When one of the mummies – Madeline – in my blog community (SMB) mooted the idea of a blog train on breastfeeding, I thought it was a good idea to join the choo choo train to share a little on my breastfeeding journey which I never really document so on this blog.
Xi En – my eldest – was breastfed for 9 months. But his story was a little unique. As most who follow my blog will know his story, Xi En was born almost 10 weeks premature and had a really tough time in my womb due to my water bag bursting way too early (21 weeks of gestation). As a result, I had no baby to latch on directly when he was delivered. During my last few weeks of bed rest in the hospital, I was reluctant to read up on breastfeeding because I wasn’t sure if I will have my baby in hand to hold and feed. And being confined early on bed, I didn’t make any purchases of a breast pump or anything baby for that matter. It was one whirlwind of a mess I remembered. Totally unprepared, I had given birth. Breastfeeding was the last thing on my mind. But the very first thing that nurses and doctors reminded me to concentrate on.
Yes; for mummies with preemies (especially early preemies), the best thing you can do is to concentrate on getting the milk flow. Being a new mother, I was desperate beyond words. No antenatal classes, no research, no clue how to fix the breast pump! Thankfully, most hospital has breast pumps on loan and helpful nurses who can teach you techniques; which is what I learnt and practiced diligently. Milk didn’t flow on the first day, 2nd day and finally 3rd night; some colostrum came along! It was pure joy which I recalled pressing the nurse call light at 5am to get someone to deliver the precious few drops to my baby who was in NICU.
I learnt patience. Even if milk flow doesn’t come in immediately; as long as you keep trying diligently – it’s good enough.
Subsequently when milk actually starts building up, I realised I definitely need a machine at home! That’s when my good friend came to the rescue and bought me a dual electric Ameda pump and delivered it to my house on the day I was discharged. A personal preference and note: dual electric breast pump is the way to go if you want to invest in breast milk. I have never used manual versions before. But for any working mothers, I will strongly recommend a dual electric pump as you achieve result in half the time.
If your baby needs to be warded in the hospital (like mine), a breast pump will be your best friend. For 2 months, I pump consistently and the supportive spouse delivered milk without fail daily to the hospital. The interesting part came when Xi En was ready to be discharged. For premature babies, they have to master bottle feeding before they can be discharged. Being a new mum, I was worried about what nipple vs teat confusion. I was worried that Xi En will not want to latch on thereafter. A thousand worries. All to null I realised thereafter. There was no need to worry too much about what the textbooks say. Take the lead from your baby. When Xi En was able to maintain his breathing better and not turning blue, we tried a few rounds of direct latching on at the hospital. The nurses were helpful and you can request for a lactation nurse to be around to guide you especially since the baby is still fragile and might have tubes/ wires fixed up.
Xi En went home in the end without a feeding tube which is really great news. By then he and us are comfortable with him being bottle fed. To ease him in back home, I continued with expressing milk and bottle feeding him. When he settled down after a few weeks, we tried latching on at home. It wasn’t smooth sailing as I was really worried that I might just suffocate him! But by trial and error, we found the most comfortable position which is the cradle hold position with a few pillows for support due to a slow recovery for my caesarean wound. It was fuzzy bonding time to be able to breastfeed my baby directly. But even if Xi En didn’t learn how to latch on, I knew that I wasn’t going to cry bucket of tears either. By then, I realised that it is more important that my baby is growing well and healthy. Latch on or off, as long as he gets the nutrients, I am happy.
And for the records, Xi En started out on formula milk since he was in the hospital! He had to be on special fortified milk and thus special formula milk. I started Xi En on regular formula milk at home by 6th to 7th month when I was returning to the workforce then. Though I was expressing enough milk for his daily intake, I decided to stop by the 9th month because of 2 key reasons:
1) Change of job. I decided to quit my 9-6 job to take on a flexible hours sales job which requires me to be on the go mostly. Partly self-induced stress for a job change and partly I wasn’t comfortable to express milk on the go, I decided the best way is to stop.
2) I was tired of watching what I eat and drink which will affect more than me alone. More because I hate to hear these when I reached home “Baby is not drinking your milk today” or “Baby is having diarrhoea today; what did you eat?” For a breastfeeding mother, nutrients are important. Yes I know that. But it does get on one’s nerves when she is already trying her best to continue breastfeeding despite working full time. Breastfeeding mummies can be just that little winny bit sensitive hey.
And so that kind of summed up my first breastfeeding journey of 9 months.
For No.2 Kai En, I was more well-informed and knew that milk takes a while to come in for me at least. I was comfortable to allow the nurses to give formula milk right from the start in the hospital since my boobs were taking time. I knew that giving formula milk doesn’t mean that baby will not want breast milk thereafter and I didn’t want baby to go hungry just waiting for breast milk.
Kai En was also separated from me after birth (he was in the special care nursery for observation) and thus we didn’t had a chance to practice latching on till much later. Fast forward the story, I was thankful that Kai En switches between the breast, the bottle, breast milk and formula milk with little fuss. I was a more confident breastfeeding mum 2nd time round and knew that as long as I have done what I could, it is good enough for my boy. Stopping at 12 months this round was a personal choice because of health reasons and I wanted my life back to norm again and not on clock work of 3 to 4 hour milking shifts.
Breastfeeding, it ain’t easy I will admit. It takes patience, sacrifice and determination to continue on. But to me as long as I have given my best, giving my sons a mixture of formula milk doesn’t make me a lousier mother either.
So to all who are reading this breastfeeding blog train, I hope to have contributed a little insight from my perspective and experience. Happy breastfeeding if you are still at it!
Tomorrow, Zhenzhu who blogs at www.stayathomemumof3.com will be sharing her story. Find out why she stopped breastfeeding her two sons at ten months old, and why she is still breastfeeding her 11-month-old daughter!
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!