How many mums-to-be have decided on giving up breastfeeding even before their babies were born? From my circle of mum friends, all of them would say they will try it out. I think most mums will want to provide the best for their babies and will try their best even if it is for 1, 2 days. I have never, for one split second, doubt I would not carry out the nature’s call for a mum to nurse her baby. My mum had done it, 3 times in her life and she had never mentioned that she had problems. It just seemed so natural to her. So, naturally I should do it too. On the day my first little darling was born, I know she’s a born “sucker”, oh no, I mean “suckler”, although she needed some guidance. For me? I needed only one BIG thing, no, not the BIG BOOBS, but starting with the letter P, “PATIENCE”.
Did anyone tell you breastfeeding is a Tough, Trying, Painful journey mixed with Tears, Fatigue and Painful nipples? I had always thought it’s an easy and enjoyable process just like those maternity brochure of a mum smiling at the baby who is contentedly suckling his mama’s milk. I think of such a beautiful image and cried to myself, “I must be the only one who’s struggling with breastfeeding!”
The first 2 weeks were rather torturous to me. I was stubbornly thinking I could do a 100% breastfeeding without formula milk but my milk supply did not come as fast as how the baby was demanding. The baby cried as she was still hungry. I tried hard to feed her with my low supply. I woke up every hour in the middle of the night and day too, to feed her. Didn’t the books say it’s a supply and demand thingy? The more you feed, the more the milk supply? So, my breastfeeding sessions turned to more frequent hourly feeds as the baby got hungry faster since she couldn’t get a full feed.
Then parents, in-laws, aunties started to say things like, “Aiyo… The baby is still hungry!”, “The baby is not drinking enough milk!”, “Give her formula so that she feels fuller and can sleep longer!”, “Your milk supply is not enough!”… blah blah blah… And that’s the last thing I needed to hear while stubbornly trying very hard to give 100% breast milk.
With such negative comments reinforcing my negative thoughts caused by post-partum blues, no wonder my milk supply was low.
Kel also thought I was too stubborn and didn’t understand why I insisted on full breastfeeding. He told me that formula milk was no poison and I should let others feed my baby with formula milk so that I could have enough rest during my confinement period. What he didn’t know was that breastfeeding is a mum’s pride. I couldn’t put down this pride. Giving formula milk to the baby was like telling me straight in the face that I am a loser. But when your only supporter of breastfeeding (that is my hubby here), started to follow the herd, in your frustration and depression, you gave in to the satisfaction of milk powder companies. So, for the sake of the baby and to satisfy her hunger, finally, I succumbed to all pressure and gave the baby the “poison” – Formula Milk. You could be laughing at my naivety and foolish persistence and pride. But, seriously, even till the 3rd baby, when I had to give formula milk to my newborn, I felt I failed miserably as a lousy mum. That’s how much I wanted to provide the first best thing for my child.
I convinced myself that I belong to the herd of thinner cows. I envy the other herd of the fat cows whose milk supplies need an extra fridge to store the winning bags of fresh, precious milk. I tried very hard. I even went through a terrible 1 week of extremely sore nipples when nursing my 3rd baby. You would have thought that I am an “old bird” at breastfeeding when my 3rd baby was born. Well, each breastfeeding journey has its unique story. My sore nipples were so bad that I shivered and cried. Just before the baby latched on, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes tight and endured what was to come – the excruciating pain of the sore nipple! I could tell you that I had no problem enduring 3 times natural childbirth without epidural but I could not endure this 8 times a day painful sore nipples! I decided to pump milk out of the sore nipple, and latched on the other breast. After about 1 week, the soreness healed and I was finally able to feed my baby without that excruciating pain. And that’s how I continued being a human cow.
After about 4 weeks of enduring sore nipples, fatigue, struggling with negative thoughts and unnecessary but well-meant comments, my milk supply started to flow more readily. I pumped my milk, alternate with latching and formula milk throughout that initial period. I pumped out whatever was left after direct latching even though it was only 10ml. Then my patience paid off. Suddenly, one day, I found that my freezer started to pile up on Avent containers of fresh human milk! I was able to produce more milk than what my baby was feeding on! Hooray! That started my FULL Breastfeeding journey finally!
RETURNING TO WORK…
Then, the dreaded thing had to come. I had to return to work. I knew, that would mean my milk supply would drop significantly since I wouldn’t be able to feed my baby directly and frequently. I had to train my baby to use the milk bottle after latching on fully for 5 months. He refused the milk bottle and went without much milk for 10 days! (Well, that’s another challenging experience. If you are facing similar problem, read here!)
