The Supermarket Association of Trinidad and Tobago issued a media release May 13 assuring that based on feedback from its suppliers there is no issue with provision of baby formula for the local market. At present the United States is experiencing a shortage. The news about the baby formula shortage has provided the opportune time for registered dietician Cherise Bronte-Tinkew to remind about the benefits of breastfeeding.
The liquid gold, the first meal of a baby. Breastmilk contains the perfect mix of nutrients for a baby. Breastmilk can become available right after giving birth, and this is referred to as ‘colostrum’. It’s the first meal which is rich and thick with nutrients and antibodies to power up a baby’s immune system.
Breastmilk is free. It provides all the nutrition a baby needs, served at the right temperature and it changes as they grow. Breastmilk includes water, protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, healthy gut bacteria and antibodies.
There is absolutely no need for any other food substance to be added to a baby that is breastfeeding for the first six months. A baby’s organs are still developing and cannot tolerate ordinary foods like us adults.
Breastmilk is adequate for a baby’s digestion tract reducing the chances of colic, acid reflux, constipation, and diarrhea. Feeding breastmilk can reduce the risk of infections, diabetes, eczema, and allergies.
Benefits mom too
You may be intrigued to know it benefits the mother as well. Mothers who breastfeed may find it easier to get back to their pre-pregnancy weight faster. It helps to recover from blood loss during delivery, less chances of becoming anaemic, reduced risk of diabetes, heart diseases, ovarian and breast cancers. Breastfeeding can increase the bonding between mother and infant tremendously and fathers would be happy to know it helps save money, too!
The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. Complementary feeding of foods from the six Caribbean food groups is started at six months and beyond.
Some mothers may face different challenges. Baby formula today should be used under certain circumstances, for example, when a child’s growth is compromised severely or absence of a mother to produce breastmilk.
All avenues to encourage breastfeeding or expressing of breastmilk should be explored before resorting to baby formula. Baby formula has been developed over the years with careful pasteurisation to reduce the risk of milk-borne diseases. There are many different varieties of formula from preterm, soy or rice based. Mothers and guardians are advised to speak to registered dietitians and paediatricians on feeding practices whether it is breastfeeding, expressing breastmilk or use of formula for the growth and development of their babies. They can be guided by trained midwives and lactation counsellors, too.
Baby formula has been created to mimic breastmilk by containing similar nutrients such as water, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, fish oils, and vegetable oils (source of fats).
As of recent study, formula still cannot top the benefits or composition of breastmilk. Do not attempt to make homemade formula or milk as it runs the risk of a baby consuming germs or bacteria which can make them sick. Regular milks such as cow’s milk may be tough on a baby’s digestive tract and kidneys at ages below six months.
Practise good hygiene when feeding babies overall. Wash hands thoroughly, sterilise storage containers or cups used, avoid using dirty blankets or wash cloths while feeding and mothers should relax in a comfortable place while feeding or expressing breastmilk.
Advocacy is encouraged for the promotion of breastfeeding. All companies should create a policy to help mothers have safe places to breastfeed and express breastmilk for their infants. There should be continuous training at workplaces, communities, and health institutions for promoting the importance of breastfeeding.
There is also the Breastfeeding Association of Trinidad and Tobago (they are available on Facebook), who train breastfeeding counsellors and support mothers in need. For more information, the Ministry of Health has provided an up-to-date free guide, ‘Breastfeeding and beyond, a guide to infant and child feeding’ here.
Cherice Bronte-Tinkew is a registered dietician. She is a member of the Board of Nutritionists and Dietitians, and Vice President of the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Nutritionists and Dietitians.
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