|More mothers need to be empowered with information on breastfeeding.
By BRIGITTE ROZARIO
Breastfeeding is the “in” thing. Some mums do it for a year, others a bit longer. Not many make it past the three-year mark, though.
Support is lacking in most cases and in others, becoming pregnant with the next child means it's time to stop breastfeeding.
ParenThots speaks to some mums who proudly made it past the three-year mark.
Feeding three kids for four years
Teacher Azlin Abdul Aziz, 31, has three children - Muhammad Razziq, four years old, Nur Affiqa, three years old, and Nur Affrin, 11 months old.
She has been breastfeeding for almost four years now. She managed to nurse her children through her pregnancies by taking lots of meals and vitamins. Initially it was tough because she did not get much encouragement. However, it became easier as she persisted. She believes that there is more milk if she breastfeeds during pregnancy.
“Actually, I have been doing ‘tandem-nursing’ for my kids. Now, I am nursing both Affiqa and my youngest Affrin. Formerly, I was tandem-nursing my eldest and second child. Sometimes, people don't believe me when I tell them about it.
“Until now, I still breastfeed my eldest as well. However, he only gets breastfed at certain times, like when he falls and injures himself and starts crying. I strongly believe that my breast milk will increase because I do tandem-nursing.
“I think it is a miracle and a blessing from God to be able to provide breast milk for my kids. I think it is beneficial for them. When I was breastfeeding my first child, I noticed that he was very active and his immune system seemed to be good. Based on this experience, I decided to breastfeed my other kids as well.
“I believe that breast milk has made them all healthier and stronger. It also strengthens my bond with my kids. As I breastfeed them, I hug them and tell them stories. I also use that time to tell them that I love them very much. They are really close to me and I enjoy the moments that I spend with them. My family members and friends can see how attached my children are to me. I really thank God that I am able to breastfeed all three of them,” explains Azlin.
|Azlin with her three children - Razziq (left), Affiqa (right) and baby Affrin.
Her kids ask her for milk when she comes home from work and just before they go to sleep. According to her, breastfeeding calms them down before sleep. She gives her children the breast unless she is at work, which is when they will take her expressed milk.
Because of her small size, Azlin never thought she would be able to breastfeed her children this long.
“Family and friends are sometimes surprised and impressed because they cannot imagine that I’m able to breastfeed all my kids for the past four years. That’s why I always thank God for giving me the strength to breastfeed,” says Azlin.
While family and friends have been encouraging, she has also received some negative responses.
“Some say that it is enough for kids to be breastfed until two years old. They think that the breast milk will be not enough for my youngest baby if I still continue giving the other children my milk.
“The nastiest response I have heard is that my eldest will suck blood instead of getting breast milk because he’s over two years old!” says Azlin.
As both mother and children enjoy the bonding time when she breastfeeds, Azlin says it will be hard to stop breastfeeding her kids.
“I have tried many times but have not been able to stop. I believe that one day my kids will stop on their own if they find that there is no more milk from their mum's breast,” she adds.
Housewife and former electrical engineer Linda Yee, 38, has been breastfeeding since the birth of her eldest daughter three years and seven months ago. Her son is just three months old now.
She has continued breastfeeding because her doctor told her that she should do so for two years, if possible. Yee thought she would only breastfeed for a year and then wean her daughter. However, she found it difficult to wean her child.
“She wouldn't drink formula milk and would cry until I gave her breast milk. I continued giving her my milk because I didn't have the heart to let her cry loudly for hours.
“It has made my children healthier and stronger. It has also strengthened our bond and made them more attached to me. My eldest daughter always wants me to be around me because she wants breast milk; she rarely looks for her daddy.
“Although my daughter is more than three years old now, she still drinks straight from the breast as she doesn't want to use the bottle. She's too big for me to carry now, so she usually lies down on the sofa, as I bend over to breastfeed her. When she was at the daycare centre, she would rather drink expressed milk from the cup with a spoon instead of drinking from the bottle. She only drinks plain water from the bottle.
“I think my daughter enjoys the comfort more because she always wants to suckle right before she sleeps. She drinks at least four to five times a day. As for my son, I think it's the milk he wants - as long as he's not hungry, he's satisfied. He can take breast milk from the bottle or straight from my breast. However, at night I always give him milk straight from the breast because there's no hassle of warming up the milk from the fridge and he won't cry while waiting for the milk to be warmed up,” says Yee.
She managed to breastfeed during pregnancy even though the milk supply had lessened. Luckily, Yee did not have morning sickness or any other problems then.
“It was tough toward the end of the pregnancy when I was quite big. There wasn't much milk during the pregnancy, but my daughter still wanted it. Now that there's a lot of milk, she has gained a lot of weight,” says Yee.
|Yee with her daughter and son - both are still being breastfed.
While her husband and some friends were encouraging, the same cannot be said for her parents. According to Yee, they would scold her for giving breast milk to her daughter as she is not a baby anymore. They also insist that formula milk is just as good.
Yee explains that some of the responses to her breastfeeding have been less than encouraging.
Some told her that she should have stopped feeding her daughter when she conceived her son. They said she wouldn't be healthy and that her daughter would be sucking away all the nutrients. Some mentioned that her daughter would be fighting with the baby for breast milk and that Yee would not have enough milk for both of them.
