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Monday, February 6, 2012

Guest Post: Busting Those Breastfeeding Myths and Beliefs - Part 3

This is Part 3 of a series.  To complete the series, read Part 1 and Part 2.

Dr. Calibo, noted pediatrician and supervising health program officer of the Department of Health-National Center for Disease Prevention and Control’s Family Health Office, explains the medical evidence (or lack thereof) behind more folk beliefs or pamahiin on breastfeeding/motherhood:

Pamahiin No. 1: Pregnant women should avoid slippery foods (e.g. okra) because these would cause the uterus to slip.
Dr. Calibo:
 “No basis for this. Vegetables are vital sources of fiber and other nutrients. The uterus is safe inside the abdominal cavity.”

Pamahiin No. 2: A mother should not breastfeed her child if she has been working hard or has been exposed to the sun because her milk would then be too "hot," turn salty and sour, and possibly cause illness to the child.
Dr. Calibo: “A mother can breastfeed her child even after coming from work. The breastmilk has a stable temperature inside the mother’s breasts. The mother can make herself comfortable right after arriving from work and can breastfeed her child without anything to worry about.”Pamahiin No. 3: Lactating mothers must avoid sour foods because these would curdle the milk and harm the infant.
Dr. Calibo:
 “Not true. Sour foods will not cause the breastmilk to curdle. Citrus fruits and some tamarind-based or sour-flavored broths provide the needed nutrients to a lactating mother. This type of food will not affect the quality of breastmilk.”Pamahiin No. 4: Mothers should not breastfeed when sad, upset or angry because such emotions affect the quality of the milk.
Dr. Calibo:
 “Painful stimuli may affect breastmilk production. Hence, postoperative pain should adequately be addressed after the mother has given birth. Restrictive episiotomy is now being recommended as part of the “mother-friendly practices” of the Mother-Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (MBFHI), and also as part of the essential intrapartum care component of the Unang Yakap program.
I think the emotional problems of the mother would only affect the overall ease of breastfeeding. These emotions do not affect the quality of the breastmilk.”

Pamahiin No. 5:  Colostrum is harmful to the child because it is “dirty” or “impure.”
Dr. Calibo:
 “This is false information and should no longer be propagated. Colostrum is rich in antibodies needed by the newborn in the first week of life. This is mistaken to be “spoiled” because it is golden yellow in color and not white as what the color of milk is associated with.”

Pamahiin No. 6:  Unfulfilled pregnancy cravings for particular foods would result in illness to both mother and child.
Dr. Calibo:
 “I think the local term here is lihi. This does not influence the appearance of the child nor should it have ill effects if unfulfilled.”

            In conclusion, Dr. Calibo says that physicians and other health professionals in general are trained to be socio-culturally sensitive to these myths or 
pamahiin. He stresses that it is the responsibility of the health professional to provide the right information regarding these beliefs.
Once the parents and other relatives see the overall picture and the reasons why such practices should not be continued anymore, they immediately appreciate the beauty of factual information that is needed to better address the health of both the mother and her newborn,” Dr. Calibo explains.

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