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Breastfeeding works for working mum

© UNICEF Malaysia/2007/SM.Tan
Working mom Amanda Sun and her 9-month old baby, Leanne.

By Su-May Tan

KUALA LUMPUR, August 2007 - No time to breastfeed? “You just have to juggle your time,” says Amanda Sun, 32, Operations Manager at IBM. Amanda has chosen to breastfeed despite juggling a hectic schedule. She goes in to work early and leaves late but that doesn’t stop her from continuing her baby’s breast milk diet.

A first-time mother to bouncing 9-month old baby girl Leanne, Amanda expresses three times a day - every three to four hours – depending on how she can work around meetings, phone calls and deadlines. Leanne has her last bottle at 6pm. So when Amanda gets home at eight or nine, she is just in time to breastfeed her daughter directly before putting her to bed.

Amanda is fortunate because the company she works for encourages mothers to breastfeed. “It makes a big difference,” she says.

IBM provides a nursing room equipped with fridge and sink for mothers to breastfeed in privacy. So Amanda does not have to resort to going to the washroom like some mothers. Despite having this support from the company, Amanda, of course, faces the other challenges associated with breastfeeding such as having to rush for meetings, leakages, stains and physical discomfort. “It’s not easy,” she says. “But that’s the kind of things you have to manage.” Amanda believes the benefits outweigh the inconveniences.

Breastfeeding challenges

With the rise of a more internet-savvy and well-informed faction of urban women, one would expect more mothers to breastfeed. In Malaysia, however, the number of women who breastfeed exclusively during the first six months remains low, last recorded as 29% in 1996.

“The main problem with breastfeeding in Malaysia is maintenance, not initiation,” says Malaysian Breastfeeding Association's Vice President Dr. Adlina Suleiman. While the Ministry of Health and certain private sector doctors can encourage mothers to breastfeed at the start, many stop once they return to work, especially with the convenience and availability of infant formulas around.

So what made Amanda choose to breastfeed? “Cost-savings,” she says with a laugh. On a more serious note, Amanda explains that from what she has read and been told, there is no scientific proof of any formula to date that is equivalent to breast milk.

Breastmilk, baby's special formula

Breast milk from mum is specially created for baby. Foremilk (the milk that comes out when baby first suckles) quenches thirst and hindmilk (the latter milk that contains more fat) satisfies hunger. What’s more, “at different stages (of breastfeeding) you can provide different nutrients for baby,” says Amanda. A tough act to follow for any scientific formula, no matter how advanced.

While Amanda strongly advocates breastfeeding, she admits that it is by no means an easy task. During the confinement month, she breastfed Leanne directly every two hours. In the second month, she switched her baby to bottles so she could get used to feeding this way. In the third month, it was back to work and Amanda continued to express.

“The support group is very important,” she says. “Never be shy to ask questions or help from experienced close friends.” Amanda, herself, is very thankful for two of her friends who have successfully breastfed their kids. There are many books out there but sometimes you forget what you read, says Amanda. The best way is to have someone you can talk to. So Amanda goes to her friends for advice on everything from how to operate a breast pump to how much milk you should get each time you express.

Building baby's immune system

It’s only been a few months but Amanda says she is already seeing the benefits in Leanne. One of the main claims about breastfeeding is the advantages it has on a child’s immune system. Until today, Leanne seldom gets flus, fever and colds, unlike other children her age. Amanda’s choice to breastfeed may very well be a factor but one thing for sure is the psychological bond that develops between mother and child.

While working mothers may choose not to breastfeed, Amanda feels it is especially important for them to do so. After spending the whole day at work, most women don’t have much time to spend with baby. For Amanda, breastfeeding at nights brings her and Leanne closer together. “I like holding her hand or watching her closely as she sleeps,” she says with a smile. Right now, Leanne is 9 months. Amanda plans to continue or perhaps you could even say enjoy this regimen until baby is two.



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