothers wrongly start assuming that they are not producing enough milk if the breasts feel soft. ‘Congested
breasts’ is a phenomenon of only the early days or if
frequent suckling is not emptying the breasts. When the supply and demand of breast milk are well adjusted between the
mother and the baby, the breasts should and do feel soft. In any case, the mother should note the colour of the
urine and count the number of times the baby passes urine and onlythen decide if her baby is getting enough milk or not.
Does Adequate Weight Gain Also Help To Know Whether The Baby Is Getting Enough Breast Milk?
Yes, provided the weighing machine is accurate and the
baby is weighed on the same weighing scale, either naked or with the same type of clothes on each occasion.
Also, many people wrongly assume that a baby must gain 2 pounds or 1 kilo in weight per month. Some normal
babies may gain only half that. And then, a baby may normally
lose some weight in the first few days after birth and regain
it after that to return to her original weight on the tenth day.
The real gain in weight should be calculated after the tenth day.
My personal experience shows that a mother who feeds her baby on demand from the time she is born finds that her
baby regains her birth weight even before the tenth day.
Do I Need A Drug To Increase Milk Supply?
Frequent suckling at the breast and not bottle-feeding
is more important to ensure adequate supply of breast milk than medicines to increase your milk output.
Metoclopramide, given as a 10 mg tablet, 3 times a day, for 10 days or longer,
may help to increase the milk supply. But make sure that
the baby is not simultaneously fed with a bottle.
If the elders at home want you to take some special diet to increase your milk supply, there is no harm in trying
Why Do Some Babies Suddenly Stop Breastfeeding?
The cause may be as simple as the mother beginning to
smell different; for example, if she eats a lot of garlic, or uses a new
kind of soap or perfume.
On the other hand, it may be something serious, For instance, a baby who stops suckling may have developed a
serious infection or may have suffered brain damage.
Other cases include a very small baby weighing less than 1800 gms who needs expressed breast milk given with a
cup or bondla (also called paladai or jhinook)
until she can suckle more strongly; a baby having a blocked nose due to a
cold or one having thrush (a fungal infection) in her mouth; a
baby who is used to the teat of a bottle, and one who has
been separated from the mother for some time.
Sometimes, a mother may have an oversupply of milk and a large amount of milk may pour into the baby’s mouth,
making her choke. In such cases, we advise the mother to
express some milk before each feed. Or the mother could lie on
her back, and keep the baby on her chest and then
breastfeed. Sometimes, of course, the baby may really not be getting enough milk.
What Should A Mother Do If Her Baby Is Really Not Getting Enough Milk?
In such a case, the mother should stay close to the baby
at all times. She should cuddle her as much as possible and make the baby sleep with her. She should offer the breast to
the baby whenever she shows an interest in suckling. But she should not force her. Some babies suckle better when
they are sleepy. The idea is to stimulate the breasts by
The mother should also see that the baby is positioned properly on the breast with enough of the areola in her
mouth. She should make sure that the child is not given any bottlefeed. Whenever the baby shows interest,
sh should breastfeed her and, after that, if she is convinced that
the baby is still hungry, she should express her breasts and
offer that milk to the baby in a cup or a bondla. If that is not
possible, the baby might be given half strength cow or buffalo
milk from a cup or a bondla
breastfeed. Never replace a breastfeed with an artificial feed as far as
Diluted feeds leave the baby hungry, so she is more willing to
try to suckle.
But do ensure that the baby is not starving. Check the urine output and the weight gain.
What About Leaking Breasts?
Breasts may sometimes leak in the first few weeks after delivery. This usually stops on its own. Meanwhile,
small pieces of any towelling material can be kept between the brassiere and the breast.
Should A Working Woman Get Her Baby Used To Bottle-Feeding?
As per Central Government rules, a woman is entitled to 4% months’ paid maternity leave. She is also allowed
to take any leave due to her after that period. A working mother
can breastfeed the baby when she is at home and breastfeed
more often during holidays. When she is at work, expressed
breast milk, mashed. banana and other fruits, homemade soft
foods, and beaten curds or buttermilk can be given to the baby.
If essential, artificial milk can also be given.
Expressed breast milk can be stored for at least 4 hours
at room temperature without getting spoiled. Avoid bottlefeeding. Babies easily get used to taking milk directly from a
small glass or a bondla.
A tragic situation arises when the mother introduces the bottle in the first weeks after delivery for the baby
‘to get used to the bottle’. As the process of sucking through
the artificial nipple of the bottle is different from
suckling at the breast, the baby may start preferring the bottle and
avoid breastfeeding. This may lead to failure in breastfeeding.
