Breastfeeding– An Ayurveda Perceptive with the modern science supporting it.

It is widely accepted that breastfeeding is the best nutrition an infant can have. Breast milk is an optimal food source for the infant in the almost first year of their birth. One of the aspects of garbh sanskar is Ayurveda, where the mother is properly taught about the physiology of pregnancy and how to opt the best result using Ayurvedic herbs. As we know lactation is the part of pregnancy where mothers body prepares itself for feeding the newborn. In the course of this preparation, the mother’s body goes through some changes. In this article, you will learn about these changes from the perceptive of Ayurveda.

Formation of breast milk (stanya)

Acharya of Ayurveda rishi Kashyapa mentioned that the stanya or breast milk is formed by rasa. This rasa is prashad bhag or bodily fluids, which include blood along with its all component of pregnant women. Now if look at the modern science the hormone estrogen and progesterone is secretion increases in a pregnant woman but it has the adverse effect of lactation it inhibits the actual secretion of milk. Conversely, the hormone prolactin has exactly the opposite effect on milk secretion by promoting it. Thus it can be concluded that in ancient India where garbh sanskar
was a regular practice they were aware of the fact that certain active compounds (hormones) which they called rasa and reflexes were responsible for the breast milk production and its secretion. In garbh sanskar, the lessons for the couple were not only for the duration of pregnancy but also for after the birth of the baby. As per the research is done so far each time the mother nurses the baby, nervous signals from nipples to the hypothalamus causes a 10 to 20 fold surges in prolactin secretion that lasted for 1 hour. In garbh sanskar the mother was taught how to feed the baby, the proper posture, food to eat during lactation, the psychological state of mind, the surrounding of baby and mother, which further enhance the quality and quantity of milk. They were even taught how to communicate with the baby so that baby’s body can absorb complete nutrition from the milk, probably that’s the reason our ancestors were physically and mentally more stable and strong.

Causes of milk ejection ( stanya Pravriti) and cessation (Apravriti).

Acharya Sushruta has clearly stated the factors which result in Stanya Pravriti; they are sight or touch of the child but affection for the child is most important. Scientific study has already proven that when the baby sucks at nipples it creates a reflex which stimulates the hypothalamus and result in milk ejection ( stanya Pravriti). Many psychogenic factors can inhibit the milk ejection to counter react that there is a practice of meditation in garbh sanskar. Thinking lovingly about your baby, the sound of baby, the sight of the baby these images relax the mother and enhance the level of Oxytocin which promotes the “milk ejection” in lactating women. The hindering factors of milk ejection are worried, stress, pain, and doubt therefore in garbh sanskar class there were lessons for whole family so that the new mother doesn’t counter with such emotions.

The merits of Breasts (Stana-Sampat)

According to Ayurveda acharyas, the breast ( stanya) which is comfortable for sucking is stated to be the perfect one. Acharya Charaka describes

The breast which is comfortable for sucking is said to be the merits of the breast ( stana- Sampat) which is not ATILAMBA, ATIKRISHNA, ATIURDHAWA and have appropriate nipple which is easy and approachable for baby to suck milk. If we talk about the abnormalities of the breast then it has been explained in detail by Acharya Sushruta. According to Acharya Sushruta due to feeding abnormal or imperfect breast as LAMBASTANA, URDHWA STANAmakes the child KARALA, URDHWASKSHA means upward-looking, if the baby has to look upward and cover the face and nose while feeding it may result in the death of the baby. Breast size has nothing to do with it but the way you feed your baby is that you have to consider. Therefore in garbh sanskar, proper posture for feeding is being taught to the new mother.

Breastfeeding very important for the infant as the mental and physical development
of the baby depends on it.

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