Gaborone — Expressed breast milk is a good and safe way of ensuring that babies continue to receive nutrients necessary for optimal growth and development, says an official from the Department of Public Health in the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
Speaking in an interview, Ms Kehumile Modise explained that it was critical for babies to receive the best nutrition particularly in the first six months of their lives.
She said breast milk, whether fed directly from the breast or indirectly after being expressed, remained unparalleled in terms of meeting babies' nutritional needs.
On the best way to express milk, Ms Modise indicated that hand expression was the best compared to using breast pumps, saying it was gentler than the latter, particularly if the mother's nipples were sore.
She added that with hand expression there was less risk of cross-infection as the mother did not have to use any equipment that may also be handled by others.
"As the Ministry of Health and Wellness, we encourage mothers to use the hand expression method instead of breast pumps. Breast pumps are expensive and not every mother can afford to purchase them," she explained.
Ms Modise said hand expression could be highly effective and quick when the mother was experienced.
She added that some mothers also preferred it because it offered skin-to-skin stimulation rather than the feel of plastic as well as the sound of a breast pump.
Addressing the issue of the possibility of loss of nutrients during the process of expressing, handling and string breast milk, Ms Modise stated that like any other food stuff, expressed breast milk stored for some time would lose its freshness as well as some nutrients.
She however hastened to point out that despite that, the milk would remain the best when compared to formula.
She also explained that the shelf life of breast milk was dependent on the manner in which it was stored, noting that at room temperature the milk could be stored for six to eight hours.
She also noted that it could be kept in a refrigerator for a maximum of two days, while it could be kept in a freezer for a period of three to six months.
Ms Modise further emphasised the importance of maintaining the highest standards of hygiene when expressing breast milk.
She said it was important that the equipment and utensils used should be cleaned and sterilised prior to being used.
Furthermore, she observed that whether expressed or fed directly from the breast, human milk remained the best and would continue to surpass milk substitutes regardless of how relentless their manufacturers were in their efforts to match its nutritional value.
"Breast milk contains active infection-fighting white blood cells and natural chemicals that give increased protection against some childhood illnesses," she said, adding that children who were breastfed were less likely to become obese compared to formula-fed children because breast milk was easily digested.
She added that there were no known or documented disadvantages associated with expressed breast milk. Ms Modise said the milk also protected babies against allergies and asthma in the future, and also helped in the babies' brain development.
Outlining the reasons that could compel a mother to resort to feeding their baby expressed breast milk, Dr Kabelo Mokgacha from Boitekanelo Pediatric Clinic said expressing breast milk ensured continuous supply of milk, especially in situations where the mother spent some time away from the baby.
He further pointed out that there were cases where due to ill-health, a baby could not feed directly from the breast, and that expressing could thus become the alternative for ensuring that the baby continued to receive the best nutrition.
Dr Mokgacha also noted that if the baby's muscles were not fully developed to allow for sucking of the breast, a mother could have to resort to expressing and then cup feeding the baby.
Such a scenario, he noted, could be a result of various issues such as the baby's prematurity, affecting the development of the central nervous system.
Dr Mokgacha also noted that a mother could have to express to prevent breast engorgement. BOPA
Source : BOPA