Breast milk is known to be the most nutritious and complete food for infants. It provides all the essential nutrients required for a baby’s growth and development, and it also contains antibodies that help protect babies from infections and illnesses. However, in some cases, babies may have difficulty swallowing breast milk due to various medical conditions or developmental delays. In such cases, thickening breast milk with a thickener can be beneficial.
A thickener is a substance that is added to breast milk to increase its viscosity, making it easier for infants to swallow. It is commonly used for infants with reflux or swallowing difficulties, such as premature infants, those with neurological impairments, or those with cleft palate or other structural abnormalities.
Thickening breast milk can also help reduce the risk of aspiration, a condition in which liquids or food are inhaled into the lungs instead of going down the esophagus and into the stomach. Aspiration can lead to serious respiratory problems, such as pneumonia or lung infections. Thickened breast milk can also help reduce regurgitation and spitting up, which are common in infants with reflux.
There are different types of thickeners that can be used in breast milk, including rice cereal, oatmeal, and commercial thickeners. Rice cereal and oatmeal are natural thickeners that can be added to breast milk, but they may alter the taste and nutritional composition of breast milk. Commercial thickeners, on the other hand, are specially designed for infants and are often made with rice starch or other food-grade thickeners that do not affect the taste or nutritional value of breast milk.
Thickening breast milk can be done by adding the thickener to the breast milk using a bottle or a syringe. The mixture should be stirred or shaken well to ensure even distribution of the thickener. It is important to note that thickened breast milk may require a larger nipple or a specialized feeding system to ensure that the infant can swallow the milk easily.
Before using a thickener in breast milk, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the appropriate type and amount of thickener to use. Over-thickening breast milk can increase the risk of dehydration or constipation, and under-thickening breast milk may not provide enough support for swallowing difficulties.