Breast is BEST

he best gift to your newborn, according to a certified Breastfeeding Consultant

Breast milk contains the appropriate amounts of carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and also antibodies and lymphocytes from the mother. This is all passed to the breastfed baby, helping them grow up strong and healthy. For some, breastfeeding might not be a walk in the park but there are plenty of places to seek help.

Pharmacist from 17 Mile Life Pharmacy, Kuching, Sarawak, Diana Mok, is a certified Breastfeeding Consultant and shares with us on breastfeeding and how she helps her community. 

1Twenty80: Firstly, what is your opinion on how our country is doing when it comes to encouraging breastfeeding? 

Diana Mok: Our country has done pretty well in extending support towards breastfeeding, but of course there is more room for improvement. Extending maternity leave for mothers, accrediting hospitals and clinics for the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative definitely has helped a lot in bringing up the breastfeeding rate in our country. With better awareness of full-time working nursing mothers, more employers are also open to the idea of ‘pumping breaks’ for mothers. Some have also set up nursing or pumping rooms for nursing mothers, so that working mothers can provide breastmilk for their little ones although they are away at work.

1Twenty80: What inspired you to get certified as a breastfeeding consultant?

Diana: I had a terrible start when I was breastfeeding my firstborn. My first breastfeeding experience was challenging and when I was looking high and low for someone to help, I couldn’t find one in my area. So after going through all those ups and downs, I have also helped mothers on several breastfeeding platforms solve their issues. This sparked my passion to help more mothers to nurse. Hence, I attended breastfeeding courses and workshops to get myself certified as a counsellor. I think healthcare professionals should be well-versed in guiding mothers to nurse correctly and help to rectify nursing issues too. 

Thus, I set up my own community pharmacy which is breastfeeding friendly. People would walk into our pharmacy looking for milk formula for their newborns, but most of the time they will walk out of here better equipped with the knowledge of breastfeeding which makes me so glad! 

Quotes: I think healthcare professionals should be well-versed in guiding mothers to nurse correctly and help to rectify nursing issues too.

1Twenty80: Why do you think breastfeeding should be practised?

Diana: Breast milk is the best starter food for newborns and it is natural. If you look at the benefits of breast milk, it not only benefits the babies but mothers too. Besides providing nutritional needs for baby, it fosters close bonding between mother and baby. Breastfeeding not only saves cost in the long run but it saves lives too. New World Health Organisation’s estimates published in The Lancet reveal that increasing breastfeeding to near-universal levels could save more than 800,000 lives every year, with the majority being children under six months.

Quotes: Besides providing nutritional needs for baby, it fosters close bonding between mother and baby. breastfeeding not only saves cost in the long run but it saves lives too. 

1Twenty80: How do you help women in your community when it comes to breastfeeding?

Diana: First of all, we create awareness of breastfeeding in the community which includes the benefits, basic knowledge on how to do it, when to seek help for breastfeeding related issues and others. I also see mothers at the prenatal stage who might be anticipating challenges due to physical issues, on long term medications and more. Another focus of my breastfeeding support is working mothers. Many mothers want to sustain their breastfeeding journey as much as possible but they also want to support the household financially. Most of the time, mothers may face difficulty sourcing for a suitable breast pump. 

I provide a service where the mothers can try out breast pumps and I’ll guide them on the usage and how to choose a pump that best suits them.

1Twenty80: What about if a person has trouble trying to produce milk or their baby won’t latch?

Diana: I would say that there’s hardly any mother who really can’t produce milk for their babies. Most mothers who doubt their milk flow will come in and the first question I would ask them is what makes them think that they don’t produce enough for their baby, and I will correct their  misconception. A good latch on guidance is very important because a good latch ensure adequate milk extraction and the mother can keep up an adequate milk supply. If baby does not want to latch on, that’s when we need to find out the reason and rectify the issue. Normally, I will either consult the mother with her baby and best to have a supportive family member tagging along.

1Twenty80: Is there any dietary advice you usually give for women who are breastfeeding?

Diana: There is nothing specific in dietary adjustment during breastfeeding as long as you have  a balanced diet. Majority of nursing mothers need an average of 500 kcal more compared to non-nursing women. Stay hydrated throughout the day and I would say listen to what your body tells you. Another food concern nursing mothers would want to know is ‘milk booster’ and ‘milk killer’. There’s no concrete list of milk booster because it may work for some and not others.

1Twenty80: Is there any way a man can help their wife or other family members when it comes to breastfeeding?

Diana: A husband and other family members’ support is very important. They can help with many other chores, especially for a new postpartum mother so that she can focus more on nursing and resting. Mental support is equally important because it helps nursing mothers to thrive further. I’m very touched to meet husbands who come to me with their wife who are just as enthusiastic as their wife to learn every bit and part of breastfeeding. 

1Twenty80: What is your advice to our readers when it comes to breastfeeding?

Diana: Breastfeeding is something so natural and is the first precious gift that we can give to our children. As of today we have too many substitutes, artificial feeding such as formula, feeding bottles and pumping gadgets that are being introduced too early in the breastfeeding journey that in fact has a negative impact. So for mothers, get your hands on good, solid knowledge on breastfeeding from credible sources. As for family members and husbands, do support the mothers for their intention to give the best to their babies.