My breastfeeding journey didn’t have the best of starts. Like many mums-to-be, I attended the Childbirth Education Course, and heard from lactation consultants that breast milk is the best. That we have to latch the baby on immediately after he’s born, that whatever colostrum we produce initially will be enough, that we shouldn’t use bottles, that a newborn has sufficient reserves to last him a few days until my milk comes in, that everyone can breastfeed, that everyone will have milk.
Luckily for me, I also had mummy friends who told me that their milk took a few days to come in, and that it was perfectly fine to give the baby formula milk while waiting for that to happen. I took their advice and bought a small tin of formula, as well as a few different types of milk bottles and teats, just in case. C and I agreed that while I would give breastfeeding my best shot, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if we gave Noah some formula either.
When we finally welcomed Noah after 29 hours of labour, I was shaking uncontrollably and feeling extremely nauseated from the effects of the epidural, and wasn’t able to hold Noah or latch him on immediately. He also had to be taken back to the nursery to be warmed up, and I was wheeled back to the room to get some rest. After a few hours, a lactation consultant came into the room with the baby, and insisted that I get up to try breastfeeding. I was still exhausted, and couldn’t even sit up properly, much less hold my arms out to take my baby from her. I tried my best to lift my arms up and to hold him properly, but I just couldn’t do it, and asked if I could try again later, when I was feeling stronger. However, she was adamant that I tried there and then, because she had many other new mothers to see. Then, she asked, “Are you afraid of your baby? How can you be afraid? It’s your own baby, you know? Hold him! You must try!” Thankfully, C stepped in and asked her to come back again after a while, since the baby didn’t seem very keen to latch on either.
I could barely hold Noah properly for my first ever photo with him, and C had to tuck him into the crook of my arm for me.
A few hours later, when the lactation consultant came back, she massaged my breasts really firmly, and squeezed some colostrum out for Noah. Because his latch was so poor, she ended up collecting the colostrum into a little cup, adding some water to it, and teaching C to feed it to Noah via the cup. She then expressed her concerns about my milk not being in yet, “Many mothers’ milk would have come in by now actually.” and asked if I had my breast pump with me in the hospital. She told me that I had to pump regularly, after latching the baby, to get my supply to come in quickly, so C had to go home to collect the breast pump for me.
C feeding Noah with the cup
The days in the hospital passed quickly, with the nurses bringing Noah in to be latched every three hours, and trying to help get Noah to latch properly. I remember thinking that the breastfeeding class and book I read made it look way easier than it actually is. The lactation consultant visited us daily, and seemed genuinely worried about our lack of progress. “You have to keep trying okay. Don’t give up. You look like the kind who would give up. Keep trying okay? Give yourself a month. No, three months. Try for three months, before you give up. Some people take three months to get used to breastfeeding.” Because Noah was jaundiced, the PD told us that he had to be given formula milk to keep him hydrated and to help his jaundice to clear. Remember how I said I agreed that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if he had some formula milk before my milk came in? Yeah, even though I knew that it made perfectly good sense, and that it was in Noah’s best interest, I still felt guilty and miserable that I had ‘failed’ him. Anyway, we told the nurses to give him the formula milk each time after I latched him, and while he was being fed, I would use my breast pump to try and get my milk to come in. I prayed fervently for that to happen, but even after pumping for fifteen minutes, the bottles would still be empty. The nurse told me that I didn’t need to get my pump sterilised, since nothing was coming out, and I could reuse the bottles, since I was just trying to get my supply going.
Back home, we initially requested that the confinement lady used the cup to feed Noah, to prevent nipple confusion, but when he kept crying and refused to drink from the cup, we caved and used a bottle instead. He rejected the really expensive Medela Calma bottle, but was okay with the Pigeon Peristaltic Plus one, so it was a good thing that I bought different bottles and teats.
Drinking from the bottle at the PD’s clinic
When my milk finally came in after six days, I was in so much pain that I had to get the massage lady to come and help me to ease the engorgement. Soon, I finally had enough to wean him off formula milk, and he was on total breast milk. Then came all the breastfeeding-related problems. I had blocked ducts for the first time, came down with a fever, and didn’t quite know if it was safe to continue breastfeeding. Because I had some extra milk in the fridge, I asked the confinement lady to use that instead, while I pumped and threw away the milk. (Note: I later found out that it is safe to continue breastfeeding, and that you should continue breastfeeding even if you’re sick with something else, as long as the medication you’ve taken is safe for nursing mums. When in doubt, check with your doctor or pharmacist.) I also developed a bleb on my nipple, which made nursing even more painful. A friend taught me to use a sterile needle to pierce the blisters, which sounds a lot more painful that it actually was. Nursing with the blisters was worse actually, so if you ever get blisters on your nipples from breastfeeding, do get help. They won’t burst on their own during a nursing session, and will just get worse, so the sooner you receive treatment, the faster you heal.
