Colostrum, milk produced by a woman shortly after giving birth, strengthens the immune system and protects the baby’s health — English (Brazil)

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Skin-to-skin contact between woman and child and breastfeeding in the first hour of life, after birth, also called the “golden hour”, are of great importance for establishing bonds between mother and baby. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), these are also protective factors against neonatal deaths. All mothers should receive practical support, allowing them to start breastfeeding and learn to deal with the common difficulties of this moment.

In Brazil, the prevalence of breastfeeding in the first hour of life is 62%. Not all newborns are ready to suckle immediately after birth, but they should be placed on the mother’s abdomen/chest as long as she and the baby are well and if this is the woman’s desire. Skin-to-skin contact right after birth helps the newborn adapt more quickly to life outside the womb and contributes to the establishment of breastfeeding.

The yellowish, thick milk that a woman produces in the first few days after the baby is born, known as colostrum, is the ideal food for the newborn. In addition to being nutritious, it helps to protect the child against infections, as it contains a large amount of essential substances in strengthening immunity.

Colostrum from the mother of prematurely born babies has a higher and more specific amount of protective immunological factors. In some cases, the premature infant’s digestive system is not yet mature enough and cannot be breastfed in the first days of life. Even so, it is important to offer the milk in a therapeutic way to contribute to the protection and recovery of the baby.

The simple contact of breast milk with the mucosa of the baby’s mouth is already capable of providing several benefits, as explained by Janini Ginani, general coordinator of Perinatal Health and Breastfeeding at the Ministry of Health. “Even if the child is unable to use the gastrointestinal tract and cannot receive food directly, what we have seen in research is that, putting a drop of this colostrum on the inside of the cheek already stimulates the colonization of healthy bacteria that will protect the baby, preventing it from having complications”, he defends.

Necrotizing Enterocolitis

The most frequent and dangerous gastrointestinal emergency in this neonatal period is necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), especially in prematurity babies. According to the NGO Prematuridade, NEC affects 0.1 to 0.7% of live births and about 7% of babies admitted to the neonatal ICU. The problem also occurs in about 5 to 8% of babies born weighing less than 1.5 kg. Also according to the NGO, studies show that breast milk can protect premature children from NEC.

It is possible to reduce the risk of developing Necrotizing Enterocolitis by delaying oral feeding and progressively increasing the number of feedings. The minimal or trophic enteral diet, which is the infusion of small amounts with a few milliliters of breast milk early on, can help reduce the risk of NEC.

Fran Martins
Ministry of Health

Official content – Fact Check – Verified

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