Thursday, March 13, 2014

Why I breastfed for EV for 14 mths, and AA for 24mths (and still going)

From the moment I knew I was carrying EV, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed her. No question about it. I guess having read about all about it, it was a decision that came naturally. After all, as a soon-to-be mother then, I want the best for my child right?

I must count my blessings. I had a rather smooth and successful breastfeeding journey, with EV then and now with AA (who by the way refuses to wean). Even then, it was not without its ups and downs. One of the key challenges – family.

That’s right. Family. What? You may ask. How is it possible?

Mind you, I’m not referring to the hubs. He has been extremely sweet and supportive about it. He once said that the decision to wean EV was totally up to me, as he understands that this breastfeeding thingy, it’s more than just about feeding the kid. It’s a special bond between me and EV too, a unique experience that I might never have after I wean her. Also, it saved him money, so he wasn’t going to complain about it. Isn’t he awesome? *grin*

The family I’m referring to is the older generation. No, it’s not that they do not support the idea of me breastfeeding my kids. Far from that. They do. The challenge is, they have never breastfed, and hence, are in no position to offer me any advice or guidance in any way.

You see, during my mum’s time, formula milk was the big thing. Not many women breastfed then. She associates milk with ‘how many ounces’ a baby drinks (she comes from Hong Kong, which uses ‘ounces’, not ‘ml’). Can you imagine, how I answered her when she ask me how much EV drank. I didn’t know how to. She totally did not understand anything about breastfeeding.

Then there’s my mum-in-law. She went to work about one month after giving birth to DaddySay, so breastfeeding? You could say it didn’t really happen.

So I was somewhat embarking on this breastfeeding journey alone, the first person to do so on both sides of the family, with no knowledgable person whom I can go to for advice.

EV 9 days old
EV at 9 days old
The first few days after EV’s birth was terrible. She was desperately hungry, I was extremely engorged and the milk was not flowing at all. On DaddySay’s insistence, we had a tin of formula milk on standby, just in case, when all else fails. So we did feed her with some formula milk while I worked at getting the milk ducts unblocked. I wasn’t very successful. My boobs were getting as hard as stone, and I was tearing at the pain of it all. I tried to look on the bright side and think positively, hoping that would help, but in those early days, my boobs were refusing to budge. I was almost on the verge of giving up.

Then we got a lady from this Postnatal Home Care service that the hospital I gave birth in had. Now, this is a service by a group of retired midwives, and my goodness, the lady who came was a godsend! (I didn’t get any confinement lady as EV was born during the Chinese New Year period.) For three days, she showed us how to bath EV, which is so much better than the hospital where they used a doll. She gave advice on how we needed to reorganise the way we store the sterilised bottles – in a covered box. She says, drying racks are useless because the bottles will still be exposed to the environment. She taught us how to feed EV, and helped us look out for excessive jaundice, giving us advice on what to do. Not just EV, she also looked after me, by advising me on the care of the perineal would.

Most importantly, I found out that she was a trained lactation consultant!!! Brilliant!! It was really awesome to have her around. She massaged my breasts and taught me the various positions to feed EV. She patiently stayed by me while I expressed, first barely 5ml, then 5ml, and gradually more. I gained more confidence in feeding EV and expressing. Really, no amount of training with dolls in the hospitals could replace an actual lactation consultant. In my opinion, more lactation consultants should be trained so that new mummies can visit them for a designated number of times after child birth. This will help ease them into the breastfeeding journey – with proper guidance and advice.

Still, it didn’t mean that immediately after, I was overflowing with milk. My milk production was still rather low. At first, it was just enough to feed EV. Then, she was demanding more, and we had no choice to supplement with formula milk. Ok, so some say formula milk is not as good as breast milk. Well, I grew up on formula milk. So did my siblings. And we are perfectly fine. So there!

Breastfeeding story 1

Back to my journey. Like I said, I was starting to struggle with milk production. I became really stressed with trying to think of ideas to increase my production. I drank papaya soup, I ate more fish, I even drank sacred tea, but well, these ‘solutions’ barely helped. Sacred tea seemed to help, but then I soon realised that perhaps it was not the tea. Rather, it was the amount of liquids I took. The instructions for sacred tea required me to drink it about three times a day. My milk production increased somewhat. After a while, I didn’t drink it religiously every day, but instead just consumed water. It had the same effect. So out went sacred tea.

Another thing I did to overcome my stress was to make a silent personal commitment – that as long as I breastfed EV a full six months. I’ll be satisfied. Not one year, not ten months, but six months. Just a simple goal to make myself take one step at a time.

After about three months, I headed back to work. The other challenge I faced during my breastfeeding journey was having to express during working hours, and having to carry the pump everywhere I went. My office didn’t have a nursing room, so the only option? The conference room. Other than the times when I had to vacate the room so colleagues can hold their meetings, that arrangement was fine if I was staying in the office for the whole day. But on days when I had to go out for meetings, I had to either time the meetings to fit my expressing times, or opt for a meeting place where there are nursing rooms nearby. It was not easy. My bag is always heavy, and there are times when I have no choice but to express in the toilet. Though colleagues knew what was happening the moment I enter the office conference room alone, and everyone was really understanding and accomodating about it, I felt there was always the question of whether my expressing would interfere with my work, especially towards the later part of my journey. I would be asked ‘are you still breastfeeding’? *subtle hint* But I know they mean well.

