In March 2015, I became a mummy for the first time to my son, Liam. Just like any other excited first-time mummy, I went to the baby fair at Expo and bought my first breast pump. I took it for granted that I will definitely have milk and will be breastfeeding.
As a formula-fed child, I did not have any relatives or friends who were breastfeeding mummies. At the hospital, I struggled with perineum pain while trying to get Liam to latch.
He was not really interested in latching. All he wanted was to sleep. Without much knowledge about breastfeeding, I was discharged and went home thinking that baby will get better at latching in the days to come.
Breastfeeding And Latching Struggles
Image Source: Ng Hanjum
I was wrong. I remembered the first night, he wailed so badly. He refused to latch. I had to quickly pump the colostrum out and spoon feed him. He managed to drink some milk and dozed off.
Being old school, my mother came the next morning and insisted to feed the baby with the milk bottle. Of course, the baby refused to latch on even more.
Feeling upset and lost, I turned to two friends for advice.
Finding Help And Support On The Internet
It was only when my friend Wei Ching shared about nipple confusion then I realised the reason why the baby rejected me. Wei Ching added me to a Breastfeeding Mothers group on Facebook and I read the posts shared. I did not want to give up.
From that day on, I would try to get the baby to latch.
He wailed at the beginning and I let him cry. In my heart, I was falling apart. There were many doubts in my heart. I wondered if I had done the right thing by allowing him to go hungry and hoping that the hunger would get him to latch. Each time Liam wailed, my husband got fidgety.
By the third day, he was adamant about giving his son the bottle before letting him try to latch first. In my heart, I told myself that that would be the last time I try.
Miraculously, Liam just latched on without fussing. I teared up as I finally cradled him while he latched on peacefully.
Breastfeeding Success Journey: Coping With The Pain
Having a baby really turned our lives upside down. After overcoming the challenge of getting Liam to latch on, I began to struggle with the lack of sleep. My boobs were so hard each night.
I had to wake up every three hours to let the baby latch and pump out the excess.
Some nights I was so exhausted that I could not wake up to pump and the next day, my bed was wet. From then, I suffered from a high fever every week from lack of sleep. George urged me to sleep whenever the baby slept.
I had no choice but to make changes to my lifestyle. I slept whenever I could. It helped. Even when I could not sleep, I would lie in bed and read up about breastfeeding. The learning curve was steep, but not impossible.
Changing sleeping postures helped me cope with night feeding. I would sleep on my side and nurse the baby at the same time. In that way, I got to continue with my sleep while the baby was nursed.
Breastfeeding Success Stories: Milk Blisters Are A Thing
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I was a fortunate mummy. I had milk, tonnes of it. So much so that I had to give my milk away on top of giving Liam a milk bath every day. It was also a problem.
Being a first-time mummy and although I tried to read up and learn as much as I possibly could, I still encountered blocked ducts, engorgement, mastitis and milk blister.
Once, I was so desperate that I called my father in law, who was a doctor, in the middle of the night for help. He guided me and we found out that I actually had a milk blister. With a needle and some whisky, I burst the blister on my own.
As hard lumps had already formed and I was in terrible pain, I took a rolling pin from the kitchen. I lied down on my bed facing up and began to force the milk by rolling the lumps with the rolling pin. It was a mess. There was pus, blood, then, milk.
Crazy as it may seem, but I really felt better. Liam had to latch to clear the remaining blocked ducts. I could still remember the pain vividly when his mouth closed onto my nipple. The pain from his latching onto the burst blister was excruciating.
Can Breastfeeding Get Tough? Turns Out A Lot
For a good six months, fever was a weekly affair. It was either due to blocked ducts or lack of sleep. There were countless moments when I wanted to give up. “It is just breastfeeding, how tough can it get?”
Each time I thought of the pain I had already gone through, I persisted. George assured me that I did not have to put myself through so much pain and that it was perfectly okay to get Liam formula milk.
The strong-headed me refused to budge. My body started getting used to breastfeeding and things got easier. I breastfed Liam directly wherever we went. There were times when he had expressed milk from the bottle as well. Both mummy and baby were happy.
Managing Breastfeeding When Travelling
Being a mummy who loves baby-wearing, Liam and I would head out to many places together with our Tula. I could be shopping for his diapers while Liam latched on in the supermarket.
