Tuesday, June 10, 2014

My Breastfeeding Journey

Six months!

After a less than lustrous record of breastfeeding Aiden, I decided to set a short-term target for breastfeeding Ian. Start small, I say - so six months became the target. I figured I would have at least the first four months of breastfeeding stress-free hence pump on demand, then for the remaining two months I would just have to learn to juggle between meetings and pumping. 

A few months before Ian was due, I dug out my Medela Freestyle breast pump out from the attic and turned it on for the very first time. Erk, I bought this pump back in 2010! Back then, Aiden was barely a year old and I was already planning for #2! And since I had a business trip to the US, I thought it would be a good idea to purchase the Freestyle since I didn't know when I would be heading that way again. Little did I know that I would frequent Houston at least once a year and #2 would only arrive 4 years after! Ah, if only I had a crystal gazing ball back then.

Albeit it being nearly 4 years old, everything was completely new and even wrapped!

The first few days of breastfeeding were a complete nightmare! (Heck, it's my blog and i'm always honest!) Ian refused to latch on properly, my nipples were completely sore, and he was such a light sleeper that I had to tiptoe around him. Then we brought Ian home and he wanted to comfort feed all the time. He was either sleeping or feeding. Visitors would come and and go and I would have to juggle handling them and a hungry baby. And Ian was constantly suckling, up to 30 minutes sometimes. I remembered the third day at home, he was just crying and crying - I asked Hubby to mix some formula (which was part of a gift bag I received during a check-up in Houston at 4 months pregnant). I was that desperate, I actually agreed to give my son formula which was nearly 6 months old. *sigh* But, as soon as Hubby finished preparing the bottle, I managed to soothe him so we poured that milk down the sink.

All the breastfeeding websites would say never to buy formula, as it would just tempt you to feed him with it. I guess I was not strong enough, because after the drama with the 6-month old formula, I told Hubby to buy a small tin of S-26 'just in case'. Ian was constantly asking for my breast and suckling until my nipples couldn't take it anymore so I was very worried that he was hungry because I wasn't producing enough milk. A friend told me to be positive, and she said that if he's hungry - "he will let you know, and you will know". Ian told me the very next day. He wailed so loud, and his cries were not the same normal. I reluctantly asked Hubby to prepare a bottle of formula, and again - as soon as Hubby finished preparing the bottle, Ian fell asleep. So we poured that milk down the sink too. 

Alhamdulillah, that was the turning point of my breastfeeding journey. My milk finally kicked in and I never heard that terrible hungry wail again. But the week after, another drama ensued. He wanted to suckle to sleep, but got angry whenever milk started squirting in his mouth. Erm, baby - Mummy can't really control letdowns okay! I'll be perfectly honest (and candid) - I shed tears that week. Imagine me crying, wearing a milk soaked t-shirt, trying to soothe a crying baby in the middle of the night. Not a pretty sight.

But still I persevered. And I smiled when I saw this:

This is so true. The first 3 weeks of breastfeeding are the hardest. After 6 weeks it starts getting easier. By 3 months you feel sorry for moms who have to make formula. 

During the first few weeks of breastfeeding, I consumed practically anything that claimed to be a milk booster. Dates are great but then Hubby bought for me some really scrumptious dates stuffed with nuts and I would have to constantly remind myself to limit the intake due to my strict confinement diet. But I guzzled water like mad to keep myself hydrated at all times.

My milk boosters.

I tried the Organic Milkmaid Tea during confinement out of desperation. To be honest, I was turned off by the smell, to the point where I would dread having to drink it. It made my sweat smell like fenugreek - and you know how much sweat one produces during confinement with all the bengkung, red dates and ginger concoction to be consumed daily. I didn't like it one bit.

Then I started taking Shaklee's Alfafa (not in picture). I saw a difference, but the pills also act as a detox, hence if I don't drink enough water I would get mouth ulcers. Painful! But at least I knew I could use it in times of desperation. Someone mentioned durians as a milk booster. I'm a durian lover, so I am not complaining - but I didn't see much difference. Maybe my body needed a whole durian buffet for better production?

