Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Just to Share My Breastfeeding Journey

Knowing the benefits for both the baby and mother, I had decided to breastfeed my baby during my first pregnancy. And I did it for my 2 children.

Pei Pei was the first infant I had ever carried in my life. I even asked the midwife "How to carry huh?" when she passed me the fresh-from-oven-uterus baby. And who knows, within a few minutes, on top of carrying the fragile-look infant, I attempted to breastfeed her. However, it was a failed attempt - nothing came out at all!

Trying hard in the first night, not a single drop of milk. Theory learnt from prenatal class and reading from books cannot be applied in real life situation sometimes. As first-time-kancheong-parents, we called the senior lactation consultant to help. The expert solved my problem in only 1 minute! She helped me massage and squeeze out the colostrum, she also taught me the correct breastfeeding position. That marked the official beginning of my breastfeeding journey.

But things did not go very smoothly when we reached home. Pei Pei's sucking power was given a score of 10/10, with level 10 the strongest power. It hurt me so much. Probably my position was not correct, the nipples remained soar for 2 weeks. Someone even commented that I should feed baby with milk powder and that my breast milk looked very "diluted". I told myself, no matter what happened, I should continue breastfeeding because of its benefits.

The soar nipples made latching a painful experience, not only physically, but also mentally. So I decided to pump exclusively. In the first week of exclusive pumping, I was guilty for not latching directly. I thought I was selfish to stop latching just because of sore nipples. I felt even worse when I had the first episode of blocked milk ducts, when the tradional method of applying cabbage leaves and massage all failed, then I latched her, the sucking power was strong enough to remove the blockage. That was the last latching for her. After speaking to some other mummies, I felt much better as they told me that whether fresh or expressed milk, it is still breast milk. Showering baby with love is more important.

Bought a manual breast pump during pregnancy, but it took a long time to pump and it was very tiring for the hands. So I bought an electric pump 2 weeks after I delivered. It halved the time taken to express the same amount of milk. I could just sit down and close my eyes to rest during the process. But one problem with this pump is that it is very bulky and heavy to carry.

But one challenge that I had to face was that I had to get "connected" to the pump every 4 hours. If I had to go out, I had to either bring along my breast pump and cooler box, or I had to excuse myself from any gatherings or to stop shopping, and to rush home to "report" to my pump after 4 hours. There were occasions when I had to do my "moo-ing" (making milk like a cow) in washrooms as nursing rooms are not available in some places.

Occasionally when I was expressing at home, Pei Pei would cry and wanted me to carry her. Being hooked to the pump made me unable to carry her. When no one else was at home, I had no choice but to let her cry for a few minutes.

In the middle of the night, I had to get out of my bed, get the bottles and pump, and get "online" with my pump, to avoid "explosion" in the next morning. After expressing, I had to put the milk in the fridge, wash the bottles and pump parts, and then put into the steriliser. The whole process usually took 20 minutes, but it was enough to make me wide awake at 3am.

Another challenge was that, it took a few minutes to warm up the expressed milk. That few minutes seemed to be a life time, as hungry baby is angry baby. Had to use 101 ways to entertain Pei Pei to prevent her tears from flooding the whole island.

Bringing expressed milk out to feed baby means that we had to bring a big bag - cooler with ice to keep the bottle of express milk, thermo flask of hot water and a container for warming the milk.

Pei Pei had breastmilk until she was 7-month-old, 1 month after I found myself pregnant with Hao Hao, and was advised by both my gynae and her paediatrician to stop breastfeeding. Though some medical researches reported that it is all right to continue breastfeeding during pregnancy, both doctors would rather "play safe".

My second breastfeeding journey began again 8 months later. With previous experience, I was able to latch Hao Hao successfully a few minutes after he was born. However, Hao Hao's sucking power was 11/10, and caused nipples to bleed on the first day! But this time round, my pain threshold seemed to increase, probably because I had experienced a more painful labour compared to the first time due to late administration of epidural, the anesthetist had to attend to many patients that night. After about 10 days of latching, I did not feel painful anymore! Latching became an enjoyable process as I could lie down to latch, so I could catch some rest at the same time!

On the other hand, expressing breast milk with the pump became a chore this time round. Setting up the pump, expressing, storing the milk in the fridge, washing and sterilising the bottles seemed to be so much inconvenient as compared to latching.

Knowing a group of mummies who are pro-breastfeeding also built my confidence in breastfeeding in public. With a shawl, I could have my meal and my baby could have his meal, at the same time!

During the maternity leave, I still expressed milk to build up a reserve of frozen milk, and gave some freshly expressed milk to Pei Pei. When I returned to work, the moo-ing continued. I would latch Hao Hao at night.

When Hao Hao was about 7-month-old, he suddenly refused to latch on. Perhaps he preferred bottle. I was both happy and sad. Happy because I did not need to think of ways to wean him off the breasts. Sad because I felt a bit "rejected".

Hao Hao had breast milk until he was 13-month-old. I stopped partly because my supply dropped due to fatigue, and partly because of a selfish reason - I did not feel like reporting to the pump a few times a day. But anyway, I am still proud of myself for taking up the breastfeeding journey for more than the recommended 6 months for each child.

One of the most horrible experience during my breastfeeding journey was when hard lumps were developed in the breasts. Latching may not be able to remove the blockage. Searching internet, and found the solution - find the super tiny white spot on the nipple - the hardened bit of milk in the duct, squeeze it like squeezing pimple, and release the milk that is blocked. It worked very well, but of course, very painful.

Another terrible experience was when I accidentally spilled my precious breast milk. It was a pain because the milk was limited stock! The most painful incident was the day when I threw away 2+ litres of frozen breast milk reserve, because Hao Hao did not like to drink frozen breast milk, he preferred fresh one! The morale of this true story - let your baby try some frozen breast milk before you start building up the frozen reserve.

The best memory was when my babies drank halfway, paused, looked at me, gave me a contented smile, and then continued enjoying their meal!

Breast milk is really beneficial for babies, because both Pei Pei and Hao Hao started to fall sick more often after they stopped drinking breast milk. It is also beneficial for mummies, because within a few months, it helped me lose all the 19-20 kg gained during pregnancy.

This breastfeeding journey is one of the most beautiful experience in my life. It worths all the efforts to see the contented faces.


  1. That was interesting to read about your different experiences breastfeeding both your babies. I breastfed 4 of my kids and not much of a difference among all of them. I never really used the pump and so I'm impressed by your diligence.
    I think many mothers can benefit reading your story. So I have linked back to you in my post about breastfeeding tips.

    If you have time, drop by to say hi.

    1. Ai Lian Lim, thank you for dropping by my blog, am glad that you find this post useful to fellow breastfeeding mothers!


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