“Man, a 2 month old baby died because the mother gave bean broth with angu [plat à base de semoule de maïs] and infected the intestine (even the surgery didn’t help), the “paediatrician” telling the mom to take the breast and give milk + mucilon [céréale pour enfants] to the 1 month old baby to gain weight, you have no idea how a children’s hospital is because of several cases.”
The above statement, posted on Twitter a few weeks ago, has gone viral, sparking a flurry of comments – and doubts – about baby food diversification.
To read especially on BBC Africa:
BBC News Brazil spoke to experts to clarify some of the top questions asked by mothers – until when should you breastfeed? When and how to give the first food other than milk? Is an artificial milk supplement necessary? Should I use a bottle or not?
According to pediatrician Rosângela Gomes dos Santos, president of the breastfeeding department of the São Paulo Pediatric Society (SPSP), “breastfeeding should be exclusive until the sixth month and should continue until the age of two years or more”.
This is what the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends, explains the specialist.
The advice is followed by the Ministry of Health and is included in the package booklet for mothers.
“Breastfeeding must be exclusive until the sixth month and, after this period, you can introduce foods”, explains Santos to BBC News Brazil, reinforcing that you should not give “water or tea” to the newborn.
According to the pediatrician, the introduction of foods before the sixth month, other than breast milk or artificial milk prescribed by the pediatrician (for mothers who cannot breastfeed during this period), can lead to health problems for the child. baby.
“The newborn’s intestine is not developed enough. In extreme situations, he can have an intestinal infection and this can generate generalized complications, leading to death,” she says.
But normally what happens, explains Cinara Carneiro, intensivist pediatrician, is that the introduction of food before the recommended time generates a picture of malnutrition in the baby.
“The child may be plump, cute, but he suffers from malnutrition. Because, in fact, he does not have the right proportion of the nutrients offered. He may suffer from anemia or an overload of kidney function, which leads to an injury,” she explains.
“What we need to be aware of is that when food is offered at an inappropriate time in a child’s development, the child will have nutritional deficiencies. This therefore leads to a delay in their development,” adds- he.
Ms Santos adds that the use of formula by mothers who cannot breastfeed should be sparing – and should be done following medical recommendations.
“The mother, even the one who has difficulty breastfeeding, must try to do so for as long as possible. As for milk preparations, they must be made in the correct dosages”, specifies the specialist.
Ms. Carneiro, however, has a reservation regarding newborns (up to 28 days)”.
“As there is a greater risk that they, especially premature babies, will develop a condition called necrotizing enterocolitis (damage to the inner surface of the intestine), breast milk is preferred and infant formula is avoided. where the importance of milk donation banks”, he explains.
According to the Ministry of Health, “breastfeeding reduces mortality by 13% up to the age of five, prevents diarrhea and respiratory infections, reduces the risk of allergies, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia and hypertension, allows better nutrition and reduces the risk of obesity. In addition, the act contributes to the development of the oral cavity of the little one and promotes the emotional bond between mother and baby”.
“Start food diversification”
From the sixth month until the ninth month, “the child must know all the foods”, says Ms. Santos.
“It’s a way for the body not to create resistance against a food, to avoid the development of allergies,” adds the pediatrician.
“From six months, it is already recommended to introduce other foods because the breast itself will not nourish the child before his development and everything he needs,” adds Carneiro.
But how to start diversifying the diet?
“Food must be pureed or chopped (the so-called BLW method, or “Baby-led weaning” or “baby-led weaning”), they cannot be mixed in a blender or passed through a sieve, “says Ms. Santos .
“A protein, a vegetable, a cereal. It must be a healthy food, it must not contain salt before one year. Sweets must also be avoided until the age of two.”
“The mother can start to see if the baby has the ability to eat chunks. Give the mother something to put in her mouth. It’s a learning process. But you have to teach it,” he adds.
The objective, according to the pediatrician, is to stimulate the chewing of the newborn.
“The problem is that very often the mother introduces the bottle too early and the child loses the habit of chewing. When the newborn uses the breast, when he sucks his mother’s milk, he has a movement fuller facial muscles than when sucking the bottle. So we end up seeing a lot of children over six months who have great difficulty chewing, but that stimulation is important.”
Mrs. Santos reminds us that the child must “try everything”.
“The food can be in very small pieces, provided the child is under supervision. That is, she takes it with her hand and puts it in her mouth. Sometimes the mother gives these preparations more thick and the child only swallows, without chewing.”
Thus, beating food in the blender or passing it through a sieve ends up delaying the development of facial muscles, according to the pediatrician.
“The ideal is to go from the breast to the cup. No bottle. We advise mothers not to use the bottle and the pacifier”.
Regarding posture, Santos adds that the child should be seated.
“From six months, she already has the ability to sit up. With the exception of premature babies who have developmental delays.”
Andreza Prado, lactation consultant and perinatal educator, points out that many mothers – as well as their support network, grandparents, for example – still believe that breast milk does not meet the nutritional needs of the baby.
“It’s a myth. The failure of breastfeeding is not related to the quality of the milk. There is an urgent need to make mothers aware that breast milk, in its nutritional composition, is sufficient for the newborn. born,” she said, who is a mother of two children, Caio and Elis.
“Unfortunately, many mothers still believe that if the baby is not gaining weight, their milk is weak,” she laments.
“You should not offer the baby any liquid other than breast milk and, if this is not possible, the milk formula prescribed by the pediatrician”, she reinforces.
On her Instagram account (@manasdopeitoamamentacao), Ms Prado guides mothers on breastfeeding – which the expert says is vital to busting common myths and avoiding misinformation.
She therefore recommends that mothers turn to specialized professionals during pregnancy.
Among the most common errors, she cites the lack of information on what is called “effective breastfeeding” (when the child takes the whole areola – or almost – and not just the nipple), the use artificial nipples and the imposition of breastfeeding schedules.
“Proper care of the baby is very important. How does he suck milk? Does he suck and feed? Many mothers think that pain during breastfeeding is normal. But this pain ends up by destroying breastfeeding and is one of the main reasons for early weaning. It shouldn’t be like that and it’s not supposed to be like that,” she says, emphasizing that mothers should “know how to position the baby at the breast”.
“The use of artificial teats, such as pacifiers and bottles, interferes with sucking. They should be avoided as much as possible,” she recalls.
“Finally, breastfeeding should be on demand, that is to say when the baby wants it, whether it is night or day. And as much as he/she wants, until “he/she feels satisfied. The mother should not impose a schedule for breastfeeding”, she concludes.
*This text was originally published on BBC News Brazil.