The Magic of Breast Milk – Outlook India

How the intervention of an ASHA worker in Udaipur brought new life to a newborn baby boy who was very light

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Pushpa Dhobi from Sanwad Ward . 1 in the Mavli Block in Udaipur is the mother of two girls and one boy. She gave birth to boy Harsh on February 8, 2020, despite being at high risk. At the beginning of her pregnancy, the doctor advised her not to give birth, as she had two deliveries earlier, the last of which resulted in the birth of twin girls with disabilities. One of the twins died after giving birth while the other cannot speak. Pushpa was severely anemic and had kidney problems. Despite the risk, she was determined to bring Harsh into this world because she wanted a male child.

Harsh was born with a very low birth weight of 1.75 kg. Suman Sharma, a highly motivated and active ASHA employee from her region, visited Pushpa regularly. Since Suman had advised Pushpa not to continue the pregnancy, she was not informed of her delivery. Pushpa went to the delivery with her husband and mother-in-law. But Suman found out from her neighbors, and she rushed to the hospital to ensure early initiation of breastfeeding. Suman did not complain to the family for not informing them, but instead congratulated them on the birth of a boy. Suman knew the child was low birth weight and politely explained to them that the boy who was now born into his family will only be proud if he is very well looked after from the start. The family was pleased to see Suman as they respected their choice. She politely explained to them the importance of feeding the child with colostrum in the first half hour of birth, as the child is currently very active and colostrum contains all the essential ingredients to satisfy the child's hunger and to feed him. The mother's first milk is the child's first immunization against a disease to which the child may be susceptible as they enter a whole new world.

Apart from that, she told the family to exclusively breastfeed the child and not give anything else, not even water, until the child was 6 months old. Suman visited Pushpa's house on February 10th to see Harsh and the care they provided. She received a positive response from the family when she asked if Harsh was being breastfed. She weighed the baby and found that it had gained 150 grams. She loved Pushpa and her family
for the good care of mother and child. Pushpa asked Suman that her son often fell asleep drinking milk and did not show much strength while sucking. Suman told them that due to the child's extremely light weight, his strength was also very low and he was not sucking properly. Suman explained the 4 positions of effective breastfeeding to her and asked her to give Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC).

She also advised her not to stop using IFA and calcium supplements and tri-colored foods in her diet. With the help of videos, take aways and flip cards, she advised the whole family. Since Pushpa and her family desperately wanted a male child and did not want to lose him, they religiously followed Suman's advice and Harsh was repeatedly breastfed. Suman made 5 house calls in the first month and monitored Harsh and the family's weight gain
Practices in caring for the heir of their family. She stepped up breastfeeding, took care of the mother's diet and hygiene practices, and provided KMC to the child on her subsequent monthly visits. Even after the lockdown due to COVID-19, Suman continued her visits and weighed the child at home. In a few months she contacted the Unnati employees and reported the case to him. Unnati staff valued Suman's interventions and asked them to encourage the family to talk to the child as much as possible, stimulating their senses, and feeding them responsively.

This would help in stimulating brain cells in children since 80% of the brain develops by the time a child is 2 years old. Although Harsh is still in the orange zone after 5 months, he is making progress due to Suman's continued surveillance and her motivation to improve children's lives as she firmly believes that children are the future of our nation. She said, “Poor diet and care during the first 1000 days makes the child prone to malnutrition, which slows down their physical and mental growth. If children are not breastfed and properly nourished after 6 months of birth, they will not learn about what will affect their performance in school and further in life. I want all the children in my village to be healthy, rich and wise so that the future of our village may be strong. "

Hart was weighed again on July 8, 2020 and was 4.1 kg. Pushpa and her family are taking all precautions as per Suman's advice and Harsh is making good progress.

(Aishwarya is the program coordinator while Prakash Menaria is the field coordinator at Unnati Sansthan.)

With the kind permission of UNNATI SANSTHAN / UNICEF

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