A breastfeeding specialist from Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) stressed the importance of breastfeeding babies from birth. He was addressing a workshop recently organised at Al Wakra Hospital in recognition of World Breastfeeding Week, held each year from August 1 to 7.
In his presentation about the importance of breastfeeding, Dr Mohamed Ilyas Khan, certified lactation consultant, Obstetrics and Gynaecology Department at Al Khor Hospital, said, “A mother’s milk is unique in helping a baby achieve optimal growth and development.”
According to Dr Khan, the milk of different mammals is not interchangeable. Cow’s milk, even when altered into commercially available infant formula, is not the optimal food to support infant growth and development.
“Human breast milk minimises exposure to foreign proteins and provides virtually all of the nutrients most infants require. Babies who receive formula are deprived of the many nutritional, immunologic, and growth-promoting factors they would have received from their mother’s milk,” he noted.
According to him, the American Academy of Paediatrics strongly promotes breastfeeding babies but stresses that when direct breastfeeding is not possible, the next best choice is to feed babies with expressed breast milk.
Dr Khan added that breast milk produces cognitive benefits for babies. “Studies on premature and term infants have documented better cognitive outcomes in infants who are breastfed versus those who are formula fed. Breastfed babies, when followed over time, tend to have an intelligent quotient that is higher than formula-fed babies and better performance on other tests of cognitive and intellectual function.”
According to him, women also benefit from breastfeeding as it decreases the risk of excessive or prolonged postpartum bleeding, and also lowers the risk of developing ovarian cancer and breast cancer.
Dr Khan advised lactating women to ensure that they drink enough fluids to satisfy their thirst. “Getting into the habit of having a beverage when the baby suckles at the breast is good practice. Forcing the drinking of fluids is not recommended, but drinking water, juice, or other beverages as desired is helpful. However, mothers do not need to drink cow’s milk or consume dairy products to produce human milk,” he stated.
“A daily multivitamin or prenatal vitamin will ensure sufficient vitamins and minerals during lactation. For most women, an additional 300 to 500 calories in their diet will adequately support lactation,” Dr Khan added.