<![CDATA[La Leche League Asia & Middle East - Close to the Heart Articles]]>Tue, 04 Aug 2020 10:04:27 +0800Weebly<![CDATA[Breastfeeding in Splendid Isolation During COVID-19]]>Mon, 20 Jul 2020 12:54:21 GMThttps://www.lllasia.org/close-to-the-heart-articles/breastfeeding-in-splendid-isolation-during-covid-19by an anonymous mother
Xiamen, China

When news of the new coronavirus outbreak came, I was busy preparing for Chinese New Year while taking care of my daughter. She is almost two years old and enjoys playing outdoors. News of the outbreak was spreading widely and I was anxious about the unknown risks. How serious is this new disease? How will it affect me and my family?
On the evening of Chinese New Year’s Eve (24 January), my partner and two-year-old daughter and I went downstairs to set off firecrackers. We wanted her to experience our childhood thrill of chasing Spring Festival fireworks! Our splendid firecrackers attracted several other children who came around to watch and I took care to keep my daughter a safe distance from the crowd. When we finished, the three of us got into the elevator to go upstairs, and then another child came in behind us. Curiously I asked him, “Hello, my friend, you look unfamiliar – which floor do you live on?” As he replied, he mentioned that his family had recently moved in from another part of Xiamen.

Four days later, an ambulance appeared and picked up someone from downstairs. My partner soon received a phone call from the property management office and answered their questions on the health conditions of our family members. He asked if we had had any close contact with the new family downstairs. My mind immediately went back to the elevator ride four days ago, with the child from that family. None of us were wearing masks back then.

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I felt anxious about this new information. My maternal instinct to protect my baby kicked in. What was the probability of us being infected? What could I do to protect my daughter? All I could think of was to stay close to my daughter. I was really glad that we were still frequently breastfeeding. I knew that there were antibodies in my milk that could help protect her.

​The disease prevention and control office required our family to be isolated at home for 14 days. A community worker came to take our temperature twice a day and provided us with other necessary assistance. The presence of a confirmed case in our building made us feel that the danger was literally on our doorstep, so staying at home felt like self-protection rather than being grounded. At the time our neighbour’s case was confirmed, there were only 17 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Xiamen.

My partner and I are both doctors. I am a mammary surgeon and an IBCLC. Usually we go to work early in the morning, almost every day. Those days of isolation at home enabled us to spend hours with our daughter and we did many things together: brushing our teeth, washing our face, reading books together, etc. My daughter particularly enjoyed her father’s company and wanted her dad to sit next to her when she was playing, reading or drawing and even as she was breastfeeding, as if to compensate for his absence during her early months.

As her father kept her company, I had more free time during my home isolation and joined an online breastfeeding support meeting, where I chatted with other mothers and shared information. Towards the end, we were invited to share our current situation during the outbreak. I told them that my neighbour was one of ten confirmed cases in Xiamen (although it turned out to be only a suspected case on that date), and it was a coincidence that they lived so close to me. Being able to share my experience helped my nervousness flow away, and having the other mothers listen helped to calm me down.

After 14 days of isolation at home, the COVID-19 outbreak was still severe. Our family did not go out immediately; in fact, my daughter and I did not leave our apartment for one month. She was so happy to have to whole family beside her as she constantly invited us to join in her games. I think she rescued us from the fear of the epidemic and helped us to join in her world of joy. We made bread and cake together, did housework together, read books and drew, and all these innocent activities let us feel quite happy during the COVID-19 outbreak.

We kept breastfeeding all the time, and she enjoyed the fact that my milk was always available. In February, I volunteered to support breastfeeding mothers in Hubei Province and Hefei City by answering questions in temporary chat groups as a breastfeeding medical specialist.

When my daughter, herself a breastfeeding toddler, heard that some babies needed help getting their mother’s milk, she became quite willing to play by herself for a while to let me have some time to help others. It seemed that because she felt satisfied with her own breastfeeding, she wanted all other babies to enjoy breastfeeding as well!
The COVID-19 outbreak was initially a source of fear for me. However, when the pace of life slowed down with the epidemic, I was able to spend more time with my family and feel the beauty of life itself. The epidemic also gave me the opportunity to join online meetings and be supported by others, to help other breastfeeding mothers via online methods, to spread breastfeeding concepts and to get a lot of energy out of all that!
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For my daughter, the COVID-19 outbreak obstructed her desire to play outside. However, her mood did not suffer. On the contrary, she received more attention and was well nourished by more warmth from her family pouring into her life!

