Dr. Raymond Awazi, medical director and head of the pediatric and neonatology department at the La Croix du Sud hospital, has reviewed breastfeeding is far much better than cow milk.
Nutritionally, breast milk is specifically for babies; on the immunological level, for it contains antibodies and white blood cells that protect the baby from infections; on the psychological and emotional level, for the baby feels loved and protected; and finally on the practical level, as the milk is almost always available and doesn’t cost anything.
According to Awazi, all species are made differently and the milk of each was specifically meant to take care of its own little ones,” he says. Simply put, cow milk is not meant for human babies.
His puts emphasis is on breast milk, which should be a must in the first six months of a baby’s life, which he says is very beneficial to the child’s health.
“Breast milk and cow milk are different in their composition in a way that affects the baby’s health and development,” he added, explaining that there are a lot more proteins in cow milk (which is why a calf grows so fast) and it even contains proteins that cause allergies to the baby.
A baby’s brain also needs sugar to grow and oleic acid to develop its capacities, and the two are not present in sufficient quantities in cow milk – the oleic acid is actually almost non-existent.
Cholesterol, which is crucial in the formation of some necessary skin fats and vitamin D to protect the skin, can also not be found in cow milk.
Although there are fats in both breast and cow milk, the fats in breast milk are easily absorbed in the baby’s body, contrarily to cow milk.
Awazi says mineral salts such as sodium and calcium which the baby needs is excessive in cow milk to the point that they can damage the body and brain.
“Breast milk, besides containing just enough and easily absorbable salts, facilitates the proliferation of bacteria necessary to a good digestion and contains the iron the baby needs.”
According to him, As a result of all these differences, babies fed with cow milk can develop anemia, diarrhea, allergies, under development of the brain, emotional problems and damage to the mucous membrane of the intestines due to constant diarrhea…
“I have received many cases of babies falling sick in different ways- diseases caused by cow milk.
I would encourage all mothers who are able to exclusively breastfeed their children until they are six months.”
In order to raise awareness on the importance of breastfeeding for a child’s early development and consequently their life, the ministry is planning to launch a campaign about ‘national breastfeeding’ under a theme ‘Give your child the best start in life’.
“Semi-skimmed milk or guigoz would be a better option, but those who cannot afford it could use cow milk, following certain precautions,” says Dr Awazi.
“There is need to add water to the milk when boiling it, for this will reduce the mineral salts to a less harmful level,” he says, explaining sugar must also be added to the milk, as well as some drops of soya oil which contains oleic and linoleic acids.
“Although milk plays a very important role in Rwandan culture as food, it still remains exceptional to babies, cow milk lacks a lot of substances required in human babies,”says Awazi.