See the section on Working
Women in the
chapter on FAMILY ISSUES.
Can Twins Or Premature Babies Also Be Fed Adequately On Breast Milk?
Frequent suckling can provide enough milk for 2 babies.
In short, one breast, when frequently emptied, can provide enough milk for one baby.
Successfully breastfed twins.
Premature babies who can swallow but cannot suckle are
given expressed breast milk in a cup or a bondla. Our experience has convinced us that it is more practical to
feed with an ordinary cup, small glass or a bondla (also called
than with a spoon. There is no risk of aspiration into the breathing passage in feeding with a small glass.
The mother holds the baby in her lap, lifts the head higher
than the rest of the body and gradually lets her take the glass.
Sometimes, if a baby is too weak to swallow, she is
given expressed breast milk through a stomach tube.
It is important for the baby to start suckling at the
breast as soon as she is able to do so.
Premature babies need more proteins. It is Nature’s wonder that the breast milk of the mother who delivers
prematurely has a higher protein content than a mother
who delivers at full term.
Can A Mother’s Milk Be Too Heavy And Can The Baby Get Diarrhoea Or Vomiting With It?
No, a mother’s milk is just right for her baby. At the
beginning of the feed, the milk is thin (foremilk). Towards the end of the
feed, it becomes thick (hind milk). The foremilk is rich
in lactose and the hind milk is rich in fat. The baby needs
both. The fat-rich milk is also easily digested by the baby
because of a substance present in the mother’s milk that helps in
the digestion of fat.
The stools of a breastfed child are normally loose. Some exclusively breastfed babies pass frequent watery
motions. Sometimes, they are soapy, green, frothy, or mucousy and may even contain reducing substances. Some such babies
may vomit curds or milk off and on. But, as long as they are
getting only mother’s milk, are active, suckle normally and
pass urine frequently, this is normal and no medicine or any other treatment is required. Breastfeeding should be
I like to call this condition the ‘Physiological
diarrhoea of an exclusively breastfed baby’. Drugs given to such
babies can be harmful.
If a mother gives her baby only foremilk and switches
her to the other breast before she has taken the hind milk,
the baby may get only lactose-rich foremilk from both
breasts. Some babies may fail to handle this load of lactose and may pass motions too frequently. This needs correction and
the mother must allow the child to keep feeding from one side and offer the other breast only after she herself stops
suckling from the first side.
On the other hand, some normally thriving breastfed
babies pass a motion every 3 or 4 days. But the motions are not hard. This is also normal and no treatment is required. It is
true that some such babies appear to be rather uncomfortable,
but they settle down after passing a motion.
Is It True That Green Motions Mean That The Baby Is Not Getting Enough Milk?
Not really. If the baby is active and passes urine
normally, the green motions are normal. The so-called ‘starvation stools’
are seen in an emaciated child who passes traces of
green mucus in place of normal stools. This baby does not gain weight and looks miserable.
Is Allergy To Mother’s Milk Common?
Allergy to cow milk or powder milk is quite common, but
not allergy to breast milk. That is why we advise exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months. In the first months of life,
the baby’s intestines are not fully matured and
foreign substances present in cow, buffalo or powder milk may
enter the system of the baby through the immature intestine. Such babies are more prone to allergic diseases like allergic
milk intolerance with severe vomiting and diarrhoea and allergic rash, asthma or eczema.
Can Certain Foods I Take Upset My Baby?
Small amounts of certain substances present in the
mother’s diet may pass unchanged into her breast milk. Occasionally, these may upset the baby and make her cry. It is more
likely to happen if you have taken cow or buffalo milk or
coffee. In general, it is difficult to advise a mother about which
food to avoid. If you notice that the baby is definitely upset
whenever you eat or drink something, then avoid taking that
particular item. For instance, if you are drinking milk, this could
be a possible cause of the so-called 3 months colic or
evening colic. You can try to stop taking milk and milk products
completely, including milk in tea or other foods, for 2 weeks. If
milk is the cause of colic, the baby will cry less. In that case, do
not take milk until the baby completes 6 months. If the baby
continues to cry in spite of the absence of milk from your diet,
milk is not the cause of her colic.
Do not stop breastfeeding if you are told that your baby
is not tolerating your milk. In case of a strong history of allergy in the family, we recommend that you avoid taking milk
and milk products, peanuts, and eggs during pregnancy and breast-feeding. (See the section on Vegetarian
Diet in the chapter on PREGNANCY.) If someone raises a doubt about how you can produce milk if you do not drink any, give
him or her the example of the cow. A cow does not drink any
milk and yet produces it!
