Dear Doctor: I am three weeks away from giving birth, but I am worried about milk production. From experience, I have always had limited milk production which I though was because of caesarian births, until I read information from the internet. What local foods should I eat to enhance milk production? Previously, I have been taking flasks of millet and maize porridge. I have also heard there are local herbs I could use but have no idea which ones they are or where to get them.
Mbabazi Za Mukama
Dear Mbabazi: Often times, many women fear they are not producing enough milk, but if the baby is gaining weight, it is likely that the fears are unfounded. The fears, apart from leading to reduced milk production has resulted in many breastfeeding mothers eating too much and ending up with obesity and its associated problems.
Porridge with milk is usually one of the local foods taken to enhance breast milk in Uganda, and is a good source of calcium that helps the baby’s bones to grow healthy and strong. But porridge and milk, if taken excessively, is likely to lead to obesity.
Because breast milk is mostly made up of water, a breastfeeding woman needs to take a lot of fluids and a balanced diet that includes dairy, carbohydrates (porridge and soya), lean meat, fruits and vegetables.
To increase milk production, a woman should avoid stress and try to have enough sleep since many breastfeeding mothers may fail to have proper sleep because they have to keep waking up to tend to their babies.
It is also important to allow the baby to breastfeed frequently for as long as they want. The more the baby suckles, the more the breasts are stimulated to produce more milk. At least eight feedings in a 24-hour period is ideal. But this can be more if possible.
Garlic has been used to enhance milk production though its effects on body odour only serves to reduce a woman’s self-esteem. There are drugs such as Plasil (metoclopramide), which a doctor can give you as a last resort to treat low milk production. However, this medicine should only be taken with prescription from a doctor because of the side effects associated with it.
Dear Doctor: I was tested and found to have no HIV in my blood. Can I stop taking ARVs now?
Dear Lebne: The fact that you were tested and found to have no HIV virus in your blood, after you religiously took antiretroviral drugs means the medication has worked well in treating the disease.
However, the absence of the virus in your blood does not mean it has completely left your body. But rather, it may now be hiding in the sanctuary areas including having incorporated itself into your cell’s DNA, where the drugs cannot completely eliminate it.
This, therefore, means that if you stop taking your drugs, the virus may with a vengeance leave the sanctuaries and return to your body and render the drugs less helpful.
Please see your doctor for counselling because it is clear that you need more help about how to take your medication, which might be for life.
Dear Doctor: My three-year-old child produces mucus from the nose which smells and this has been going on for a long time. In Luganda it is called ekiboobe. Herbs have not been helpful in managing the condition. What can I do?
Dear Mulumba: Children, just like adults may produce a lot of mucus with a runny nose because of common colds or nasal allergies. Both may go on to produce a complication of sinusitis, which can result in a bad odour and foul nasal mucus discharge.
Most times, young children put anything in the nose and such a foreign body can create a foul nasal discharge. Therefore, you need to see a doctor who can check and treat your child to avoid complications. An Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor is recommended.
Dear Doctor: Whenever I am about to get my periods, I like eating soil. This eases after the period. I get ashamed because my husband thinks I get pregnant and remove the foetus in the name of eating soil. Why does this happen and how can I get rid of this habit?
Dear Edgar: Pica is a condition where a person craves for, and eats non-food things including soil. This behaviour is more common among young children, pregnant women or those with mental and intelligence challenges. Because it is common in pregnancy could be the reason why your husband thinks you are always aborting after conceiving.
Though the cause of pica is unknown, it is suspected that the cravings are the body’s attempt to obtain vitamins or minerals that are missing through normal food consumption or may be related to an underlying physical or mental illness. Conditions such as iron, anaemia and zinc deficiencies are known to trigger such unusual cravings. Mineral deficiencies are common these days due to the mineral-depleted soils on which we grow our fruits and vegetables.
Once a person starts, this craving is likely to continue indefinitely as a learned behaviour.
Women and young teenage girls may consume soil or clay shortly before or during their menstrual cycle as an attempt to supplement the low iron level in their bodies, given the fact that they are likely to lose more iron during periods.
Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) is the name given to the physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms that can occur about two weeks before a woman’s monthly period. These symptoms usually improve when the period starts, or a few days after, just as your crave for soil. Typically, the symptoms include bloating, breast pain, mood swings and feelings of irritability.
The mood swings or stress related to the syndrome could lead one into eating soil. Though in most women the symptoms are not severe enough to stop them living normal lives, when it does, a doctor should be consulted.
Eating soil can lead to infection with germs, worm infestation and heavy metal poisoning. So finding the associated cause such as mineral deficiency and then managing it is crucial.