Importance of lactation
Lactation is the secretion of milk from breasts. It is an infant's privilege and a mother's pleasure to breast-feed. It is a natural phenomenon, which benefits both the mother as well as child and should not be avoided. Ayurvedic scholars have praised breast feeding and mentioned many advantages of the mother's milk. In the ancient scriptures, it is compared with the nectar of life. Following facts about lactation support this comparison.
• Mother's milk is naturally sterile and it protects the baby from many infections and diseases.
• It is always available at right temperature, suitable for the child.
• Mother's milk serves as a good store of IgA ad lectoferrin, which is not available in such a high concentration in any other milk. It increases the immunity of the child against a variety of bacteria and protects the infant from many diseases.
• Various digestive enzymes present in human milk make it more suitable and easily digestible for the baby.
• Milk lactose present in the milk inhibits growth of E. coli, and poliovirus, thus protecting the baby.
The infant needs 100 cal/kg, and 150-ml of milk/kg/day for proper growth and development. Therefore, the baby should be fed 6-7 times daily, depending upon its need.
Dietetics for lactating mother
• Regular intake of all the hot, pungent, and spicy food recipes should be avoided, as these decrease milk secretion.
• Also, Ghee and oils should be taken in adequate amount to improve digestion, facilitate the evacuation of bowels, nourish the traumatized tissues, and subdue the vitiated Vata Dosha, which gets aggravated during the process of childbirth.
• Exposure to polluted and infectious climatic conditions should be avoided, since any infection to the mother during lactational period can be easily transferred to the child.
• Care should be taken while taking drugs during lactation, since many drugs are excreted through mil and might exert an adverse effect on the baby.
• Breast-feeding should be stopped in cases of breast abscess, when milk is infected. It should be squeezed out and discarded to avoid further congestion.
• Even when there is profuse milk secretion, semi solid food should be started from the age of 4th month. Gradually, breast-feeding should be stopped and the child should be given solid food from the age of one year. This is known as weaning and is described in the Ayurvedic texts as Annaprashan Samskara. The first food item given to the child should be semi solid paste of well-cooked rice with sugar and cardamom. Initially, only ½ to 1 tsp of the food should be given. Gradually, over months, the quantity should be increased and by 10-12 months, regular solid diet should be started.
• If milk secretion is more than what is required by the baby, extra milk should be squeezed and discarded, otherwise it can cause congestion and result in the formation of the breast abscess.
It is the boil with formation and discharge of pus along with the generalized symptoms of fever, weakness and mild to severe pain in the affected breast and surrounding area. It is very common during the lactational period, mainly due to the accumulation of milk.
• Ayurveda advises a variety of home remedies for lactational abnormalities and avoidance of breast abscess.
• Licorice powder along with vetiver grass and turmeric should be taken in Ghee (clarified butter) in initial stages of the breast abscess.
• In cases of abscess, powder of sandalwood should be applied on the affected breast for soothing effect.
• In case of pus formation, surgical procedure should be carried out to drain the pus completely.
• External fomentation should not be applied on breast, because it is very delicate, and might be damaged by applying external heat.
• Powder of Asparagus recemosus (Shatavari) should be taken in the dose of 1 GM daily along with milk to maintain the quality of lactation.
• Other generic preparations of Asparagus recemosus (Shatavari) and Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) such as Shatavari Ghrita, Ashvagandhadi Churna, etc., should be taken for maintaining the quality as well as quantity of milk.
• For the cases of cracked nipple, local application of medicated Ghritas on the affected nipple is very useful.