The classic image of a mother nursing her baby is ingrained in us since time immemorial. Early breastfeeding is definitely a healthy start for the mother and child, but what do you do when it doesn’t happen that way?
Early Breastfeeding And Its Benefits:
Early breastfeeding is the process of beginning to feed the newborn right after, or within one hour of childbirth. Early breastfeeding has many benefits. Here are the top 5:
- The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends early initiation of breastfeeding, as it helps you and your child be committed to exclusive breastfeeding for longer. 
- The colostrum or early breast milk is rich in antibodies and nutrients. This gives newborns and their immunity a head start.
- Nursing the baby, when coupled with skin-to-skin contact in the early hours and days ensures that the newborn has a steady body temperature and blood sugar level. 
- Breastfeeding right after delivery can reduce the chances of hemorrhage for the mother. 
- In scenarios where care resources are low, regularly nursing the baby can help protect the newborn from infections and subsequent mortality. 
When Breastfeeding May Not Be An Option
However, mothers may struggle with early breastfeeding due to a variety of reasons. Practical considerations, including the best interest of the mother’s health, may prevent mothers from being able to feed their newborns themselves. As a new mother, keen to get every little step right for your precious child, it may be a huge disappointment when you learn that early breastfeeding may not be possible. Guilt will definitely loom large. Know that, as the mother, you’re doing your best. The rest you must leave to the medical professionals.
- A C-section or an episiotomy can both result in stitches and pain of varying degrees. In such situations, it may not be advisable or possible for you to assume a sitting position and hold your baby. In due course, your doctor may advise suitable breastfeeding positions to try.
- Some mothers find that milk doesn’t flow after delivery, for reasons beyond anyone’s control. Putting undue pressure on yourself in these situations can be counter-productive and even detrimental to your health.
- In some rare cases, such as need for further surgeries or procedures, either the mother or the child may be too indisposed. During such situations, breast feeding is not the primary concern.
- Due to medical complications, a newborn may be placed in the NICU, where physical access to the mother might be restricted. It would be in the best interest of the baby to first avert the medical crisis and then attempt breastfeeding.
- The mother may experience swollen and painful breasts, or even abscesses, that prevent her from being able to breastfeed. Treating the mother’s discomfort becomes first priority.
- Even if you have to discontinue after an early start, always put yourself first and allow yourself to heal. The doctors and nurses will attend to the baby.
Whatever the reason may be, if you find that you aren’t breast feeding easily, relax and don’t stress. If you think you would like to give it another shot, a lactation consultant or the gynecologist can give you breastfeeding tips or help teach you how to breastfeed. Every mother and child cherishes the bond of breastfeeding, but thankfully today alternatives are available to ensure the child’s health is not disadvantaged in any way.
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- Early initiation of breastfeeding to promote exclusive breastfeeding, World Health Organization
- Breastfeeding, Alive and Thrive Technical Resources
- Begum, Khadija, and Kathryn G. Dewey. “Impact of early initiation of exclusive breastfeeding on newborn deaths.” (2010).