Survey showcases the key challenges Indian mothers face while breastfeeding babies: medical issues, behavioural transitions, workplace challenges, and nursing while travelling or in public.
World Breastfeeding Week ends today, but the discussions and debates are far from over.
Despite everyone knowing the importance of breastfeeding for mothers and newborns, the numbers are appalling. According to a Unicef report, 1.2 million under-fives die every year; half of these deaths occur in the first 28 days of life, a time referred to as the neonatal period. Global evidence shows that children who are exclusively breastfed are 14 times more likely to survive the first six months of life than non-breastfed children.
While we talk of early and exclusive breastfeeding, it’s also imperative to understand the difficulties women go through.
A recently conducted survey sought to understand the difficulties Indian moms face including medical issues and lack of breastfeeding facilities at their workplaces and in public. The survey was conducted by Momspresso, a user-generated content platform for women, among 510 Indian moms to glean insights into the challenges faced by them while breastfeeding.
Titled “Breastfeeding Challenges for Indian Moms”, the study was conducted to commemorate Breastfeeding Week. It was organised in collaboration with Medela, an expert in the field of lactation, which supports mothers and babies thanks to their products (ranging from breast pumps to breast care and feeding solutions) and research. It highlighted how breastfeeding mothers are coping with challenges related to their immediate environment such as their home and workplace.
A challenging experience
The survey reveals that over 70 percent of Indian mums feel breastfeeding is a challenging experience. Interestingly, however, 78 percent mothers have breastfed their babies for a year or more. The prime motivators for continued breastfeeding despite its demanding nature were the health benefits of breastfeeding for babies (98.6 percent), the resulting strong mother-child bond (73.4 percent), health benefits for the breastfeeding mother (57.5 percent), and the weight loss aspect connected to breastfeeding (39.7 percent).
The study also focused on the biggest hurdles in the breastfeeding journey of Indian mums. The key challenges were classified under medical issues, behavioral transitions, workplace challenges, nursing while travelling or in public, and support at home. The top six breastfeeding challenges faced by Indian mums were early day challenges such as sore and cracked nipples, latching problem, engorged breasts (34.7 percent), exhaustion from waking up in the middle of the night, too many/long feeding sessions (31.8 percent), baby biting (26.61 percent), milk supply issues (22.7 percent), breastfeeding in public (17.81 percent), and post-partum depression (17.42 percent).
Family support is fundamental
Thirty-eight percent mums further mentioned that the initial days after the birth of the baby were the most challenging time of their breastfeeding journey.
Finally, the survey evidenced that support from family is fundamental in a successful breastfeeding journey. Fortunately, 64 percent moms received this much-required familial support in abundance. Additionally, 37 percent moms further mentioned that they received support from their spouse, 24 percent mums turned to the internet for breastfeeding advice, while only 19.9 percent sought medical advice. Despite the support from their families and spouses, 30 percent of mothers found balancing family demands and work a challenge while breastfeeding.
Need for a supportive environment
The survey revealed that dedicated super-mums breastfeed their babies in spite of the numerous issues they come across every day. In fact, it also highlighted that despite breastfeeding being a natural part of motherhood, breastfeeding does not come naturally to mums. This survey was instrumental in underlining that external factors can have a profound impact on breastfeeding moms and providing them with a positive, supportive environment can help nourish their babies without compromising on their own physical and mental well being.
Need for human milk banks
Speaking to YourStory on why early human milk banks can be a safe alternative, Nirmala Chandrashekhar, Consultant Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Gynaec Oncology at BGS Gleneagles Global Hospitals, Bengaluru, said: “India is known to have one of the highest numbers of preterm births in the world. A sizeable percentage of babies are born with low birth weight, causing early infant death. It is to tackle this increase in neonatal deaths that human milk banks were introduced in India nearly three decades ago. Breast milk that has been expressed, pasteurised and stored in sterilised conditions is safe and healthy for babies. Early breastfeeding that starts within the first hour of birth is being propagated as the most effective method to ensure that the infant receives the necessary nutrition required for a healthy immune system that can fight infections. Premature, sick and new-born babies have higher chances of recovery if they get breast milk, preferably from the mother. If the mother is unable to feed, the next best option is human breast milk from the bank. These banks are especially useful for hospitals with a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), which often see high demand due to nursing of premature or sick infants.”