Breastfeeding is a practice that has the single largest potential impact on childhood mortality. It not only provides optimal nutrition for the infant, it also protects the child from respiratory and diarrhoeal illnesses and in the longer run has a protective effect against obesity and non-communicable diseases.
However, research suggests that many mothers perceive that their healthcare professionals are not supportive of breastfeeding and in turn, contribute to early cessation of breastfeeding.
So how can we help mothers breastfeed for as long as they can?
1. It is unusual that a woman physiologically do not have adequate milk. What usually happens is that they have problems with breastfeeding and are not sure how to improve the situation. When a mommy says they have no milk, you can do two things. If you are equipped with breastfeeding training, ask them to clarify. Take time to troubleshoot. If you don’t, offer to refer to a lactation counselor.
2. If you are treating a breastfeeding mother, use LactMed database on toxnet as guidance. It is also available as an app on Googleplay!
Most of the common medications are safe to use in breastfeeding mothers. And those that are not safe, have alternatives. Rarely will you have to ask the mother to stop breastfeeding.
3. If for any reason, you think the mother needs to supplement with formula, please protect the mother’s supply by advising her to pump her milk. You’re right, formula isn’t poison. At times, it is a necessity. But supplementing with formula without protecting milk supply jeopardises the long term journey unnecessarily.
4. Be an advocate, similar to how we believe in immunisation. Breastfeeding saves lives and reduces morbidity. Get that message across, whenever you see pregnant women and mothers. Encourage them to have a peer support group, or create one at your Klinik Kesihatan/general practice/paediatric department.
5. Praise them for doing a good job. We hear about motherhood guilt, burnt out and the feeling of being invisible too common amongst mothers today. Sometimes just saying well done for their hard work makes a mother’s day 🙂
IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant)