About breastfeeding

This should have been written almost 2 years ago when I completely weaned the littlest member of our family from breast milk. Before my knowledge of what is involved in breastfeeding fades into oblivion, I had better write it down. I am no lactation expert but I thought it might be helpful to put down what I have learnt from my own experience of breastfeeding each of my two boys for 1.5 years and that of other mums into writing… just so I don’t have to re-tell or re-type on the phone every time a new mum approaches me with breastfeeding issues 😛

To breastfeed or not to breastfeed?

Hospitals in Singapore generally encourage mums to breastfeed because of the numerous health benefits for mums and babes, and get new mums started on breastfeeding while they are still in hospital. However, the support given is often insufficient to help mummy continue to breastfeed or be equipped to know how to deal with breastfeeding difficulties when they return home. You may have heard that breastfeeding a baby is the most beautiful and natural thing. But believe me, to most new mums, it’s a real pain and something difficult to master. So painful (more painful than labor for some) and difficult that some mums, who were determined to breastfeed their babies for at least the first 6 months, decided to give up much earlier. Therefore I always tell mums-to-be, “Just try your best to breastfeed but don’t feel bad about giving up early or deciding not to breastfeed at all. Most of us grew up on infant formula and survived. What’s more important is the upbringing of the child and if it means feeding the baby formula so that you can be more sane and patient, so be it.”

Getting the right support from lactation consultants (LC) is crucial for successful breastfeeding. Most mums who give up early do so mainly because they didn’t get help early enough. So I always advise mums to learn how to breastfeed using different positions and how to prepare their breasts for feeding (yes you do need to prepare and not just pop nipple into baby’s mouth!) before leaving the hospital, and contact a LC if they run into any problems when they return home. An additional day of stay in the hospital just to learn how to breastfeed well is a good idea as the consultations are free and you get nurses to help you to take care of the baby for one more day. A good free lance LC whom I always recommend is Doris Fok. She’s one of the most experienced LCs in Singapore who can help you in the comfort of your home.

What breastfeeding products should I get?

What you need to get depends on your budget and circumstances.

Breast pump. If you are going to be the baby’s primary caregiver, a manual pump will suffice as electric pumps (especially dual pumps) can cost up to several hundred dollars and you will probably be latching the baby most of the time anyway. If you intend to return to work, a dual electric pump may be better for you. In order to save some money, you can try borrowing, renting or buying second-hand pumps. Avent and Medela are the most common brands that mothers and hospitals use in Singapore. Whichever brand you choose, it is more important to get funnels with the right size. Mums with large nipples may find that their nipples get sore from pumping when using standard sized funnels as the sides of the nipples rub against the funnel. Check with your LC if you need a larger funnel if you suspect this to be the case and she should be able to help you to find the right size. Whether you decide to use the pump your milk or latch your baby, it is important to learn how to hand express your milk. This helps to ensure that there are no blocked ducts and it’s very handy for expressing small amounts (no need to wash and sterilize pump), for instance, when teaching baby to drink from straw/sippy cups.

Nursing pillow. This is useful only for the first month or two when the baby is still very small and you are not familiar with handling a newborn. Having said that, most mums including myself, find this really useful in the early days. Nursing pillows are also not cheap but definitely more affordable than an electric pump. Here’s a link for the nursing pillow I used. You may choose to borrow or do without it (use a pillow or cushion) if you are on a tight budget.

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