Everyday, I expressed my milk early in the morning, sterilized the pumps and containers, packed in a big block of ice and brought them with me to work. At work, every 4 hours, I pumped out my milk in a musty, dusty document room in the office. I had a hard time letting-down and could not pump out fully. I tried bringing my baby’s clothes to smell, his nappy to smell. I tried to watch his video and listened to his laughter and cries while squeezing my breasts and pumping hard in order to stimulate the let-down effect. Anyone who saw what I was doing, would have thought I was doing something indecent. But I was doing all I could, massaging my breasts, watching videos, smelling his nappies, just to pump more milk for him.
Baby, mummy is doing so much to bring back milk for you!
I could only manage to pump twice during work. I could not do overtime, and had to run in and out of meetings to pump milk, store milk and wash pumps. I had to tell important client that I needed to go and be back 20 minutes later. But usually I took more than that. It was not easy to pump at work. Bosses may think you are skiving, or simply dismiss mums as troublesome women to be employed at work. I had to leave for home on time. I needed to bring back my milk to my baby. I wanted to rush home in time to feed him directly!
So please, if you are a boss reading this, please understand how difficult working mums face while trying to give their babies the best milk. Please have a proper nursing room at work. Please understand when we have to leave lengthy meetings halfway. Please be tolerant and don’t penalize our bonus because we could not work beyond normal working hours.
Very soon after I went back to work, my milk supply dwindled and I was back to mixing with formula milk. After 4-5 months of expressing milk at work, my breastmilk production finally dropped to near zero. I was really sad. I love breastfeeding and love looking at how my baby suck on my breast. They always look so contented and fall asleep while feeding. Finally! I was the mum on the cover of the maternity brochure! In fact, breastfeeding is one of my favourite reasons to go through maternity again and again and again 3 times! Not to mention that breastfeeding made me slimmer than before pregnancy. So, when the day my breastfeeding officially stopped, I was really sad. Especially with my 3rd baby, I knew this will likely be my last time to breastfeed in my lifetime. If you had breastfeed for some months, you would know how sad I felt.
TIPS ON BREASTFEEDING!!
Having gone through 3 times breastfeeding, I would love to share some tips with new mums or mums who are trying to establish a flowing milk supply:
1) Be PATIENT, very very PATIENT!
2) Believe in yourself, every mums can do it! Yes, EVERY SINGLE MUM including YOURSELF! Never doubt for a moment you have no milk. As long as you try patiently, and give your baby patience to learn latching, the milk supply will come, in my case, I took about 3-4 weeks to establish a breastfeeding routine!
3) Drink lots of fluids! For the local Chinese, we believe in drinking lots of soup! Fish soup, black bean soup, chicken soup, any soup, any drinks, as long as they are healthy fluids!
4) Have enough rest! I know this is difficult since newborns are demanding. But try to rest whenever you can. Milk supply cannot be pumped up if you are too tired.
5) Think positively! I know this is difficult too. With post-partum blues, and negative comments plus self-induced negative thoughts, milk supply will get lesser. I experienced blues as well, but I know that each time I feel down, I need to talk to someone, someone who will give me support and cares for me. Usually that’s your husband, your mum, and your best friend. Don’t be shy to ask for help.
6) Supplement with Formula Milk. For the initial period, if the milk supply is still not yet established, please supplement with formula milk and meanwhile continue to pump or latch on. My stubborn experience had taught me pride only gets you fatigue, and hunger for the baby. Do what is best for the baby. Please learn from my experience above, and pat yourself on the back for trying your best!
I hope my experience and tips can help whoever is going through a hard time in her breastfeeding journey. I was wishing someone would have told me how hard it could get. But I was glad that I worked it out in the end, not without super supportive hubby of course! For all my 3 kids, I breastfed them for 9 full months before my milk supply ended and I am a FTWM. If I can do it, you can too!
I totally encourage breastfeeding your baby provided you are enjoying it. If you had tried your best and it somehow doesn’t work out, you are still your baby’s greatest love! What’s more important is enjoying your baby and motherhood. Breastfeeding or not doesn’t really matter as long as both you and baby are happy 🙂
Now, this is a blog train “WHY I BREASTFED FOR…..” hosted by Madeline where 24 Singapore Mom Bloggers share their breastfeeding experience ranging from 1 week to 48 weeks! Each mum has a unique story to tell and her own woes to tackle. There is no right and wrong about choosing or not choosing breastfeeding. But these mums try their best! Next in the line to get up on this train is a sharing by Evelyn.
Evespiration was born out of the little life in Evelyn some 5 years ago. The little life turned out to be one of the greatest miracle in her life. A mother of 2 active boys; Evelyn blogs to share about her motherhood journey & what inspires her. All these while trying to maintain sanity to enjoy a good cup of coffee. Read about her breastfeeding journey at Evespiration tomorrow!