Importance of immune boosting food for lactating women during Covid pandemic

Dr Ranjita Devi
World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is celebrated every 1-7 August in commemoration of the 1990 Innocenti Declaration. WBW started in 1992, with annual themes including healthcare systems, women and work, the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, community support, ecology, economy, science, education and human rights. Since 2016, WBW is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In 2018, a World Health Assembly resolution endorsed WBW as an important breastfeeding promotion strategy.
This year, for WBW 2021, World Alliance for Breast feeding Action (WABA) has selected the theme: “Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility”. The theme is aligned with thematic area 2 of the WBW-SDG 2030 campaign which highlights the links between breastfeeding and survival, health and wellbeing of women, children and Nations.
Pregnancy and lactation are an especially vulnerable time for working women and their families. Expectant and nursing mothers require special protection to prevent harm to their or their infants' health, and they need adequate time to give birth, to recover, and to nurse their children. At the same time, they also require protection to ensure that their jobs are not jeopardized because of pregnancy or maternity leave. Hence, maternity protection is key to enable breastfeeding and empower parents for a successful implementation of recommended breastfeeding practices.
Lactation is a normal physiological process that makes considerable nutritional demands on the mother. The physiological development for lactation begins during later part of pregnancy. Apart from the growth and development of mammary glands, energy reserves are laid down in the form of fat in the body of the mother and this may become available in part to provide extra energy required during lactation.
Breastfeeding also called nursing, is the process of feeding human breast milk to a child, either directly from the breast or by expressing (pumping out) the milk from the breast and bottle feeding it to infant. Breastfeeding by mother to the infant is an old tradition. After giving birth to a child, a clear yellow coloured liquid called colostrum is secreted for 3-4 days from mother’s breasts. Mostly mothers don’t feed this milk to the infants. But this milk is very useful for infants because of the following reasons:
Ø Colostrum contains sufficient nutrients and has vital protective qualities.
Ø It contains large amount of antibodies and white blood cells to protect the child against infections.
Ø It also has some growth inducing nutrients.
Hence, breastfeeding for the infant becomes very important from the very first day of his birth. Therefore, the WHO (World Health Organization) recommends the breastfeeding begin within the first hour of a baby’s life and continue as often and as much as the baby wants. During the first weeks of life babies may nurse roughly every 2-3 hrs and the duration of a feeding is usually 10-15 minutes on each breast. However older children feed less often. Thus, the nutritional link between the mother and child continues even after birth. New born baby depends for some period safely on breast milk for its nourishment. Breast milk should be the only food for the baby for a period of 6 months. Hence, WHO recommended that exclusive breast feeding (i.e. even water should not be given) for 6 months.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for baby
1) It is enriched with all the nutrients in required proportion and form (e.g,. the fat present is emulsified).
2) Its low amount of protein reduces pressure on the kidneys and Vitamin C is also not destroyed.
3) It is a simple, hygienic and convenient method of feeding both for the mother and the child.
(To be contd)