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Helping Working Mothers Overcome Challenges In Their Breastfeeding Journey

With the proper knowledge, support, and determination, parents can continue providing their babies with the nutritional and emotional benefits of breastfeeding while pursuing their careers.

Dr Sharmina Kamal Shamsul Kamal, obstetrician and gynaecologist at Sunway Medical Centre. Picture courtesy of Sunway Medical Centre.

KUALA LUMPUR, August 4 – Breastfeeding is the best way to nourish infants with essential nutrients, antibodies, and other health benefits that can last a lifetime.

Breast milk is uniquely adapted to their nutrient needs and is safe, clean, healthy, and accessible, hence Malaysia’s National Breastfeeding Policy recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continues up to two years. 

Dr Sharmina Kamal Shamsul Kamal, obstetrician and gynaecologist at Sunway Medical Centre has shed light on the prevalence and benefits of breastfeeding among Malaysians.

“Delayed breastfeeding can be life-threatening. The longer newborns wait to breastfeed, the greater their risk of death. While over 88.6 per cent of babies are breastfed within 24 hours in Malaysia, this number significantly drops to 50.6 per cent after 12 months.

“Among the reasons for this decline could be the lack of access and support for mothers in the workplace to breastfeed and societal pressures,” she explained. 

Xandria Ooi, writer, television and radio host, and motivational speaker, shared her perspective on societal expectations when it comes to breastfeeding in an Instagram post: “So much self-blame, self-criticism and self-judgement comes from society’s conditioning that results matter the most. We put so much pressure on ourselves to achieve results that we automatically seek achievement in breastfeeding too.

“But the thing is to even ATTEMPT to breastfeed is already an achievement. It is the EFFORT that deserves all the applause. It is the effort that speaks volumes of our love.”

Supporting Working Mothers On Their Breastfeeding Journey 

In conjunction with World Breastfeeding Week 2023, it is eminent to recognise the importance of supporting working mothers on their breastfeeding journey.

While breastfeeding is a natural process, it often involves a learning curve that demands dedication and perseverance.

A recent study found that approximately 70.3 per cent of mothers encounter breastfeeding difficulties, including cracked nipples, perceived insufficient milk supply, pain, and fatigue.

For working mothers, balancing breastfeeding and professional commitments adds a layer of complexity.

“As a health care professional, I have witnessed the challenges faced by working parents when it comes to breastfeeding. But I have also seen the countless benefits that breastfeeding can have for both mothers and babies.

“I strongly believe that every mother should have the opportunity to breastfeed her baby, regardless of her work situation,” said Dr Sharmina Kamal.  

One of the support systems that can help is having a lactation consultant. Lactation consultants are specially trained health care professionals who can help mothers breastfeed successfully.

They play a vital role in empowering working mothers to overcome breastfeeding challenges and achieve successful breastfeeding experiences, especially when they have trouble expressing milk. 

“Lactation consultants are breastfeeding experts who can help mothers with various issues, from latching problems to mastitis and weaning. They can also provide general support and education about breastfeeding at every step of a mother’s breastfeeding journey.

“Their role empowers new mothers as they embrace the transformative experience of being a working parent, ultimately benefiting their child’s health and wellbeing,” said Dr Sharmina Kamal. 

Making Breastfeeding Easier While Working

Dr Sharmina Kamal spoke about the importance of having support for breastfeeding mothers: “Access to dedicated lactation facilities and support services is as easy as having a small, private room for mothers to pump and access to a refrigerator to store their breast milk safely.

“These resources enhance the breastfeeding journey, bringing peace of mind and reducing stress, empowering mothers to confidently navigate the demands of caring for a newborn. 

“Lactation consultants play a pivotal role in guiding and assisting mothers, ensuring they have the support and expertise needed to successfully breastfeed their babies and provide them with the best possible start in life.”

As a new or expectant mother navigating the joys and challenges of work and breastfeeding, remember you are not alone.

Group support online or at work with other breastfeeding mums can also be a great help.

With the proper knowledge, support, and determination, parents can continue providing their babies with the nutritional and emotional benefits of breastfeeding while pursuing their careers. 

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