Emotional and social support from husband, family and friends is important to the breastfeeding mother. - Photo ©iStockphoto.com/ oksun70
By SHAMALA VELU
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that breastfeeding is the best source of nourishment for a child's health and survival. It recommends mothers to exclusively breastfeed babies for at least six months.
However, the Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society of Malaysia (OGSM) reveals that the current worldwide decline in the initiation and duration of breastfeeding has increased the need for effective breastfeeding promotion.
Consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Kiren Sidhu says: “Many mothers are opting to breastfeed their babies thanks to the awareness on the benefits of breast milk. However, their goal is usually the first six months. We now want to recommend mothers to continue breastfeeding until baby turns a year old with complementary feeding,” she says.
Dr Kiren … continue nursing until baby turns a year old.
“The good news is that mothers who attend antenatal class in hospitals can readily receive breastfeeding information. Addressing questions prior to baby’s arrival will help ensure a good head start to breastfeeding. In fact, most hospitals want to encourage exclusive breastfeeding and are ready to help,” says Dr Kiren, adding that hospitals always provide a contact number for mothers to call if they need information or help.
Support from family
Emotional and social support from husband, family and friends is important to the breastfeeding mother.
Family members and spouses should always offer emotional support when a mother wants to talk about her concerns. They should also encourage the breastfeeding mother to get ample rest between feeds and have healthy meals as well.
“Fathers should also attend antenatal classes so they know what to expect and can help their wives. Breastfeeding is not always easy, mainly if the breastfeeding mother is experiencing problems. Encouragement from family and those closest to her is very important during this time,” says Dr Kiren.
When family members are discouraging, the important thing is to persevere with your goals and be firm with your decision to breastfeed, she says, adding that mothers can clear up any misconceptions about breastfeeding so that family members and friends are more supportive.
With support on the Internet, mothers can now keep themselves informed and share experiences with other women on breastfeeding blogs and websites. Some mothers will be inspired after reading breastfeeding stories as well.
“Everyone has a different experience and all this is shared on the Internet. You can access all sorts of information, tips and advice on breastfeeding. Mothers can now also get updates and find solutions from the Internet as well,” says Dr Kiren.
“No matter where they get the information, the important point is to encourage breastfeeding,” she says.
Breastfeeding in public
Most women usually look for nursing rooms to breastfeed their babies in public places. Although some shopping malls have special rooms for nursing mothers, the same cannot be said for all buildings and venues.
It can take a while for new mothers to comfortably breastfeed in public. “Breastfeeding in public does make some people feel uneasy. However, that perception is changing,” says Dr Kiren.
“You find women breastfeeding under their head scarves, sarees or in baby slings. It is done very discreetly and there’s nothing to feel ashamed about,” she says.
“We want mothers to continue nursing their babies wherever they are and it should not disrupt their routine,” she says, adding that many fashionable blouses are now available for breastfeeding mothers.
As more people become aware of breastfeeding and its benefits, there will be more public acceptance of women breastfeeding in public.
Breastfeeding and baby blues
While many new mothers experience the baby blues in the first two weeks postpartum, others may have more serious symptoms. They might even wonder why they don't really feel overjoyed with the arrival of their new baby.
Dr Kiren attributes this to the hormonal changes a mother undergoes after delivery.
“Breastfeeding during this time actually encourages the mother-child bonding and it does help to ease a mother's anxieties in most cases,” says Dr Kiren.
However, if the nursing mother does not recover within two weeks, she should seek help from a medical professional.
Going back to work
For mothers who work, it is best to start expressing the milk two weeks before going back to the office. This will help the mother get used to a routine and for baby to adjust to drinking expressed milk from the bottle rather than straight from the breast.
Some work places do provide rooms for nursing mothers to express their milk. However, for those who don’t have this facility, Dr Kiren advises them to talk to their superiors and colleagues for help and support. If there is more than one nursing mum at the work place, the management might even offer the use of a vacant room.
“If there is another mother at the workplace who is already expressing her milk, you can always use the strategy that she is using. Talk to supportive co-workers and you will feel more confident about bringing the breast pump to work,” she says.
Working mothers will also need to make some adjustments and settle into a comfortable routine where they can express milk during working hours. If there is no fridge available, you will need to bring your own ice box to store expressed milk. Don’t forget to label each container with the date, time and amount.
“Continue to breastfeed when you are at home. Once you get into a routine, it will be easier and everything will run smoothly when you are well adjusted to the routine,” she concludes.