Specialist Dental Group has launched an on-going series of blog posts by our individual dental specialists. All views provided are the dentist’s own opinions and are posted on this blog as part of our on-going efforts to educate the public about dental issues and other matters of interest relating to dentistry and healthcare.

Every mother wants the best for her child: the best food, the best clothes, the best education, the list is endless. I am no exception; and I strongly believe that mother’s milk is best for her baby.

Breastfeeding is unique to mammals, of which the human race is one species. Our ancestors have breastfed their young since the beginning of time and Mother Nature has selected this means of nutrition to benefit and ensure the survival of our species.

My first son was born 9 and a half years ago. I was very determined to breastfeed him, having been inspired by watching several friends do so. Fortunately, prior to his birth, a friend had lent me a book, “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding”, which had provided so much information, key of which was that breastmilk provides the most complete nutrition for a baby. There is no man-made infant formula that can even come close to mimicking all the vital elements in mother’s milk. The proteins, sugars, fatty acids, antibodies etc are made in the perfect proportion and changes to match the needs of the growing child.

As with most first-time mothers, I never realized how tiring it was to look after a new-born, yet how desperately I wanted to care for him. I did not have as much support from family as I would have desired, but as my milk supply decreased, the encouragement of friends bolstered my flagging spirits and we made it past the crucial first weeks. From then on, I continued breastfeeding my son for over 3 years, all the while maintaining my dental practice. He has also been healthy, with very few of the bouts of childhood infections that afflict many kids when they first attend pre-school. In addition, he shares an irreplaceable bond with me that continues to this day.

My second son was born 5 months ago. This time, I knew exactly what I wanted: no infant formula in the home, baby will thrive on breastmilk alone! Although, he put on very little weight in the first few weeks and had jaundice for quite a while. I did not give in to the temptation to offer formula. There is still the contentious issue about “breastmilk jaundice” but increasingly now, doctors do not simply order the cessation of breastfeeding while phototherapy is administered. My baby is now a healthy and bouncy 5-month-old who simply loves the moments spent nursing. There is nothing more satisfying than watching my baby grow daily, dependent only on me for his nutrition. Of course, thanks must be given to my mother and helpers who cook lots of nutritious food for me and help with all the chores.

Total breastfeeding is not without its sacrifices: I wake up every few hours at night to nurse baby, which is very tiring. I still continue to work, so I have to express milk to store up for baby’s feeds during the day. Which means there is very little time to myself: I go from work, to feeding the baby, to expressing milk, to ferrying my older on around. But all sacrifices are worth it when I see my baby lift his head up from my breast to smile at me. It is also very easy to bring my baby out with me anytime: there’s no need to pack bulky (sterilized) bottles and thermos flask and formula.

The benefits of breastfeeding are endless and I cannot even start to extol the medical and dental benefits here. But to all mums-to-be and first-time mums: surround yourself with all the information and help you can get and happy nursing!

Dr Helena Lee is a Periodontist with Specialist Dental Group. She holds an appointment as an Adjunct Lecturer in the Department of Preventive Dentistry, National University of Singapore. She has co-authored several papers in peer-reviewed journals and has lectured at professional local and international conferences. Dr Lee has a special interest in the treatment and prevention of periodontal disease, gingival plastic surgery, soft and hard tissue grafting and dental implants. For more information on Dr Lee, click here

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