Empowering Mothers of Preterm Infants for Continuous Breastfeeding in Malaysia

Shirley Szu-Ying Seah, Fook-Choe Cheah


With increasing survival rate of preterm infants, the management of this high-risk group is very important to improve overall outcomes and their quality of life. Preterm birth is an unanticipated event, which can bring about maternal stress and anxiety. In case of preterm birth, as mothers and neonates are separated at birth and the neonate is immature to suck, mothers require guidance and assistance to initiate and maintain successful lactation. Initially, at least for a few weeks to months, breast milk should be expressed either manually or with the help of a breast pump. However, the lack of knowledge on expressing breast milk may perpetuate anxiety and indirectly affect milk production. If the mother’s milk is not sufficient, donor human milk is the recommended alternative source of nutrition for the preterm infant.

The establishment of human milk banks in Muslim-predominant countries is quite challenging because of the interpretation of milk kinship. A holistic antenatal program that emphasizes not only the importance of breastfeeding but also breast milk feeding should be initiated to help mothers to prepare on the method of breast milk expression, appropriate storage and transport, and preserving the quality of milk. This in turn helps in empowering mothers for continuous breastfeeding and direct breastfeeding of their preterm neonates. Governmental and employer incentives with multidisciplinary organizational support may also aid in prolonging the duration and rate of breastfeeding.

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