Breast Feeding for your babies


Dr Tan Ee Ping

MBBS (Malaya)


Consultant obstetrician & gynaecologist

Pantai Hospital Ampang, Kuala Lumpur


Why breastfeed?
Human breast milk is the preferred milk for all babies. It is least likely to cause allergy, free, available anytime of the day and babies accept the taste readily. In addition, it has antibodies that help babies fight infection. Lastly, the joy of breastfeeding will remain in your memory forever.
What are the benefits of breastfeeding to my baby?
·        Healthier baby
Breast milk contains antibodies that fight infection. A baby’s immune system is not well developed, thus babies are prone to infections. Breastfed babies are less likely to fall sick and even if they do fall sick, they get well faster and are rarely seriously ill.
·        Reduced Allergy
Breastfed babies are less likely to develop asthma, allergic rhinitis and eczema. Allergy is usually hereditary. So, if you or your partner have allergy problems, then breastfeeding exclusively is important.
·        Unique
Breast milk changes every day and also at every feed. The nutrient components change all the time to provide the right nutrition for every age and requirement. Mothers with premature babies would produce milk with different nutrients compared to mothers with mature babies, which also would differ from mothers with three-month-old babies. This would result in better absorption of nutrients jn the baby resulting in a healthier baby.
·        Stronger bond
Breastfeeding also builds a strong bond between mother and child and this bond is everlasting.
What are the benefits of breastfeeding to my health?
·        Reduced cancer risk
Breastfeeding can reduce your risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and uterus cancer. That is why women who have never been pregnant and thus never breastfed have the highest risk of breast, ovarian and uterus cancer.
·        A form of contraception
Exclusive breastfeeding inhibits ovulation and thus there is no menstruation or eventual pregnancy.
How does breastfeeding benefit families and society?
Breast milk is free. That helps to maintain the family budget as formula milk has become quite costly. Breastfeeding also lowers healthcare costs as babies are less likely to fall sick and mothers are less likely to take leave from work to take care of their sick babies. Breastfeeding isconvenient especially when you go shopping or on holiday. There is no need to pack milk powder, bottles, hot and cold water or a steriliser everywhere you go. Night feeds are also easier. You do not need to wake up to prepare milk to feed your baby. You can feed your baby while lying on a bed, and sleep while your baby is still breastfeeding.
How long do I need to breastfeed?
There is no time limit or time frame. Breastfeeding gives the baby security. Babies usually stop breastfeeding on their own when they feel secure. The age varies with each baby. Some babies may refuse breastfeeding as early as six months while some may still be breastfeeding until six years. However, WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months and to continue with breastfeeding until the infant is two years old. This will benefit both mother and baby.
What is exclusive breastfeeding?
Exclusive breastfeeding means feeding breast milk as the only source of food for the baby. This is important for contraception as well as to reduce the chances of allergy and diarrhoea.
What are the issues related to breastfeeding?
Tiredness and lack of sleep is common. No one can replace a mother when it comes to breastfeeding. To reduce tiredness, spouses and other family members play a very important role. Try to get someone else to help with the house work. It is also very important to learn how to breastfeed while lying on a bed. By lying down, you can sleep off while your baby is feeding. This will give you some rest.
Some breastfeeding mothers complain about having backaches. This is due to poor posture during breastfeeding. Make sure you sit with your back straight to prevent this problem. Bring the baby higher up rather than bending your body forward. A breastfeeding pillow may be helpful.
How to ensure successful breastfeeding?
First, you need to have positive thoughts regarding breastfeeding. Your spouse and other family members should be supportive as well. Talk to them in advance about your desire to breastfeed and how they can help you. Attend a class on breastfeeding. Most mothers think that breastfeeding is simple and are not aware that they may face many problems. It is important to attend breastfeeding classes to have sufficient knowledge and skills to breastfeed. Plan your delivery in a breastfeeding-friendly hospital. Not all government or private hospitals in Malaysia support breastfeeding. It is very important to enquire from other mothers who have delivered in the hospital. Your obstetrician also plays a role. A lactation-trained obstetrician can help you solve your breastfeeding issues during the first few days after birth. Some medication can also help increase milk supply. Lastly, you need to know who to consult for help in case you face problems breastfeeding. There are many lactation hotlines or clinics to turn to in case you have problems.
What are the common reasons for failure to breastfeed?
Ignorance is the commonest reason. Mothers who fail to breastfeed always complain that they have insufficient or no milk. This is usually due to mixing breast milk with formula milk at too early a stage, or a misconception on breastfeeding. I have seen many mothers with a lot of milk complaining that their babies do not get enough milk because they always seem hungry for milk. Human babies are dependent beings, which is why they are attached to the breast not just to feed on milk, but also for security.
Refusal to feed is another common reason. The main reason for this is early exposure to bottle feeding. Sucking from a bottle is easier than sucking from a breast. Once exposed to the bottle, some babies refuse to suck on the breast because they know that there are other easier alternatives. That is why giving birth in a breastfeeding-friendly hospital is very important to avoid premature exposure to the bottle. When you face any problem at home, try and consult a lactation consultant before giving up on breastfeeding and giving the baby the bottle. It will be difficult to breastfeed again once you stop.
Support from your spouse and other family members or the confinement lady is also important.  Mothers who wish to breastfeed may fail to do so if she faces discouragement from everyone around her. It is important to talk to everyone around you before giving birth. If you plan to get a confinement lady, make sure that she supports breastfeeding.
How do I breastfeed after going back to work?
If you have successfully breastfed for the first two months, going back to work is never a problem. Some women see their babies after work every day while some only see them once a week or once a month. If you take care of your own baby every day after work, then you only need to express the milk while at work and store it in the fridge or cooler box. Then, feed it to your baby the next day. If you leave your child with a babysitter or your mother 24 hours a day, you still have the option of expressing the milk and freezing it. Frozen milk can be kept for up to three months. You can send your milk to your babysitter or mother once a week or once a month.
How do I express my milk?
Investing in a good pump is important if you intend to breastfeed after going back to work. Get suitable clothes as you would not want to undress every time you pump. Think of your baby when you express your milk as this will encourage more milk flow. Using two pumps at a time can encourage more milk supply and shortens the time needed to express the milk. You need to express every three to four hours to prevent engorgement and to maintain supply.
How do I store my milk?
Milk stored in a refrigerator can last from 24 to 48 hours. Frozen milk can last for up to three months. You can keep your milk in milk bottles as well as milk bags. Always label the date and time of expression on every bottle or bag. To feed the baby, you can heat up the milk on a baby food warmer. Frozen milk needs to be thawed before you heat it up in a baby food warmer. You can thaw the frozen milk by placing the bottle under running water or at the lower part of the fridge overnight.

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