Mothers who are breastfeeding are doing it for longer, a study of formula milk sales here has shown. This comes as total formula milk sales here continue to slide, down 10 per cent from 2017 to 2018 after an 11 per cent decline from 2016 to 2017.
The study by market research firm Nielsen involved face-to-face interviews with about 800 mothers in Singapore between August and September last year.
Close to half - 49 per cent - said they fed their babies a mix of breast milk and formula milk, while 45 per cent said they fed their babies only breast milk and water. The remaining 6 per cent did not breastfeed.
Mothers here breastfed for an average of 8.1 months last year, up from 6.8 months in a similar 2016 study.
Breastfeeding Mothers' Support Group president Elaine Chow said more mothers here could be breastfeeding because of a greater awareness of its benefits and the knowledge that breast milk is superior to formula milk.
She said her group has seen increased interest in its workshops and free counselling services in the last two years. "Mothers who get support at two critical junctures - after discharge from hospital and when returning to work - are more likely to sustain breastfeeding."
Madam Atiqah Halim, a mother of three, received tips from a group of mothers at the office who taught her how to cope with breastfeeding and the demands of work.
The 37-year-old human resource manager breastfed her first two children, now seven and four, for 16 months each. She plans to do the same with her third child, who just turned one. "The challenge for working mums is finding the time to pump milk at work," she said, adding her milk supply would fall if she stops expressing milk regularly.
Initiatives at hospitals may have also played a role in encouraging mothers to breastfeed.
Dr Yvonne Ng Peng Mei, a senior consultant at the National University Hospital's department of neonatology, said the Singaporean public today is "very aware" of the advantages of breastfeeding.
The hospital's newborn unit gives formula milk to mothers who cannot produce enough milk of their own, but also follows up with them soon after discharge to give breastfeeding guidance, Dr Ng said.
Associate Professor Yong Tze Tein, head of Singapore General Hospital's department of obstetrics and gynaecology, said establishing breastfeeding can be challenging for mothers who have had pregnancy complications.
She said: "We actively educate them about breastfeeding when they are admitted as they will most likely deliver prematurely and need to be separated from their babies."
Both hospitals also work with the Association for Breastfeeding Advocacy to train nurses in polyclinics to support breastfeeding mothers.