That was how we went to Hong Kong and London when he was three and six-months-old, respectively. It was then I began to enjoy breastfeeding. It was so convenient.
There was no hassle of bringing bottles, hot water, and formula milk powder in my bag. It was just me and my boobs.
This is the beauty of breastfeeding. The funny part was that I did get stares from strangers who glared at me for breastfeeding in public. I do not flash my boobs but I do try to be discreet (without a nursing cover). Of course, I also get smiles and thumbs up as well.
Breastfeeding Success Stories: Managing At Work
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When I had to head out to work, my Packit ice bag with extra ice packs inside will follow me out.
Once, I was pumping milk at my desk. Suddenly, my colleague who sat opposite me shot up from her seat in fright and exclaimed, “Did you feel the tremors? Oh my god! What is happening? Is it an earthquake? I can hear the vibrations!”
Initially, I was not able to understand what was happening as well. After a few seconds, I realised that she felt and heard my trusty Medela Freestyle breast pump. After I assured her that it was just my breast pump at work, both of us had a good laugh over it.
Sharing Breastfeeding Success Stories With Other Mums
Throughout this period, I continued to read up about breastfeeding from the Facebook group. At the same time, I began to share my knowledge with a few other friends who delivered after me. I felt that it was only right for me to pass on the support and encouragement that I have received to others.
Not only did I learn about breastfeeding, but I also had to learn how to manage the milk I had pumped out. In the beginning, I wasted 70 overpacks of frozen breastmilk as they smell so fishy when thawed.
In the desperate attempt of not wasting them, they became Liam’s milk bath. From then on, I learnt that I had to scald the milk before I freeze them in order to deactivate the lipase enzyme. I bought an additional freezer to keep them exclusively.
Once, after I had my third child, Luke, someone at home accidentally turned off the power to the freezer. The entire stash of frozen breastmilk (about 2 months’ worth) had to be thrown away.
They were all thawed and spoilt. I broke down and cried. I was unable to sleep that night. George hugged me and comforted me. The next day, I started all over again. To date, the freezer is finally full again with my frozen trophies.
Breastfeeding Success Stories: Moving Kids To Fresh Milk
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For my first two children – Liam and Leia, I breastfed them until they passed the one-year-old mark. From then, we gradually transited them to fresh milk. When my breastfeeding days ended with Leia, I was heartbroken. I knew that I would miss the moments when I cradled them in my arms and gaze at them while they nurse.
Right now, Luke is about five-months-old. He was very good at latching right at the start when we had some private time for some skin-to-skin bonding in the delivery ward. When he was about two-months-old, I was admitted to the hospital for severe vertigo.
During those few days, I was worried about him as he only drank from the bottle once. Thankfully, he was cooperative and George fed him using the bottle.
After being discharged, he seemed to know and started to reject the bottles. In a way, it was a happy problem for me as I knew that he did not get nipple confusion.
Breastfeeding Success Stories: A Big Part Of Enjoying Motherhood
I hope to breastfeed him for as long as I can. We are pretty sure that we are not going to have another baby after Luke. I would love to enjoy all these moments with him as long as I possibly can.
George has always been supportive. To him, I was his priority. He did not want me to stress myself out too much. Not once had he asked me to cover up while breastfeeding in public or feel embarrassed about it.
A few times, he even had to help me hold the milk bottle filled with expressed milk in the cinema in the middle of a movie. Well, mummy’ duties call.
After giving birth to Luke, George’s friend, whose wife is the founder of Hegen sent an entire set of complimentary Hegen bottles for me to store breastmilk. It really takes an entire community to support breastfeeding mummies.
Image Source: Ng Hanjum
Breastfeeding Success Stories: Tips For First-Time Mums
Just two days ago, a dear friend of mine just delivered a chubby little girl. I shared some important tips with her:
- Read up on breastfeeding and join support groups.
- Reach out for help whenever you are in doubt.
- Breastfeeding is a beautiful journey. You will miss it when it ends.
- If you can survive the first then weeks, you will be able to continue with that journey.
Breastfeed on, mummies. “The nights are long but the years are short.”
As told to Deepshikha Punj.
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