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Breastfeeding Tips from Expert Lactation Counselor: Gina Yong

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Photo credit : Gina Yong

Our expert lactation counselor, Gina Yong is here to answer your common breastfeeding related questions and share some breastfeeding tips with you

Meet the expert…

Ms. Gina Yong, the founder of The Breastfeeding Advocate Network (TBAN), author of Love Breastfeeding book and one of the most well-known certified breastfeeding counselors in Malaysia. Gina has over 18 years of experience in helping other parents to successfully breastfeed. You may read more about Gina’s story here.

Breastfeeding can help to reduce risks of getting breast cancer in women. To help women out there who inspire to breastfeed in future or for mothers who are currently breastfeeding, Gina is here to answer your questions and share some breastfeeding tips! We hope by sharing this information we can raise awareness and encourage more women to embrace breastfeeding.

Tell us about yourself, how did it all start?

I faced many difficulties in breastfeeding my first born. When I gave birth to my second child, I was in the USA, and it was then I realized that with better education on breastfeeding and proper help from a lactation consultant, I successfully breastfed my second child onwards. There was a lack of proper education about breastfeeding in Malaysia, and it was in 2002 that I started giving classes to provide breastfeeding support to new mothers.

I started The Breastfeeding Advocates Network (TBAN) Facebook page in 2009. Within the first 24 hours, more than 500 people joined the group. People are genuinely interested in breastfeeding. I used to spend a lot of time disseminating information to one mother at a time, but with this group I can now disseminate information to more mothers out there more effectively.

A lot of people claimed that exclusively breastfeeding is not enough. As an expert lactation counselor, what do you have to say to this group of people?

In the late 1800’s, women started to leave home to join the workforce due to world industrialization. Hence, the introduction of baby formula milk. Due to the aggressive marketing and promotion by the formula milk company, the society  has the misconception that formula milk is better and provides more benefit for their baby.

Sadly, we lost two or more generations of breastfeeding mothers due to this misconception. These groups of people who claimed breastfeeding is not enough are sadly the generation that has been brainwashed by the milk formula companies. But science has proven otherwise. Science proved that breast milk is the best food for babies.

How can we change their mindset? We need to educate the older generation who thought formula milk is better. This means your mother’s, grandmother’s or even great-grandmother’s  generation. This is why when a mother  signed up for my class, I will also invite the  grandparents to  attend my class for free.  We are changing the mind of  one grandmother at a time and hopefully by word of mouth we will be able to spread more awareness about the truth of breastfeeding and all its benefits and the risk of formula-milk feeding

Some working mothers choose to only exclusively pump to avoid their baby from becoming too clingy to them. Will it cause nipple confusion to the baby in later stages?

When a mother chooses to do exclusive pumping, she may not realize that the baby is missing out on one of the biggest benefits of breast milk. The saliva of the baby transfers information to the receptors in the mother’s breast. When a baby is sick, during breastfeeding the baby’s saliva will transmit this information. Then, the mother’s breast will produce milk that contains antibodies to help the baby to fight against the illness.

Additionally, most mothers do not respond well to pumping and can end up with pumping injury. This includes over-supply, clogged ducts, mastitis and in some cases breast abscess.  It’s more tragic when a mother gives up breastfeeding not because of not enough milk, but due to her suffering from oversupply.

Instead, if the mother is willing to try both direct latching and pumping then they may enjoy the best of both worlds. Furthermore, if we can wait until week 3 – 5 to introduce bottle feeding, most babies  may not have nipple confusion  Baby is able to both breastfeed directly from mother’s breast and also bottle feed when mother is away.

People tend to feed baby formula milk during the night, claiming that formula milk keeps their belly full longer and results in better sleep for both the mother and baby. What is your take on this as a breastfeeding expert?

Again, the formula milk’s advertisement caused this misconception. Science and research studies have suggested that babies who were fed with formula milk do not sleep longer than baby’s who are breastfed. Biologically, babies are not supposed to sleep too long especially when they are new born. Their stomach is still small, and hence they needed to wake up to nurse / feed every 2 – 3 hourly. This is a basic need.

Babies gradually go from waking up every 2-3 hours to 5-6 hours as they grow older.  Parents who force / sleep train their baby by giving formula milk so that their baby sleep longer  may experience side effects to this. It may have a negative impact on your baby’s digestive system as formula milk is harder to be digested.Formula milk feeding carries many other risks as well.

Parents who use the “cry it out” method of sleep training  may risk losing the trust of their baby. This can cause a permanent change to their baby’s behavior.  They may experience the negative impact during the teenage years. Parents who practice attachment parenting generally will raise a child who is socially well adjusted, and close to the family.

Can you share some breastfeeding tips for under-supply moms?

All these worries come from the lack of education about breastfeeding. To ease these worries, we should share more success stories with them. Success stories come from perseverance and continuous latching. The best milk booster is none other than a positive mindset and support from society.

