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Breastfeeding benefits twelve years later

© UNICEF Malaysia/2007/SM.Tan
Mother and daughter team, Jennifer Thompson and Nadia Ramli. Jennifer believes that the experience of breastfeeding is so special that everyone should go through it.

By Su-May Tan

KUALA LUMPUR, August 2007 – Jennifer Thompson, 44, is such a strong advocate of breastfeeding she got upset when the doctors told her she couldn’t breastfeed her first child due to an appendicitis operation. So when second child, Nadia Ramli, came along she undertook the role with relish.

Being two months premature, Nadia was a small and subdued baby, but after the first month she became a lot bigger and very quickly grew to a healthy weight. Jennifer credits this fast development to breastfeeding. “If you look at her now, you’d never imagine she was a ‘preemy’ (premature baby),” she says. In response to this, Nadia who is 12 years old today, smiles next to mum, 5’4”and a flawless complexion.

Breastfeeding became such a natural habit for Jennifer that she continued to breastfeed Nadia up to three years. While some mothers say it’s a hassle, Jennifer believes the contrary.  “I never had to carry bottles, or always be on call, or wake up in the middle of the night to make milk,” she says. “It was just like here, have it!” she quips.

Making breastfeeding work

Many working mums complain about the lack of time and inconvenience but for Jennifer, General Manager of Persatuan Akademi Industri Music Malaysia (Malaysian Music Industry Association) and obviously a very busy woman, you just have to work out the correct time to express, she says. Sometimes her work takes her out of the office (too music studios and events) but she would bring a cooler with dry ice inside to store the milk.

“To me it’s not a hassle because I could see she (Nadia) was really benefiting from it,” says Jennifer. “I’ve done both,” she adds (she had to bottle-feed her son). “When you’re on the move - bottles, sterilizing, getting warm water – that’s a hassle.”

Another issue some mothers may have is breastfeeding in public. For Jennifer, it never was. “I think it’s what you feel, not what they feel,” she says. “If you look at the Mat Sallehs (Caucasians), they just do it. They say, “I want to breastfeed my child so I do it’.” “Anyway,” she adds, “people are more open nowadays.” There are modern outfits and devices so you don’t even have to take your shirt off to breastfeed.

Milk on demand

Apart from Nadia’s speedy growth as a newborn, Jennifer lists other benefits she believes stem, to a certain extent, from breastfeeding. As a baby, Nadia never had much colic, and was easy to handle. “Maybe because she always got ‘milk on demand’,” says Jennifer pointing to herself with a smile.

Growing up during the ‘haze years’ in the 90s, Nadia suffered from asthma but she has since grown out of it. Now 12, Jennifer says Nadia is athletic (with a passion for tennis), “naturally academic” and an avid reader. True enough, Nadia is right now sporting a book in her hand.

Whether these benefits can or cannot be attributed to breastfeeding, there is clearly a very strong bond between mother and daughter. Put them together and they look like a pair of teenage friends in their black t-shirts and jeans. “She’s very close to me,” affirms Jennifer, looking at her daughter. “She’s my buddy.” Nadia grins. “Does that mean I can go to the Mickey academy (a tennis academy in the US)?” she says. “Yeah, if you’re good enough,” mum teases back.

Forging a special bond

For mothers out there deciding whether to breastfeed, Jennifer says, it’s always much easier to say breastfeeding is good and she understands that it can be hard for working mothers. “But the experience of breastfeeding – you can’t go through it all the time,” she says. “It’s special and I think everyone should go through it.”

If breastfeeding can establish the bond Jennifer has with her daughter, a lot of mothers out there would probably consider it more seriously.

Jennifer proceeds to explain some graphic details about breastfeeding in public. “Oh no, you’re not going to print that, are you?” Nadia says, imagining the reactions of her friends at school.

“What’s wrong?” mum says, throwing her a grin. The way close friends do.



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