Close to the Heart Vol. 21, No. 1 (Early- & Mid-Year 2020)

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<![CDATA[Living in China During the Outbreak of COVID-19]]>Mon, 13 Jul 2020 13:34:59 GMThttps://www.lllasia.org/close-to-the-heart-articles/living-in-china-during-the-outbreak-of-covid-19by an anonymous mother
Xiamen, China

13 February 2020

Spring Festival is the most important holiday for many Chinese people. The number of people travelling during this period during 2019 reached as many as 2.98 billion. The 2020 Spring Festival travel rush began on 10 January as people gathered with families. Who could have imagined what we were about to face?
On 20 January, the news about a new pneumonia spread among the public. Zhong Nanshan, a medical expert in China, warned the media and government that a virus caused pneumonia, it could spread from person to person, and some medical professionals had been infected in Wuhan City. My partner brought home some masks after work and told me that his company had shared them with employees. More and more people were wearing masks in the city and we did too.

On 23 January, two days before Chinese New Year, the Wuhan government locked the city down at 10am. The numbers of infected people and the death toll were increasing. It was confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO) situation report - 24 that by 13 February, 46,997 people in the world were confirmed infected with the coronavirus, SARS-COV-2 (which causes the disease currently known as COVID-19). 46,550 of those people were infected in China, with 1,368 deaths.

For a few weeks, millions of Chinese citizens tried to limit human-to-human transmission by staying at home. The Spring Festival travel rush suddenly disappeared. We were strongly encouraged to isolate ourselves in our local communities to prevent transmission. The streets became quiet and I could hear birds singing when I opened the window. That was quite rare, since there are about 9,000 families and 30,000 people in the community where I live; my city always has hustle and bustle outside. Public places such as museums, libraries and cinemas were closed temporarily to avoid crowds, and schools were closed.

Measures to prevent coronavirus infection brought lots of changes. The majority of us stayed at home all day long, only going out to buy food. More than 25,000 doctors and nurses came from all over the country to support hospitals in Hubei province and helped to relieve local medical professionals. After about two weeks, my son’s primary school began to provide lessons online.

I sometimes provide in-person breastfeeding support on a volunteer basis, but it was no longer safe to do so at that time. Thankfully, technology provided opportunities: I was able to provide online breastfeeding support via WeChat, an instant messenger program based in China. I with a little surprised to find that one of the participants was brushing her teeth and another washing her face, which never happens when meeting people in person!

After talking about general breastfeeding topics, towards the end of our discussion I asked people to share how they were coping with the coronavirus and how it affected their daily life. One mother had a neighbour who had just confirmed positive for the virus, and she has written her story elsewhere in this magazine. I remember another mother, with a two-month-old baby, saying that the unexpected time staying at home felt just like an extension to the “confinement period” she had already experienced for the first month after her baby was born.

Volunteer work has helped me maintain normalcy and lessen pressure in the middle of this unexpected chaos. Besides providing breastfeeding support, I looked for information for breastfeeding families during the breakout of coronavirus. A huge amount of useful information was available, in particular the WHO interim guide. Collecting and sharing information with those who need it makes me feel a bond between us and gives me a sense of belonging.

Chinese people are now trying to resume their normal lives at their own pace. I believe that in the near future, breastfeeding families will be able to exchange hugs and their stories without wearing masks.

Update on 19 March 2020 

In the two months since most Chinese people learned about this coronavirus, we have made great efforts and passed the darkest times. On 17 March, some provinces used charter flights or vehicles to bring back medical workers dispatched to Hubei Province. The first group consisted of 41 teams comprising 3,675 medical workers. To combat COVID-19, 346 medical teams totalling 42,600 healthcare professionals came to help from all over China. On 18 March, no new infections of the novel coronavirus were reported in Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic. Confirmed cases on the same day were 34, all of them imported from overseas.

