If Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen had her way, breastfeeding would be made mandatory the world over. Here are good reasons from experts why it will do you good, and why the ruining-my-figure theory just doesn't hold true
Busy moms in the US are up in arms against Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen for suggesting that breastfeeding be made mandatory.
The 30 year-old's attitude towards motherhood has been termed "sanctimonious", encouraging one mommy blogger to brand Gisele a "sancti-mommy".
The world's highest paid supermodel, and now mother to eight month-old son Benjamin, attributed her post baby-bod secret to breastfeeding.
She responded to the backlash by saying, "My intention in making a comment about the importance of breastfeeding has nothing to do with the law. It stems from my concern with finding the best for my child."
"There are certain conditions wherein a mother cannot or should not breastfeed for various reasons," says Dr Suman Bijlani, Director, Gyneguide.
Stress is the number one deterrent affecting a woman's ability to lactate. "Also, if the mother has had a particularly painful delivery, or is experiencing body image issues, then her anxiety must first be allayed before she can start lactating," adds the doctor.
The introduction of an "outside feed" can also suppress milk output. Diet plays an important role in the release of certain hormones.
"Most importantly, lactating mothers need to boost their intake of calcium and iron, apart from their protein intake. They need to eat every two to three hours," advises nutritionist Anjali Peswani.
Introducing some form of physical activity, including post-natal exercises or a walk in the evenings is beneficial as well.
"Taking fenugreek (methi) seeds in any form is also helpful as it is a galactogogue, a substance, which increase breast milk production," explains Anjali.
"Breast milk is the ideal formula for a baby. It contains the right amount of fats, sugar, proteins and water as well as vitamins, minerals, enzymes and antibodies to protect the baby from infection," says Dr Bijlani.
Apart from the health benefits of breast milk, the act of breastfeeding promotes emotional bonding. "When the baby suckles the mother's breast, it releases oxytocin or the 'love hormone', which promotes bonding between mother and child," adds Dr Bijlani.
Long-term advantages for the baby include a reduced risk of developing asthma, allergies and obesity. There are benefits for the mother too.
"Breastfeeding helps in contractions of the uterus, resulting in reduced blood loss post-delivery.
It also helps the mother lose weight and decreases her chances of developing breast cancer at a later stage," elaborates Dr Bijlani.
Breastfeeding is also a good method of natural birth control, according to Dr Bijlani, though not a foolproof one.
"The method can be effective only if the mother has not ovulated for six weeks post pregnancy and has exclusively breastfed the child for six months."
Studies have proven that babies who have been breastfed have higher IQs and better cognitive abilities than those who haven't.
Indications that the infant is receiving adequate nutrition include gradual weight gain, the passing of urine four to five times a day, and absence of constant crying.
"The mother will naturally produce as much milk as is required by the baby. Nature is far more intelligent than any of us," says Dr Bijlani.
When breast milk is not the best Dr Bijlani is a strong advocate for breastfeeding.
She stresses, however, that it is ultimately an individual's choice. There are certain medical conditions under which new mothers should avoid breastfeeding.
These include mothers infected with HIV or those suffering from contagious diseases, including tuberculosis and chicken pox, in the active stages of the disease, as the chances of passing on the infection to the child are high under these circumstances.
"Mothers on anti-cancer drugs or undergoing anti-thyroid treatment can also transmit the drugs to the baby through breast milk, and should avoid breastfeeding," she says.
Gyneguide will conduct a breastfeeding session for new mothers on August 19 (Thursday), at 3 pm. At: 726, Sethi Dham, ground floor, 11th Road, Khar (W). Call 26484668
Karisma Kapoor, actor
While sister Kareena Kapoor is said to practice power yoga for two hours each day, Karisma prefers going for a walk and making a visit to the gym. She is said to have hit the gym very soon after the birth of her first child. Mother to five year-old Samaira and five month-old Kiaan Raj, the Sarkay Le Khatiya girl can still stop traffic, a rocky marriage and two kids notwithstanding.
Malaika Arora Khan, actor
Item girl Malaika Arora Khan has a six year-old son called Arhaan, and still oozes sex appeal by the truckload. While she worked till the sixth month of her pregnancy, she got back in shape post-delivery through rigorous exercise and heading back to work soon after.
Kajol allegedly had a tough time shedding her post-pregnancy weight for My Name Is Khan. However, the actress who plays an NRI in the film followed a strict fitness regimen that included a diet with lots of protein in the form of nuts.
Myth No 1: Women with smaller breasts cannot breastfeed.
Reality check: This is the most common myth associated with breastfeeding. Size has nothing to do with milk production.
Myth No 2: The mother must wash breasts before each feed.
Reality check: Constant washing of the breast removes the natural oils or lubrications, which makes the nipple dry and/or sore.
Myth No 3: Colostrum (milk produced in the first two or three days post-pregnancy) is not good for the baby.
Reality check: On the contrary, colostrum has protective antibodies for the baby and is high in proteins.
Myth No 4: Milk output is not enough in the first few days.
Reality check: The baby's stomach capacity is small and thus his/her needs are low in the first few days. The mother produces milk as per the requirements of the baby.
Myth No 5: The baby should have a fixed feeding schedule, otherwise he/she will not gain weight.
Reality check: Feeding schedules vary greatly and a healthy baby will demand feeds as per his/her needs. Be flexible and relaxed, unless there are warning signs.
Myth No 6: Women who have had breast implants cannot breastfeed.
Reality check: Almost all women who have had implants can breastfeed normally. If the implant has been placed below the muscle the woman's ability to lactate is almost never affected.