Supporting breastfeeding among adolescent mothers “We all have an important role to play in ensuring the growth, development and survival of children around the world”

Dr Ksh Bimolata Devi (Asst Prof Ideal Girls’ college)
In recent times adolescent mothers have become a target population for breastfeeding education. Adolescent mothers have particular needs due to levels of education, employment, exposure (or lack thereof) to breastfeeding, self-esteem, support from others, and of cognitive and psychological immaturity. These factors contribute to a young mother’s likelihood to experience distress during their breastfeeding experiences. Studies suggest that even when young mothers are informed about the health benefits of breastfeeding other social norms take precedence.  The potential of social embarrassment can be present in the minds of expecting adolescent mothers and may be a major factor that influences their choice of feeding method.
Adolescent mothers have also described conflicts between their wish to resume activities outside of the home in the post-natal period and the baby’s need to be fed. Public breastfeeding was seen as risking social disapproval, thus, discouraged breastfeeding. Some of the adolescent participants of some studies described how their fears become a reality when they were asked to stop breastfeeding in public areas. Few teenagers can withstand the cultural pressure which categorizes bottle feeding as a norm. Therefore, new teenage mothers need more concerted prenatal anticipatory guidance, specialized lactation education and an increase of face-to-face postpartum support.
To succeed with the task at hand, inpatient nursing care need to be tailor to the unique needs of this population. Maternal self-confidence is a contributing factor that influences positive breastfeeding outcomes especially among adolescent mothers.
Empowerment, compassion, understanding and patience are key when caring for young moms.
Support outside of clinical settings is also important. Changes to policies have been introduced in the California (U.S.) Legislature that identifies schools as key institution of support for adolescent mothers.
In 2015, State Assembly Member Cristina Garcia from Los Angeles, introduced an amendment which required an employer to provide break time to accommodate employees to express breast milk for the employee’s infant child, breast-feed an infant child or address other needs related to breast-feeding. This amendment also requires public schools to provide similar accommodations to lactating students. The policy hopes to validate young mothers’ wishes to continue breastfeeding their infant children without shame.
On a global scale, recommendations have been made to educate school age children using curriculum that promotes healthy nutrition which includes breastfeeding. The World Health Organization’s Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding recommend education authorities help form positive attitudes through the promotion of evidence-based science regarding the benefits of breastfeeding and other nutrition programs.
Importance of breast milk: The first food of Life
Breast milk is the best source of nutrition a baby needs during the first 6 months of life and there is no other substitute to breast milk. It is very economical and available at the right temperature, anytime, whenever and wherever the baby needs it. The first thick yellowish secretion called Colostrum is very rich in proteins and antibodies that help the baby with a great start in life.
Breast milk is easily digestible and ideally suited to the baby’s intestines and protects against gastro intestinal diseases, and diseases such as leukemia, allergies, colds, asthma etc in babies. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life is the most effective child survival intervention in the developing countries. Breastfed babies have reduced risk of developing chronic conditions such as Diabetes type I, childhood obesity, Chrohn’s disease, etc. It improves the baby’s immunity.
Storage: Nowadays lactating mothers can express/produce her milk for storage and later use. Expression is done with breast pumps. Once expressed, refrigerate within 1 hour.  It can be stored in freezer storage bags, containers made specifically for breast milk or in a bottle ready for use. They can be stored for 6 to 8 hours in a room at 25 degrees centigrade. They can also be stored up to 5 days if kept at 4 degrees centigrade, and up to 2 weeks at minus -15 degrees centigrade in the freezer compartment. But thaw/warm the milk in container of lukewarm water before giving to the baby. Once thawed, it should be used within 24 hours.
World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is an international annual initiative organized by The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) to promote, support and encourage breastfeeding throughout the world. It is celebrated every year between August 1st and August 7th is currently observed in over 170 countries around the world. Being organized by WABA, WHO and UNICEF, WBW came up with the goal to promote exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life which yields tremendous health benefits, providing critical nutrients, protection from deadly diseases such as pneumonia and fostering growth and development since 1991.
The author may be reached at : bimolata_2006@yahoo.com

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