Saturday, December 27, 2008

Breastfeeding amongst Malaysians

Today's article in The Star highlighted that the rate of breastfeeding among Malaysian mothers is “very low” -- a mere 14.5% breastfeed their children up to six months, according to Health Ministry statistics.

I am feeling a little sad about these numbers. Having been a breastfeeding mother before, I find that there is still so much more we can do to improve these statistics. The obstacles highlighted here were mothers' ignorance, lack of support from family members/ healthcare providers, mothers returning too soon to the workforce and the availability of infant formulas everywhere telling the mothers that it is better than breast milk.

When Ryan came some years back, I had the exact same obstacles, but I also had a great lactation consultant whom I called and plead and cried to, even before I met her. Through her support and wisdom, I managed to make it through that horrible first week, and then, the confinement month, then 6 months later and then a year and finally, the God sent 2 years where I had not bought a single can of milk powder. Yeah, I don't think the milk company likes me very much. We only stopped breastfeeding completely when Ryan was 2 years and 11 months. The good doctor was very pleased and so was I. Hubby was extremely horrified when we started to buy milk powder - he wondered why they cost so much!!

I am not saying that mothers who choose not to breastfeed are bad, but what I am saying is that if only mothers were given more support, there would be many more who will succeed. We were led to believe that it is ok to substitute breast milk with infant formula, that a cow's milk is just as good as a mother's milk. Now, how can that be? and companies should stop saying that!

These new codes highlighted in the article are supposedly help in monitoring how the formula is advertised etc. But at the end of the day, if the healthcare providers do not start advocating it, there will not be any improvements.

There was a paed that I went to to get some cough syrup and the entire clinic was filled with every imaginable brand of infant formula there. Sure, there was a small rack set up to distribute leaflets about the goodness of mother's milk, but that was it. And if I were an unfortunate mother who goes there for that first jab for the baby, I would obviously have been convinced that formula will be just as good for the baby, minus the hassle of me waking up at night to feed frequently. With formula, the baby is also supposedly be able to sleep longer because the milk composition is harder to digest and thus the baby feels fuller, for a longer period of time. Now, why do you think having the baby feel fuller because of something that is more difficult to digest be better??

While writing this, I am feeling a little angry for all the little babies out there whose mothers were misled, angry with all the milk companies claming that their milk powder is the best, angry with all the healthcare providers who provides free samples of infant formula (I received 2 cans and they were thrown immediately), angry with the milk companies who have caused so much pain and suffering to the babies in China. Really, I am angry that the public see us nursing mums as freaks, thinking that there is something wrong with us for wanting to have this little thing latched on to us.

I can actually go on and on about this. But really, we have to stop thinking that we cannot breastfeed our babies because the doctor/ milk companies/ friends/ relatives etc. said so. We have to believe in ourselves and stand up for our rights, our babies' rights.

With my little one due in the next 2 weeks, I am determined to provide her what I have provided Ryan with - nutrition, love and plenty of tears. And that's about how motherhood is defined in the first place.


Jane said...

I couldn't agree more. When I worked in Singapore, most of the mums there were very determined to give the best to their babies. It is very normal to breastfeed. That's what we Malaysians should do also. Be brave, all Malaysians mothers!

Busy Bee said...

Thanks Jane - A good mother in the making!

Penny said...

It's sad that some don't even try or those who have sufficient supply want to stop. I wanted it so much but couldn't sustain it for long due to insufficient supply. Next time I must visit your doc to get some tips how to do this well!

Busy Bee said...

Penny - It's ok, so long as you have tried. My paed is great, I will introduce you to her the next time round.