Congratulations, you’re about to have a baby, or, if you’re anything like me and started finding more information about breastfeeding while your little bundle of joy sleeps in your arms – welcome to parenthood! The team at Osler Health are committed to supporting you, your baby and your family throughout this journey.
One of the first things to think about with your little one (amongst so many others!) is feeding. In this article I take the opportunity to talk to you about breastfeeding and its benefits.
Why breastmilk and why breastfeed?
Breastmilk is ‘made’ specifically for your baby. For me, this quote from an article in medical journal The Lancet (vol 387, Jan 2016) summarises breastfeeding most aptly: “Human breastmilk is therefore not only a perfectly adapted nutritional supply for the infant, but probably the most specific personalized medicine that he or she is likely to receive, given at a time when gene expression is being fine-tuned for life. This is an opportunity for health imprinting that should not be missed.”
Breastmilk is the ideal nutrition for your baby in many ways. It not only provides ‘nutrition’, but also has several bioactive substances that protect your baby from infection, helps in maturing their immune system and other organs (such as, brain, bone marrow), and maintains a healthy infant gut microbiome.
The most conclusive research on breastfeeding shows that it has a number of benefits for both baby and mum:
The benefits for infants who are exclusively breastfed:
- Short term benefits: reduced rate of infections (ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia), reduced risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and a heightened immune response to vaccines.
- Long term benefits: reduced risk of immune-related and metabolid diseases (such as asthma, childhood obesity, type I and II diabetes). There is also a reduced risk in some childhood cancers (e.g., leukemia). It is often seen that breastfed children tend to score higher on cognitive testing throughout childhood.
The benefits for the mother (when she is exclusively breastfeeding) include:
- Reduction in postpartum bleeding
- Helps in child spacing
- Decreased risk of post-partum depression
- Reduces risk of breast cancer, endometrial cancer and ovarian cancer
- Reduced risk of Type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease
Breastfeeding sounds great! And it’s going to come so naturally, right?
Well, yes and no. As natural as breastfeeding is, it can be a very different and unique experience for each individual mother and baby. Even the same mum may not have the same breastfeeding experience with her different children.
The first few hours and days are crucial for setting you up for breastfeeding success. Initiating breastfeeding soon after the birth is ideal. Most hospitals in Singapore are accredited with Baby-Friendly Health Initiative (BFHI), which ensures hospitals meet the best practice standards to support mother to breastfeed their infants successfully. These hospitals also have lactation specialist midwives, Nurses and / or Lactation Consultants, who will support you during your breastfeeding journey.
It is ideal to discuss your breastfeeding plans and goals with your healthcare providers, especially your family doctor and your obstetrician. There can be many ups and downs in this journey, but with the right support you can reach breastfeeding goals.
Seeing a doctor
Some of the common reasons you may want to see your doctor in the early postpartum period may include:
- Sore nipples
- Engorgement of breasts
- Feeding frequency
- Baby’s weight gain
- Sleepy baby
- Jaundiced baby
These conditions need to be assessed and often managed with support from your doctor and /or other lactation trained providers.
Some other topics you may want to discuss with your doctor in the early weeks may also include:
- Change in infant stools
- Normal infant sleep and night-time feeding
- Variation in milk supply
- Use of breast pumps, safe storage and use of expressed breastmilk
- Support at home and looking after for your physical and mental well-being
- Use of vitamins, medications (including contraception) and galactalogues (medications or herbs used to increase breastmilk production)
Just to name a few!
Breastfeeding can be a wonderfully overwhelming and hugely emotional journey. It is also one that is a start to a great bond with your child. This often requires support when we are feeling at our most vulnerable. We are here to support you and your family throughout.
Please also read our free guide on Having a Baby in Singapore.
Dr Trisha is a UK and Singapore trained family doctor based at Osler Health Star Vista. For appointments please call T: 6339 2727.
- Intitule for the Advancement of Breastfeeding & Lactation Education.
- Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC Breast Milk Storage guidelines).