Beef up support and care for new mothers, says WP MP He Ting Ru

It is vital that new mothers are given the right care and support after childbirth, said WP MP He Ting Ru. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Being a mother is among the major roles a woman will play, and one that is also among the most difficult, said Workers' Party MP He Ting Ru (Sengkang GRC).

And it is vital that new mothers are given the right care and support in the vulnerable weeks and months that follow childbirth, she added.

One way to support new mothers in getting used to things such as breastfeeding and putting babies to bed is to have specially trained health visitors - nurses or midwives - call on them at home, she said.

Ms He was speaking in Parliament on Tuesday (April 5) during the debate on the White Paper on Singapore Women's Development.

She has three children, the last of which was born in 2020.

On becoming a mother, Ms He said she felt like she had been run over by a bus multiple times after being in labour for 26 hours when she gave birth to her first child.

When she brought the baby boy home, he was wailing and hungry, which left her frantically trying to search for answers on her mobile phone, she said.

Feeling "lost and bewildered" during this period, Ms He said she was fortunate to have the help of her parents, cousins and friends, who made sure she got the right kind of food.

They also kept her company late into the night by chatting with her on the phone as she nursed her baby, among other things.

For new mums who do not have such a "village" of support, trained health visitors can provide the help they need with home visits, and answer their questions and provide assurance, she added.

Mr Louis Chua (Sengkang GRC) also called for greater support for mums after childbirth, particularly for first-time mothers and families who may not be able to afford, for instance, the services of a confinement nanny.

Mr Chua, who has two children, said the confinement nanny that he and his wife hired was a godsend during their transition from "clueless couple to proud parents".

But he added that such services do not come cheap and have become even more expensive due to border restrictions during the pandemic.

He said: "To reduce inequity and inequality during the foundational years of our children's lives, we need to strengthen access to continuous care for the health and well-being of our parents."

Besides support for mothers, Ms He also called for more support for new fathers, who may feel lost about how to support their wives and bond with their newborn child.

"This can have an adverse impact on them playing a greater role in bringing up their babies," she added.

Her sentiment was echoed by other MPs, including Ms Jessica Tan (East Coast GRC), who said measures to encourage men to use their paternity leave will help ensure that both men and women are actively involved in caring for the children.

As for shared parental leave - where a man can share a woman's maternity leave - Ms Tan said maternity leave is not just meant for a mother to bond with the child, but also for her to recover from childbirth and nine months of pregnancy.

Citing her own experience of giving birth to three children, she said: "Let's not forget, women need to take care of themselves. Their bodies have gone through a lot both physically and mentally."

Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC), who also spoke on the topic of motherhood, said women make immense contributions to society as mothers.

He added that mothers sometimes have to "give up certain things and make sacrifices" for the sake of the children, adding that this should not be taken for granted.

Mr Gan said the Government could consider granting subsidies to mothers who are unable to join the workforce as a result of family circumstances.

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