|Get as much information as you can on breastfeeding from books, websites, experienced mothers and lactation experts.
By K. LIM
I have always attributed my success in breastfeeding to a lot of reading and research. A common mistake most young mothers today make is to rely on the older generation or worse, confinement helpers, to advise them on how to breastfeed. Without any disrespect meant, these ladies came from a bottle-feeding culture where baby formula was said to be the best choice.
I pored over pregnancy and motherhood books every day, I surfed the Net hungry for information. I spoke to mothers I knew who had successfully breastfed. I enrolled myself and my husband in antenatal classes where the subject of breastfeeding was taught by an experienced and qualified lactation consultant. Online videos were also a great source of how-to and graphical instructions.
One tip I always give friends who ask me for advice is to get one book with nice, colourful pictures, and another which has everything you need to know. I say that as I know many do not like reading as much as I do, so picture books are a way to encourage them to at least look at the images and understand what things are like and how they are done.
During my time, I swore by What to Expect When You’re Expecting, a really good book (but with fewer pretty pictures) by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel. I was introduced to it by a friend and it became my most invaluable companion throughout my pregnancy. After giving birth I continued reading it and followed it up with What to Expect the First Year.
I checked out countless breastfeeding and pregnancy websites, and discovered babycentre.co.uk – a particularly helpful pregnancy and parenting online resource. What I liked best about this website was that it tracks your child’s progress from womb to birth, to the growing years. Each week you’re sent an email that tells you about your child’s progress and tips on parenting, progress and play. I looked forward to the weekly email.
One may feel that I relied a lot on Western wisdom from the books I read and the websites I visited. But I do know and value Asian practices and beliefs. I spoke to an aunt who breastfed her children till they were two years old. I also talked to a cousin who breastfed all four of her kids for six months. I spoke to countless friends, even those who were unsuccessful in breastfeeding. I compared notes and assessed their “mistakes,” determined not to make them myself.
I not only consulted them on breastfeeding practices, but also on many other matters, such as the appropriate diet, getting enough rest, how to go about in public with a baby, how to wean off baby, what’s lacking in most books, and how to stop milk flow without the aid of medication.
A guide which I found informative and localised to Malaysian mothers was Asian Parenting Today, written by local medical professionals. It was especially helpful in advising on diets for breastfeeding mothers, managing various difficulties and immunisations.
In my article in Star2 yesterday, I wrote about successful ly expressing breast milk to feed my two sons, now aged four and two, fully for months (11 months the first time, and 18 months the second), despite my difficulty getting them to suckle from my breasts.
My journey as a nursing mother was filled with challenges. I experienced engorgement, breast accessories forming due to blocked milk ducts, cracked nipples and mastitis.
Whenever I encountered unbearable pain with any of these problems, I’d consult my books for a remedy or for relief; it worked each time. Though most women I knew who had succeeded in breastfeeding their babies for a longer period were stay-at-home mothers, I resolved to continue to breastfeed after I went back to work.
I did my homework well before that by fervently studying the books that I had and drawing up charts and calculations on how much milk I needed to produce in a day. I planned my return to work around my milk expressing schedule. I invested in breast pumps, bottles, cooler bags and ice packs. I backed up my breast milk supply by freezing the excess in sterilised bags.
An aunt who visited me when I was still breastfeeding, couldn’t help comparing her two daughters-in-law, one of whom was successful in breastfeeding while the other was not, and remarking: “Successful breastfeeding mothers are those wise enough to find out more for themselves compared to those who just give up without a fight.”
Every mother can breastfeed. They just need to learn how.