If you are a mum-to-be, or a new mum, you are probably aware that breastfeeding is good for your baby. According to UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), breast milk “protects newborns from infections, helps develop immunity, is beneficial for digestion and optimal growth”. With so many advantages to it, shouldn’t every mother breastfeed her precious little one?
However, breastfeeding rates have actually declined in Singapore over the past five years, says Dr Gina Dahel, a Child Health Specialist at International Medical Clinic who counsels breastfeeding mothers about nursing problems “pretty much every day”.
There are many reasons for the drop in the number of breastfeeding mothers here, says Dr Dahel such as not enough support, fear of not producing enough breast milk, difficulties in expressing or continuing to breastfeed when going back to work, and a lack of understanding and awareness of the full spectrum of benefits of breastfeeding.
“Not an Easy Journey” for Breastfeeding Mothers
“Breastfeeding is not an easy journey. Many new mums struggle alone at home and don’t realise that help is available to them, either through their paediatrician or lactation consultants,” Dr Dahel shares.
A National Breastfeeding Survey published in 2005 showed that 95 per cent of mums wish to breastfeed at birth. However only 20 per cent are still doing so when their baby is six months of age. This is despite the World Health Organization (WHO) recommending that all mums should exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months of their baby’s life, and continue until they are two years of age.
Studies show that women who seek specialist help during breastfeeding are more likely to successfully breastfeeding their babies for longer. However, it is important to realise that
not all mums can exclusively breastfeed. If you can’t, there is no harm in giving your baby other options, says Dr Dahel.
For example, mixing feeds — expressed breast milk and formula — is fine, Dr Dahel assures. So is exclusively expressing and offering expressed milk via bottles. Finally, donor breast milk is also available in Singapore.
Similarly, while all breasts can produce milk and all babies can suckle, it does not mean that all babies will automatically breastfeed successfully. For some mums, not being able to nurse their baby can generate enormous guilt and disappointment. They feel that they are not good enough, that there is something inherently wrong with them. If you find yourself feeling this way, seek help, as this can increase your risk of postpartum depression. Getting the right knowledge, tools, and support will make your breastfeeding journey easier.
For busy or working mums, an electric breast pump can help get more milk in a shorter time. Look for one that is designed for comfort, with silicone material that feels soft on the skin, and able to provide a good seal against the breast, Dr Dahel recommends.
(See also: 11 Best Breast Pumps for Breastfeeding Mums in Singapore)
The Fear of Not Having Enough
At a recent Philips’ ‘Wonder of You’ event, Dr Dahel shared about how having the right support tools, like breastfeeding pumps, can smoothen the journey for breastfeeding mothers. “It is easy to overcome many low supply issues for mums who want to express. Early identification and intervention by seeking help from a health professional can resolve the majority of issues,” she recommended.
Similarly, there are apps and digital communities where mums can get advice. Just make sure it is reliable! With the right knowledge, it is easier to overcome obstacles and go on to enjoy those precious first few weeks and months with your babies, Dr Dahel adds.
(See also: Baby Blues: When Perinatal Depression Strikes)
Helping Breastfeeding Mothers overcome Mental Blocks
Apart from physical tools, it is also important to prepare yourself emotionally for breastfeeding. Being judged for breastfeeding was one of the hardest parts of my journey as a new mum. Difficulties in establishing supply plus postnatal blues made things worse. I felt completely alone. Do new mums these days — almost two decades down the road — still face the same problem? “Sadly, yes,” says Dr Dahel, adding that lack of education and perpetuation of cultural norms have a huge impact on whether mums breastfeed and how long they carry on doing so.
(See also: 10 Ways Dads can Help with Breastfeeding)
Her advice to breastfeeding mothers in this situation? Leverage on the facts, such as that breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to protect babies’ health, promote growth, and boost development in early childhood. “We can become mentally strong and overcome these obstacles by arming ourselves with the correct information. This will empower women to breastfeed and do what they feel is right for their baby,” says Dr Gina. Ready? Start with these below.
10 Facts to Know about Breastfeeding
#1. Breast milk contains all the nutrients that a baby needs for the first six months of life. It is easier to digest than formula milk, protects against life-threatening and chronic illnesses, and boosts early childhood development.
#2. Breast milk is sterile and has properties that protect babies from infections. It also reduces the risk of atopic conditions such as allergies, asthma and eczema.
#3. The ‘love hormone’ oxytocin is produced when breastfeeding. This enhances the bonding and attachment process between breastfeeding mothers and their babies.
#4. Breast milk contains fatty acids that are important for neurological development. Additionally, it can prevent malocclusion of the jaw.
#5. Breastfeeding can help strengthen the baby’s immune system to ward off many common infections. This is important for babies less than 12 months of age as their immune systems are relatively immature.
#6. If a mum has sufficient antibodies either through vaccination or having the infection while breastfeeding, she will pass antibodies through breast milk to her baby.
(See also: Surviving The Fourth Trimester)
#7. Maternal health is crucial to the development of breast milk. A healthy mum means a healthy baby.
#8. Mums who are tempted to diet after giving birth to lose their ‘baby weight’ should eat enough to close any dietary gaps. It is also important to note that catching a virus or bug such as the flu, a cold, or a stomach virus won’t decrease milk supply. However, related symptoms such as fatigue, diarrhoea, vomiting or decreased appetite can.
#9. Breasts operate on supply and demand. Exclusive breastfeeding drives demand and triggers the breasts to create more milk. If breasts do not empty frequently, the build-up of inhibitory hormones will prevent milk production.
#10. In the first few weeks, it is quite common for babies to fall asleep after feeding. If the baby has had a good feed then you can gently unlatch them and let them sleep. If they fall asleep mid-way during a feed, unlatch and try to wake them to complete the feed. A good way to do this is change their diaper. Once they are awake, simply re-latch.
Dr Gina Dahel is a Child Health Specialist at International Medical Clinic with clinical interests in adolescent medicine, childhood development and behaviour and children’s health. Dr Dahel has also worked at IMC Pediatrics and completed a cardiology fellowship at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
This giveaway is closed. Thank you for participating.
:: GIVEAWAY :: Philips Avent Twin Electric Breast Pump (SCF398/11) worth $599
Possibly one of the best pumps for breastfeeding mothers, the Philips Avent Twin Electric Breast Pump uses natural motion technology for quicker milk flow and hospital-grade suction for efficient expression of breast milk. Additionally, it is equipped with a cushion that stimulates the breast to express milk like a baby does. The pump also:
- Seamlessly adjusts from stimulation mode to expression mode.
- Keeps milk flow at an optimum, adapting to nipple size and shape as it changes during expressing.
- Fits 99.98 per cent of nipple sizes (up to 30mm).
- Offers 8 stimulation and 16 expression levels for a personalised experience.
Thanks to a design that lets them sit upright rather than having to lean forward, mums feel relaxed as they express. The quiet motor and slimline design means mums can express whenever and wherever they like. It even comes with a rechargeable battery and a micro-USB adapter which can last up to three sessions on a single full charge.
How to win:
- Like and share this article’s Facebook post or IG post
- Comment with one breastfeeding fact that you love
- Tag a fellow mummy who breastfeeds, or who is planning to
Closing date: 12nn, 1 September 2022.
Featured image: Kristina Paukshtite