Flavours of garlic, onion, asparagus and vanilla eaten by you can enter your breast milk. Surprisingly, most
babies seem to like these flavours.
It must also be remembered that some high-need babies just cry more than usual. They want to be carried or
cuddled more often. Even if they are not hungry, they may like
to suckle more for comfort. If the mother accepts that her
baby is different and she gives her extra body contact, the
baby generally settles down and starts behaving better within
a matter of 1 to 2 months.
Should A Mother Stop Breastfeeding If She Is Ill?
We may consider stopping breastfeeding only if a mother
has cancer, or is so seriously ill that it is physically impossible for her to breastfeed; if she is on treatment with
radioactive compounds or is receiving anti-cancer drugs.
A mother can continue to breastfeed if she has
infections like infective hepatitis, typhoid, cholera, diarrhoea, tuberculosis and leprosy. In many cases, the mother
makes antibodies against the infective agents that are likely
to protect the baby from her mother, even before she knows
that she has an infection.
In case of HIV infection (AIDS), most babies are
infected before they are born. But some can get AIDS through
breast milk. As the general risks of artificial feeding are
greater (especially in developing countries) than the smaller
risk of getting AIDS from breastfeeding, the general
recommendation is to exclusively breastfeed the
baby for 3 months and then switch over to artificial feeding. However, if a
mother can safely give her baby artificial feeds, she may opt
not to breastfeed.
Certain drugs taken by the mother may get excreted in breast milk, but they usually cause the baby no harm.
Thus most antibiotics, antipyretics (drugs to reduce fever),
and most anticoagulants and contraceptives are safe. So are drugs for tuberculosis, leprosy, epilepsy or for psychiatric
illness. If in doubt, check with an expert.
In general, we advise the mother to take the drug soon after breastfeeding the baby and to watch the baby for
side effects. When a mother is not well (and also otherwise),
she can breastfeed in a lying-down position. She can feed
during menstruation and half way through the next pregnancy. If
a mother is eating well, she can breastfeed even throughout the pregnancy.
What Should Be Done If The Baby Is Separated From The Mother Or If The Baby Has To Undergo Major
In that case, the mother should keep expressing her
breasts every 3 hours to make up feeds for the baby and to prevent engorgement of her breasts. As soon as it is possible,
she should start direct breastfeeding. Until that time, expressed breast milk can be given to the baby with the doctor’s
How Do You Express Breast Milk?
To begin with, it is better to get the help of a friend
or relative to stimulate the easy flow of milk. For this, massage the breasts gently towards the nipples, sit down, fold your
arms on a table in front of you and rest your head on your arms. Let the breasts hang loose. Request the helper to rub your
back firmly, up and down, with her knuckles. Let her rub on
either side of the spine, from the neck to the shoulder blades,
for 2 minutes.
Now take a clean cup. Wash your hands. Hold the cup near the breast. Put your thumb on the areola above the
nipple, about an inch or 2.5 cms behind the nipple, and your
first finger on the areola below the nipple, opposite the thumb. Push the thumb and finger inwards towards the chest
wall. Then press the areola between the finger and thumb and release. Again push, press and release. No milk will
come out for a few moments. But after you press a few times,
drops of milk will start to come. Press the areola in the same
way from the sides, to make sure that the milk is expressed from
all segments of the breast. Express one breast for about 5 minutes. Then express the other
side. Repeat again
with both sides. You can use either hand for either breast (Fig.
What About The ‘Warm Bottle Method’ Of Removing Breast Milk?
This is a practical method to relieve engorgement,
especially when the breast is painful and expression by hand is difficult.
Find a large bottle (700 ml to 1 litre) with a wide neck
(3 cm in diameter), if possible. Pour a little hot water into the
bottle to start warming it. Then fill the bottle almost to the top
with hot water. Let it stand for a few minutes to warm the
bottle. Wrap the bottle in a cloth and pour the hot water out. Cool
the neck of the bottle and put it over the nipple, touching the
skin all around to make an airtight seal. Hold the bottle steady.
After a few minutes, the bottle will cool and exert gentle
suction that pulls the nipple into the neck of the bottle. The milk
then starts to flow and collects in the bottle. When the flow
of the milk slows, release the suction and remove the bottle. Pour out the milk and repeat the process with the other
breast. After some time, the severe pain in the breasts becomes
less and hand expression or suckling becomes easier (Fig.
It is possible that you may pull away from the bottle because of a sudden feeling of suction. In that case,
pour hot water into the bottle again and repeat the whole
How Long Can Breastfeeding Be Continued?
That depends on you, the mother.
