Friday, July 17, 2009

My Journey in Breastfeeding

It’s not been easy with my first one. There were just too many obstacles.

First, it was an emergency Caesarian delivery. So I couldn’t breastfeed right away. Luckily I’ve informed the nurses that I wanted my baby to be spoon fed, so she wouldn’t have nipple confusion later. But when I requested my baby to be cup-fed in the confinement center, the caretaker told me that the babies there did not have nipple confusion even after being introduced to the bottle. Still, they obliged me. However, when they cup feed my baby, the milk dripped down her chin and she developed mild rashes on her neck. Not to mention, that’s also a kind of wastage on my precious milk. So I agreed when they asked me to give it a try on bottle-feeding, but right after that, she rejected my nipple. I felt depressed. I instructed them to resume cup feeding again, and I fought with my baby for 2 days. I let her go hungry (yes, I was that hard), just to train her back. Luckily I succeeded, and I could continue to breastfeed her directly.

But after that, I had other problems. My nipples cracked and bleed. I had to throw away the milk because I saw blood in my milk. I couldn’t nurse her due to the pain. I was at a lost of what to do. Even pumping felt so painful (I was using the electric pump). In the end, I applied Beepanthen cream and still pumped instead of nursed her directly, always hoping there’s no blood, because once there’s a blood sign, the whole bottle of milk would need to be poured away.

That’s not the end of the story yet. I had fever during my confinement, and was advised to throw away the milk by the nurses at the confinement center since I was taking paracetamol. That time, I was very new to breastfeeding, so I believed them. And furthermore, the advice was given by a nurse from Adventist who’s working part time at the confinement center. So I threw away my precious milk. And that time I didn’t even have enough. I had to mix with formula already. Imagine what agony I was going thru.

To further add salt to my wound, the flu epidemic began. The babies in the confinement center got sick one by one. I was so afraid that I quickly requested to have my baby roomed in with me. I was lucky to stay in a single room then. But it was too late. She got the virus too. I sent her back to be taken care by MIL while they cleaned up the nursery. I was so afraid that she would forget how to suckle again after being bottle fed for two full days. Luckily, she didn’t.

While I was in confinement, my milk supply only managed to last during the day time. At night, I had to give her formula. But when I went back home during my 2nd month, I was very happy to note that my supply suddenly became so much that I could actually stock up. Maybe that's due to the food I ate, since MIL continued to cook confinement food for me. However, MIL wouldn’t let me breastfeed my baby directly. She preferred me to pump out and bottle feed her instead. Her reasons – she was afraid my baby would not want to drink from the bottle later when I went back to work. So I only managed to breastfeed her at night. That’s not everyday too, because MIL insisted to take care of the baby at night too. She’s afraid that when the baby cried at night, she would wake hubby up and he won’t have enough sleep. We finally settled for alternate nights. And on the nights that she took care of her, sometimes she would feed her formula. In fact, when I went back to work, she’s been feeding my baby formula on and off, even when I actually had enough to breastfeed her fully. Her excuses would either be – my baby couldn’t wait for her to warm up the milk, or my baby wouldn’t want to drink my milk. But my baby wanted formula. At other times, she would say that formula was more nutritious than breastmilk. If I ever got sick or had rashes of any kind, she would be reluctant to let me breastfeed her. So, I really had a lot of obstacles in fully breastfeeding my first child.

Despite all that, I hang on. That needed a lot of patience. Even my mum asked me to stop, because she felt that it's not necessary to breastfeed for so long. She breastfeed me for 3 months, and that was considered very long during her time. According to her, all the nutrients that we took would be in the breastmilk, so that means my immune system would be weaker when I continued to breastfeed longer. As about hubby, he kept asking me to relax and be more open, it’s ok to feed formula once in a while, even though he agreed that breastmilk is best.

With the strong current against me, I finally found solace in my breastfeeding buddies at work. The talks behind the screens had given me a new found strength, motivation and perseverance to continue on with what I believed was best for my baby. In the end, I succeeded. Praise the Lord! I only stopped when my baby’s about 15 months (and I’ve enjoyed 12 months without having any menstrual cycle – that’s one of the best things in breastfeeding), when my supply suddenly became less and my baby refused to nurse since nothing much came out.

