Breast milk: it’s liquid gold for babies

Westmead Hospital urogynaecology staff specialist Lucy Bates and son Charlie.

Even though it’s considered one of the most natural acts in the world, sometimes breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally to mums and their babies. Many mothers face difficulties with lactation – and give up.

Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) promotes, protects and supports breastfeeding by providing counselling and guidance for families with newborns and older babies up to five years old.

“Breast milk is liquid gold. Helping mothers to successfully start and maintain breastfeeding is our main priority in Child and Family Health,” said WSLHD Child & Family Health clinical nurse consultant Jennie Mulligan.

While first-time mums can find it overwhelming to navigate the sea of information available, some experienced and professionally-trained mothers can hit a rough patch too.

Roxanne Tjen, registered midwife in Westmead Hospital is one such mum. Having had difficulties with breastfeeding her first daughter, she thought she knew it all. However, with her second baby Emelia, she had different complications.

“I felt immense pain nursing, it made me cry every time,” Roxanne said.

“Having a background as a midwife, it felt like a failure. I was confused, scared, and ready to give up. I was very open about it and the support I received from my family, peers and colleagues was tremendous.

“When I got all that help, I felt relief. It’s not supposed to be painful and I don’t have to love through the pain. It’s become a wonderful journey. Without this support, I would have given up.”

WSLHD provides various services aimed to support mothers throughout their journey:

  • Breastfeeding information sessions during pregnancy – both mums and their partners or family members are encouraged to attend these sessions. Click here;
  • Lactation support in the early days at the hospital or at home;
  • Donor Human milk for prematurely born and vulnerable babies. Australian Red Cross provides Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) with donor human milk. Many of the Westmead NICU mothers also donate their extra breast milk to the Australian Red Cross.
  • Support in maintaining breastfeeding. Mothers can receive these services in the home, at the child and family health centres or by attending one of the drop-in breastfeeding clinics. Click here to find the nearest drop-in clinic.
  • Informative website: Women’s and Newborn Health.
  • Baby change rooms for expressing milk or breastfeeding, although you’re welcome to breastfeed anywhere within the facilities.

World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is celebrated every year from 1-8 August. This year’s WBW theme is “Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet”.

Mum Roxanne Tjen with six month old Roxanne Tjen.

The campaign highlights the importance of protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding for the health of the planet. It highlights breast milk as an environmentally safe, natural renewable food: produced and delivered without pollution, packaging or waste.

If you, or someone you know is having difficulties breastfeeding and needs support, please visit Australian Breastfeeding association, or your Child and family health nurse.