My (Honest) take on Breastfeeding

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

I've always wondered why 'advice' on breastfeeding seems to only be available from either 'experts' in the field, or those mums who make breastfeeding seem like second nature.

"Baby should latch on if they are positioned correctly."
Yes, but baby can have a mind of his own, and prefer one particular breast over the other for reasons only known to him.

"You have to persevere!! Cannot just give up halfway."
I'm trying, dammit! I'm trying... but the kid is screaming his lungs out, and the rate we're going, he might as well starve!

"This is only the start of the troubles the kid will give you. If you can't manage this, how would you handle other problems?"
Uh... hello? Let's just concentrate on the here and now, ok? I can't very well stuff him back inside!

"Women have been doing it for centuries! There was no formula back then. Your breasts are made for feeding, and women have a natural instinct when it comes to breastfeeding. It's what makes one a Mum."
Say whaaaat?

"Cow milk are for cows."
Yes, now if only breast milk comes in chocolate or strawberry.

So the new mums, who are (struggling) to learn this skill, in between battling sleeplessness, a screaming baby, engorgement, along with sore and cracked nipples... feel worse than they already do, although these words were meant to encourage and help them along. In actual fact, they can hurt more than assist, and the last thing that first time mums learning to cope with the challenges of breastfeeding need - are unkind words.

When I found out I was pregnant, there was no doubt in my mind that I would like to breastfeed my baby. I have no issues with breastfeeding, and growing up in a family of women who breastfeed their kids up to the time they turn two, has convinced me that breast is best. I have no health concerns, nor am I taking any medication to treat any conditions which can affect the quality of breast milk.

I had a pretty easy pregnancy, and my gynae told me that she sees no problems whatsoever because way before the stomach stuck out at 28 weeks, my boobs obstructed my view of my toes.

BabyMoo came out, and started feeding right from the moment I was given the all clear from anaesthesia. If feeding was the right word for it.

BabyMoo, 2 days old, after a feed. The rare 'calm' moments.
He gnawed, and gobbled, and screamed. And screamed, and screamed, every hour on the dot, during the first two days, because my milk supply was just coming in. He didn't have problems latching, but what he did - was literally suckle me raw. Even when the milk started coming in fast and furious, it was never enough for him.

I got frustrated, and angry, while of course... well meaning friends and relatives attempted to give me solutions to stop his crying. This ranged from the 'not latching correctly', to 'you have to eat (insert food choice) so that your milk will increase', to giving me pamphlets on how to ease engorgement (no I wasn't suffering from this), to the dreaded: You not trying!! In any case, it was always 'my fault' that baby was always screaming of hunger, and in hunger.

I got more fed up as the days passed. How was I not trying? I was eating all known foods to stimulate and increase milk supply, and if I didn't wear breast pads, my house will be flooded with breast milk while BabyMoo slept in between feeds.

Did it occur to anyone that BabyMoo just had a healthy appetite? That he needed more than the average baby?

In the end, the husband stepped in, and fended off all blows and remarks from individuals whose breasts were not being mauled. He has always been supportive of everything which I choose to do, and there were many times as I cried in pain while BabyMoo suckled... that he tried to present alternatives to aid me on my breastfeeding journey. Which I steadfastedly refused, perhaps having been slightly brainwashed by those who have had a wonderful breastfeeding experience. I didn't want to pump either, because I figured that if he doesn't latch directly, he might as well be drinking from other sources!

He drank, and drank, my little Mooboy, and in the first two weeks, went up from 3.41kg at birth, to 5.5kg. He weighed in at 6.5kg at his first month check up, and has grown 6cm longer!

I tried everything... from creams to nipple shields, to checking with the doula if he was latching on correctly. He was, and he hated the nipple shields. I was exhausted, frustrated, in pain (the C-Sect wound was totally forgotten in comparison!) and I was on the brink of despair. He fed until there were times he appeared to be drinking strawberry milk, and still kept at it. My heart bled along with the breasts... and the pain of seeing him still cry for more was what prompted my ultimate decision. That, along with my previously 'cow-milk-is-for-cows' PD's advice.

I supplemented, and pumped. When he slept, I pumped. When he awoke, I latched. While I slept, DaddyMoo fed him breast milk from the bottle. If that wasn't enough, BabyMoo gets extra formula. My Mum was the harshest critic, as she breastfed my brother and I for 2 years. As a previously working mum, my mum-in-law never made any remarks or gave me advice on breastfeeding. When they finally saw the amount of breast milk I had (it was 'proof' that I was producing plenty!) - my Mum never made any more reference to it, apart from saying her grandson 'can eat', while my mil just told all the other aunties off if they even dared question our decision to supplement and bottle feed.