During the first eleven months or so, I would get blocked ducts every month without fail. Initially, I blogged about it whenever it happened, (see this post, this one, and this other one, if you’re interested) but it soon became clear that I had a problem. Apparently, Noah’s latch was poor, and the main cause of my recurring blocked ducts. I tried using the football hold instead of the usual cradle hold, but by then, he was too used to the cradle hold, and didn’t drink much in the football hold. I tried to correct his latch, but again, he didn’t appreciate being told that what he had been doing all his life (literally) was wrong. Also, because my supply was so good, he didn’t have to make much of an effort to suckle. A lactation consultant I saw observed that even though he had both a poor latch and a weak suckle, he didn’t seem to have difficulties drinking, which is something that I’m very thankful for.
Despite his poor latch and weak suckle, as well as my blocked ducts and blistered nipples, I persevered. Thankfully, I had a good supply, and my freezer was soon full of breast milk packets. I never had to use them, because Noah was always with me, and I preferred to nurse him instead of having to pump and feed him, which saved a lot of time. I hated having to wash and sterilise the pump parts and bottles, so I took the easy way out, and stopped pumping. I didn’t know what to do with the freezer full of milk, as all my friends who had babies around the same time, were all blessed with very good supplies too. I tried looking for a breast milk donation group online, but saw that there were more donors than requests, so I didn’t bother signing up for it. In the end, I defrosted some milk packets and soaked my feet in the milk, as suggested by one of the lactation consultants I saw, when I had blocked ducts. My feet didn’t feel any different, and I felt very weird soaking my feet in the milk, so I discarded the rest of the milk packets. I used to pump after most feeds, because Noah didn’t empty my breasts fully, and I was told to pump for about five to ten minutes after a feed, so that I won’t get blocked ducts. Despite my attempts, I still got blocked ducts periodically, even after he turned one, but because it wasn’t on a monthly basis anymore, I decided to stop pumping.
The plan was to breastfeed for at least six months, then a year. By the one year mark, I had come to love our time together very much, and started getting emotional about having to stop. I worried that because we had so much trouble conceiving Noah and had to go through IVF to get him, I might never be able to get pregnant again, and would therefore never be able to breastfeed again. C told me that I didn’t have to put this unnecessary pressure on myself to wean him, but to also offer Noah other types of milk, to see if he would take to any of them. Our main priority then was to ensure that Noah had a stable source of nutrition, since he didn’t like eating, and refused to eat solids until he was ten months old.
It’s been more than nineteen months since I started breastfeeding Noah, and because he still doesn’t enjoy eating very much, and refuses to take formula milk or fresh milk, I am still his sole milk supplier. Every day, when he signs for milk, I ask him if he wants “milk from a cup”, and each time, he would shake his head and point at my boobs instead. We do want another baby, so if we can’t conceive naturally soon, we’ll have to go for Frozen Embryo Transfer or IVF again, which means I will need to have drugs injected into my system, and therefore need to stop breastfeeding.
Signing “Milk, please, thank you.”
At nineteen, almost twenty, months old, Noah still wakes up at least twice for milk at night, and he also needs to be nursed to sleep, both for his nap and at night. Many people have told me to stop nursing him at night, and to stop nursing him to sleep, because it’s ‘unhealthy’, but I haven’t let their well-intentioned advice change anything. At the moment, I still enjoy being able to feed him on demand, without having to bring bottles, hot water, and milk powder out with us wherever we go. If he’s going to be my only baby, and I pray he won’t be, I’m going to enjoy breastfeeding him while I can, poor latch and all.
Pointing at muummy while drinking
Patting mummy while drinking
PS. Here are five things that I found useful when I first started breastfeeding.
3. Pupsik nursing cover This came in handy when I started venturing out with the baby. As far as possible, I visited malls with nursing rooms, but there were times when the nursing rooms were occupied, and I had to nurse Noah in the restaurant or in whichever corner I could find.
Nursing Noah on the plane
4. Disposable breast pads I had an abundant milk supply, and often leaked milk, so these breast pads helped to prevent ‘accidents’. These days, I use washable breast pads, because I don’t leak very much, except during letdown, when I’m nursing Noah.
5. Nursing clothes My favourite nursing bras are from Spring Maternity, and I got most of my nursing tops and dresses from Spring Maternity, Maternalove, and Dote. I prefer wearing nursing tops, because it’s easier to nurse in public with them. It’s difficult enough to struggle with a squirming baby and a nursing cover, so a nursing top provides faster access and is more discreet, in the event that the squirming baby lifts up the nursing cover to look around.
You can also check out my list of other useful items related to breastfeeding here.
PPS. It’s always good to know where the nursing rooms in the malls are. Here are some that I’ve reviewed.
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!
Tomorrow, Adora of the Gingerbread Mum will be sharing her breastfeeding story, so do visit her blog to read all about it.
From an accidental breastfeeding mum to one who is now petitioning to regain ownership of her mammaries, Adora is on her second breastfeeding journey: 22 months and counting. Join Adora on her parenting adventures (both boob and non-boob related) at The Gingerbread Mum.
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