[Sharing] You are not alone – Of Breastfeeding & Challenges

Breastfeeding for #1

First, let me share my old banner for this blog… I can’t bear to part with it so I’m sticking it here. ^^

Lilypie Breastfeeding tickers

Writing an entry to share my breastfeeding journey for my first girl. I’ve been wanting to do this for the longest time but haven’t gotten down to writing this and it’s over 1 year late (this entry has been ‘in progress’ for the longest time and was completed on 2 October 2015). In fact, I’ve shared my stories on various other platforms, usually with fellow mummy-friends in mummies groups and forums. I couldn’t have done it too without the support of my pro-breastfeeding mummy-friends who have been very supportive and helpful in giving me information to find out more about breastfeeding on my own, as well as sharing their experiences with me. Thus it really spurs me to want to do the same to help other breastfeeding mummies. =)

The very first 2 days 

I did not get to latch immediately, and being a very blur first-time mum, I didn’t know I could request to latch my girl immediately after delivery. I cuddled her for a while and she’s sent to clean up and rest in the babies’ nursery room. When I finally get to rest in my premiere ward after wolfing down my lunch in the delivery ward, and then she’s brought into my room to latch for the very first time, she stopped after suckling a couple of times. The lactation consultant was like, “Woah, your baby’s very smart! She knows there’s no milk so no point suckling, conserve energy first.” Yes, my smart girl totally freaked me out as I was worrying that if there’s not suckling to induce the milk flow, the supply would not come.

This happened another once or twice. In the end we gave in to giving her formula milk. The lactation consultant was kind enough to bring a set of the Medela Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) for me to try, with formula milk flowing down a tube attached to my nipples, so my baby would get milk when she suckled, and thus would continue suckling. She suckled alright, so there was no problem with her suckling at all. Thank goodness. However, the lactation consultant also pointed out that my nipples were quite flat, so introduced nipple shields to me. I started using nipple shields then. She also suggested that we buy the SNS, nipple shields and Pigeon nipple puller to help with my situation, and my hubby went to buy all of them immediately at the pharmacy in TMC.

It was quite a hassle to use them actually and I didn’t like them at all. However I needed them for my girl to continue to suckle and hopefully my milk would start flowing soon. I didn’t start using the SNS immediately as we didn’t bring anything to sterilize it, plus hubby and I thought that it was really expensive to buy the plain plastic box and sterilizing pills from TMC. *stingy parents alert*

Dr Tham, my gynae, also prescribed me some pills for boosting my milk supply, and my hubby went to the pharmacy to get fenugreek supplements on recommendation.

Going home from TMC
On the morning of day 3, my last day in TMC after staying for 2 nights (oh man, how I miss those staycation-style nights in TMC!!), my milk supply started flowing~ I was ecstatic! In fact, I was engorged on day 4.
Jaundice hospitalization woes
My girl has to be hospitalized for jaundice and as a first time mum, I’m super upset as it’s my first time not being with my baby 24/7 since we were discharged from TMC and I cried. I guess it’s actual very common for first time mums with same experience. As my girl won’t be by my side, I had to go on a pumping frenzy and then bring to TMC for her as she stayed in TMC for 2 days 2 nights of phototherapy.
And confinement continued

I continued to nurse my baby, sitting up in the single bed which I slept in while having confinement at my parents’ place. However, my baby has no regular feeding time and I was simply feeding on demand and struggling to keep up with baby. In fact I started to go a little bonkers with the irregular hours of nursing and resting that I had to face. The struggle was REAL. Trust me, new mummies, when I said I understand what you’re going through. The struggle was totally wrecking me. Plus I was still hanging onto the nipple shields, and I had to sterilize them with hot water each time I needed to nurse my baby. It was really a big hassle. Eventually it seemed likeall my hours were spent nursing, washing, sterilizing, pumping, nursing… the list goes on. In fact, I’ve been latching and latching and latching nonstop. I needed a reason for it… perhaps it’s growth spurt? The latching was making my nipples super sore and painful. 😦

Often, I wonder if I was the crankier one or my baby, as she went wailing in the middle of the night.

Week 3 low supply woes

My nipples were sore. I was cranky and an emo wreck. I cried and cried. I needed sleep. That’s really all I could handle, and then my supply dropped. It was the ultimate devastation. I cried for days, and my milk supply went lower and lower, to a mere 10 ml per pump. I was beyond miserable, I was defeated. I was depressed. We were still supplementing my baby with formula milk each evening/night since her jaundice episode, and it seemed like we need to give her even more formula milk to make up for the dip in my breastmilk supply. But that too had passed, and eventually my milk supply went up, and then went up even more!