BabyMoo was drinking 160ml every 3 hours during the first month, and then 240ml every 4 hours for the next 3 months. He started on solids (on the PD's advice) at 4 months - and at 30 months now, he's eating 1.5 bowls of rice for lunch and dinner, on top of the main food items.

He's still drinking 210ml of milk twice daily now, and snacking in between meals. He has a good appetite, and at the end of it all... I'm glad that the little boy is growing up tall, healthy, and happy.

My AVENT Isis IQ UNO and I... she helped me save my liquid gold!!
I'm very, very thankful that DaddyMoo has always been a hands on Dad to the little one. He was the first between the two of us to change the boy's diaper, and he has been involved every step of the way. Even when he started work after a week long break, he still fed and changed BabyMoo at night while I get some much needed rest. I don't know how he survived with little or no sleep back then - but he did.

Another of those 'calm' moments, in between storms. Only Daddy will manage to calm him down at night.
In those quiet moments, they bonded. Over the next best thing apart from latching on. The boy still gets breast milk, I get my rest (and sanity back), my breasts had time to heal, and Daddy, in his own words - feel that he's contributing to his growth. It helped that we introduced the bottle only when BabyMoo was comfortable with nursing, and so the transition between bottle and breasts was pretty seamless, after the initial first few feed shocks of getting milk from a plastic teat. If only AVENT had the new comfort bottles back then - I'm sure BabyMoo would be none the wiser.

The husband has not only taken an active role in bringing up baby, but he also knows that he is important to his son. He has supported me so much in every way possible, and I know that if he could, he would not hesitate to bear the pain from the first few weeks for me.

See Daddy's exhausted face!
Me? I got over the feeling of being the lousiest mum in the world, because I couldn't latch the boy on exclusively for the reasons stated. I realised that I have tried, and ultimately, at the end of the day, every baby is different. There are some who are easier to feed, there are some for whom feeding is a challenge, and there are others, like BabyMoo, for whom my abundant supply was never enough. As parents, we just had to identify with what works best for our baby's development, and take it from there. I learnt that there is nothing wrong with expressing milk and then feeding it to baby.

Bonding starts from the moment you hold the little being in your arms, and goes right through tears, fears tantrums, meltdowns, laughter and joy. Breastfeeding is one of the ways which you can bond with your child,  but in other quiet moments together, while reading, learning, and enjoying quality time, you bond too.

Breast is best, but if in any instance you are unable to breastfeed your child exclusively, you are with many many Mums out there who share your experience, but are hesitant about letting others know, for fear of raised eyebrows. The WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for at least 6 months of a child's life, but if you have tried, even for awhile, I applaud you.

Motherhood isn't easy, and it will involve a complete lifestyle overhaul. Breastfeeding may be a walk in the park for some, but there are many women who struggle with it for various reasons. Sometimes all we need to do is find a way whereby baby still gets the nutrients from mummy's milk, however way we can.

The masses need to lighten up about breastfeeding in public. If you find breastfeeding offensive,
you're staring too hard!

DISCLAIMER: This sponsored post is part of a series of conversations between Philips AVENT Singapore and MummyMOO. Philips AVENT is committed to helping parents give babies the best start in life, and has a whole array of breastfeeding accesories to help along the way. Do look out for more to come from Philips AVENT -

While I was compensated for this post, all opinions expressed here are based on our personal experience.

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  1. Well-done Regina! :-)

    All mummies inevitably get judged for almost practically everything - from how we look to how we look after our family especially children and that's because we are the ones that hold everything together (most of the time).

    Instead of you being commented on your determination and commitment to the well-being of your fast growing son, you were criticized for not being his cow (pardon the punt).

    I tandem breastfed my twins for 6 weeks every 3 hours and it took 45 minutes each time - it was just my husband + 1 + twins. We had no other help and were beyond sleep deprived. When they stopped feeding from the breast, the husband would take them for their nap and I would be on the breast you, I was beyond mind numbing and the so-called pain associated with the C-section cannot compare to the seer exhaustion and other issues associated with being mummy.

