It has been on my mind for a while now to write a little piece on motherhood as it relates to breastfeeding, drugs, and herbs. I decided to include herbs because, whether we like it or not, herbs and natural medicines remain a huge part of our lives, especially for those of us in developing countries.
Breastfeeding remains a very important part of motherhood, even though some may want to argue this. Apart from the nutritional benefits breastfeeding confers on babies, the practice has several medical and psychological benefits for both mother and babies. Many mothers that are medically not able to breastfeed will rather employ the service of commercial breastfeeders, also know as wet nurses, instead of allowing their children to grow without being breastfed.
Several health-related challenges have been found to be associated with inadequate or total lack of breastfeeding both in mothers and children. Childhood obesity, leukemia, diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome, etc. are some of the diseases reported to be associated with breastmilk denial. Mothers that are unable to or opt to not breastfeed their babies are at risk of diseases such as premenopausal breast cancer, diabetes, obesity, ovarian cancer, and a host of other diseases.
Medically, new mothers are advised to exclusively breastfeed their children for six months, after which the breastmilk can be supplemented with soft foods before gradually graduating to normal foods. Breastfeeding can continue for as long as 12 months or even 24 months depending on convenience. This practice has been proven to be immensely beneficial for babies while adequate breastfeeding has also been reported to be a natural contraceptive in some women.
Breastfeeding and Drugs
It is not uncommon for mothers to be prescribed drugs to attend to any issue that may arise post-natally. Medical experts do not just recommend anyhow drugs for breastfeeding mothers because some drugs have the capacity to find their way into the mammary glands and contaminate the breastmilk. Once this happens, the drug would get into the system of the baby and this might be dangerous for newborns.
Hence, only drugs that have been well researched and found to either be safe if they get into the body system of babies or have no capacity to get into breastmilk at all are recommended for nursing mothers. This is why nursing mothers are prohibited from taking some drugs. Even if one is getting over-the-counter drugs, it is important to inform the pharmacist if the person taking the drug is a pregnant or nursing mother.
Breastfeeding and Herbal Medicines
In the olden days when there are no standard maternity hospitals that can take delivery of pregnant women, women resort to giving birth in their various homes or in the homes of local herbalists who are largely self-trained. Unlike nowadays when conventional drugs are prescribed for post-natal medical issues, herbs and herbal concoctions were the order of the day. Even neonates were not left out from taking herbal concoctions back then.
Thank goodness for modernization, growth, and development, maternity homes, and standard hospitals are sprouting up around us and pregnant mothers can now get the necessary medical attention with their babies. However, this is not the case with everyone in developing regions of the world.
Herbs and natural medicines still occupy a large role in the health of many people in these regions, including pre and post-natal treatments for mothers and babies. According to the World's Health Organization's report, up to about 80% of the world's population still relies primarily on herbs for their healthcare.
Many people rely on herbal medicines not because they are broke, but because it is difficult to get access to conventional drugs. Some do so because they are genuinely broke while many others just prefer the use of herbs over any other thing. Tons of research are now being made into herbal medicines to arrive at safe solutions rather than trying to dissuade folks from using them.
When it comes to pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, extreme caution should be observed in the consumption of herbal medicines and natural products largely because:
- many herbal medicines rely heavily on assumptive dosage as there are no standard procedures for measuring their dosages. This caution should be observed irrespective of being pregnant or otherwise.
- the phytoconstituents in many herbal and natural products are yet to be well researched and many of them have the capacity to filter into the breastmilk of nursing mothers and get into the system of babies. By so doing, they might cause short or long-term harm to the babies.
A few days ago, my wife who happens to be a nursing mother came home with different herbs, packed everything into a pot and started cooking in order to make a herbal concoction. I sternly warned her to be very careful of herbs considering the fact that she's nursing a baby. I have once heard of a situation in which a baby developed kidney issues. Even though the problem might have some other underlying cause, I could not help but think beyond the way some folks abuse herbal medicines to the extent of forcing herbal drinks down the throat of babies.
While this kind of lifestyle (strictly herbal) remains the one and only for folks in certain societies, those with options should not be taking chances so as not to jeopardize their own health and that of their babies as scientific research into breastfeeding and herbs remains generally low.