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Doctors urge mothers to breast-feed infants

Update: August, 20/2014 - 09:30
Illustrative image/Photo giadinh.net.vn

by Gia Loc

HCM CITY (VNS) — Women who have Caesarean sections are often reluctant to breast-feed their children as they are taking antibiotics for a week or so after delivery. But Le Thi Trang of HCM City, whose premature child weighed only 1.1 kilos, thought differently.

"Every day, I could only see my child through a window. I wanted to carry my child in my arms. In my mind, it's best to give nothing but breast milk, because the milk can improve her resistance to disease," she said.

Her baby had to stay in Gia Dinh People Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit for 40 days.

"My child was exclusively breastfed only for one hour after birth, as Trang was taking antibiotics to prevent infections after having a Caesarean section.

Although the baby was not breast-fed for one week, Trang, following her doctor's advice, manually pumped her breast every three hours to provide milk after she stopped taking the antibiotics.

"My daughter's health became better day by day," she said, adding that firmly believes in the health benefits of breast milk.

Trang's daughter weighed an additional 40 grammes after she was discharged from the hospital.

"Now, my child is six months old, and weighs 5.5 kilos," she said. She continues to breast-feed her daughter but also gives her solid food.

Like Trang, Nguyen Thi Thanh Thao of Go Vap District also breastfed her son exclusively for six months.

"I was told that I should feed my son formula milk when he cries. My mother and mother-in-law thought he wasn't full because my breast milk supply was not enough," she said.

However, Thao read many materials on breast-feeding and decided that she was doing the right thing.

She convinced her relatives that breastfeeding was preferable to formula milk.

"Support from the mother's relatives is very vital," she said.

Resuming work after maternity leave could also present a problem, she noted.

"Every morning, I pump milk and store it in the fridge to feed my child at noon. In the afternoon, I go home and breast-feed him," she said.

According to a report in Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper last year, the rate of mothers using Caesarean sections in Ha Noi's obstetrics hospitals was 40-50 per cent, and in HCM City, 40 per cent.

Breast-fed babies' growth

Do Thi Ngoc Diep, head of the HCM City Nutrition Centre, said that breast milk contained necessary nutrients, vitamins and minerals for infants' growth.

Breastfed infants have fewer risks of contracting infectious diseases such as pneumonia, botulism, bronchitis, influenza and ear infections.

The milk that mothers produce after delivery is highly nutritious and can prevent such infections from occurring.

"That is the reason why mothers are encouraged to breastfeed their newborn babies within 30 minutes or one hour after they are born," Diep added.

Reducing the risks of infectious diseases would also decrease the number of infant deaths, she said.

Exclusively breast-feeding (with no formula milk) would help save 6 million children under 5 years old each year worldwide, she said.

"No milk product is better than breast milk," she said. "Moreover, it prevents the risk of obesity, diabetes and cancer."

Mother's milk straight from the breast was always sterile, never contaminated by polluted water or dirty bottles, which often led to diarrhea, she said.

A study in Viet Nam on suboptimal breastfeeding practices associated with infant illness found that early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding protected against diarrhea and acute respiratory infections.

The study, of 6,068 mothers and their children in 11 provinces in 2011, was conducted by Ha Noi's International Food Policy Research Institute and other organisations. It was published in the International Breastfeeding Journal in early August.

The study showed that the odds of getting diarrhea were still significantly lower among infants who were breastfed in the first hour after birth compared to those who were not.

In addition, the odds were higher among infants who were predominantly or partially breastfed compared to those who were exclusively breastfed.

Psychologist Pham Ngoc Thanh, a former doctor at the City Paediatrics Hospital No.1, said that breastfeeding helped mothers and babies establish a closer relationship. This close interaction also assisted the physical, emotional and cognitive development of babies, and how the child relates to other people in the future, she added. — VNS

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