I have encountered a lot of confinement nannies who have negatively impacted the mother by comparing her baby or her milk supply to other babies she had taken care of. All these can make the mother worried and stressed and suppress her milk production

The mother of course could also improve her milk supply by eating and drinking well.  Water is one of the main and best milk boosters. Drink to thirst, ensuring you are well hydrated. All liquids like soups and juices count, and most important of all 2 – 3 litres of plain water daily.  Eat whatever that makes you happy, because a happy mother produces more milk.

Mothers in confinement are most at risk of not producing enough milk.  That’s because they are on a very restricted diet. Too much herbs like red dates or alcohol like DOM can suppress milk production.. If there’s any milk booster that you want to take, feel free to go ahead  and try it but generally extra water and liquid is sufficient.

What about for oversupply moms, do you have any breastfeeding tips for them?

Over pumping is one of the most common reasons for the oversupply. The breast pump should not be viewed as your best friend, but as a helper, if necessary. Over-supply can lead to many problems such as constant leaking, heavy and painful breasts which may lead to plugged ducts and mastitis.

It can also cause the baby to struggle with strong letdown and become gassy from gulping milk too fast. Instead of pumping,  mothers should express her milk by hand  only if they need to have a storage of extra milk for when she goes back to work.  I strongly encourage you not to pump too early (before 2nd week) and to focus on direct latching your baby first.

If you are over-supply, just like there are milk boosters, there are food that acts as ‘milk killers’ that you can try, like peppermint and cabbage. Do get the advice of a breastfeeding consultant first.

As a breastfeeding expert, can you share some tips to resolve mastitis?

Your baby is the best ‘pump’ in the world; his effective suckling will usually help to clear the clogged duct.. However if you start experiencing fever and chills, you should see your doctor as you may need antibiotics.

While taking the antibiotics,continue to breastfeed your baby. It is the best treatment and safe to do so. Applying cold cabbages to the infected area is helpful and soothing.

Additionally, take some supplements like antioxidants of Vitamin A, C, E and selenium to improve your immune system.

As a breastfeeding expert, can you share some tips on how to survive breastfeeding a teething baby?

Proper preparation is the key. You can try doing ‘INNER TALK’ with your baby well before the teething starts. Talk with your baby gently and let him know that biting hurts mommy. (I also provide classes on inner talk. Refer below photo for more details.)

The moment the baby bites, you need to stop the baby immediately. You can pinch  his/her nose gently so that the baby unlatches. You must be assertive with your baby and let him/her know that it’s wrong to bite.

Online Parenting Class : Inner Talk by Gina Yong (Photo credit: Gina Yong)

Is it true that what the mother eats affects the baby directly while nursing?

A very small part of what you eat affects the baby. Very, very small percentage of it. So eat anything you want in moderation to start with, and  check your baby’s reaction. Most of the time, it doesn’t affect your baby.

When do you know it’s time to totally wean off from breastfeeding?

American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that breastfeeding should be continued for as long as the mother and baby are both comfortable with it. Breastfeeding is a mutual relationship between the mother and the baby. If either one of them do not want to continue the relationship, then it’s time to totally wean off breastfeeding. Some signs from your child include when they are more interested in play time and rejects nursing.

There you have it, our ten Q&A session with Ms. Gina Yong!

Contact Gina Yong for your breastfeeding support!

Attending breastfeeding classes is definitely mandatory, You will need to equip yourself with all the knowledge and skills prior to your baby’s arrival. Ms. Gina conducts breastfeeding classes as well as parenting workshops. You can find more information and updated schedules to her classes by clicking here. For those of you who are not in Malaysia,  you may attend her online classes.

Ms.Gina also provides private consultation in English and Chinese. You can contact her here. 

Breast milk is truly the best gift you can give to your baby. As a new parent, I have diligently attended every single breastfeeding class organised by my hospital. I thought by attending all classes the knowledge and skills can truly prepare me for the new challenge as a mother, but I was wrong. Things don’t always go smoothly.

You can read about my breastfeeding story and everything that went wrong by clicking here. After that, I had a one on one consultation with a lactation consultant and that changes everything. With her help, we see improvements immediately. I wished I would have arranged a lactation consultant’s visit at home at once when we brought our newborn home from the hospital. Then we wouldn’t have to admit him into the hospital. I regretted the decision I made to save some money rather than having a lactation consultant’s visit to my home up to this day. 

A big thank you again to Ms. Gina Yong, our breastfeeding expert for accepting our invitation for an interview session and sharing so many breastfeeding tips with 

Parenting Pain: With proper knowledge and skills, you will be able to navigate through the journey of motherhood and breastfeeding better! Breastfeeding is a long and lonely journey, but you are not alone. Other mothers out there including myself are on this journey together with you. We are cheering you on. Don’t forget, Gina our expert in breastfeeding is here to share some tips and support you too! Happy breastfeeding!

Featured image photo credit by Wes Hicks on Unsplash (2018)


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