17 May 2010

Tonga baby deaths prompt feeding warning

1:44 pm on 17 May 2010

A paediatrician in Tonga is warning against feeding babies cheap alternatives such as condensed milk following the deaths of two babies and the hospitalisation of others.

Protein malnutrition has contributed to the deaths of two babies and has led to several others being hospitalised in the capital, Nuku'alofa in the past two months.

Dr Siaosi 'Aho, the paediatrician in charge of the children's ward at Vaiola Hospital, says that's because some babies are being fed foods which lack protein, because formula is too expensive.

He says they're working to educate people that breastfeeding is the most inexpensive way to provide nutrition for their child.

"If you can not do that then there is no other way to provide nutrition for a baby who is less than twelve months of age other than a humanised formula. The alternatives like the sweetened condensed milk and powdered Anchor milk and Milo and all that is not anything you would feed your baby with."

Dr 'Aho says its unclear why some women give up breastfeeding too soon, although some lack support, have jobs far from home, or have difficulty breastfeeding.