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The TCM view on breastfeeding is pretty similar to that of conventional medicine, as this chat with Senior Physician Qi Xiao Yan from the Tiong Bahru branch of Eu Yan Sang TCM Clinic proves:
“Breast milk is the most natural source of nutrition, and its benefits cannot be replicated by powdered milk. The carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins are all easily absorbed by babies without any wastage,” insists Senior Physician Qi. She points out that the protein found in breast milk is different from those found in powdered formulas. “The protein found in breast milk can be easily absorbed by babies. However, no matter how much casein you add to powdered formulas, babies will not be able to absorb them and they will, in turn, be passed out of the body.”
Senior Physician Qi also expresses similar beliefs with Western convention when it comes to the immunity-boosting ability of breast milk. “Breast milk contains a lot of antibodies; this can raise a baby’s immunity and lower its chances of catching an infection.” She also describes breast milk as easily digestible. “When food is well digested and absorbed by the baby, it can then properly develop,” she explains. Senior Physician Qi also observes that breastfed babies tend not to suffer from constipation.
The Western view is that breastfed babies need not also be given water. However, Senior Physician Qi believes otherwise. “The climate in Singapore is very warm, and babies lose water when they sweat or defecate,” she discloses. “Many parents tend to forget this. I advise parents to feed water to babies as well.” She recommends that water be fed twice as frequently at half the amount as breast milk, ie every one-anda- half hours of 25ml of water if the baby is fed 50ml of breast milk every three hours.
“Breastfeeding mums should watch their diet. Spicy food should be avoided because they can cause babies to experience diarrhoea. Fried food should also be avoided because they can cause ‘heatiness’ in the baby. A simple and balanced diet is key, and the mother should be constantly hydrated. Drink more soup and water.”
It is helpful for the baby to have some supplements, such as ladybell root and cordyceps, although these aren’t really necessary. Senior Physician Qi emphasises that for babies up to four months old, milk is more than enough; only when the baby is sick do medication or supplements play a part. “Keep in mind that the baby’s organs are tender, so it is important to take note of the food you feed. Solid foods should be given incrementally after four months, and never rush this process.”
Photo courtesy of Thinkstock. This article was written by Jasmine Chung and first appeared in Natura magazine issue No.7.
While most of us recognise that breast milk is better than formula milk, do we really know all the facts?