We do know for sure that breastfeeding beyond the first
year benefits both the mother and her baby. An important advantage is the reduced risk of infection and need for
hospitalisation. In the second year, the child comes in contact with other
children with increased exposure to infection. She also tends to
put everything into her mouth and this also increases the
risk of infection. A child who gets breast milk along with
solids is less likely to pick up such infections. If she does get an
infection, she is likely to recover faster than a child who is not
getting any breast milk. Also, during an infection, a child’s
appetite may be so badly affected that she may not even want to drink
water. In such a situation, I find that, if the child continues to
breastfeed, she gets some nourishment as well as fluids. Such children, when exposed to common infections in childhood under the
protective cover of breast milk, are likely to develop a permanent immunity against most such infections. Many
people do not realise that even in the second year, the
breast milk has the same concentration of protective immune
bodies as were present during the first year. During the second year, a mother’s milk can provide
one-third or more of the calories and the protein that a
It is also important to continue breastfeeding in the
second year if there is a history of allergy in the family. Extended breastfeeding continues to provide emotional security
and reduces the risk of allergic and dental disorders.
The hormones that a breastfeeding mother produces continue to help her feel relaxed. Whenever the child is
injured or upset for any reason, the mother finds it
convenient to comfort her by breastfeeding. If solids are added
gradually after a period of exclusive breastfeeding, the mother is
less likely to menstruate and become pregnant in the second year. However, it is important for the mother to get proper
advice on family planning.
Some mothers like to continue breastfeeding even beyond the second year. Doctors support this as long as the
mother and the baby are happy about it and the child is growing
well. On the other hand, some babies stop breastfeeding on
their own when they are around 18 months. This too should be happily accepted.
When a mother decides to stop breastfeeding, we help her
to stop gradually. This is good for the child as well as
the mother. Drugs to dry up the milk are to be avoided as they may
have side effects. To begin with, you must give your child
adequate body contact and increase the number of meals. Increase the
interval between 2 breastfeeds. At first, stop breastfeeding
during the morning. After a week, stop breastfeeding in the
afternoon. In the morning or in the afternoon, avoid situations which
may make the child think of breastfeeding, such as having
her on your lap when you sit down to eat. A toddler can be told
lovingly but firmly that she can breastfeed later, but not at
that time. It is better to stop the night breastfeed last if your child
reacts strongly to the idea of giving up her feed at bedtime.
It may be important for you to know that a mother may normally have some milk in her breasts for many months
after she stops breastfeeding.
ARTIFICIAL FEEDING AND BOTTLE-FEEDING
Occasionally, artificial milk may have to be given to
adopted babies or those who have lost their mothers, or to infants who have become ‘hooked’ to bottle-feeding and stopped
breastfeeding completely for some time. Even in such cases, breastfeeding is possible. An
adoptive mother who has never given birth to a child can fully or partially
breastfeed her adopted baby.
Wet nursing is another alternative, where a
breastfeeding mother may also like to breastfeed an adopted baby or a baby
who has lost his mother.
Relactation is also possible in mothers who have stopped lactating.
For details of such cases, write to
- Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI),
BP 33, Pitampura,
Delhi 400034, India
LIQUID MILK OR POWDER MILK
If artificial milk is to be given, I would suggest
undiluted cow or buffalo milk for children above 6 months of age. If the milk
is very rich in fat, remove the cream. Some companies
have started marketing ‘follow-up’ formula in powder form
for children above 6 months of age. Iron is added to some of
these preparations. Follow-up formulas add to the cost of
bringing up your children and provide no special advantage. I
agree with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and do not recommend their use.
Below 6 months, if the choice is between liquid milk and powder milk, I would suggest liquid milk for most poor
and lower middle class families. There is less risk of
over-dilution with liquid milk than with powder milk. Traditionally, the milk
is boiled before it is given to the child. Therefore,
the danger of infection is also minimised. The child can be given 2
parts of pure cow milk and 1 part of water until she is 4
months old. Then undiluted milk can be given. In the case of pure
buffalo milk, the cream can be removed. A teaspoon of sugar is
added to 4 ounces (120 ml) of the feed.
Those who can afford and can safely use milk powder should prepare the formula in the proportion of 1 level
measuring spoon (placed in the tin) of infant milk
powder to 1 ounce (30 ml.) of water. Skimmed milk or condensed milk should never be given to
Frequency And Amount Of Milk
Aim at five 4-hourly feeds. Start with an ounce (30 ml.)
per kilo of weight per feed. For instance, if the baby
weighs 4 kg. give 4 ounces (120 ml) of milk every 4 hours —
omitting the midnight feed. This is a rough guide. If the baby finishes all
4 ounces, make 41/2 ounces for the next feed. A little
milk should always be left behind. The maximum amount per
feed is 8 ounces.