With time, I managed to identify my own personal milk boosters. Dried longans boiled with rock sugar (gula batu) works wonders. And they taste good too. Really good that even Hubby has started quietly drinking it behind my back. He claims the drink is really refreshing! Whenever I remember, I would take milk thistle with my normal supplements. And last but not least - my favourite Quaker Fruit Bites. Just add cold low fat milk and it is ready to consume. With just two packets, I usually start to see a significant improvement in production!

Ian obviously guzzled the milk directly from one side, hence when I pumped I had a higher yield on the side which he did not nurse. 
My healthy production.

I should also clarify that I am an exclusive pumping (EP) mummy during the day, and a direct latch (DL) mummy during the night. I turned to EP due to several reasons. Firstly due to the sore nipples. Not to mention I kept forgetting which side Ian had nursed on. Secondly due to the frustration that Ian kept wanting to comfort feed. He was practically hanging off me all day during confinement, I couldn't do anything else! But the main reason was because Ian started getting mild silent reflux when he turned two months old. I think the biggest culprit was oversupply and forceful letdown. I had all this milk, and Ian was the type to guzzle it all up quickly and aggressively. Not a good combination! You can read more about silent reflux here and here.

I tried breastfeeding lying down (to slow the flow), even pumped before feeding to take the let down before offering it to him - but it didn't work. It would break my heart to see Ian struggling with silent reflux. It would take him just a few gulps of milk, and he would pull off and start struggling to swallow. I would try to console him but he would cry in panic and sometimes gag due to the reflux. In the end, I gave in and offered him breastmilk in a bottle. With the controlled flow, the reflux episodes were greatly reduced. Happy baby, happy mummy! 

But really, I enjoy being an EP mummy. It is the best of both worlds - it gives me the independence as Ian can drink from the bottle, but he still gets the nutrition from a mother's milk. I just need to remember to pump according to a strict schedule so that my supply doesn't go down. The Medela Freestyle became my best friend - I use it sometimes up to 5 times per day! 

It's not all bright and sunny though. During the couple of times I had breast engorgement, nothing else would relieve it other than direct latching. But because Ian was so used to the bottle, he gave me a confused look when I shoved the breast in his mouth. He gave me the "and what the hell am I supposed to do with this?" look. In other circumstances, the confused look would have been so adorable. But since I was in pain, it was quite frustrating. Looking back, the whole scene must have looked so silly! *smile*

I think an engineer came up with this! *grin*
My January stock.
Stock for when Mummy goes back to work.

Then I returned to work. And the luxury of pumping whenever I wanted flew out of the window. I was tied with work, meetings, lunch dates (okay fine that last one shouldn't sound so important)... you get the drift. The first few days I struggled to maintain my pumping schedule. I struggled to find pumping friendly work clothes. (You know you're a breastfeeding mummy when you decide what to wear based on how accessible your breasts will be.) I struggled with the lack of sleep at night, waking up a couple of times during the night for feeding then having to work the next day. I struggled with sore throats - I would discover in the morning that I had slept exposed half of the night - must have been too tired to pull my shirt down after feeding Ian half asleep, hence the aircon was blowing directly on me. I struggled with the messy let downs during the night - wet sheets, wet pyjamas. I struggled with engorgement in the office, with no Ian to help me out.

But similar to my early breasfeeding experience, it got better with time. Nowadays I am a complete pro at pumping while typing for my morning yield, and also a pro at hands free pumping while driving for my afternoon yield. I do power pumping as well in traffic jams - it makes the one hour of driving pass by effortlessly! During the weekends, I would bring milk in a bottle and warm it up when needed, and pump in the car during the journey to our destination, so that eliminated the need to nurse in public.

Would I have done anything differently? Nope! Despite the ups and downs, I enjoyed every bit of my breastfeeding journey. And if you are reading this while struggling with breastfeeding - I will not tell you that it will be easy. But I will tell you that it will be worth it.

Now lets see if I can attain my next target of breastfeeding until Ian turns one year old. No pressure though, since I have already met my original six month target!


  1. Reading your bf journey reminds me at mine..with all the tears and grin..great sharing Liz..

  2. Reading your journey reminds me of mine. With all the tears and grin..at the end its definitely worth it..Thanks Liz


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