Baby Feeding Project
Submitted by Mercyships on Fri, 06/29/2012 - 14:08.
The Mercy Ships hospital ship provides state-of-the-art medical care to some of the poorest countries in the world. In addition, the ship’s medical team offers many educational and assistance programmes that support these medical services. For example, the Infant Feeding Programme aids extremely malnourished infants in receiving vital nutrition.
Babies born with cleft lips and palates struggle to get enough milk. Jessica King, Mercy Ships Clinical Dietician, explains the primary goals of the programme: “My most important objective is to have the babies gain enough weight for surgery in a safe and timely manner. A cleft is a constantly visible deformity, and many times the mothers struggle with how their babies look. We build relationships with the mothers – emotional and social support is very important in encouraging them to continue caring for and loving their babies.”
The Infant Feeding Programme helps approximately 20-30 infants throughout a field service. It even assists with weekly transportation costs to ensure that these infants come to the ship on a regular basis. Regular visits are essential to monitoring their progress and assessing any other medical problems they may have.
In addition to babies with cleft lips and palates, other severely malnourished babies are seen as well. They suffer from conditions such as tumours or noma, a gangrenous disease leading to tissue destruction of the face, especially the mouth and cheek. It is vitally important that these children gain sufficient weight prior to surgery.
One of the most common treatments used in the Infant Feeding Programme is a natural food supplement derived from the moringa tree. The tree’s leaves are full of proteins and vitamins, and they can be eaten raw, dried, or cooked. The babies gain healthy weight while also boosting their immune systems.
One of the infants currently being treated is Komlan, who came to the ship when he was only 11 days old. The little boy’s 18-year-old mother was abandoned by her husband when he found out the baby had a cleft lip. In the first 11 days of his life, Komlan had already lost weight. After Mercy Ships nurses taught his mother some different feeding techniques, little Komlan was back on track and gaining weight. As a result, he received his life-transforming surgery, and his mother received much-needed support and encouragement.