At the same time, I ditched the nipple shields as my pro-breastfeeding friend encouraged me to directly latch my baby, and offered many insightful articles that stated that nipple shields should be used as the last resort. And so, baby and I started learning all over again. Baby now has to latch on my barely-there nipples, and I have to learn to pinch my breasts into her opened mouth. It’s day one all over again for us. It’s not easy. And I couldn’t get it under control.

Finally all’s good from week 6

At 5 weeks, she was latching nonstop. I wasemo again and again, tired of being her pacifier as she latched nonstop through the days. It was so not easy. SO NOT EASY! But that too shall pass…

From week 6 onwards, it seems like my supply has been established and stabilized, and she’s become very proficient in latching in all positions. We lie down to latch in bed often so we could both rest. And she stopped taking formula milk from week 6 as I latched her full time and was giving her 100% breastmilk. Finally, a proud mama moment!

She continued to 100% latch on demand(sometimes nonstop!) until she started solid food.

Latching on the go
In fact I’ve been directly latching her, it’s so easy to go out. We didn’t have to bring any milk powder, bottles, hot water for heating up milk or ice bags for expressed milk. I started with looking for nursing rooms in the malls but eventually I graduated to simply using a nursing cover. That’s all I need in my bag, besides the usual – diapers, wet wipes, extra set of clothes and hanky. I usually checked out malls with nursing rooms for my own convenience, and I love nice, clean nursing rooms and nice, clean diaper changing facilities. But if it’s inconvenient to get to the nursing room, I could sit in eatery, cafe, fast food outlets or restaurants, and latch away with my nursing cover.
Pumping pumping
I pumped too so that when I wasn’t around, my MIL could feed her the expressed milk. So I tried to pump whenever I have plans to go out, and of course before I went back to work.
Frozen milk
I managed to build up a small stash of frozen milk… yes, quite a small stash. No extra freezer unit required. And then suddenly, my baby rejected frozen milk. Like… duh. What’s gonna happen to my milk in the freezer now?! I tried making milo with the packets of frozen milk in the freezer but seriously they smelled so much like puked and didn’t taste any better, I ended up puking the milo out and so my milk literally ended up going down the drain…
Going back to work

Eventually it’s the time I dreaded but couldn’t avoid. It’s time to go back to work. My only consolation was I took half a year of no-pay leave after my maternity leave and so my baby has been on breastmilk for 10 good months.

I continued to pump but it was difficult to find time to pump regularly. I ended up pumping only once at work. Or twice but rarely. The nursing room was a CCA room for photography club to store their cameras and it was very stressful to pump inside as often I encountered students or teachers trying to unlock the door while I was pumping. Fortunately, the school installed a bolt on the inside, but it was still very unnerving with my boobs out in the open air. And to make matters worse, the room was situated between two classrooms and the walls are thin. I could here the two teachers on either side teaching when it’s lesson time, and the students bustling. I was totally imagining that if the earth shook, the walls crumpled and I’ll have 80+ pairs of eyes on my naked breasts. Paranoid me always have thoughts like that and it’s driving me crazy.

As baby rejected my frozen milk (eventually MIL discarded ):), I pumped fresh milk for her everyday and put the bottles in the fridge for her to take the next day. When I was at home, I would continue to latch directly, and she continued to be latched to sleep at night. I was willing to let her latch to sleep for as long as she wanted to.

Eventually I stopped pumping when she was close to 15 months old. It was a good 15 months of breastfeeding… a journey full of ups and downs, full of cries and crankiness, full of stress and emo wreckage. But I’ll not exchange it for anything, because I know my baby has benefited well from my milk. She slowly could drift into sleep without latching and my breastfeeding journey officially ended. I could not remember how I got ‘dried up’… I didn’t eat anything for it to happen. I guess it just naturally happened as I stopped pumping and latching, since I was already pumping lesser and lesser at work.
I am eternally grateful for my mummies-friends who have been very supportive, encouraging and motivating. Thank you for sharing with me and spurring me on, which led me to eventually breastfeed my girl fully for over a year. Some of the links before are links shared by my friends. I find them very helpful and I hope they can be helpful to you too! 🙂

Helpful links
KellyMom: evidence-based breastfeeding and parenting
Ask Dr Sears – breastfeeding topics
La Leche League International – resources
Australian Breastfeeding Association – information
How to express breast milk using hand expression
Mummy V
Mother of 2 girls
Note: Follow Mummy V at her blog!

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