Sunday, August 29, 2010

My breastfeeding journey - first 6 months

Even before I was pregnant, I had decided that I would breastfeed my child and give her the best diet that I can give to build her immunity and health. When EV was growing inside me, I affirmed that decision by making sure I ate healthily and prepared myself mentally for an unknown experience that I just knew would be special. I did some research and attended prenatal classes that touched somewhat on the topic. But I did not borrow or buy every breastfeeding book in the market, nor did I devour all the breastfeeding resources online. No. While I do wonder about breastfeeding and worry about whether I would do a good job, I generally took a laid back approach to it. Why worry about it when the time has not yet come? How could I possibly understand what I was reading, without experiencing it physically? Thinking back, I reckon that was a good attitude to adopt. Trust me. No book or lesson or online resource will prepare you for the confusion of the task. It is better to relax and then tackle it when the time comes.
The very first time EV latched on was easy, as she was just one minute old and the midwife was there to pop her in the right position. But the days and weeks after presented a mammoth task of learning how to carry EV correctly and make her latch on properly. There was also the worry of whether I was producing enough milk and even feeding her at all! During our days in the hospital, I tried to make EV latch on at every opportunity. Obviously, I wasn’t doing a good job, for my fierce little darling would brawl at the top of her voice that eventually, the nurses would recognise her desperate cries and run in to assist helpless me. Never mind that my breast was exposed; I just needed to feed EV! Powdered milk was always on standby, so EV would be fed that if I really couldn’t feed her. Then I tried again during her next feeding.
By the third day, EV was still not latching on properly and my breasts were getting bigger and lumpier. Luckily, we engaged the help of a home care midwife (we didn’t get a confinement lady as it was Chinese New Year period and it would have been expensive to engage one) to come in to teach us how to look after a baby. She was also a certified lactation consultant and not only gave me advice on breastfeeding, but also massaged my engorged breasts and patiently guided me on how to breastfeed and express. She was a godsend!

Image: koratmember /
Now that I got the technique, next was how to increase production. During those first days, we had to supplement EV’s diet with milk formula. But at every opportunity, I would let her latch on. Otherwise, I would express my milk to help increase production.
But by the second month, I was still producing less than what EV needed. I was becoming desperate. I look forward to each breastfeeding session, and the thought of not being able to do so really upset me. Breastfeeding is an experience that is beyond words. As I looked into my dear EV’s eyes as she suckles, looking at her looking up at me, I can’t help but be filled with a warm love, awe and wonder that I really find hard to describe. It is a special bond that only happens at that moment, a closeness between a mother and baby that only they can share. It is truly unforgettable, and like I said, I didn’t like the idea of not being able to feed her anymore. So I did a lot of research online to find ways of increasing production. A lady was selling Sacred Tea, which apparently was a natural way of increasing milk production. I guess at that time, I was game to try anything. I bought the Sacred Tea, and religiously drank the recommended amount, most of the time. I thought, if this tea doesn’t help, I would just accept the fact that perhaps I just can’t produce that much milk, and wean EV from me. As long as I could breastfeed EV until the six months mark, I was happy.
The tea did help, but it wasn’t enough to enable me to completely breastfeed EV at first. But I continued to drink the tea, and also made sure I increased my intake of water. Gradually, however, a strange thing happened. My milk production increased. Perhaps it was the fact that I was consuming more liquids, or perhaps it was because I was more relaxed and no longer stressed about not producing enough milk. Whatever it was, my milk production miraculously increased and very soon, I was able to completely breastfeed EV exclusively. 
I have now passed the six months mark, and I’m still going strong. I will continue to breastfeed EV for as long as I can, to give her the best nutrients, and also to enjoy the special bonding that no words can describe.

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