World Breastfeeding Week: How adoptive mothers can ensure nutrition for babies

Dr. Gayatri Deshpande

Babies benefit the most from breastfeeding within the first hour or ‘golden hour’ of birth. Breast milk is an ideal first diet as it provides lifelong immunity against diseases, and promotes growth and tissue repair factors within the first hour after birth. UNICEF and WHO launched the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) in 1991, which promotes policies that support, protect and promote breastfeeding in hospitals around the world.

However, adoption should not be a unique challenge in terms of providing adequate nutrition to the child. In today’s time and age, in the absence of natural breastfeeding, there exist many alternative methods and practices to provide not equal, but equal nutrition and immunity to infants.

why is it important:

A mother’s first milk, known as ‘colostrum’, provides the baby with IgA antibodies that protect them from infection. Milk is also rich in vitamin D, which is essential for calcium absorption and prevention of rickets (skeletal disorder) in children. Most importantly, skin-to-skin contact protects the baby from hyperthermia and enhances the bond between mother and baby.

Early breastfeeding (initiating breast-feeding within the first hour after birth) and exclusive breastfeeding (giving the baby only breast milk for the first six months) are major focuses for families with recent births.

Alternate Methods:

One) Induced Breastfeeding: Milk production occurs naturally in pregnant women due to hormonal changes. But the same hormone response can be artificially induced in adoptive mothers using medication, diet and exercise. For this consult your lactation specialist and gynecologist. However, mothers of adopted babies are less likely to develop colostrum or natural milk because their bodies do not undergo natural hormonal changes. Hence these mothers will need the assistance of formula milk or milk from the milk bank.

b) Milk Bank: India’s first milk bank was established in 1989 in Mumbai and since then, milk banks have been instrumental in providing milk to pre-term and other newborn babies who cannot take advantage of natural mothers’ milk.

C) Formula: Being the closest artificial nutrition to breast milk, formula milk provides adequate immunity and nutrition to babies. Furthermore, with recent advances, scientists have been able to identify, isolate and use specific compounds and ingredients to increase the efficiency of formula milk.

D) Supplemental Nutrition System or SNS: If the supply of induced breast milk is not sufficient, SNS devices can be used to provide the required amount of milk and nutrition to the babies. In this, the baby is fed expressed or formula milk through small tubes, which are connected to a large syringe, which the mother carries to the breast. It helps in stimulating the breast and also removes the lack of supply or nutrition.


(Disclaimer: Dr. Gayatri Deshpande is a Senior Consultant, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Nanavati Max Super Specialty Hospital, Mumbai. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of Zee News)