Little misschewy turns 15 months old today and this marks a significant milestone in my breastfeeding journey. As I begin typing this post, I’m overwhelmed with a multitude of emotions. I have always wanted to blog about the difficulties that I had faced, especially during the initial stages of my breastfeeding journey and how I managed to overcome them but I didn’t know where to begin because there’s just too much that I wish to share. This journey is not a smooth sailing one and is fraught with heartaches but I’m rejoicing the fact that somehow, I have managed to come this far. To begin with, I wasn’t properly educated about breastfeeding as I didn’t come from a pro-breastfeeding family. Even before I gave birth, my mum briefly mentioned on a few occasions that there’s no point in breastfeeding for more than a month and told me to introduce formula milk. I clearly remembered those words, “Breastfeed one month enough already. After that can give formula milk.” When I told my mum about my plans to get a Medela breast pump at the Baby Fair, she replied, “Aiya how you know you will have milk? If no milk then you waste money buying breast pump for what.” With that, I didn’t bother to read up and find out more about breastfeeding. It was a HUGE mistake. A mistake so huge that my breastfeeding journey got off to an extremely rocky start.
I still remember vividly, on the very same night a few hours after I delivered at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, the nurse handed Little misschewy to me when I was resting in my ward and taught me how to position baby to ensure a proper latch on. It was probably around midnight and the room was dimly lit and quiet. Once Little misschewy started suckling, the nurse left the room and it was just the two of us. That magical moment brought tears to my eyes. The very act of nursing my baby was such an amazing experience and I knew that this would be the start of a strong bond between the two of us. Unfortunately, my milk supply had not kicked in and I was immensely pressurized by my parents and relatives to give formula milk to Little misschewy because she was crying when they visited me in the day. I was very sad and broke down after they left. The hubs consoled me and told me not to give myself too much stress over breastfeeding and to just try my best. He would respect my decision whatever it was. As I wasn’t armed with sufficient knowledge about breastfeeding, I wasn’t aware that I had to keep nursing or keep pumping to stimulate milk supply. In other words, Chanelle was being given only formula milk for the first five days until my milk supply finally came. I will never forget that night when my boobs turned ROCK HARD. I was clenching my teeth in pain while massaging my boobs with a warm towel. I thought I was going to die! Also, I could only resort to pumping using the Medela Mini Electric that misterchewy’s teacher very kindly loaned me as the few nursing sessions in the hospital left me with very sore and chaffed nipples that made it impossible to continue nursing.
I reckon the mini electric pump isn’t good enough for some serious hardcore milk-expressing. It didn’t do a good job at emptying my boobs completely, and coupled with the fact that I was pumping only every 4 hours instead of 2 or 3, I suffered from my very first case of Mastitis during my confinement. It was in the wee hours of the night when I developed a fever that made me feel weak all over and I was shivering like crazy. My fever broke by the time I woke up the next morning but I wasn’t so fortunate the next few times I had Mastitis. A total of 4 times in less than 2 months in fact! The symptoms of Mastitis are unmistakable – immense pain in the breast (always the right side for me), accompanied by swelling, warmth and redness. You might also have fever and chills. Little misschewy was unable to clear the blocked ducts in my right breast and I had to rely on antibiotics administered by my family GP. Each time, I suffered from Mastitis, my milk supply suffered miserably as well. My mum and mil advised me to stop breastfeeding because they didn’t want to see me in so much pain. I was very tempted to give up too but the hubs encouraged me to persevere. At that point, I was really angry at him because I felt that all the pain that I went through meant nothing to him but at the same time, a part of me wanted to give myself another chance at breastfeeding. As I look back today, I’m really glad that I didn’t give up.