BOTTLE OR CUP FEEDING
Cup feeding, feeding with an ordinary glass or a paladai,
(also called jhinook, or bondla — a
traditional small katori
with a long spout) is much safer than bottle-feeding and
is to be preferred. We have had experience of giving milk with a cup or an ordinary glass to premature babies who
have already developed the swallowing reflex — in
other words, babies who were ready to swallow. Unnecessary fears have been raised that this may lead to aspiration
of milk into the baby’s windpipe. It is only recommended
that the baby should be propped up a little and offered the milk from these utensils (other than a bottle) very slowly.
These utensils are easier to clean. Feeding from them is preferable even to spoon-feeding which consumes more
time than cup or glass feeding. With spoon-feeding,
wastage of milk and the risk of contracting infection from our fingers are also higher.
Special cups having a spout with a number of holes in it
are not recommended, as they are more difficult to clean.
Special Precautions To Be Taken While Feeding With A Bottle
If you must bottle feed, you should use a bottle that
has been boiled for each feed. It is best to have about half a dozen bottles, out of which one is used for giving water or
fruit juice. After each feed, the bottle and teat must be cleaned in cold
water with a soap or detergent. Remove any milk curd
from the teat by rubbing it with a little salt. Keep the
bottle aside. Keep the teat covered with the cap that comes along with
the bottle. After all the 4 or 5 bottles are used, place
these washed and cleaned bottles in a big pan containing cold water.
Boil for about 10 minutes. After the water is cooled, drain the
water. Keep the pan covered. Whenever a bottle is to be used,
wash your hands before picking up the bottle and teat.
The bottles can also be sterilised by keeping them
soaked for 4 hours in water containing 5 drops of Lugol’s
iodine to 1 litre of water. A convenient substitute is a solution
of sodium hypochlorite (available as milton or
substitutes). One teaspoon (5 ml.) of this solution is added to 1 litre of
water for sterilisation.
The milk offered to the child should be at the right temperature. Test it by putting a few drops on the back
of your hand.
The teat should also have a hole of the proper size.
Fill the bottle with milk and invert it. If the milk comes out in drops,
the hole is of the right size. If you have to shake it
or if it pours out in a stream, the hole is too small or too big respectively. A small hole can be enlarged with a sewing
needle. Make it red hot by holding it in the fire with
the help of kitchen tongs.
If cow or buffalo milk is used, it must be strained
before being put into the bottle because the cream may block
Once a feed is prepared, it should be consumed as soon
as possible. It should not be left for more than 2 hours at room temperature. However, it can be kept in a refrigerator
and warmed by keeping it in a bowl of hot water for some time before offering it to the baby.
When you buy a feeding bottle, make sure that you buy
one with a wide mouth. Glass bottles are preferable, but
they break easily. If you go for unbreakable bottles, see
that they are made of thick material, are transparent and that the markings on the bottle are clearly visible.
Holding The Bottle While Feeding
For better bonding, the mother should take the baby in
her lap, hold her close to her and then feed her in her
loving arms. Ensure that the bottle is propped up so that the teat is
kept filled with milk all the time. Otherwise, the baby will
swallow air unnecessarily.
Bottle-fed babies swallow more air than breastfed
babies. They need to be burped more —half way through the feed and then after the feed is over.
Never give the child a bottle in her sleep; she is
likely to feel full when she gets up, and so will never experience hunger and the joy of hunger being satisfied. It also
leads to increased incidence of caries of teeth.
As soon as possible, try to get rid of the bottle and
let your child get used to taking milk from a glass or a cup. In
any case, bottle-feeding should not be continued beyond 12
to 15 months.
Babies given artificial milk (including powder milk) need boiled and cooled water between feeds. They also may not
get Vitamin C through the milk. So they should be given
fruit juice or Vitamin C drops. Babies on cow and buffalo milk
also need vitamin drops. If a preparation of multivitamin
drops is used, there is no need to give extra drops of Vitamin C.
0.6 ml of most such preparations will provide the right amount
of Vitamin C as well.
Most powder milk preparations have added vitamins. So babies on these preparations need not be given
Restrictions On The Marketing Of Baby Foods And Feeding Bottles
To protect and promote breastfeeding, the Government of India has passed ‘The Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding
Bottles and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production,
Supply, and Distribution) Act, 1992’, which aims at putting
certain restrictions on the marketing of infant formulas,
feeding bottles and commercial weaning foods. Accordingly, advertisements of infant formulas and feeding bottles
are banned, and inducement of any kind for the purpose of promoting the use of these products is prohibited.