As for daily life, the focus is on economics. The government is encouraging companies to work normally and is providing necessary temporary measures such as reducing tax for some small companies. In Xiamen, my hometown, outdoor public places were reopened on 22 February so that people could relax and exercise, but indoor places such as libraries and museums remain closed. My son is still learning online at home and he is longing to return to his primary school, hopefully at the beginning of April.

Close to the Heart Vol. 21, No. 1 (Early- & Mid-Year 2020)
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<![CDATA[The Impact of COVID-19 on Breastfeeding Families Around the World]]>Sat, 11 Jul 2020 15:16:10 GMThttps://www.lllasia.org/close-to-the-heart-articles/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-breastfeeding-families-around-the-worldby Jenny Buck
Leader with LLL Hong Kong - English Group

The timing and severity of the crisis have varied widely across our region. Many parts of China experienced a severe lockdown from mid-January to mid-March. Hong Kong and Taiwan started dealing with the crisis in late January and have been largely successful in keeping the situation under control, with only limited restrictions required. More recently, from mid-March onwards, other countries started taking action and have implemented moderate to severe restrictions, either as preventive measures or in response to an escalating public health crisis.
But even in countries which have implemented “mild” restrictions, there can be a serious impact on the situation for families welcoming a new baby into the world and/or caring for young children. Hong Kong can be counted among countries which have been lucky enough to not suffer lockdown, yet a restriction on visitors to public hospitals has resulted in many giving birth without their partners, and feeling isolated in their homes because they don’t feel it’s safe to take their vulnerable newborns outside or to receive visitors. It has been especially challenging for families who have been trying to help a newborn learn to breastfeed while simultaneously entertaining an older child who can’t engage in their usual activities outside the home.

There have also been some unfortunate incidents of separation of breastfeeding babies from their mothers. In March, we learned about one mother in Hong Kong who had tested positive for COVID-19 and was sent to a quarantine centre without her four-month-old breastfeeding baby, leaving the father holding the baby who turned out to be allergic to infant formula milk. The community rallied around to find informal milk donors to help provide breast milk for this baby. La Leche League’s code of conduct does not allow Leaders to facilitate informal milk sharing due to its health risks, but we have provided support to the mother concerned, who is now back home with her baby and trying to ramp up her milk production.
This whole situation was unfortunate and unnecessary because the WHO, La Leche and the CDC (Center for Disease Control) all agree that the health of breastfeeding babies is best safeguarded by keeping mother and baby together, so long as the mother washes her hands before breastfeeding and wears a face mask. When such measures are taken, it is very rare for babies of infected mothers to get sick.
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We also heard that in some countries there has been some routine separation from newborn babies in hospitals because some doctors have unfounded concerns that mothers could infect their babies via physical contact and/or their milk. La Leche League International has been busy compiling and translating information intended to counter misinformation in this regard. Multilingual information can be found here – feel free to share widely.
https://www.lllasia.org/coronavirus-and-breastfeeding

​In-person meetings of LLL Groups have also been curtailed by the pandemic. Many LLL Groups around our region have been holding live online meetings. Some groups have been holding video-call meetings, such as via Zoom or other live video platforms, which run much like a regular LLL meeting.
The Hong Kong English Group has been using Zoom, making use of graphics shared by LLL New Zealand, to prompt discussion or illustrate answers to questions, such as this example from Hong Kong, with the faces of participating Leaders visible at the top.
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Other groups have opted for text-only meetings such as those which have been taking place once a week in Australia, where the Leader posts a question or a graphic and invites discussion in the comments below.
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This question prompted some interesting responses, such as the fact that reduced visitors after the birth can be a benefit as well as a drawback. There may be less help from outside the home but also less unwanted interference. Being home and left to breastfeed without much interruption has resulted in better breastfeeding outcomes for some.
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Meanwhile, Maddi Munzer has been hosting Zoom meetings every Sunday for the past few weeks, for people who normally attend the LLL Sydney Northern Beaches Group meetings. Maddi has a number of interesting observations: “I was initially reluctant to take our meetings online because I feel there is a real magic in the connection of people gathering together in person in my home, but this seemed the only way to 
continue to knit the fabric of the group together, continue to nurture mothers and possible friendships between them, and to continue to offer a safe space for mothers who were already feeling isolated in motherhood and more so now. Spontaneous conversation is a bit more difficult on Zoom than during in-person meetings, which is both a plus and a minus. Sometimes, a little bit more facilitation from me is required (e.g. “Would anyone like to respond to Anna? Has anyone else experienced this?” etc.) but on the other hand there are fewer side conversations so it’s easier to stay focused on a topic. Plus a nice bonus: I don’t have to clean my house or my bathroom! Our first meeting topic was "Breastfeeding and Mothering in lockdown", and the second one was 'Connection in Isolation - Building Your Network' where we explored support networks for breastfeeding families and how support differs in a time of social distancing. Since there have been security concerns about Zoom, I have been careful not to publish the meeting details online and to specify that the group do not share the meeting dial-in details with anyone else.”

