Revealing the Secrets of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding consultant Gina Yong talks about common misconceptions on breastfeeding and shares tips with parents
 Breastfeeding is internationally agreed to be the best nutrition a baby can receive, protecting babies against infections and reducing child mortality while helping them grow up to be healthy adults. Breastmilk provides the energy and nutrients that the infant requires for the first few months of its life and provides up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs up to its first birthday, to help with development of hand-eye coordination and general brain development. Mothers too reap the benefits of breastfeeding as it has been known to reduce the risk of ovarian and breast cancer.
The National Breastfeeding Policy in Malaysia recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life and to breastfeed together with feeding solid food up to the second birthday. However, it remains a challenge for many mothers to breastfeed exclusively for the first half-year and to continue up to two years. While breastfeeding is a natural process, it nevertheless requires skills and information which many mothers need to learn. Even experienced mothers may face challenges when breastfeeding a new baby. In their personal breastfeeding journeys, many mums have faced their moments of frustration or even pain when trying to give their babies the best through breastfeeding. Breastfeeding counsellor Gina Yong has the answers to many common concerns.  

What are the common myths and misconceptions about breastfeeding?
While anyone with time, knowledge and empathy can encourage women to persevere, sometimes there are overwhelming physical challenges to breastfeeding. Babies can take time to latch properly, leaving mums with raw, bleeding nipples. Other women have limited milk supply and many mothers have experienced pain during the latching stage, resulting in uncertainty, fear and doubt if they were doing it correctly. Many also believe that formula milk is better than breast milk as it is said to contain all the necessary nutrients for the child.

The era of the Internet and easy accessibility to information has resulted in parents becoming overeducated and overthinking when it comes to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is actually about the parents adjusting their mindset. The parents’ mindset plays an important role as their perception and attitude towards breastfeeding affects how they breastfeed and may influence the likelihood of having a positive breastfeeding experience. Under severe circumstances, men have also been known to be able to breastfeed should the survival of their child call for it. What is important for parents to remember is that a baby requires attention, love and touch right from birth, to grow up healthy.  

Should the parents carry their baby immediately after they are born?
After nine months in a warm and secure environment in their mother’s womb, childbirth is uncomfortable and scary for both child and mother. It’s recommended for mothers to immediately cradle and carry their newborn babies as soon as they are delivered to establish skin to skin contact. This also helps the child feel safe and secure in a new and foreign environment and helps associate those feelings with their mother’s touch, smell and warmth.  

How much breast milk does a baby need?
Mothers are encouraged to breastfeed their child as soon as possible after giving birth to allow their baby to learn how to breastfeed and to kick start to development of their immune system. Many mothers often worry that their child will go hungry regularly because their body isn’t able to produce sufficient milk. Mums can rest assured that a newborn’s stomach capacity is the size of a cherry and requires only five to seven millilitres of milk to fill. As such, mothers do not need a lot of milk to sate their baby’s hunger. This, however, results in the child getting hungry more regularly as their body quickly digests the milk. To counter this, breastfeed frequently and on demand even if the last feeding was half an hour ago.  

Is thick breast milk good or bad?
Another concern mothers have shared is on the ideal thickness of breast milk as they have found their milk to be dilute. The common misconception is that dilute milk is not rich in nutrients and antibodies. Breast milk is always at a perfect consistent and its thickness is immaterial. A mother’s body knows the exact consistency of breast milk needed to feed the baby.

What kind of food is recommended for a breastfeeding mother?
Healthy eating helps both mother and child as eating the right food allows the mother to produce good quality milk. Mothers should consume superfoods such as above-ground nuts like walnuts, almond and pecans, eggs, salmon, lentils and yoghurt. Of course, mothers should take care to avoid foods they may be allergic to, or take an allergy test to rule out anything that could compromise their health. 

How can parents communicate with their baby?
Babies respond well to soft talk and positive reinforcement by both parents. During the latching process, parents are encouraged to talk to their baby in soft tones, using positive words. This helps foster a comfortable and safe atmosphere for the child and helps in bonding as they feed.

What happens when a breastfeeding mom returns to work?
Without the right support system, planning and equipment, breastfeeding can become harder once the mother returns to work. Mothers should gradually wean their child off direct breastfeeding while having other family members feed the baby with expressed breast milk, as an abrupt stop in direct breastfeeding could negatively impact the child’s development and wellbeing. That way, the child can still be breastfed when the mother is at home and still be fed with expressed milk when the mother is at work. Mothers should express breast milk as often as possible to alleviate the pressure on their breasts and to stock up on breast milk in case of emergencies. 

Brands like Philips AVENT have been trusted by mothers for more than 30 years as the source of innovative tools like breast pumps and a complementary range of equipment to ensure babies can get the benefits of breast milk even if mum has to be away.

What is the recommended means of storing breast milk?
When it comes to storing breast milk, the best place to store it is in the back of the fridge or freezer and not the door. This is because the open and closing motion exposes the milk to different temperatures and causes its quality to deteriorate. If kept in deep freeze, a mother’s breast milk can last for up to a year. However, the general rule of thumb is to taste and smell the milk first to see if it has gone sour to prevent unnecessary wastage.  

For long-term storage in the freezer, glass containers are a good choice as they are sturdier than plastic storage bags and can be washed and reused. They are also more environmentally friendly and cost-effective in the long run. However, glass containers can be dangerous due to a higher chance of breaking and shattering compared to hard plastic storage containers or trays.

What is the ideal support system for mothers who breastfeed?
Initiating and maintaining breastfeeding is not just the mother’s responsibility, or even the responsibility of the mother, nurse or lactation consultant. Everyone else, especially the father and even other family members, as well as friends and employers, have a role to play to ensure mum can breastfeed with minimum stress and for the full recommended duration.

Philips Malaysia offers a holistic range of Philips AVENT products for the breastfeeding mother’s every need. The Philips consumer lifestyle range includes a variety of innovative kitchen appliances for convenient preparation of healthy meals for the whole family and an innovative range of household appliances for a clean, healthy home. Philips products are available at the Philips Brand Store in Publika Shopping Gallery and The Gardens Mid Valley, both in Kuala Lumpur, and in Sutera Mall, Johor Bahru; at Philips Experience Stores in Menara Axis, Petaling Jaya and in Penang; and at retail partners and distributor stores nationwide and online via Blip.my.

For more information about Philips AVENT, please visit www.facebook.com/Philips.AVENT.MY.


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