When to start breast feeding and how long to continue
Mother-infant contact should be established as early as possible (immediately after birth) by permitting the infant to suck at the breast. Mothers can breast-feed from as early as 30 minutes after delivery. Colostrum should be made available to the infant immediately after birth. Feeding honey, glucose, water or dilute milk formula before lactation should be avoided and the infant should be allowed to suck, which helps in establishing lactation. Colostrum should not be discarded, as is sometimes practiced.
Breast-feeding in India is common among the rural and urban poor, being less so among the urban middle and upper classes. The poorer groups continue breastfeeding for longer duration than the educated upper and middle income groups. The economically advantaged or the working mother tends to discontinue breast-feeding early. A baby should be exclusively breast-fed only up to 6 months and complementary foods should be introduced thereafter. Breast-feeding can be continued as long as possible, even up to 2 years. Demand feeding helps in maintaining lactation for a longer time. If babies are quiet or sleep for 2 hours after a feed and show adequate weight gain, feeding may be assumed as adequate. Breast-fed infants do not need additional water. Feeding water reduces the breast milk intake and increases the risk of diarrhoea and should, therefore, be avoided. Giving additional water is unnecessary even in hot climate.