Grandmother’s Breast Milk Are Better For Babies Than Baby Formula – Nutritionists


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Nutritionist experts, a consultant Public Health Physician, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, Dr. Modupe Akinyinka, and a Registered Dietician-Nutritionist at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, Nwabumma Asouzu, said that elderly grandmothers can still breast feed babies.

They said that breast milk of grandmothers is recommended for babies who cannot be breastfed by their biological mothers for whatever reason.

According to the nutritionists, women who are over 60 years can still produce breast milk and effectively breastfeed infants.

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She advised that instead of feeding babies with an infant formula, surrogate nursing – either by a grandmother or any other woman – should be instituted for babies whose mothers have died or have health complications that make breastfeeding impossible.

The experts, stated that it is very possible for grandmothers as old as 60 years to start a re-lactation process and recover the ability to produce breast milk, under some kind of training.

They also noted that breast milk is produced from the brain, stressing that, if a grandmother develops the passion, willingness and love for a child, the brain has hormones that are able to make her to start producing breast milk again.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with PUNCH HealthWise, Akinyinka, who is also the coordinator of the Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria, Lagos State chapter, said grandmothers could still resume breastfeeding after many years of childbearing, provided they are healthy.

The physician explained, “Breast milk is definitely better than infant formula.

“If the mother of a baby is unable to breastfeed because she is not there anymore, then if we can get somebody else that can assist in giving that breast milk, that would definitely benefit the child than a formula.

“A grandmother can assist in breastfeeding the baby. But it is required that she is healthy and does not have an illness that the child has a possibility of contracting.

“So, grandmothers can still produce breast milk and breastfeed babies, irrespective of their age. If the breast milk starts to flow, they have to be taking a lot of fluids.

“Once the grandmother is well-nourished and properly fed, the breast milk will still be of high quality.”

According to her, the nutritional status of any breastfeeding mother, irrespective of the age is very important and could affect the quality of breast milk.

“But breast milk is better than infant formula. Babies fed with formula are exposed to the risk of infections, especially when prepared in an unhygienic environment.

“In the case of breast milk, there is nothing to fear. Breast milk is easier to digest than infant formula.

“The constituent of breast milk is usually ideal for the child at that point in time. It contains everything that a child needs, unlike infant formula,” Akinyinka noted.

On her part, a Registered Dietician-Nutritionist, Asouzu, told PUNCH HealthWise that suckling, which is the process by which a baby draws milk from the mother’s nipple, can initiate lactation in women who are not pregnant.

The dietician said, “This has been seen most often in women of childbearing age but also has been observed in older women.

“A case has been reported of a baby who had lost his mother and was suckled by his 60-year-old grandmother, who had birthed her last child 18 years before. The grandmother produced milk after a few days and continued to nurse the baby until he was a year old and could walk.

“Relactation, which simply means starting up breastfeeding again after a period of not breastfeeding, takes diligence, work and determination.

“The key is having realistic expectations, learning a few tricks to increase your chances of success, and having a strong support system.

“Frequent stimulation of the nipples by pumping, hand expression, and/or an infant nursing is required to re-establish milk production.”

Asouzu said a specialist could help provide specific guidance on relactation practices by assessing each family’s individual situation.

She pointed out that infants and young children who are receiving human milk from a parent who is relactating must be carefully monitored to make sure the child is getting enough calories to have normal weight gain.

Continuing, she said, “It is therefore very possible to  have grandmothers who are even up to 60 years old to start a relactation process  and recover the ability to produce breast milk under some kind of training.

“First, there has to be a willingness, passion, and commitment towards the survival of that baby (that needs to be breastfed). Breast milk production is coordinated by the brain through the internetwork of some hormones responsible for that purpose.

“When the person who is going to start breastfeeding develops the passion, the willingness and the love for that child, the body has hormones that are able to change the orientation of that woman, who is going to start breastfeeding and before you know it, the breast begins to produce milk again.

The dietician stressed that unless there is no willingness on the part of that grandmother, breastfeeding is possible.

“There is no harm in a woman breastfeeding another woman’s baby; it is called surrogate nursing.

“However, any woman willing to breastfeed another’s child should make sure that she is certified healthy and free of any form of infection and disease, as this may affect the baby adversely.

“There is need therefore to establish that the surrogate mother is healthy enough before she can start breastfeeding other children.

“Although some cultures may view the act of a grandmother breastfeeding a baby who cannot be breastfed by their biological mother because of some circumstances or death of the mother as absurd, it is totally okay because of so many benefits the baby stands to gain from the breast milk.

“It is therefore recommended that instead of feeding the baby with infant formula, surrogate nursing – either by the grandmother or any other – should be instituted.

“Babies have lots to gain from breast milk, no matter how small it is, compared to feeding with infant formula,” Asouzu said.

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