Whilst the meetings in Hong Kong and Australia have reported attendance similar to their usual in-person meetings, LLL Lebanon has experienced huge turnouts. Leader Nadiya Dragan reports: “Our first online LLL Lebanon meeting on 6 May was a huge success - we had over 60 attendants at some points during the session and the discussion continued for over four hours! This is one of the longest LLL meetings we have ever had in Lebanon and it is definitely one of the biggest too. So we created a new WhatsApp group for all attendants of that online session to keep in touch with them. This group will be moderated by all LLL Leaders of Lebanon, where we will be adding new online attendants of the future sessions too. Two of our four Leaders are outside of Lebanon at the moment but were able to join the meeting from Canada and Spain – it was so cool that in spite of being separated geographically, we were still all able to hold the meeting together!” 

That the timing of the early days of the crisis was relatively good in China because it started during the Chinese New Year holiday, when many people were taking a break from work and visiting their home villages, so they simply decided to stay longer. There was little need for “panic buying” because most people had already stocked up on food that they needed for the holiday feasting. Many new mothers in China go through the practice of “confinement” for a month after childbirth anyway, so the lockdown was merely an extension of something they were well used to.

Meanwhile, Muslim families have been experiencing a very different Ramadan (between 23 April and 23 May) in many countries in our Area this year. Ramadan is a time for fasting during the daytime, with feasting and heavy socialising after sunset. Some families with young children or babies have found social distancing or lockdown to be a balm for them to enjoy a quiet month, especially in the hotter countries. The three-day celebration of Eid ul Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, promises to be a more somber occasion than usual, with families being unable to mingle, but this will probably make unrestricted breastfeeding easier, without the stress of needing to cook for large gatherings.

While some families have benefited from more time alone together with fewer distractions, on the other hand, many new parents have suffered from isolation and/or a lack of support. In Australia, many midwife consultations are being done online rather than in person. In Pakistan, LLL Leader Aida Tasneem Zafar reports that in remote areas without internet access, mothers can be isolated from their usual breastfeeding support networks and, if they seem unwell, will face pressure from older family members to separate from their baby for the baby’s protection.

More encouragingly, in Hong Kong, we have heard reports that the duration of breastfeeding has been extended beyond what parents had originally planned, partly because they know that breast milk gives immunological benefits and partly because it’s very convenient, whereas restricting breastfeeding can be difficult when stuck indoors with limited distractions available.

Particularly in countries experiencing lockdown, parents are vulnerable to feeling overwhelmed when stuck indoors with young children without much support, so it is important that all avenues of online support are explored and that social connections are maintained or new ones formed. Physical distancing doesn’t need to mean social isolation. The internet is a very useful source of ideas about how to entertain toddlers and preschoolers at the moment.

Lastly, we need to remember that the needs of breastfeeding babies remain the same during all circumstances, and that all their needs will continue to be met by breastfeeding during a pandemic. All they need is warmth, food and love, all of which can be provided at the breast. Common breastfeeding difficulties will arise as normal, and parents will overcome those difficulties as normal, with the right information and support, which does not necessarily need to be provided in person.

