Overcoming Challenges of Breastfeeding: Part 1

Providing your baby with adequate nutrition is absolutely critical, and one of the best things you can do for him is to ensure that he is exclusively breastfed for the first six months, with continued breastfeeding recommended until two years of age.

Don’t be alarmed or worried if you have been having problems breastfeeding. It is a skill that takes time and practice before it can be mastered and not something that every mother automatically knows. The things that you need to learn include how to hold your baby, the different positions for breastfeeding, how to get baby to latch on or off, and many others.

In this article, we look at some of the issues or problems faced by breastfeeding mothers, such as insufficient milk supply and breastfeeding in public places. This will be followed with more stories in the next issue of PP Guide on interference from family members, and problems expressing milk.

Mrs A: Worried over breast milk supply

“I still remember the worry and anxiety I went through during the first few months of breastfeeding as I constantly felt that my baby was not getting enough breast milk. However, I was constantly encouraged to continue with what I was doing by my neighbour who worked as a nurse. Subsequent visits to my baby’s doctor also showed that he was growing well and that my breast milk production was keeping up with his needs. Having such a supportive neighbour and hearing such encouraging words from my doctor has helped to ease my worries. Nowadays I just concentrate on nursing my baby until he stops feeding on his own instead of wasting my time worrying about whether or not he is full.”

“The best part of breastfeeding my baby was the way our bond grew stronger throughout the entire time I breastfed him. It’s difficult to describe the feelings and emotions that occur while breastfeeding, but if you are a mother, I would advise you not to miss it for the world! If you have any doubts at all about your ability to breastfeed your baby, talk to your baby’s doctor. He will check baby to ensure he is growing properly and this will go a long way to help reassure you that your worries are unwarranted.”

“It was a very depressing time for me. I was not only constantly worried that my baby wasn’t getting enough breast milk, but worst of all feeling like I had failed as a mother. Moreover, I think I was having baby blues and cried for no reason sometimes. The feelings of inadequacy lowered my self-confidence and it strained my relationship with my husband. Luckily, he was patient enough to put up with me. I later learnt that he had spoken with my neighbour who reassured him and she had also agreed to drop by to visit me, to cheer me up and encourage me.”

Prof Dr Poh:

This is a fairly common fear faced by many breastfeeding mothers. They think that they are not producing enough milk because their babies appear to be latching on them “all the time”. However, a newborn would typically breastfeed between 8-12 times a day during his first month. Another point to note is that a newborn’s stomach is small – roughly the size of an almond. It doesn’t take much breast milk to fill him up and since breast milk is easily digested, he will be ready for another breastfeeding session in a short time.

This means that baby will be at the breast for almost half the time, which can get very tiring for a mother who had just given birth. However, as baby grows and mother’s breast milk production adapts to baby’s needs, the amount of time he spends at the breast will gradually reduce. On-demand breastfeeding is recommended as this will help mother’s breast milk production to adjust to baby’s needs, thus ensuring that he gets enough breast milk. Don’t be afraid to consult with your doctor if there is anything that you are unsure about.

Puan B: Yes, you can breastfeed in public

“When I had my first child, I was initially hesitant to breastfeed in public. However, my husband was very supportive and always encouraged me. This has been a big help in giving me the drive to continue. Even going out for family outings has not stopped me from breastfeeding my baby, as the malls we frequent do have a special room for nursing. However, it can be useful to bring a breastfeeding shawl or baby sling which can double as a cover in case there are no private rooms available. With it, you can discreetly breastfeed even in public places such as a crowded shopping mall, as everything is still covered up.”

“I get to spend more time with baby and hubby without having to be stuck at home all day long. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a short trip or if we spend the whole day out as I can still breastfeed my baby anytime.”

“Sadly, the culture in Malaysia is not as open as those of Western countries, and there are times when I get stares. Having hubby around does help as his presence is a deterrent to gawkers.”

Prof Dr Poh:

Although breastfeeding in public is becoming more common nowadays, there are still people who take offence at the sight of a nursing mother. This may be due to the more conservative nature of Asian culture. Thus, we would recommend that breastfeeding in public be done in as discreet a manner as possible. Find a place where you can be seated comfortably. To attract less attention, you can use a light shawl or nursing cover which will allow you to nurse your baby while ensuring your privacy from bystanders. Ensure that the material of the shawl or nursing cover can ‘breathe’ as you do not want to smother baby.

Learn the Right Techniques

To avoid potential problems, it is important to learn the correct breastfeeding techniques beforehand as this would be a big help later on. Doing so would help prevent problems, such as incorrect latching which can lead to complications like nipple pain, cracked or abraded nipples, baby not being able to achieve proper suction (thus not getting enough breast milk), or even discomfort during breastfeeding. Also remember that practice makes perfect! And if you are unsure, consult with a lactation consultant, a trained nurse or just someone who had breastfed her own babies before.

As you can see there are many challenges in breastfeeding but this shouldn’t cause you to give up. You are not alone in your breastfeeding journey, as many mothers out there face the same challenges as you do. Persevere and build a bond with your child that will last a lifetime.

An educational collaboration with Nutrition Society of Malaysia.

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