Breastfeeding, a practice synonymous with the beginning of motherhood is also one of its most daunting aspects. Mothers all over the world would have so many questions about it: How many years should I breastfeed for? What if I run out of milk? Is breast or formula milk better?
To give you a well-rounded look at all things breastfeeding related, we have decided to consult a medical expert as well as two mothers and their very unique experiences with breastfeeding.
The Doctor’s Perspective
Dr. Mohamed Fakher Hassan who is a practicing pediatrician at his eponymous clinic in Alexandria, Egypt has been working with mothers and children for the past 40 years. Here’s his take as well as his answers to some common questions about breast feeding:
How long should a mother breastfeed her child?
First of all, let us start with the most common question. When it comes to the healthy amount of time a mother should breast feed her child, it would range from a minimum of 9 months to a maximum of two years.
When should a mother introduce solid foods?
With the first 6 months, you are supposed to exclusively breast feed your child, meaning you should not introduce solid foods of any kind during that time period. Once the 6 months are over, that is when you can start introducing solid foods in accompaniment to breast feeding.
There are some special cases where you can introduce solid foods from as early as 4 months. It all depends on your child. To know when you can introduce solid foods, it is recommended that you check with your doctor.
Which is better, breast milk or formula milk and why?
Of course breast milk is much better than formula milk because of how the composition of breast milk includes vitamins and rich nutrients that boost the immunity of the child and its overall health and provides the child with proper nourishment. In comparison, formula milk does not have most of the nutrients offered by breast milk.
Are there cases when a mother should not breast feed her child?
A mother should refrain from breast feeding her child if she suffers from any contagious or transmissible diseases. She should also not breast feed if she’s on certain medication. Again, consulting a doctor is the most recommended option.
Evidently, Dr. Mohammed Fakher believes that breast milk is the preferred source of nourishment for the child. Yet, there are instances when mother’s may need to also revert to formula milk. Here are two special cases:
Farida’s Perspective: A Child Who Is Intolerant to Cow Milk
Sometimes, certain ingredients in breast and formula milk may present issues. Some babies would be born with an intolerance to cow milk leading to complications when they consume their mother’s breast milk or formula milk with cow milk proteins. One such case is of Hana, the three month old daughter of Farida, a 32 year old Egyptian mother of two.
For the first couple of weeks, Hana was okay and was getting breastfed as normal but then after several doctor’s appointments, they noticed that she was underweight and needed another form of nourishment in accompaniment to the breast milk. That is when Farida introduced formula milk to Hana’s diet. Once Hana was a month old, she started to show symptoms indicating that she has an allergy to cow milk. The cow milk is both from her mother’s breast milk especially as her mother would consume dairy products and from the cow milk proteins in the formula milk.
Hana presented symptoms such as crying hysterically for hours on end because of abdominal pain and discomfort as well as a poor diet. Yet, based on Farida’s doctors, the main symptoms of cow milk allergies include eczema (itchy red rashes appearing on the body) as well as blood in the child’s stool. This occurs at a more severe stage of the allergy. To address the issue, Farida removed dairy products from her diet and reverted to amino-acid based formula milk with no cow milk proteins that is suitable for children with cow milk allergies. The symptoms started to die down slowly after that.
Hoda’s Perspective: A Mother Who Runs Out Of Breast Milk
There are cases when a mother’s milk may run out. It can happen at any time during the initial period of the child’s life. In the case of Hoda Ibrahim, a 59 year old mother of two, her current 25 year old daughter lost access to breast milk from the teeny age of 3 weeks. Hoda attempted many times to produce breast milk after those 3 weeks yet it was obvious that she could no longer produce any more. She had to revert to formula milk. In comparison, Hoda’s current 32 year old son had access to breast milk for an entire year.
Despite the main source of nourishment being formula milk for Hoda’s daughter, Hoda stated that she noticed no difference in the overall general health and immunity of her two children during their stages of development up till today. Therefore, despite the superiority of breast milk in terms of health benefits, formula milk can be a solid alternative in special cases like that of Hoda.
When it comes to topics like breastfeeding, looking at different experiences and perspectives can be a source of comfort to mothers. There’s the doctor’s textbook knowledge but there are also unique experiences like cow milk intolerance that can showcase how every instance of motherhood and breastfeeding can be unique.
When it comes to you, take it slow, be very perceptive of your child and test out different approaches until things fit into place. Don’t forget to consult your doctor. There may be a rulebook yet exceptions are definitely a part of the fold. Overall, see what works for your child.
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