New moms get helping hand feeding babies

PHOTO: New moms get helping hand feeding babies

BEIJING - Ma Wei washed her hands with hot water to warm them up before placing her palms on the young mother's skin.

"Relax, please," said Ma, as she began to massage the woman's back.

Ma, 34, is what they call a lactation consultant - helping new mothers who are having difficulties breastfeeding their babies.

"I'll press the acupuncture points that are good for your breasts," said Ma.

This day she was helping Yu Hui, 29, who couldn't breastfeed her 2-month-old son because her milk would not come out.

Ma encouraged her to keep trying both day and night.

"I only massage those who really need it, such as mothers with insufficient milk or those who have infections," she said.

She also instructs mothers how to raise a baby's head and breastfeed correctly, how to properly use a breast pump, how to handle crying babies, diet and rest.

"Ma is very nice and knows a lot about raising children. I've read some books about breastfeeding but Ma's explanations are more vivid and helpful," Yu said.

After the tainted milk scandal broke out in 2008, more and more mothers began breastfeeding, leading to the birth of lactation consultants. The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security started to issue certificates for the profession last December.

She provides indoor services and answers questions online as well.

"New moms have many misunderstandings about raising children, such as ways to hold a baby," said Zou Dongsheng, vice-president of Beijing Jintong Training School, which trains consultants.

"Ma is a top student. She fits in the profession well because of her communication skills," he said.

Ma got into the profession because of her own painful experiences with ill-trained consultants. When her daughter was born in 2007, her breasts were distended and the milk wouldn't come out. She sought help from six lactation masseuses in three days.

"They heavily rubbed my swelling breasts without diagnosing the illness. It felt more painful than delivering a baby. I cried and curled up in bed with a towel in my mouth," she said.

Ma had to breastfeed her daughter with one breast for a month, as the other was infected after the improper treatment. She then turned to a doctor, learned how to massage breasts, and taught her husband, who lent a hand.

After her daughter entered kindergarten this year, she started taking courses on traditional Chinese medicine, work ethics, psychology, massage and nutrition.

She also encourages fathers and grandmothers, if they are at home, to join in.

"The whole family should raise the child together, to better bond with each other. For example, the baby could sleep on father's belly," she said.

She said it helps deepen the spouses' affection if the father learns massage, and about half of the women's husbands are willing to do so.

"Some fathers are busy and some think it's difficult to learn. Some traditional Chinese men think breast massage is a job for women and they can back up their wives as bread-earners," she said.

Being in tune with technology - having previously worked at an IT company - Ma spends at least three hours every day answering questions via her micro blog, which has attracted more than 2,000 fans.

"I answer each question carefully rather than give them a general reply. Sometimes I've been in bed but I'm still worried that I may forget to answer some questions," she said. "I'd like to devote myself to this job. It's more about my personal interest than earning money. Moms need help."

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