At outreach this week a malnourished baby came to receive immunizations. The child was almost two months, but weighed only 3kg. We wanted to supply the baby with a milk powder formula, but we did not have it with us so we told the mother to come to the clinic the next day. Sure enough she showed up. While she was there I examined the mother breastfeeding the baby and noticed that despite the baby’s good latch and sufficient sucking ability no milk was being released. The mother was dry in both breasts, and therefore the baby was getting little to no food at all. No wonder the child was so underweight. The mother herself was poor and malnourished and there was concern as well of if she had a mental issue. We had a powder milk substitute that could be used for babies 6 months and above, but nothing for those under 6 months. After a few phone calls confirming it was okay to administer this milk to the formula I spent over an hour syringe feeding the child and teaching and demonstrating to the mother how to mix the milk and feed her baby. Unfortunately, the mother could not get the hang of drawing up milk and releasing the plunger slowly into the child’s mouth. Despite numerous demonstrations and practice every time she syringe fed the child the baby would gag. Therefore, I tried option two- showing her how to feed the child bit by bit with a medicine cup. She seemed to do better with that, but I still had many concerns over her ability. Although it clearly was not the ideal resolution for the problem I was very concerned about the life of the baby if she was left in the mother’s hands. Therefore I asked the mother if I could take her baby home for a month or at least a week to feed and care for the baby in order to help it grow. The mother had already had three of her children pass away at a young age, and I did not want to make this the forth. Although the grandfather agreed to let me care for the baby, the mother refused. It was clear she loved her child very much, but I could not get across to her the fact that the baby was in danger if something did not change. In the end we ended up giving the mother a month’s supply of milk powder, some clothes for herself and the baby, a bar of soap, and a little food for the mother. The situation made me discouraged and left me wondering what more could be done. Please pray that the baby is slowly gaining weight and the mother is taking better care of herself as well.
Update: The mother and the baby showed up to immunization outreach this past week! I was hopeful as I weighed the baby, but unfortunately the child was the exact same weight- 3.2kg as the previous month. Although it weighed the same I took courage in the fact that the baby’s face seemed to be a bit fuller, and one of the nurses felt as though the child had more muscle in the leg while immunizing then it did previously. The mother said that she had been feeding the child the milk we provided, and subsequently we were able to provide her with more milk powder that we had brought in hopes that she would be there. This situation has still left me at a loss of what to do for this family. They live far from where I stay, and it is not possible to visit everyday, but I still worry about them. Oh…by the way I asked the mother again if I could take her baby home for a week…the answer was still no.