Every container of such products should carry a
statement in English and Hindi that ‘Mother’s milk is best for
your baby’ and a warning that such a product is not the sole source
of nourishment for an infant. No label of infant food may
exhibit the words ‘Full Protein Food’, ‘Energy Food’,
‘Complete Food’, or ‘Healthy Food’ or any other similar expressions.
The law also states that every educational and other material relating to feeding of infants shall include
the benefits and superiority of breastfeeding; the harmful
effects on breastfeeding due to partial adoption of
bottle-feeding; the difficulties in reverting to breastfeeding of infants
after a period of feeding by infant milk substitutes; the
financial and social implications in making use of infant milk
substitutes and feeding bottles; and the health hazards of improper
use of infant milk substitutes and feeding bottles.
Any person who contravenes the provisions of the Act is punishable with imprisonment or has to pay a fine, or
The public is advised to watch out for any violations of
the Act and report them to any of the 4 voluntary organisations that have been notified in the Official Gazette of the
Government. One such organisation is the Association for Consumers Action on Safety and Health, Post Box No.
2498, Mumbai 400 002.
INTRODUCING SEMI-SOLIDS AND SOLID FOODS
Food for Healthy and Happy Babies
The first question generally raised is about when solids should be added to a child’s diet and why. Your child
should receive only milk until 6 months. I recommend that all
infants be exclusively breastfed for 6 months, and that adequate complementary foods be added after that. If there is a
history of allergy in the family, exclusive breastfeeding must
be the norm till the child completes 6 months.
In case of breastfed babies, the addition of other
liquids too early interferes with breastfeeding. Early introduction
of all foods increases the risk of allergic disorders like
diarrhoea and pneumonia, unnecessary load on the kidneys, indigestion, obesity and the later possibility of hypertension and
coronary artery disease. Less frequent suckling also increases
the possibility of the woman becoming pregnant again soon.
Before 6 months, most babies have the tongue-thrust reflex; they push out with the tongue anything other
than liquids. In such babies, it is better to wait till they
complete 6 months before offering complementary foods.
In general, we do not recommend delaying the addition of solids beyond 6 months, but if an allergy-prone child is
avoiding solids until she is 6 to 9 months, do respect
her preference and do not force her to take solids earlier than she is ready for them. But in any case, do not delay the
addition of solids beyond 9 months.
Give only one food at a time. Wait for a week before you introduce another food so that you know whether or not
the child is allergic to it.
You will also want to know what foods to give first. My favourite first food suggestion is an overripe banana,
the skin of which has black dots. Cut it into small pieces, and
mash it up with a spoon or fork. Let the baby sit in your lap
and give her only a tiny bit after a breastfeed. Most mothers
give it with a spoon. Others like to offer it with their fingers and then
shift to the spoon. This is perfectly all right as long
as the hands are properly washed. Most babies love a banana.
Some prefer it if a little milk (preferably breast milk) is
added to it. Many people oppose giving banana to a small baby, as it
may give her a cold. I am not convinced about this belief,
but each mother will know her baby best. If you feel that the
child does become unwell whenever you give her a banana, you may
stop it and try again after a month or two. Gradually,
increase the amount of banana given at each feed to that accepted by
the baby. Give her this once or twice a day.
You can try and interchange a banana with an apple or
give apple once and banana at another time. Peel an apple and
cut it into small bits. Boil and mash them in a mixer or
with a spoon and fork. Other seasonal fruits like pears (boiled
and mashed), papaya, mango and chikoo can also be given.
If you have to give other foods, rice preparations are
good. Mashed, boiled rice (in extra water), mixed with milk,
can be tried. If you are breastfeeding, you can add your milk
to the rice. Alternatively, phirni made from rice
powder and milk can be given. (You can use the milk normally consumed in
You may be wrongly advised to give rice water, dal
water and soup at this time, but these hardly give the
child any nutrition. They may instead fill up her stomach and quench her thirst, and consequently may lead to less
suckling at the breast with reduced milk production.
Allergy to citrus fruits is common and so such fruits
should be tried after 9 months, and after the age of 1 year in allergyprone
If you have given a food to which the child might be allergic, look for the appearance of a rash, cold,
wheezing, restlessness, crying, vomiting or diarrhoea. Stop that
food if any of these symptoms is present. If the reaction is not severe or is doubtful, try the same food after a month. If the
reaction is severe, avoid it until the child completes 1 year and
consult your doctor before trying it again.
