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More mothers in city seek help with breastfeeding

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‘A lot of working women have only three months’ maternity leave, and some wean the baby too soon. Others need help managing work and breastfeeding’

World Breastfeeding Week, celebrated every year between August 1 and 7, promotes breastfeeding and creates awareness of its numerous benefits.

But what happens when a new mother is unable to breastfeed or finds it very difficult?

That’s where lactation consultants step in. A profession that is growing in the city, these consultants are trained to teach mothers how to feed their babies and help with the many problems that can crop up while breastfeeding.

“In several other countries, breastfeeding is a choice. In the Indian set-up, it is a social responsibility. And while breastfeeding is best for the baby and must be promoted, mothers here are under a lot of pressure to feed. When they find it problematic, they are pressured to immediately switch to formula,” said S. Subramanian, neonatologist and one of the founders of the Mothers’ and Infants’ Lactation/Breastfeeding Care Centre in Mylapore, which sees around three mothers a day.

A lactation consultant can help to find out what the problem is and guide and counsel the mother and the family to breastfeed or give them options other than formula, said Dr. Subramanian.

For new mothers, the problems can range from initiation and under-secretion to issues with the babies latching.

“Of every five women who have delivered a baby, four generally have a problem,” said Jayashree Jayakrishnan, a city-based lactation consultant, who sees around five mothers every day.

R. Ramalakshmi, for instance, initially had a problem feeding her daughter, Raksha. “Her mouth was too small and it was very painful for me. After a few tries, I started her on formula,” she said.

A consultant at the hospital then trained her on positioning the baby correctly, and after some guidance, she was able to feed her baby.

Working women too, have issues. “Many have only three months’ maternity leave, and some wean the baby too soon. Others need help managing work and breastfeeding. New mothers, especially those living independently, need guidance,” said C.C. Sowmya, Bangalore-based paediatrician and lactation consultant.

Consultancy, however, does not lead to 100 per cent results, said Dr. Subramanian. “It is essential to get started soon after birth at the hospital. Once the baby is started on formula, going back to breastfeeding becomes difficult. Hospitals and nursing homes should have consultants on hand,” he said.

While more women are seeking help — through their doctors, extended family or after searching online — experts say there are too few consultants to meet the demand.

“The Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India has started courses for infant-feeding specialists, but a lot of practical experience is needed,” said Dr. Jayakrishnan.

Also, the certification course from International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners is expensive, said Dr. Subramanian. “It would be great if a university here could start a course, based on our set-up” he said.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2020 12:47:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/demand-for-lactation-consultants-grows-as-more-mothers-in-chennai-seek-help-with-breastfeeding/article6332575.ece

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