Updated: Mar 15
I have been helping new mommies overcome their breastfeeding challenges since 2003. And it's indeed very frustrating that most of these new mommies’ desire to fully breastfeed their babies are thwarted by confinement ladies or the grandparents who are neither knowledgeable nor supportive of breastfeeding. I used to visit new mothers in their homes. Most of the times, when I was with the mother and baby, they would be able to latch on beautifully. I would be able to help Mommy identify a good latch - whether baby was really drinking or just pacifying, and judge when Baby has had enough. But when I leave, they would be back to square one. Baby cries and the CL or grandma will start making negative comments that Baby is still hungry and pressure the mother to give baby a bottle of formula milk! Although I do believe that the parents should stand firm against all objections and discouragement, I also understand that both Mommy and Daddy are very vulnerable as new parents; they tend to break down and give in to family pressures to “not starve your baby for goodness sake!! A bottle of formula milk won’t harm your baby!” How I wish I could whisk these parents away from their current negative environment and provide them with an environment where the new Mommy and Daddy would receive not only positive vibes and encouragement, but correct information in making breastfeeding successful! I toyed with this idea for a few years, and finally in 2012, with the support of a few good friends, I set up a breastfeeding friendly confinement centre. With the experiences gained from running this centre, I moved on to offer better and upgraded services at Gina’s Place.
After spending 8 years in the confinement centre industry, due to logistical reasons, I decided to cease operations at Gina’s Place. I directed my focus to training more breastfeeding counsellors so that as a team, we would be able to support and help more mothers. I have also offered my training and consultation services to other confinement centres, in the hope of helping them to be breastfeeding friendly, as these centres would be a great starting place for mothers to experience good support. Unfortunately, I did not meet with much success. The majority of the confinement centres in Malaysia are simply not interested.
Most centres claimed themselves to be breastfeeding friendly, but what they meant by breastfeeding friendly is usually: “If a mother can breastfeed, great! We encourage the mother to do so.”
But what if the mother experience challenges and difficulties?
Almost all these confinement centres do not have staff who knows exactly how to help this mother. Their answer is usually formula milk or the bottle*. They do not know and refused to be trained on how to effectively support a mother who wants to breastfeed, and in the end causing the baby to be unable to latch properly and the mother faced many problems with milk production layer on (usually after her confinement period). In fact, most of these centres have operational policies that actually deter a mother from doing the right things that would ensure her success. Many centres actually refused to allow any other feeding method except the bottle, claiming that other methods are 'dangerous'. The fact is, their staff is not trained to use other methods like cup-feeding, spoon-feeding or even syringe-feeding.
*Giving a bottle too early, even if it’s expressed breastmilk will cause baby to have difficulty to direct latch from Mommy’s breast. And that would cause a Mother to focus on pumping. But unfortunately most mothers do not respond well to breastpumps. ☹ ☹ ☹ (I will write more on this on another day)
Breastfeeding friendly is NOT the same as Breastfeeding-Supportive.
One of the ways to judge a centre you are considering is this : as you walk into the centre, do you see formula milk cans or brochures or buntings displayed? Do they give out free formula milk samples (including milk for mothers) as free gifts? I am not saying that you cannot consider formula milk at all in situation when breastfeeding is not going well and your baby obviously need additional milk, but a centre that 'advertise' any formula milk is already on the side of the formula milk company. Do you really believe they will do whatever it takes to help you to achieve your goals to breastfeed? Do you really believe a profit-making enterprise such as a confinement centre displays these brochures or free samples of formula milk with no other intention than for the baby's benefit? That there is no monetary benefits for the centre?
*please note that I am not arguing about whether a baby should or should not be given formula milk. This decision is entirely up to the parents. My point here is this : the biggest challenge and competitor to breastfeeding is the formula milk companies. If a confinement centre is in partnership with them, and accepting the FM sponsorship, do you think the confinmenet centre has your best interest at heart when it comes to breastfeeding?
Questions to ask the confinement centre you are considering:
Is the staff trained to handle breastfeeding issues?
Where were they trained? (just because they are nurses does not mean they are trained to help a mother to breastfeed)
If a baby has difficulty latching, what would they suggest?
When would they advise a mother to start pumping?
If baby cries after a feeding session, what would they suggest you to do?
If baby needs to be fed additional milk, what would they suggest? (if they suggest giving a bottle, then you know immediately they are not trained to support breastfeeding)
(My Breastfeeding Class has all the answers to the above questions, and knowing the answers will help you make a better decision on which centre to choose, so that you get the best help possible during your postnatal confinement)
Many parents asked me for a recommendation of good breastfeeding-supportive centres.
Other than the 2 centres mentioned below, I am really hard-pressed to recommend any breastfeeding centres. But I do agree that staying in a confinement centre is most helpful in terms of not having to think and worry about grocery shopping and having a stranger (confinement lady) invade the privacy of your home. So, my advise to you is, if you choose to stay in a confinement centre, ensure you empower yourself :
get the right knowledge BEFORE your baby arrives
do not allow the centre to bully you with their 'policies'.
do not allow them to take over your role of being a parent
Choose to do the right things for yourself and baby, ie breastfeeding and rooming in.
All the above centres will not 'force' a mother to breastfeed. If you change your mind and do not want to, they will support your decision too 😊. But if you really want to breastfeed, these centres would do all that they can to support you.
Wishing you an amazing journey ahead!
Gina Yong Breastfeeding Consultant