Ask Amma

Going to work … baby’s gotta eat!

In How on 7 February 2014 at 4:56 am

How do I get our baby to eat solids? I have resumed going to my office a few months ago and my wife plans to do so in one month. Till now, she has been breastfeeding exclusively. I will then be responsible for some of the feeding and I need a strategy pronto! – Baba of a 5 month-old son in Siliguri

If your wife is breastfeeding, she is already introducing your son to the taste of solids, and by cooking you help to feed both of them. In fact, the foundation for healthy eating is breastfeeding. Not merely because it nourishes baby physically, emotionally and intellectually but because it serves as a safety net while growing children explore the world of solids and explore the world. Regarding how to offer solids, please see: How Children Learn to Eat and Introducing Foods.

In principle, the pace of eating solids need not change for baby when mother goes to the office, provided she knows her rights.

art15The Constitution of India and the Maternity Benefit Act recognize that mothers working away from home need time for breastfeeding. In the US, the Fair Labour Standards Act provides for nursing breaks. Women are entitled to paid maternity leave and also entitled to nursing breaks while on the job. Rights of men and women to fair wages, working hours and working conditions are essential for healthy families and healthy societies. While these are unevenly implemented, particularly in the private and informal sector, we should demand them. Through such popular demands, states such as Chhattisgarh and West Bengal are extending these rights to women working in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which will benefit women and also set a standard for other workplaces.

If you weren’t aware of the Maternity Benefit Act you are not alone. Even the Minister for Women and Child Development says that most women are unaware of their rights and of the Maternity Benefit Act in particular, and even when they are they face difficulties. See: Issues in Implementing Maternity Benefit Act.

So, it is up to all of us to live up to the ideals of sound health for ourselves, for our children and our society. Have faith in our Constitution and in good laws, in our bodies, and in our babies.

Faith in our Constitution: Article 42 of the Constitution of India 1949

Provision for just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief the State shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.

Faith in our Laws: Maternity Benefit Act, 1961

Every woman delivered of a child who returns to duty after such delivery shall, in addition to the interval for rest allowed to her, be allowed in the course of her daily work two breaks of the prescribed duration for nursing the child until the child attains the age of fifteen months.

Faith in our bodies:
The composition of breast milk changes according to the needs of the child and the environment. Since mother and baby are exposed to the same environment, whatever antibodies the mother generates will pass to the baby. In the long run, this works out to fewer sick days. When nurslings go through growth spurts they nurse more, including comfort nursing, and in response the body produces more milk, with the composition of nutrients varying throughout the day to be just right every time.

Faith in our babies: Babies will eat more when they need more, and less when they need less. This applies both to breastfeeding and solid foods. Tuning into their biofeedback and biorhythms, they know their needs even if they cannot express them in words. Sometimes a little one will ramp up breastfeeding during initial stages of an illness and nip in the bud. You will never know that an illness was averted. Or a toddler will suddenly resume round-the-clock nursing. Physical growth spurts are measurable, but developmental growth spurts also demand extra nourishment and may not always be apparent. You will not always understand why he eats more some days and less some days.

The World Health Organization recommends that babies breastfeed exclusively for six months and continue breastfeeding while complementing their diet with solids for at least two years and beyond as long as mother and baby wish. Not every baby takes to solids exactly at the age of six months, so as they say, Your Mileage May Vary. Another thing “They Say” is that “Food before One is Just for Fun.” Let the baby continue breastfeeding as he gradually explores the world of food. This way he will love the food he eats and have a safety net during the times of illness, growth spurt or other need for going easy on on solids which will happen from time to time.

Dear Baba in Silguri, One more thing you can do is to remain confident in your patner and in your child and in the value of breastfeeding. Almost every day I hear from women who are pressured to wean before they are ready to, just so that they baby will “eat more.” As if breastfeeding didn’t count as eating! A father who believes in the value of breastfeeding can go a long way in supporting his partner and protecting his child from the pressure to accelerate the change in ratio of mama-milk to solid food.

For Reference:

National Consultation on Maternity Benefit Act

Unorganized Sector Workers should get Maternity Benefit
Maternity Leave for NREGA workers in Paschim Medinipore
Chattisgarh to give Motherhood Allowance
How Children Learn to Eat
Introducing Foods.

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