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BMSG Annual Report for 2018-2019 – A Brief Outline

By BMSG Editorial Team

In the first week of May, BMSG had our Annual General Meeting (AGM). As usual, our AGM reported our initiatives, developments and milestones that BMSG has achieved in the past year. Here are some of the highlights as obtained from our Annual and Financial Reports.

Attendees at the Annual General Meeting on 4 May. [Credits: BMSG]

Increasing Interest in BMSG Breastfeeding Programmes

BMSG is known to provide counselling and mother-to-mother support to all breastfeeding mothers in the community. Throughout the years, the way we provide such services has evolved. From just phone counselling in the 1980s, we now provide counselling services across several platforms, namely online (Facebook support group), WhatsApp, email as well as the phone helpline.

Our WhatsApp counselling service has gained popularity in the last year, gaining over 700 counselling cases within a year.

  • Increase in Counselling Channels

Based on a review of our counselling channels, we find that there has been significant increases in those which offer more online participation. Our closed Facebook group had a surge of members and now stand at 13,000 members and counting. Our WhatsApp counselling service has also garnered over 700 counselling cases just in the past one year year. With the introduction of services such as Chinese WhatsApp and WhatsApp groups for post-workshop support for our participants, this value-added service has definitely gathered significant traction in the past year.

Our counsellor Lanie (left) conducting a Mum 2 Mum Meetup at BMSG office earlier this year. [Credits: BMSG]

  • Increased interest in Face-to-Face Counselling

Our Mum 2 Mum meetups, our free monthly breastfeeding support meeting, have seen consistent attendance among mothers especially in the past year. With the introduction of the weekend sessions for working mothers, we found that more mothers are able to attend our meetups to seek assistance for their breastfeeding queries. As the weekend session is focused on working mothers, we discovered that mothers are asking work-related questions on how to manage their breastfeeding goals. This is a good complement to our physical workshops as it is a shorter session and and we can directly address their specific concerns.

Increase in Number of Counsellor Trainers

As part of improving the quality of our counselling services, BMSG takes a serious view on skills upgrading for its volunteer counsellors. While BMSG volunteer counsellors previously only had a senior counsellor who received training to become a trainer, in early 2019, BMSG decided to invite existing and senior counsellors to trainer as trainers for potential counsellors. Eight existing senior counsellors took up the invitation and underwent a training conducting by the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA). They successfully graduated from the training and are now taking turns to train at the current Counsellor Training 2019.

Significant Presence on Social Media

We have a strong followership on the World Wide Web. With over 10,000 likes on our Facebook page and an increase of 700 subscribers to our monthly newsletter (as compared to 200 subscribers in early 2018), we believe that we are moving in the right direction in positioning ourselves as an approachable and credible service provider. We stand fast to our believe that we remain as accessible to as many mothers and their family members as possible in addition to providing most of our services for free.

Our breastfeeding workshops are conducted monthly and taught by our volunteer breastfeeding counsellors. [Credits: BMSG]

Increase in Workshops & Talks

Our workshops and talks continue to be highly sought by parents. Our Breastfeeding 101 and Breastfeeding & Going Back to Work workshops remain popular and are sold-out often. Due to popular demand and affordable tickets, we are working towards conducting our workshops monthly from the second half of 2019.

Beyond paid workshops, we have been providing our services to members of the public in social settings. The Breastfeeding & Babywearing Workshops are co-organised by the BMSG, Babywearing Singapore and the National Library, and have been held  at various libraries monthly since the beginning of this year.

We are very excited to announce that we have started collaborating with other organisations, such as the People’s Association and private companies, to provide more services for the public. Look out for updates on our social media pages!

Our volunteer counsellor, Eve Van de Perre, conducting a talk at one of our public libraries. [Credits: Jasmine Tan Tai]

Future Plans

As always, we continue to review our initiatives and programmes to serve mothers better. We are excited to continue planning for the next year in order to engage breastfeeding mothers and their families. Works are in the pipeline for our annual flagship event, the Big Latch On, as well as niche events such as Tea With Breastmilk, a get-together with mothers to discuss breastfeeding-related topics and our annual public health talk.

Our Big Latch On event saw over 100 attendees in 2018. Here, our then-President Elaine Chow (in pink) with our Guest-of-Honour MP Rahayu Mahzam (centre) and Dr Yvonne Ng (left) from National University Hospital, who was our co-organiser. [Credits: BMSG]

Newly-elected Executive Committee

As this year also marks the end of the 2017-2019 EXCO, we were excited to welcome new members to the team during the AGM. This year, we were surprised to have close to 20 nominations! After a short but exciting presentation by each nominee, we each voted on whom we wanted to be on the committee. Do look out for our subsequent articles where we will introduce our new EXCO members for you to get to know them better.

Our nominees for the BMSG EXCO presenting their speeches before the voting process begins. [Credits: BMSG]

For a more comprehensive read of our milestones and developments, do click on the following links which are accessible to the public:

BMSG Annual Report

BMSG Financial Report for 2018-2019

BMSG’s newly-elected EXCO for 2019-2021. Read more about them in our next article! [Credits: BMSG]

We hope to have your continued support in our initiatives!

Breastfeeding & Festivities: Hari Raya Special

By Nabila Hanim, BMSG Counsellor

Just like many other festivities, Hari Raya is a day of celebration and joy yet it can also be overwhelming for mother and baby.

“Oh come, come! You can go into the room with your baby and susukan (nurse) your baby there, more comfortable!” said a relative of mine to me. I was perspiring in my baju kurung and carrying a wailing baby in tow – this was the ultimate invitation that I knew would provide us relief. I had wanted to look pristine for the day but there I was, feeling like I just needed to go home right there and then.