So, when the 2nd child came, I doubted if I could breastfeed for long, after all that I’ve gone thru. I was not sure if I still had the energy to withstand whatever obstacles that may come. But things were so much better this time. Everything went smooth sailing – I had a miraculous normal delivery which gave me a head start to nurse her right after she was born. Then, I had so much supply that I could breastfeed two kids fully at one point. Even then, I always felt engorged and ran out of bottles. Finally I gave my baby milk bath (The big one didn’t want to bathe in that white pool, somehow). I certainly saved a lot of $$$ in formula milk, much to hubby’s delight. And this time, MIL was very supportive too. Maybe she finally realized the benefits afterall. I was amazed to find such a sudden switch. As for my babysitter, I managed to find one that willingly co-operate, even though she did hinted that there's no need to breastfeed for so long. What else could I ask for?

Nevertheless, there’s no such thing as a smooth sailing river. The waves came in once in awhile – if last time my problems mainly stemed from my lack of supply, this time it's the other way round. My baby had difficulty nursing since the flow was too fast. Sometimes she would choke and then throw out the milk. Also, since I didn't mix with formula, my baby had jaundice. It was so bad that I had to stop breastfeeding for awhile. But later, the paed gave me the greenlight to continue breastfeeding when the tests’ results indicated that it’s breastmilk jaundice. Again, I had to fight with my baby for 2 days to train her back to suck. Because she was waiting to be cup fed, and forgot how to suck!

And not long later, my baby suffered nappy rash until her skin was terribly sore. That's because breastfed babies would poo more frequent and that irritated her skin. Even the sight of her skin condition made me ached in pain. My mother suggested formula temporary. I refused to give in. When it became so bad that my MIL also voiced the same suggestion, I relented. So formula be it until she’s better. Only a few days, and we could see an improvement. When things were better, I continued to breastfeed again. Things were going my way since then, but once in a while, I had some minor problems like mastitis and I sought treatment. I also learned that when we’re engorged and nothing else worked, the baby would be the best remedy. When she suckled, she helped to reduce the engorgement and it’s most effective when we nursed with the pull of gravity on our side, meaning putting her on the bed and go on all four to breastfeed her. That way, I managed to remove the lump that was bothering me.

Then, there’s the pump problem. I used to own an electric pump (a Medela mini E) when I had my first child. After that, I purchased a manual Avent pump when I needed to travel (I even went thru the trouble of storing my milk and bringing them back once after a friend shared with me this possibility – before that I either poured it away, drank it myself (!!!) or had milk bath with it). So when I had my 2nd baby, I had 2 pumps. I was very comfortable with the electric one, it’s faster and less messy. But then, the motor gave way when my 2nd baby was ~9 months old, so I had no choice but to revert to the manual pump. It was going fine until the days when my hands suddenly felt numb. I could hardly moved my hand! Again, my mother advised me to stop. Look what breastfeeding had done to me! In the end, I contemplated to get another electric pump. Two very good friends borrowed me their electric pumps to help me figure out which one would suit me better. And to find out if the numbness was due to the manual pump or not. To cut the story short, after trying a few remedies, the numbness subsided. So I continued using my existing manual pump.

So there, breastfeeding is not easy. If one person (me) could experience so many problems, I'm sure there's more out there. That's because, from the many problems that my friends consulted me on, some of which I've not encountered before.

Honestly, not many mothers are willing to go thru this journey, but those who choose this path, are never without regrets. That's why I wanted to post this, so as to bring awareness to all the mothers out there - that breastfeeding is indeed the best gift to your child.

To all of you breastfeeding mother, bravo and keep the flow going!


Mummy and daddy: Angie and Ben said...

Wow! It's a big challenge to breastfeed for a long time huh? I also faced some (not much) challenge when breastfeeding. Some people even call me weird for feeding for so long. But yet, 2 years is worth it!

Pei Sze said...

You are such a determined person. I think we all are :P , if not we will not come this far, right?

You shouldn't throw away the milk that had blood!!! :(

Pet said...

It's true...breastfeeding is challenging and it's a wonder how we can keep it going for so long.

I too dedicated a long blog on bfeeding as you would have come across while reading my son's blog.

I'm not sure how long I will keep bfeeding n expressing at work.. but, will just continue as long as I can. Kudos to all bfeeding mothers!! Ke ke... my mom also asked me to stop since I lost so much weight, about 5kg from my normal pre-pregnancy weight. I think I will just eat MORE! Hee hee

KK and WS said...

yes...the rewarding part is PRICELESS!!!


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