Milking health for all its worth
The bottles boil in a pot, the formula powder is carefully measured with a spoon and placed in little plastic containers. The water is boiled and cooled down to the right temperature and then poured into the bottles, mixed with the powder until it has completely dissolved. This may sound like an experiment in a lab, but it is what happens at home when a mother is bottle-feeding her baby.
Dr Mona Al-Sumaie, Head of the Breastfeeding Awareness Committee in the Ministry of Health says that breastfeeding is not only more beneficial for the child, but it is even easier for the mother. Sadly, in Kuwait, the majority of women do not breastfeed. "The efforts to raise awareness on that issue are very humble. We have a committee but the doctors on board work on various other projects throughout the year," she says. The committee educates young mothers about breastfeeding, gives out pamphlets and bro
chures that explains the difference between breastfeeding and formula milk.
The pediatrician says that breastfeeding is the way a mother naturally nurtures her baby, "It is a trend globally to breastfeed instead of using baby formula. Compared to the mother's milk, baby formula lacks a lot of nutrients and active ingredients that science cannot imitate yet. When a mother resorts to feeding her child formula, she is depriving the child from many benefits that have a long-lasting effect on the child's well-being," she says.
It is recommended that a mother breastfeeds for two years or more. Al-Sumaie noted that breastfeeding makes the child's immune system stronger, and it prevents obesity and many long-term diseases. It also promotes healthier and faster growth, "Breastfeeding is more importantly a way for a mother to bond with her baby. When an infant is born, it doesn't comprehend or speak, but it is very receptive. The act of breastfeeding is nurturing to the child physically and emotionally, and it is the natural way our
bodies are supposed to behave," she says.
Lack of education
Ignorance and lack of education are the main two reasons behind the small number of women who breastfeed. In Kuwait, a majority of women refuse to breastfeed. Some women, especially young mothers, worry about the way their bodies look after giving birth. So, instead of breastfeeding they feed the baby formula milk and get on the treadmill and follow strict diets to lose all the fat that was stored in their body during the nine months of pregnancy. "The body stores this fat for a reason: because it is going
to consume it later in the act of breastfeeding the child.
Many women complain that their bodies and breasts are saggy after delivering the baby, which is only naturally because the body has been storing fat and expanding in size for the period of nine months. It takes approximately six months of breastfeeding for the body to lose this fat," Al-Sumaie explained. She noted that the body produces milk and nutrients that it has stored, and when a mother decides to not let the body work the way it wants, it will not reshape itself immediately.
Al-Sumaie explained that hospitals in Kuwait do not support breastfeeding as they should. When a mother delivers a baby, she is supposed to start breastfeeding within an hour from birth. However, what goes on in the hospitals is a different story. The staff leave the baby with the nurses where it is fed baby formula, and the mother is given sedatives to rest. "This is wrong, and the government maternity hospitals now do not feed baby formula.
The baby is given to the mother to feed when it is hungry. If the mother insists, or if her condition doesn't allow for breastfeeding - which is very rare - the baby is given formula milk by prescription as long as it remains in the hospital, which is three days at the most," she says. Before the baby and mother are sent home, experienced staff try to educate the mother, but only a few respond positively to these attempts, she said.
Client vs patient
Many mothers nowadays care more about the setting of the hospital and the possibility of holding a reception there rather than the medical services they are offered. This is the main reason behind a big growth in the private hospital sector. The problem with private hospitals, says the pediatrician, is that there is always the question of whether they deal with clients or patients.
If they look at the delivering mother as a client, they will not exert a lot of effort trying to convince her to breastfeed. If she doesn't want it because it bothers her and she's not willing to learn, the staff usually apologize and leave her alone. At the end of the day she's paying them for her stay," she says.
However, the trend towards breastfeeding is slowly reaching esteemed private clinics. Three clinics to date are getting accredited with the Ministry of Health to promote breastfeeding to mothers. Al-Sumaie said, "Our bodies store nutrients and fat assuming we will breastfeed for two years or more. It is how our bodies were designed.