More support needed for breastfeeding mums

More mothers are breastfeeding their babies today (Formula Race for baby milk; April 11). But the sharp drop in the number who continue to do so when they leave the hospital is disturbing.

The BFHI-accredited (Baby Friendly Health Initiative) hospitals have policies in place to ensure that mothers set off on their breastfeeding journey on the right path.

Notably, more than 98 per cent of mothers leave the hospital, exclusively breastfeeding. The trouble begins when mothers return home where in two months, only 28 per cent are exclusively breastfeeding.  

There are three areas which stop mothers from continuing to breastfeed after leaving the hospital.

First, confinement practices recommend that mothers are separated from their babies at night. The nannies feed the babies while the mother rests and recovers from giving birth.

Studies show that when breastfeeding does not happen at night, the production of breast milk starts to decrease and mothers may find themselves needing to supplement their babies' diet with formula milk.

Second, while the medical staff caring for mothers and babies at the BFHI hospitals are well informed on the benefits of breastfeeding, their colleagues at the private institutions may not be so.

We have found that mothers may be given some advice which may be detrimental to their breastfeeding journey.

Last, breastfeeding mothers face a huge challenge when they return to work.

Their offices may not provide adequate nursing facilities or they cannot find time during the workday to express their breast milk.

A study in Singapore showed a dismal 1 per cent of mothers continuing to exclusively breastfeed their babies at six months. 

We need to provide more support for breastfeeding mothers as they are nourishing the future of Singapore.

Dr Mythili Pandi

Breastfeeding Mothers' Support Group

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2017, with the headline 'More support needed for breastfeeding mums'. Print Edition | Subscribe