I learned that establishing milk supply is all about “demand and supply”. However, my supply was pretty pathetic after all the mastitis cases and I was very demoralized. After my confinement nanny left, I decided to give nursing another go and I’m really blessed with a baby who can still remember how to latch on after a whole month of being bottle fed! I have read about nipple confusion which typically occurs when young babies are being given the bottle. I tried to nurse her whenever I can, while supplementing with formula milk as my mil would always suggest that Chanelle was probably still hungry whenever she started crying. I also got very irritated with my mum when she kept asking me to feed Little misschewy with formula milk instead of nursing her. It was an emotional roller coaster ride for me for the first two to three months. I broke down many times whenever Little misschewy wailed at the top of her lungs and I blamed myself for my low supply. I tried all sorts of milk boosters in the form of supplements like Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle, and also ate salmon sashimi and drank hot milo. There was an increase in my pump output but it wasn’t significant enough for me to stop supplementing Chanelle’s diet with formula milk. I went back to work after taking 12 weeks of maternity leave as promised to my boss even though my milk supply wasn’t established. It was indeed very tough for me because I had to juggle my work while making sure I had time to pump. I would also plan my pump schedule around my meetings. Or was it the other way round? Haha. I was so obsessed with my pumping routine that 2 o’clock sharp meant 2 o’clock sharp. There was no stopping me even if it meant having to go for earlier lunch without my colleagues. It was all about discipline and my baby will always be my first priority.
I really want to thank a mummy acquaintance who added me to a breastfeeding support group on Facebook. I’m guessing that she is probably another strong advocate of breastfeeding and I’m grateful to her because I have learned so much from the group. Whenever I had any doubts or questions, fellow mummies were ever ready to dish out advice and relate their personal experiences. If it wasn’t for this group, I don’t think I would be sane enough to keep setting myself new breastfeeding targets, from one month to 6 months, to 12 months and now I’m still breastfeeding at 15 months and counting! The mummies literally cry over spilled milk together and pat one another on the back when we break a new record in our pump output. When I became more experienced, I started to share my success stories when I managed to transport frozen breast milk back from our Taiwan trip, when I finally found the courage to nurse in public when Little misschewy was 9 months old, and when my hard work and sheer determination paid off which allowed me to go on the total breastfeeding route (meaning I didn’t have to supplement formula milk), albeit only for a few months. My mantra is “Got milk better than no milk“. Right now I’m paying it forward by adding my pregnant friends to this group because I want them to be well-prepared for successful breastfeeding.
Be firm if you really want to breastfeed for as long as possible. There will surely be obstacles in the initial stage but once you overcome them, things will become easier. My mum also stopped trying to dissuade me from breastfeeding. I guess she got tired asking me the same old question, “When are you going to stop breastfeeding?” every weekend when she sees me. LOL. The hubs is still as supportive as ever. When Little misschewy cries at night, he’s also the first to hand her to me, “Quick! Quick! She wants to latch!” before rolling over and snoring away. Currently, I pump once a day on average and continue latching Little misschewy to sleep. When friends and colleagues learn that I’m still breastfeeding, they often give me this look of disbelief, “Wah! Until now still got milk meh?” The answer is YES if you keep pumping or latching. Some people suggest that Little misschewy be given formula milk as her last feed before she turns in so that she can sleep through the night. I know it sounds crazy but I’m more than happy when she wakes up crying in the middle of the night, shouting “NEN NEN!” wanting to latch because she’s hungry or because she had a bad dream. I love hugging her close to me and tucking her fine hair behind her left ear. I love it when she giggles uncontrollably when I stroke her cheeks as I nurse her. I’m very amused when she cries as though it’s the end of the world after I declare, “Nen nen no more!” while keeping a straight face. My current goal is to breastfeed Little misschewy until she self-weans. A year ago, I collected some of my milk in a breastmilk storage bag and sent it to a breast milk keepsake creator in the United Kingdom. I decided on a pair of hand prints made using my milk for a charm bead inscribed with Little misschewy’s name, which is Pandora compatible and a pendant with a pair of foot prints as a gift for Little misschewy in future when she is old enough to understand and appreciate what I have done for her.
Happy 15 months, Chanelle. You taught me that a mother’s love knows no bounds.