As the child starts getting accustomed to foods other
than milk, continue with breast milk and fruits and add homemade soft foods like phirni,
suji kheer, rava kheer, (semolina pudding) and porridge made from ragi (called
in Maharashtra) between two breastfeeds. Start with 1 or 2 teaspoons twice a day. Keep increasing the
every third or fourth day to that accepted by the child.
Once you know that the child is tolerating these
different food items, you can make a highly nutritious recipe by roasting, grinding, and mixing equal parts of rice,
dal. The mixed
powder can be stored in an airtight container. This readymade powder can be used for making
thin pudding/kheer with milk and
sugar or a thin porridge with ghee and sugar (or salt).
In general, I am against readymade cereals for babies.
They are quite hygienically prepared and convenient to use, but whole foods made at home are more nutritious and, of
course, less expensive. Even if one can afford to buy readymade cereals, they should be avoided, if possible, because
they are processed and so are less nutritious. You may be told
that they are fortified with iron. This iron is poorly
absorbed and may not be of much benefit to the child. Moreover, the smooth consistency of these commercial preparations may
make the child get so used to them that she may not like
to accept any food offered later on.
Mashed and cooked vegetables with cooking oil or ghee
can also be given. Dark green, leafy vegetables, carrots, pumpkin, 197 potatoes, beans, peas, dudhi or ghia, marrow and beet
can be tried. Begin with 1 or 2 teaspoons and increase
progressively. As vegetables are not fully digested by the baby, small
bits may be passed along with the stool. This is normal. Also
a child having beet may have red-coloured stools or urine.
Beets and carrots should not be stored. They should be served fresh because storage increases the amount
of nitrates in these vegetables. These nitrates can
cause anaemia in small children. Raw vegetables can be added after the child is a year old.
When the child is around 9 months, the food need not be mashed too fine. She can be given food cooked for the
family like chapati or paratha dipped in dal; rice and
dal; dhokla, dosa, idli, curd
pongal, missi roti, etc. Milk preparations, like curds, buttermilk and paneer (cottage
cheese) can also be tried. These preparations are more easily digested than
artificial milk. Also, allergy to these foods is less
common than with artificial milk.
Tender portions of meat can also be given from the age
of 6 months, but vegetarians may rest assured that a vegetarian diet can meet all the requirements of a child. The
principles on which this proposition is made are discussed in the
section on diet for pregnant mothers.
Children who do not eat enough at a time should be
offered food or fruits every 2 to 3 hours. To reduce the bulk,
oil or ghee should be added to the food. Some families are unnecessarily wary of ghee or oil, but they do not
realise that even breast milk has fat in it. Children do need fat.
However, a taste for fried foods should not be inculcated from an early age.
We should also remember that staple foods (rice, wheat, maize, etc.) though required, are all starchy. Starchy
foods are bulky. As the child’s stomach is small, she fails to
eat enough of the bulky, starchy stuff to get all the calories she
needs. Adding fats like oil or ghee, protein-rich foods like
pulses, beans, milk and milk products and meat and sweetening agents such as jaggery or sugar can solve this problem.
Another good way of reducing the bulk and increasing the energy density of food is by adding Amylase-Rich-Food
(ARF). To make ARF, about 100 gms. of any locally
available cereal or grain (wheat, ragi or bajra)
is steeped overnight in 2 to 3 times its volume of water, the excess water is
drained, and the moist, swollen seeds are germinated in a moist,
dark environment for 24 to 48 hours till they sprout. The
grains are then sun-dried for 5 to 8 hours and lightly toasted on a
flat skillet to remove any surface moisture. The sprouts are removed by hand abrasion and the grains are milled or
powdered. This flour (ARF) is stored in an airtight
bottle or plastic container. The small amount of ARF, for a cost
of 20 to 40 paise, will suffice to give a child nutritious gruel
for one month. It need be made only once a month.*
Addition of vegetables and fruits provides the required minerals and vitamins.
Water can be given to the child once she starts taking
foods other than breast milk and fruits. It should be offered
from an ordinary glass. Children learn to sip from a glass quite
A child should be given her food an hour or two before
the family eats. Let her then also join the family to
participate and be given some food that is not too spicy or too rich in
fat, sugar and salt.
After the age of 9 months (or even earlier in children who are interested), encourage the child to eat by
herself. Do not be upset if she makes a mess. You may help her, but she should get a feeling that she is managing by
herself. To begin with, offer her foods which she can
pick up with her fingers, like a thin piece of toast or
biscuit (preferably wholewheat), cooked peas, scrambled egg,
dhokla, idli (plain
or fried), shreekhand (sweetened curd cheese), porridge, pumpkin and small pieces of fruits
like bananas, chikoos and papayas.