“LLLI supports the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation for breastfeeding immediately after birth even when a positive COVID-19 test has been obtained. Breastfeeding is important for an infant who is born to anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 or who has a close family member who has tested positive. It is critical that all newborns be supported in breastfeeding within one hour after birth so they can benefit from the immunological components that colostrum provides.

If someone who is breastfeeding becomes ill, it is important not to interrupt breastfeeding unless it becomes medically necessary. When any member of the family has been exposed, the infant has been exposed. Any interruption of breastfeeding may actually increase the infant’s risk of becoming ill and even of becoming severely ill.

Mothers who become too ill to breastfeed should be supported in expressing or pumping so that the baby can still be given the milk. If that is not possible, donor milk is recommended by the WHO as the next best feeding option, as donor milk will contain immunological components not available in human milk substitutes. Information about relactation should be offered, along with support to help get the baby back to the breast when health improves."  - 
LLLI press release 16 April 2020 -
https://www.llli.org/breastfeeding-childbirth-and-covid-19/

More information: 
https://www.llli.org/coronavirus-resources/
https://www.unicef.org/stories/novel-coronavirus-outbreak-what-parents-should-know?

Close to the Heart Vol. 21, No. 1 (Early- & Mid-Year 2020)
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<![CDATA[Breastfeeding an Adopted Child]]>Sun, 02 Feb 2020 12:39:06 GMThttps://www.lllasia.org/close-to-the-heart-articles/breastfeeding-an-adopted-child
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by Chetana Mrunalini
Bangalore, India

 
As a young child, when I came to know that families come in different varieties and that adoption was an option to build a family, it struck a chord in my heart. When I saw families with adopted children, though very rare, I would often daydream of being a part of a similar family.
I was very fortunate to meet my now husband when we were in our late teens. When we decided to get married, one of the things we agreed upon was adoption. He readily agreed and was on board with my proposal of having one biological baby and adopting another baby.

Fast-forward to many years later, after the birth of our first child, I came to know and learn so much about breastfeeding. We decided to follow natural- term weaning and it was such an amazing journey. Along the way, between taking care of a child and just living day-to-day life, our desire and dream to adopt was put on the back burner. Every so often, when we would talk about another child, we would end up feeling overwhelmed and underprepared to care for another baby. Adoption seemed a very daunting process then. It took nearly five years before we felt ready.

When we applied for adoption, I expressed my desire for a baby rather than an older child because I was keen on breastfeeding. By this time, I was often passionately talking about breastfeeding and I was informally helping women in their breastfeeding journeys on various forums. It only took two months before our child came home. During those two months, I learned as much as I could about adoptive breastfeeding, by joining related social media groups and speaking to other parents who had undertaken this journey.

When we laid eyes on our child for the first time, we instantly fell in love with her little smile! She was four months and three weeks old. She was overall quite healthy considering the resource crunch in most adoption centres, but had an ongoing eye infection, cough and cold. I could not help but think about how much breast milk would improve her health.

At this time, my older one was five years old. She would breastfeed occasionally, mainly while going to sleep. Whilst I was obviously making milk, I knew it wasn't enough for my baby. I had decided not to pump much ahead of the new baby’s arrival since I didn't think it was suited to my situation (I had had some stressful experiences pumping for my older child).

Two days after her arrival in our home, with the lowest of expectations but a flame of hope and a fluttering stomach, I used a nipple shield and dropped formula from a bottle into it. She latched on and suckled for almost 15 minutes! All babies have an instinct to breastfeed which lasts for several months, but it may have also helped that she had also been wet-nursed during her stay in the hospital as a newborn. We were told that at the district hospital where she was born, the staff usually request mothers of newborns to nurse premature babies who are not their own (according our baby’s medical records, she was born at 32 weeks and spent 40 days in the hospital).

I made a lactation aid (also known as a
supplemental nursing system or SNS) at home by watching YouTube videos, to help her stay interested in the breast and learn how to nurse. A homemade version can be made at a very
reasonable cost using a sterile tube (such as one designed for feeding premature babies in the NICU). The tube runs from a feeding bottle to the nipple of the parent, where it can be taped if necessary. My adopted baby was very cooperative and continues
to be a cooperative child. She happily participated
in all our breastfeeding experiments. Lo and behold, in a matter of days, we had found our nursing sweet spots!