    I stopped breast feeding after 6 weeks because (1) my mental health was suffering - no surprises I was diagnosed with PND and (2) my children were very hungry ALL THE TIME

    I made the best decision for my kids and ultimately for me. I switched to formula and gave them top ups of pumped breast milk (every bit helps, I think). They gained weight quickly and with my PD's advice, I slept trained them at 10 weeks and have never looked back.

    Good on you for sticking to your guns!

    p.s. what a good problem to have too with a boy that has a healthy appetite! Can we swop kids for a week?!

    1. Mags, the boy only eats Asian. Every.meal.must.have.rice. He doesn't even like McD!! Which kid doesn't like McD? He likes GOING to 'Mac Mac' and sitting in there. But he will hold his ONE fry for the entire time we're there, and just use it as a ketchup ladle.

      I'm so sick of eating Asian every weekend. Sometimes we zoom off to Dan Ryan's or HRC to grab a burger the moment he naps.

      You stuck to your guns, too. ^5
      But admittedly, you were hesitant to let many people know the duration of time you spent bf, right? People can be so judgemental. Sometimes I wonder - what's it to them? Not their kid what!

    2. Hahaha I love your candidness! Yes having Asian every meal is super SIAN. At least, he gets very well - most parents would love to have your "problem". Mine hates McD too - we only go there for their indoor air-conditioned playground!

  2. There's no sure fire way that breast feeding works for all moms. It's like saying, because you have big breasts, you produce more milk and those that have smaller breasts, cannot produce milk! makes sense? :p

  3. You know, those t-shirts that say "Mind the bump" or "I'm pregnant not fat"? We should have post partum tops that say "If you think you want so say something, WALK AWAY NOW!"


    1. Totally agree. Oddly, the ones who give the MOST advice are the non-parents!! Those who have been there, done that - just choose to shaddap :D

  4. I had totally different problems from most moms so I didn't really have anyone to turn to. E.g. unlike most suffering moms who needed to bear with sores and cracks while feeding, my nipples were limp and desensitized (LOL, sorry for the overdose of info). In my sleepiness (or if I was reading a book), sometimes I wouldn't even realise Z had long fallen off the breast! Also the thing I hated most about breastfeeding wasn't really the feeding or the discomfort (which was pretty mild for me), but it was having to wear a bra 24/7! That really felt restrictive, more than anything else.

    But y'know, I did try everything... no formula, latch only, pump only, day only, night only. I even downloaded the iPhone app and dutifully filled in how much time I spent feeding and from which breast. I googled for advice, but everyone was saying something different. I still don't know what works best!

    1. I guess with every child, it's different... and the most important thing is - we DID try our best. Everyone says different things because things work differently for every single individual, I suppose?

  5. At the end of the day, we as mums want to give our best. But then again, not everything goes according to plans. I remembered when I was pregnant, I was prepared to stop if breastfeeding didn't work. I hd my challenges, think blocked ducts, sore and cracked nipples that bled. And of course working full time meant I couldn't do it for as long as I wished. Anyway, I felt I gave it my best and thankfully, it provided Sophie ith a good foundation for her health. I'm sure many new mums appreciate the honesty that it's not always as easy as others make it out to be.

    1. Yes, Susan... that's the thing - I would have loved to provide him with the 'best' for as long as possible as well, but after the initial hiccups, there are those 'challenges' we working Mums face, as well.

      Hey - the kids are doing fine now, aren't they? :)

  6. I think that both extremes are no good. Yes, we try to give our babies the best but things don't always turn out exactly as how we want it. Some more with confinement watchmen hoovering all over!! For me I fed my babe breast milk for i think like 2 months, then it trickled. I do not know if he would be healthier today if I fed more, knowing my own so-so health. So I conclude that just take it as it is. Don't overestimate myself but don't underestimate either. Everybody else talks, filter filter filter. If not can go crazy man.

    1. Actually, the older the kid gets, the more 'immune' we get to unsolicited advice! As we grow more confident, we also tend to understand our child better, and work towards what serves best for them!

  7. Hi Regina,

    Thanks for dropping by too :)) Ur bf piece couldn't have come at a better time cuz I've facing some troubles despite this being the 2nd time round :(( it's always nice to have encouragement and support while mummies persevere through the pain and difficulties.

    ♥ bie

    1. Motherhood isn't easy. The only 'advice' worth keeping close to heart is: "The pain we go through as Mums, both physical, emotional and mental - can never be compared to anything else!"

  8. I was tearing up at this hogosh... And nodding and nodding because yes to all those sentiments! /hugs/



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