Lo and behold. The six months mark came and went, and I was still breastfeeding. I have no idea how it happened. Maybe it's because I drank lots of water. Maybe it's because I stopped stressing myself about having to produce more milk. So I continued. I saw no reasons to stop. EV started on solids and she drank less. Then the breast milk started piling up. Then I had to find ways to use it up, by making steamed milk. EV liked it so that solved the isse of oversupply.

Past the one year mark, I was surprised myself how I had done it. I struggled with the decision to wean EV. I wanted to do so, but knew I would miss the bonding with her. I finally did it, with the help of DaddySay, at 14 months. Maybe because she's really a daddy's girl, it was fairly easy to wean her. Thinking back, I still miss that special moment with her. I like to think that she does too. Sometimes sfter she sees AA latching on, she would climb into my arms so I can cradle her.

Why did I breastfeed EV till 14 months? I wanted my boobs back.

AA 5 days old
AA at 5 days old
For AA, I'm not about to get them back anytime soon. My dear boy refuses to let me (read: boobs) go. We're down to only just latching on at night, and the end is no where in sight. He's fine when I'm not around, but once he sees me, he'll go 'uckle mummy'!! I think it's more for the comfort than for the actual milk, for I don't think I'm making any.

Our journey at the beginning was rather smooth. He loves to latch on directly though, which explains the huge stockpile of breast milk I had in the freezer. He just refused to drink from the bottle, to the extent we had to spoon feed him. So the milk stock dwindled slowly. Supply was more than demand (which is rather small) so after a few months, I threw them away.

That's not all. My new work place doesn't have a fridge, so how can I keep the breast milk? I didn't. I threw them away too. Yes, I threw away a lot of 'liquid gold' during this time. So! It's my life, it's my milk, it's my choice. Would you want to put breast milk in a cooler bag for 12 hours, even though there is an ice pack that's slowly melting? Would you want to feed your child frozen breast milk that's been in the freezer for months? That's why I poured away my freshly squeezed milk. That's why I threw away the frozen ones.

Breastfeeding story 2

Here's what I gathered from breastfeeding two kids.
1. Hydration is important and does help a lot in milk production. Drink lots and lots of water.
2. Always keep an open mind. If you're facing difficulty at any point of the journey, no fret! Just relax, take one step at a time. No point stressing over it. If there is enough, great! If there isn't, there is still formula or fresh milk.
3. Think positive. It's not the end of the world if you decide to wean, or if you're not able to breastfeed for whatever reasons. Like I said, there's always formula or fresh milk, and in my opinion, both are perfectly good substitutes.

Even if you're not successful in your breastfeeding journey, don't ever ever doubt yourself as a mum because of that. It is ok.

Every mum is a good mum, in their own ways. Whether they breastfeed or not.

I hope you've enjoyed reading my very long account about why I breastfed my two kids. Oh, which pump do I use? Here are two reviews of my Philips Avent pump (here and here). It was the best mummy-hood investment I made. Thank you for reading!

Tomorrow, Nadia from Itchyfingers will share about the joys and woes of her breastfeeding journey.

Nadia of Ichyfingers
About Nadia
Nadia is a mother to two boys, both in their very young and early years, and is a full time stay-at-home mother who takes three nights off her mothering job to pursue her passion in early childhood studies. She is also a freelance photographer who loves putting a frame onto memories she holds on to endearingly. On her blog, she writes about advocating play for all young children in their freedom of pursuit for their childhood expressively and naturally, and she also advocates breastfeeding as part of her idea of bringing up her children in a raw and natural environment. Not an easy task, but read all about it tomorrow on her blog!


This post is part of a Blog Train hosted by Madeline at MadPsychMum. Head on over to read the other breastfeeding stories by Singapore Mom Bloggers!


Thank you for reading. If you like this post, please do connect with me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, so I can share our fun adventures, thoughts and exploits with you. 

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing! I was just wondering, instead of throwing away, maybe selling or donating? Wonder if that's possible haha.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Madeline, thanks for reading. I did think of donating. But the frozen milk have been in the fridge for several months. I don't think it's nice to donate such 'old' milk. So that's why I threw them away.

      Delete
  2. Wow how did you make steamed milk? Like a dessert for EV? How interesting!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Adeline.. thanks for reading. I can't quote remember the recipe, but it's something like milk custard. At least at that time, it was an alternative way to get EV to take the BM.

      Delete
  3. We learnt the lesson about having formula on standby for the first few days the hard way, and the hubs had to run out in the middle of the night to get milk samples from the hospital because the poor boy was so hungry and my milk wasn't enough! It was great that your hubs had the foresight to have that tin on standby. :)

    And yes, what did you do with the steamed milk?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jus, thanks for reading. Yup, hubs was really awesome for thinking of that. I don't know what would have happened if he didn't. As for the steamed milk, EV goggled it all down. :)

      Delete