We co-slept, did a lot of skin-to-skin, had baths together, and I wore her in a ring sling and a wrap. All this helped us not only bond but also helped my body to start responding to her needs. Within a few weeks, I was able to cut her formula consumption of about 27oz in half, and at night she was only on my breast (without the aid). Though I could not completely wean her off the aid, we were able to reduce her formula by a significant amount.
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​My rock-solid husband stood by me and supported us to breastfeed. My older child continued to breastfeed for two more years and self-weaned at seven years. The two years of tandem nursing were a roller-coaster ride but really helped all of us to make new connections as a family of four.
I had a lot of help and support from some amazing friends, LLL Leaders and lactation experts. I could bounce my ideas off them and share my experiences, while being encouraged and cheered on!

A few months after our adopted baby came home, we needed to pay a visit to the adoption agency for some paperwork. When they saw that she was breastfeeding, they were quite stunned! Even during our pre-adoption paperwork, when I expressed my desire to breastfeed, I don't think they fully understood what I meant. This was the first time they had ever come across an adopted child being breastfed.

From this experience and from talking with others, I have deduced that very few prospective adoptive parents (“PAPs”) or adoptive parents (“APs”) in India are aware that adopted babies can be breast. I believe the Central Adoption Resource Agency (“CARA”) in India should consider allocating resources for counselling PAPs about breastfeeding during the adoption process.

Although breastfeeding is nature’s perfect food, and the physical closeness is a great way for new parents to bond with their adoptive baby, inducing lactation can be tough. It requires a support network and help from lactation professionals. So I don’t believe that PAPs should receive any pressure to try breastfeeding, but I do think they should be made aware that it is an option, among other options to encourage bonding such as co-sleeping, babywearing and skin-to-skin contact.

In a week's time, my adopted child will turn five years old. We have decided to follow natural-term weaning this time around too – I don't think I could have it any other way! She goes to school most of the day, is busy playing in the evenings and only remembers to nurse to sleep, just once since she started sleeping through the night. Our breastfeeding bond still continues today. And as many mothers have reported, it is with bittersweet thoughts that I daydream of the day she will wean!
 
Close to the Heart Vol. 20, No. 3 (Late-Year 2019)
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<![CDATA[Starting Solids]]>Sat, 04 Jan 2020 11:41:02 GMThttps://www.lllasia.org/close-to-the-heart-articles/starting-solids
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by Jeana Wong
LLL Singapore Group


Grannies in my neighbourhood often commented on how small my children were for their age. Then they would watch wide-eyed as Judy and Gene, now nine and five years old, swigged their water and munched
on baked sweet potato fries, baked Saba fish in batter, sushi rolls, dried seaweed, and dried fruits or nuts in between their play escapades. The same grannies would then tell me their grandchildren would not touch any such foods, only candies.

​That is how children in Singapore have become bigger, taller – and sicker.

Some also have a tortured relationship with food due to forced feeding in their formative years. My spouse was one such child. Sickly as a child and overweight for much of his adulthood, he became very conscious of what he ate. Even today, he falls sick after one poor or unwholesome choice. It took us a few years as a family to work out our meals and get educated about nutrition.

​Good nutrition means eating a well-balanced and varied diet of foods in as close to their natural state as possible, says one of the La Leche League philosophy concepts. That means food free from hormones, additives, pesticides and chemicals; preferring whole, fresh, seasonal and local foods; and avoiding processed and/or packaged food.

Overwhelmed? Planning and preparing healthy meals can be daunting at first – there is a lot of information to sieve through.

Enjoying healthy meals during pregnancy is a good start. That way, good habits are already in place when the baby arrives. Before the baby’s birth is also a good time to work out the logistics of feeding a family. Neighbours and families who cook are usually quite happy to give tips to expectant parents.

An exclusively breastfeeding mother can buy even more time to cultivate healthy eating habits without worrying about allergies and food sensitivities, labels and politics. According to La Leche League, for the healthy, full-term baby, breast milk is the only food necessary until baby shows signs of needing solids, about the middle of the first year after birth.

