Many would agree that breast milk is the best nourishment for newborn babies as it helps to bolster their fragile immune systems and facilitates mother-baby bonding. However, there are occasions when it is not always an option, which was the subject of the conference directed by Quirón hospital's consultant paediatrician, Manuel Baca, at the Barceló hotel last Friday.
There are numerous factors that can prevent a mother from breastfeeding, aside from her personal choice of course. Infections or illnesses such as AIDS or hepatitis, conditions such as mastitis, which is the inflammation of breast tissue, and even an inexplicable absence of milk can all inhibit breastfeeding.
Likewise if a baby is born prematurely or suffers a serious illness itself, such as sepsis and metabolic disorders, or even rejects breast milk, mothers have to resort to formula milk or breast milk banks.
In cases of illness in the baby, Baca explained that they should be fed with nutritional supplements, intravenously if necessary, to help them overcome the illness. He added that in certain instances the mother's milk can even be treated to make it suitable for the baby.
Collectively, the neonatologists also considered the optimum period of time over which a child should be breastfed when this is possible. They concluded that up to six months is vital; up to one year is advisable when complemented with solid foods, and even up to two years of breastfeeding would be beneficial for the baby if the mother is willing.
High risk infections in newborns were also discussed. Over recent years, diagnosis and treatment of infections in babies has improved; however Baca highlighted the importance of regular vaccination to help combat potentially fatal infections such as meningitis.