The child may choke a little while learning to eat. Do
not be scared, but be with her while she eats, in case she gets
into trouble. Let her start getting used to a spoon. Let her
dip a teaspoon into a preparation like shreekhand.
A bit will stick to the spoon and give her the joy of getting something into
her mouth on her own.
A child who was eating well at 6 or 7 months may
suddenly become disinterested in eating. Do not panic. Try some
new preparation. But never force the child to eat more than
she wants. Respect her appetite. Even if half a spoon is
left in the bowl, stop feeding her if she shows any signs of not
wanting to eat any more (keeping her mouth shut, turning her
head to the side or pushing the food out).
*Gopaldas T. ‘Technology to improve foods in
developing countries. In: Nutrition in Children. Eds. Sachdev HPS, Choudhury P. New Delhi,
Department of Paediatrics, Maulana Azad Medical College; 1994, pp. 130-131.
What Are The Foods That Should Be Avoided In The First Year Of Life?
Foods that are more likely to give rise to allergic
reactions should be avoided till the child completes 1 year. These are artificial milk (cow, buffalo or powder milk), eggs,
fish and citrus fruits like orange and sweet lime.
In families with a strong history of allergy, besides
the above foods, even peanuts, other nuts, chocolate, wheat, corn, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, and all types of berries
should be avoided. If any member of the family reacts adversely to
a particular food, avoid that as well.
Also avoid fried foods and foods that contain added
sugar or artificial sweeteners or are high in salt. Some
authorities also do not recommend honey to be given below the age of 1
year, because it may contain a certain infective agent.
Although I have never seen any such adverse effect in my
practice, it may be advisable to avoid it, especially in the first
Should Other Foods Be Given Before Milk Or After A Milk Feed?
As the main diet of the child upto the age of 6 months should only be breast milk, other foods, if given
between 5 and 6 months of age, must be offered after a
Between 6 months and 1 year, the other foods can be
given after or between two milk feeds. Let the baby decide
when she wants to have them. In a breastfed child, ideally we would like to meet three-fourths of her nutritional needs
between 6 and 12 months with breast milk. Yet, solids are important for additional nutrition and also for the child to start
getting used to foods other than milk. Therefore, do not cut
down drastically on breastfeeding. However, you should feel
free to leave the child behind and for her to be given other
foods in your absence.
Amount Of Food To Be Given To Infants
Children vary a lot in their eating habits. In general,
I amagainst prescribing a fixed menu. However, some mothers may offer an adequate amount to the child, but they may
not, for instance, realise that a child of one year needs about a 1,000 calories of energy — almost half of what many
adults take. So it is advisable to have some idea about how
much of different foods a child can be offered. After that, we
should leave it to the child to decide how much she wants to consume. A good guide that the child is having an
optimum quantity of food is her level of activity and weight
Suggested Menu For A One-Year-Old
The menu on page 202 is adapted from a book by Dr.
Shanti Ghosh. Please treat this as a guideline in light of the above discussion. I would encourage mothers who wish to
continue giving breast milk to the child beyond one year. They
can give breast milk at 6.00 a.m., 10.00 a.m., 4.00 p.m., and at 10.00 p.m., and avoid other milk.
If you want to give your child a meat preparation, offer
it in place of the dal mentioned in
the menu. However, as mentioned earlier, meat is not essential. The menu can
be changed as per your convenience. If your child does not
want milk, you can give curds or paneer.
You can aim at offering the given amounts of different
food items to your child to provide about 1,000 calories per
day. About 3 teaspoons of jaggery (or sugar) and the same
amount of oil (or other fat) can be used per day. Seasonal
fruits should also be offered.
A good guide that the child is having
quantity of food is her level of activity
and weight gain
GUIDELINES FOR MENU OF A ONE-YEAR-OLD*
breastfeeding in the second year
rice, bread and banana can be alternated as given below:
1 katori rice
|= 2 chapatis
|= ½ katori rice
= 1 banana
= 2 small slices of bread
|= 200 ml.
: Milk 125 gms.
Sugar 1 teaspoon
Bread slice (preferably whole wheat) – 1
|: Banana – 1 or Halwa – ½ katori
: Khichdi 1½ katori
Rice 1 katori + dal ½ katori
|: Bread slice – 1
Milk 125 gms.
Sugar 1 teaspoon
Bread slice – 1
: Khichdi 1 katori
Rice ½ katori
Dal ½ katori
* Ghosh S. The Feeding And Care of Infants and Young
Children. New Delhi, 203
16 June, 2014