We agree that the mental health of new mothers is important (Recognise the varied needs of new mothers, March 25).
We also recognise that new mothers have varied needs. As Singapore's largest maternity hospital accredited under the World Health Organisation-led Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) provides new mothers with support and information to help build confidence as they journey through motherhood. Aligned with ongoing international efforts to raise awareness and encourage breastfeeding, the hospital has been organising a "breastfed babies contest'' for the past 25 years.
Motherhood can be challenging, and in today's context, it is a myth that breastfeeding is easy. Technique and support are two key factors in achieving successful breastfeeding. With support from healthcare professionals, family members and friends, as well as learning the proper breastfeeding techniques, most women are able to breastfeed successfully.
There are, however, some women who are not able to breastfeed due to anatomical or post-surgical problems as well as medical conditions. For these mothers and those who choose to bottle-feed, the hospital also provides the necessary support to feed their babies safely and confidently.
Nurturing a baby goes beyond providing nutrition. Mothers who bottle-feed can foster a close bond with their babies through skin-to-skin contact, holding their babies close, maintaining eye contact during feeding and responding to babies' cues appropriately. It is important to provide a sense of security which in turn promotes emotional attachment.
Mothers who have tried their best to breastfeed, but are not able to, should not feel guilty. There may be a sense of disappointment and even a grieving process of having to give up on ideals or hopes to breastfeed.
These feelings should decrease with time as the bond between the mother and baby develops further and the baby grows. However, if these negative feelings overwhelm the mother and interfere with the mother's ability to care for or bond with her baby, peer support or further assessment with a healthcare professional should be sought without delay.
Chua Mei Chien (Dr)
Chairman, BFHI Steering Committee
Head and Senior Consultant, Department of Neonatology
KK Women's and Children's Hospital