“Actually it's not true because the more they suck, the more milk I produce. More demand, more supply. Most people were not encouraging but one doctor told me it's good for both my kids,” explains Yee.
She intends to leave it up to her daughter to decide when she wants to stop. As for her son, Yee believes it will be easier to wean him as he drinks from the bottle and can even accept formula milk.
Four years and counting
Kindergarten teacher Elin Jamal, 37, has been breastfeeding for almost four years now. While her elder son, now nine years old, was only breastfed for a year, her daughter has been breastfed from birth up till now (four years later).
Elin says that she is quite surprised that she has managed to continue breastfeeding for four years.
“I wanted to breastfeed because I learnt that mother's milk is the best. I find that my second child is more alert. And, we do share a special bond that can't be described in words,” she adds.
|Elin with her four-year-old daughter, Izzah Damia Kamarozhar.
Her daughter still feeds straight from her breast and Elin believes that her daughter enjoys the milk as well as the comfort of suckling.
Although she is not embarrassed of nursing in public, Elin says she no longer does so as her daughter feeds at night now.
Elin says she will stop nursing when her daughter no longer wants breast milk. She believes that mothers should breastfeed beyond a year because formula milk cannot be compared to breast milk and its benefits.
Resuming after pregnancy
Government servant Najwa Mohd Adnan, 29, has been breastfeeding for the past three years, only stopping for the months when she was pregnant as her nipples were sensitive.
However after the birth of her second child (her son), she resumed breastfeeding – not just her newborn son, but her elder daughter as well. Her daughter is now three years old and her son is a year old.
|Najwa with her son Muhammad Zulqarnain.
Najwa believes that breast milk makes her children stronger and healthier. In fact, she says it was easier for her daughter to catch a cold when she was not taking breast milk.
“I noticed that when she was consuming fresh milk, it was easy for her to catch a cold and get a fever. So, after I delivered my second child, I gave her fresh expressed breast milk (not chilled or frozen) and that resulted in her becoming stronger.
“I also wanted to resume feeding her breast milk because I was concerned about our bond. I didn't want her to get the wrong idea about her younger brother being favoured,” says Najwa.
She says that breastfeeding has strengthened her bond with her kids and also made them more attached to her.
When she initially started, Najwa never thought she would breastfeed for so long. Thankfully, her husband and friends have been very supportive.
While her daughter drinks the expressed milk by cup now, her son still gets the milk directly from the breast. Najwa also breastfeeds in public, which gets her curious glances and disapproving looks.
Najwa is proud to tell everyone that she is breastfeeding and believes that all mums should nurse their kids beyond a year as the Quran stipulates that mothers should breastfeed for two years.
Housewife Fawzana A. Sani, 37, breastfed her eldest for more than three years and the second one for about three years now.
Her first child was born in 2006 and the second one in 2009.
She decided to breastfeed her children up to two years because it is the duration encouraged by Islam.
She believes that breastfeeding has made both her kids more attached to her. She admits that when they were younger, the kids breastfed for the milk but after two years, it was more for the comfort.
“I thought it would be easy to wean them but it's a long process. With my eldest, it was easier because I had just delivered my son. For a while, I did tandem nursing. My elder daughter even helped relieve the breast engorgement by feeding straight from the breast. When she turned three, we told her she had to stop though because her little brother needed milk more and gradually she stopped,” says Fawzana.
|Fawzana with her children - her daughter was breastfed for about three years; and she is still feeding her son who is now three years old.
She credits her family for the encouragement when she first started. Her husband comforted her through her cries of desperation when she had initial problems. Her mother and mother-in-law helped by preparing meals and drinks that increased milk production.
While she does breastfeed in public, Fawzana explains that she covers herself with nursing clothes and camisoles so that most times, people just think her child is sleeping on her lap.
“The male foreign workers do look at me curiously. I am not sure whether they are hoping to catch glimpses of my breast or are just plain curious!” she says.
Advice for mothers
Fawzana believes that all mothers should try breastfeeding beyond a year. “Breast milk is full of benefits and its composition changes to suit a child's needs at that particular time. My children are healthier and if they fall sick, they recover quickly. Their teeth, jaw and speech develop beautifully,” she says.
She encourages more mothers to breastfeed as it saves on cost. According to her, babies who breastfeed don't soil their diapers as much as those on formula.
She believes that support from the Government, employers and healthcare providers would help encourage more mothers to breastfeed.
Fawzana says that airline companies and airport officials can also help by not asking mothers to throw away their precious expressed milk.
“While my colleagues and I have not had any experience with this, we have heard about such cases in Europe. We don't want to take the risk when we travel, so we always check in our milk to avoid being asked to throw it away. Checking it in is not the optimum way of handling breast milk but it's the best option for travelling mothers like us,” says Fawzana.
Elin believes that a longer time off for working mothers and fewer advertisements on formula milk would encourage more mothers to breastfeed for a longer time.
All the mums agree that education and information is important in empowering more mothers and to support their decision to breastfeed beyond six months or a year.
Although she encourages mothers to breastfeed, Fawzana doesn't believe in judging mothers who don't. “Circumstances may not permit them to do so. It's up to them to decide on the best feeding option for their child at that particular time,” she says.