Melissa Bugeja is a certified breastfeeding counsellor as well as a positive discipline educator and mother of 3 children. She offers parents pre- and postnatal workshops/courses, home visits and online support. She is also heavily involved in educating the general public about breastfeeding through non-profit activities like the ‘Wonder Milk Walk‘ and ‘LatchOn’.
“In Malta over 90% leave the hospital breastfeeding but only 60% breastfeed till 3 months and even less beyond that.”
Why is breastfeeding so beneficial to babies?
“Breast-milk is species specific, in that it is especially made for human infants. The milk a mother makes will be specific to that particular baby whether they are preterm, term or toddlers. Once the baby’s saliva touches the nipple, messages are sent and the milk will change in nutrients and antibodies accordingly by the next feed. Breast-milk will also help children get sick less often and less severely and they are also protected more from childhood cancers, obesity, asthma and diabetes among others.”
What is the rate of breastfeeding in Malta?
“Over 90% leave the hospital breastfeeding but only 60% breastfeed till 3 months and even less beyond that.”
Why do you think many mums don’t manage to breastfeed?
“Mostly its to do with society and the expectations we have of ourselves when it comes to life after our baby is born which would probably be on par to society’s pressure on mums in general.”
“Breastfeeding pressure happens due to inefficient supportive techniques which most of the time dis-empowers a mother rather than empowering her.”
How do you feel about the pressure on mums to breastfeed?
“I do not believe pressure is the problem but how the message is being sent and interpreted among others. Breast milk substitutes nowadays use subtle marketing techniques, but very little exists for breastfeeding so any breastfeeding marketing is seen as pressure. Breastfeeding pressure in its true sense happens due to inefficient supportive techniques which most of the time dis-empowers a mother rather than empowering her.”
What is your message to those mums who try to breastfeed but do not manage and feel like a failure?
“It is not you who failed but society failed to give you the tools to reach your goals. Remember always that you did the best with the information you had available at the time of birth of your child. Forgive yourself and move on.”
“no matter how much you read and learn, when that child is in your hands reality will take a complete different meaning.”
What can mums do to improve their chances of successfully breastfeeding.
“Learning about breastfeeding is a foundation to that. Finding a support system that will help lift you up and reach your goals is as important. This can be in the form of supports from family members ,friends, and/or healthcare professionals and you yourself remembering that, no matter how much you read and learn, when that child is in your hands reality will take a complete different meaning.”
What usually leads mums to stop breastfeeding?
“Ineffective support systems, not enough information, fears that they can’t get past, incorrect information given and unrealistic expectations from the mum herself. Also the term ‘breast is best’ sometimes makes mothers feel they ‘should’ breastfeed even when they do not want to, which may in turn lead them to subconsciously sabotage their own success.”
What are your views on breastfeeding in public in Malta?
“It is becoming more common to see mothers nursing in public despite many thinking they need a room or cover to do so which is not the case unless that makes you are personally more comfortable that way.”
“all mums working within the government have the right to 2 x 30 mins break and a space to express milk. Those working privately are entitled to the same by EU law.
What are the benefits of breastfeeding for mums?
“Mums who breastfeed are protected more from uterine, ovarian and breast cancers , osteoporosis are the most cited benefits and the longer they breastfeed the more longer they are protected.”
What is the recommended way to stop breastfeeding?
“The easiest way to stop breastfeeding is by letting your child self wean which happens between 2-4 years of age in most cases.”
What are your tips to working mums who would like to continue breastfeeding?
“Speak to your employer as soon as possible, learn about maintaining milk supply and how to give a bottle to a baby through paced bottle feeding to avoid over feeding and the myth of not enough milk due to work.”
“Expired breast-milk can be used in baths, and is effective as makeup remover, as a salve for burns, to treat mosquito bites, eye infections and more.”
Are there any laws that protect breastfeeding mums when it comes to working?
“Yes all mums working within the government have the right to 2 x 30 mins break and a space to express milk. Those working privately are entitled to same by EU law. Most employers readily help employees, its more a matter of finding an adequate space to express most of the time.”
Can you give any information on guidelines for storing and preparing pumped milk?
“Milk can be stored 3 days in a fridge, 3 months in a fridge freezer and 6 months in a chest freezer. 15 hours in ice packs and 2-4 hrs in room temp of 21-24 degrees Celsius. within 24 hrs when thawed. Pumped milk needs no preparation you just make sure its room temp for the sole reason most babies prefer it to cold milk and it should not be heated under direct heat that is all”
Melissa adds that breast-milk can interestingly be used in cooking and expired breast-milk can be used in baths, and is effective as makeup remover, as a salve for burns, to treat mosquito bites, sore nipples, eye infections and more.
What upcoming initiatives can the public participate in to help educate the public about breastfeeding?
“We are currently planning the second edition of the ‘Wonder Milk Walk’, which is a non-profit walk aiming to bring to the forefront the importance of breast-milk to sick and preterm infants. It will be held end of April or beginning May. For more information, click here.
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