Breastfeeding in Singapore - Challenges faced by a new mum

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Breastfeeding offers numerous benefits, but it is not as easy as it appears. A Singaporean mum writes in about the breastfeeding challenges faced by a new mum and her efforts in overcoming these challenges.

Mrs Ng, aged 30:

Breastfeeding had always been something I wanted to do since I found out I was pregnant. It was a choice that I wanted to stick to and although there have been challenges along the way; I’m glad that my daughter is still exclusively breastfed.

Everyone always tells you the importance of breastfeeding and all the benefits it has. But seldom do we discuss the challenges you would face when you choose to breastfeed.

I remember going for my prenatal classes with my husband. They had this baby doll and they showed us how we should handle the baby when we breastfeed. They also showed us the process and how to get baby to latch. The nurse went on about the importance of breastfeeding and how we should do it for at least six months.

Making the decision
I noticed that this was the same thing in articles and books that I read about breastfeeding. For example, it’s the only thing that an infant needs for the first six months of their life, where there will no additional need for supplements etc. Each mother’s milk is specific to meet the needs of their infant; talk about customisation!

The more I read about the benefits, the more I am resolved to exclusively breastfeed my little one. I was actually quite eager and couldn’t wait for it to happen.

But my breastfeeding journey did not go smoothly. I recalled the nurse telling us that all infants have a natural rooting reflex which means they would be able to latch and look for the nipple. So when I first delivered my daughter I tried to get her to latch on but to no avail.

Feelings of failure
In my frustration and exhaustion, I started thinking something was wrong with me and the way I was breastfeeding. I remembered the tears and the feeling of being absolutely alone, and when my daughter was formula fed that first time, I felt that I had failed her.

False sense of calm
Nonetheless with the support and encouragement of my family and my stubborn attitude, I persevered and insisted on breastfeeding. Finally, I got my little one to latch, but only on one side due to my inverted nipple. So in the next few days, I felt better. I even felt lucky that my daughter did not wake up every 2 hours to feed (which was normal for a newborn) instead she would only cry for milk after five hours and most of the time she slept.

I only suspected something might be wrong when at five days old she developed a fever. Of course we went to the hospital and she was immediately admitted. Needless to say, I was worried and felt helpless. Even though I was exhausted, I refused to go home and sat by her cot, it broke my heart to see an IV drip in her hand.

Making the unpopular choice
Despite that, I still insisted on breastfeeding her. Every three hours I would go to the nursing room and express as much as I could. At times it would take me an hour just to produce enough milk for her next feed. It was mentally and physically draining but seeing her in that condition made my resolve to breastfeed even stronger. In another blow, I fell sick when I was in the hospital. I had a sudden onset of high fever and my breast was engorged.

Both my family and husband told me to just give in and let my baby be given formula so that I could rest but I refused. At that moment, I felt alone as no one really understood why I wanted to breastfeed.

Steep learning curve
That week in the hospital with my daughter was a huge learning experience for me. I even found out a nifty way to ease engorgement; put cabbage leaves in your bra, who knew, right? The final diagnosis for my baby was that of dehydration, as my daughter who had difficulty latching was not getting enough milk.

Initially, I refused to put her on the bottle to prevent nipple confusion, but I realized that this was not about what I wanted, but about her. So I gave in and got an electrical pump to express my milk upon the recommendation of the lactation specialist. That was the turning point for me.

But I am glad that I stuck to my guns that very difficult first week as my daughter is still breastfeeding at 11 months.

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Written by

Wafa Marican