Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Review: Hooter Hiders nursing cover

Honestly, before this, I never really understand the fuss about nursing covers. Wouldn't a shawl have the same result - cover a mother while breastfeeding? I admit it. I have been a very unglamourous mother. Just look at the way I use my black shawl when feeding EV, and then trying to hold her and flip the shawl across my shoulder to cover her each time it falls. Yes, very unstylish of me. Well, I was not expecting myself to produce enough milk to last more than six months, so why waste the money?
So, EV has turned six months, and guess what? I am still lactating. Yes, it is a significant feat for a mother who tried everything to increase milk production in the early days, and was super stressed out with worry that I was not producing enough. I finally hit the six-month milestone! It was time to reward myself, and so, I bought the Hooter Hiders nursing cover.
Mothers new to Hooter Hiders may confuse it with its sister brand Bebe au Lait. Similar in overall designs, Hooter Hiders differs from Bebe au Lait only in certain embellishments. One can purchase covers featuring ruffle details along the neckline and bottom, or an external pocket with ruffle details.
I purchased my Hooter Hiders in Marseille (pink fabric with floral pattern) from blogshop Bebelove, with 15% discount after joining its Facebook fanpage. My nursing cover arrived promptly and nicely wrapped in about one week, including the period required for payment transfer, and I received it like a little girl opening up her presents with glee. 
Made of 100% cotton, the Hooter Hiders features a rigid neckline with a stiffening capability, so that direct contact with the baby can be established during feeding. This is very important as the eye contact gives the young one a sense of security, and calms baby down during suckling. The adjustable D-ring neck strap makes it easy to personalize for a tighter or looser fit. Plus, I like the fact that it comes with a nice little pouch made of the same material - makes it easier to carry around.
Since EV is more used to my black shawl, I needed to familiarize her with the new nursing cover. I spent a few days slowly introducing her to the cover, allowing her to latch on first before putting on the cover. Surprisingly, she adapted to it really well, and she calmly recognised the nursing cover as 'feeding time', each time I took it out. She understood that even though the cover is new, she was still suckling mommy while looking at me, with her pointer finger in my mouth. Yes, my darling loves to do that while feeding. Perhaps she's imitating and trying to 'feed' me as well? :)
Here's how I tested it:
a) Laundry
The Hooter Hiders is machine-washable in warm water, so it is extremely convenient to keep clean. After the pre-wash, I spent a few minutes figuring out how to fold it back nicely to fit in the pouch, given the rigid neckline, but this is something that is easily solved. 
b) Effectiveness
EV took not more than three days to get used to the Hooter Hiders. It is definitely easier to feed her with this than with my shawl. It drapes nicely over EV while I am feeding her, and the eye contact helps tremendously in keeping her calm and making sure she is suckling properly. Plus, the air ventilation is better and she can breathe!
c) My ultimate rave
I like the ingenious neckline that allows me to look at EV while she suckles, just like when she breastfeeds without the cover. This is calming too, and helps to encourage milk flow. 
d) My ultimate rant
Babies will not always stay under the cover and suckle obediently without misbehaving all the time. When EV gets frigidity during feeding, she tends to kick the nursing cover around, and I am in danger of exposing myself. I used to wish the Hooter Hiders was bigger, but I realised that size will not prevent EV from moving around. I have learnt to shift the cover and strategically cover myself when that happens.
e) Overall value (4/5)
A $60 investment to last through my breastfeeding days - this is value beyond words. Its worth will be put to the ultimate test during our upcoming family trip to Hong Kong. More on this after our holiday.

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 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Giving a pat on the back

To reward myself for successfully breastfeed Becky for 6 months, I bought myself a Hooter Hiders nursing cover. It might be a bit late in my nursing journey, but what the heck. I didn’t think I’d be able to nurse for so long, that’s why I didn’t buy one in the first place. Plus, I’m thinking forward to my pending trip to HK to bring Becky to see her great grandmother for the first time. So there! It was a great buy. I love it! But of course, I needed to get Becky used to it, since I usually nurse her at home, or run to a nursing room, or use my clumsy yet trust black shawl. It took a few days, but now, whenever I take it out, she knows it’s feeding time!

While I was at it, I got myself a Pupsik Studio pouch sling. Another good buy, as now, I can carry Becky snugly without straining my back.

I was on a roll, why not get something for Becky? I’ve been eyeing it for a while already, and I finally did it. I finally bought Sophie the giraffe. And it was timely too, since Becky is probably teething soon.

Ahh.. the benefits of retail therapy.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A musical investment

Ever since I was pregnant with EV, hubby and I both agreed that one of the best things we can do as parents is to create an environment where EV would be inspired to learn a worthwhile hobby. By worthwhile, we mean one that not only lets her enjoy and relax, but also enables her to be equipped with a skill in her adult years. And it was not just a case of exposing her to Mozart while in my tummy, or just bringing her to lessons in her early years. It is really about immersing her in an environment from the beginning, where she is exposed and inspired from day one. To do that, we as parents need to set an example.
Both of us agreed unanimously that that hobby would be to play the piano or violin. And as I used to play the piano, it would be easy for us to create that learning atmosphere for her. It was also the perfect reason for me to pick up piano again. I hope that by doing, I am a living example for EV to be inspired to learn, and to do so with determination. 
True, piano lessons are not cheap. Neither is buying a piano. But we prefer to think of it as a long time investment to equip EV with a skill she can rely on later in life. I personally also like to think of it as enrichment for myself, as well as a form of relaxation on days of stress. We have only had the piano for a couple of days, but already, we can see that EV enjoys it. Just looking at our little Mozart banging her fingers on the keys is enough to tell us that our investment has been worthwhile.