This was a scene from Hari Raya visiting about a few years ago and the third one with a baby, but it never gets better. Like many other festivities, Hari Raya brings with it joy, merriment (and FOOD!) but nothing beats the exhaustion and exasperation that comes with bringing a young breastfeeding baby in tow.

As a mother of three who have gone through the ups and downs of celebrating Hari Raya for the past seven years, I have four tips that can help make the lives of nursing mums and bubs that bit more comfortable to join in the merriment of celebrating Hari Raya.

Regardless of how old your baby is, always observe your baby’s cues for tiredness and fussiness.

Tip 1: Try to get some privacy

Back to the makcik (aunty) who offered me a room: it was the best.decision.ever.

Why? Because not only did I get the room to myself, and a bed even, to nurse my baby. I also get to escape from the huge crowd in the flat’s small living room filled with strangers in Hari Raya garb trying to get the last lontong in the pot. I could also unzip my baju kurung to breastfeed while at the same time enjoying the blasting fan all to myself, and sometimes if I am lucky, I get air-con!

While Hari Raya clothes are so pretty to look at, the material can be a pain. Non-absorbent, mixed with Singapore’s humidity, your sweat, and sometimes baby vomit can really be a recipe for disaster.

I have tried to breastfeed in the living rooms at some of my relatives’ homes. But if there is a huge crowd who seems to show a huge interest in my milk affair, I much prefer the comforts of a room. While it would be nice to breastfeed anywhere I can, I also do appreciate the respite that comes with a room to myself.

Exclusively pumping mums may also appreciate being allowed a room to pump milk in peace. I have also heard of mummy friends who pump in the car or at the void deck with a nursing cover before visiting. Whatever it is, make time for nursing because not only is it good for baby, you can also get some rest.

Preempting baby’s feeds and nursing for comfort are some ways you can try to manage your baby being overstimulated.

Tip 2: Watch your baby’s cues

Every year when we had a new baby, I would make a deal with my husband: “We will only visit four homes today, ok?” but we almost always ended up visiting more. Just like everything else, Hari Raya schedules are unpredictable.

I always try to manage my babies by looking out for their cues. With the flurry of activities and social interactions, including passing baby around, I always look out for my babies’ cues to see if they may need some time away from the crowd. If all things fail and baby remains fussy, be ready to change your plans and head home. I have found, too, that when baby is overstimulated in the day, it may signal a long night of fussiness ahead as baby may find it difficult to settle.

At times, I will also nurse a baby at the void-deck of the home we are about to visit or in the car with the aircon blasting before we head upstairs. This gives my babies and I ample time to regroup and for the family to just take a breather. If you also have other younger children, a quick pit-stop for ice-cream or rest at an air-conditioned restaurant can do wonders to your moods!

Elaborate outfits can contribute to your baby’s discomfort. Check that your outfit is not studded; this can be uncomfortable or too sharp for baby when you carry or feed him or her. Baby’s cheeks may also become sore if rubbed too hard on these. Additionally, such studs can easily come off if the sewing was not done properly – definitely a choking hazard!

Tip 3: Don’t miss feeds!

If you are embarrassed about asking for a room to feed your baby or pump, or if for some reason baby is sleeping longer than usual and not waking up to drink, remember to make time for feeding or pumping before you get engorged.

Missing a feed can cause a myriad of consequences that may not be comfortable for you and your baby:

  • Engorgement can lead to blocked ducts, which may be painful or cause other side effects such as lowered supply or mastitis
  • Engorgement may also cause a build up of foremilk which will then cause gassiness if baby feeds too much of it. Remember, a gassy baby may make a fussy baby = not fun for both of you
  • Lowered supply in the long run; breasts which are frequently emptied signals to your body to continue producing milk. Since Hari Raya visiting may also happen on weekends, it is absolutely important to ensure that you continue to latch on demand to maintain your supply. This may be especially helpful if you are a working mum on the weekdays and pumping milk for your baby’s next-day feeds.

Tip 4: Wear comfortable clothes for yourself and baby

Keep yours and baby’s clothings comfortable and continue to nurse to baby’s comfort throughout the day.

It is great that more and more designers and fashion companies are mindful of the needs of a nursing mother nowadays.

While nursing access is a must for any Raya outfit, material is equally important. If you still want to look classy and elegant on Hari Raya, opt for materials which offer more sheen or sequins, preferably not at the bust area as this may be uncomfortable for your baby.

There are also stretchable offerings for Hari Raya clothings such as stretch lace and even printed lycra. You can jazz up your skirt, shawls (if you are wearing one) or bags and shoes while keeping your top simple. If you wear a shawl or tudung, I also find it extra helpful to wear one with ample front coverage so that you do not need a nursing cover to feed. If you do need a nursing cover, some mums find that a plain one may work better than a printed one, since that can distract baby from nursing. You may also prefer a darker-coloured top if you are concerned about milk stains and sprays.

For baby, it may be helpful to bring several changes of clothes. There are also options for traditional wear for babies made from more comfortable material such as lycra or stretch cotton. Also, do not be afraid to make your baby wear something simple if that is more comfortable for baby. A simple onesie and socks may just be all that your baby can bear in this unbearably hot weather and hectic visiting schedule!

All in all, what’s important is that you and your baby’s comfort is top priority!

With the end of Ramadhan fast approaching, I wish all nursing mothers and their families a Selamat Hari Raya! May we reap the benefits and rewards of Ramadhan and be blessed with a joyous Syawal <3

Do you have other tips to  make breastfeeding more comfortable this Hari Raya? Share your comments below!