Pureed food is often recommended as baby’s first food. With my eldest, Judy, we bought a puree machine that blended and cooked healthy vegetables, soups or legumes in 20 minutes. However, I was repulsed by the smooth, unvaried texture by the fifth use.

Our second child, Gene, was exclusively breastfed and showed very little real interest in “solids” until well after his first birthday. He was about 15
months old when he showed understanding of what eating really meant. Before that, foods were merely curiosities or sensory play. I was happy to learn (during a discussion on child-led weaning at a LLL meeting) that bananas, avocados and baked sweet potatoes were good first foods on top of breast milk. I was fully confident that the varied tastes and flavours and wholesome, homemade meals I ate transferred to Gene through my milk. For sure, over a week, he would have ingested the half a cup of carrots or broccoli or whatsoever amount a puree-fed baby would get – and more, because breast milk contains all needed and easily digested vitamins, minerals, live enzymes and antibodies.

With poor breastfeeding support especially in the early weeks, Singaporean grandmothers and mothers typically rely on formula or mixed formula and breastmilk, and then introduce solids to babies by way of porridge and purees well before six months. These so-called “meals” consist of 95% water, and are lower in calories than breast milk. I figured it made more sense for my children to drink water from cups when they wanted.

According to the World Health Organization, breast milk provides all the energy and nutrients an infant needs for the first six months of life. If the mother carries on breastfeeding, her milk continues to provide up to 50% or more of the baby’s caloric and nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, and up to 30% through the second year of life.

Perhaps the best part about continuing to breastfeed into Gene’s second year was that I could enjoy and explore the full range of local and exotic foods along with him. Binging on hotel lunch buffets with my two small children made for great value and fun tasting outings with minimal clean-up. Nursing Gene the toddler also gave me the confidence and freedom to soothe a young child on the go. If he fancied none of the foods at home or outside, there was always fresh and complete nutrition in my breast milk.

Many toddlers are much too active and easily distracted to feed properly anyway, preferring to graze.

With baby-led weaning, parents are only responsible for putting out a wide range of healthy foods over a week, and the child decides when and how much he eats. Knowing that helped our family take meals with much less stress, tantrums and power struggles. Daddy had picked up cooking family meals and we ate healthier and better since Judy came along. So the children ate what we adults ate, saving us the time and hassle of providing separate children’s meals.

I still feel very grateful for the home-cooked meals my mother made while I was growing up. My mother was raised in rural Malaysia where she learned to cook and source produce well. Born and raised in urban Singapore, I realised as a young mother that I was handicapped by not knowing how foods were grown, harvested and processed.

In the city state of Singapore, we import food from all over the world. While there is variety, fresh produce is relatively expensive and invariably processed for a longer shelf life, which compromises quality. Considering the time and effort it takes to plan, source, prepare and cook family meals, it can be a real challenge to eat well here, even at home.

My husband and I have to be very intentional and disciplined about providing quality meals in Singapore. It is too easy to fall into the snares of convenience, relying on packaged, frozen foods at home, or takeouts from the many affordable eateries which serve unhealthy food.

Parenting is an inconvenient journey. There will come a time when our children will grow up and explore or indulge in their own convenience-driven life. For now, I feel responsible for feeding them properly, starting with pregnancy and breastfeeding. We feel better when we eat well. By cooking and packing our own meals and snacks when we go out, I choose when, where and how much I indulge.

This is a valuable lesson for my children. When we do indulge in foods, we do it out of love, not hunger, addiction or desperation.

In The Lost Art of Feeding a Child, Canadian author Jeannie Marshall lived in Italy and noted what Italian children ate in school. She found that they didn’t have a choice of Western or Asian, or less salt or more; they eat the same appetizer, main course and dessert that everybody else eats, in the same sequence. They were not fussy and they finished their meals. Now that’s real convenience.

More resources about nutrition, starting solids and baby-led weaning:

Starting Solid Food, La Leche League GB
https://www.laleche.org.uk/starting-solid-food/
Feed Yourself, Feed Your Family: Good Nutrition and Healthy Cooking for New Moms and
Growing Families
, La Leche League International
Mothering Your Nursing Toddler, Norma J. Bumgarner

Close to the Heart Vol. 20, No. 3 (Late-Year 2019)
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