First and foremost, I’d love to proclaim that breastfeeding is a gift for mothers from God Almighy. How honoured we (mothers) are to be able to have our children’s food, nutrition, medicine and comfort within us.
Looking back at my first pregnancy..
I was in the final year of medical school. Being in that field of studies, of course I was enthusiastic to breastfeed my baby because I was aware of the benefits of breastfeeding. Little did I know that there was more to breastfeeding than just theoretical knowledge.
Just like other first-time parents, during my 7th month of pregnancy, we went shopping for our upcoming newborn. There were the cots, the toys, the clothes, and the diapers. Little did we thought of breastpumps, storage bottles and cooler bags. My perception of breastfeeding at that moment was that babies just drink straight from the tap, burp and go back to sleep. No milk supply problems, no cracked nipples, no painful engorgements and no colicky baby.
I delivered my baby girl via spontaneous vertex delivery after 12 gruesome (yet blissful) hours of labour. Alhamdulillah, mother and baby had no complications. I was drowsy after delivery because of the painkillers and wasn’t ready to hold my baby until about 3 hours after delivery. After I was conscious, I asked for my baby to breastfeed her. The first time holding her in my arms was so heart warming. I melted and broke down in tears. She was so beautiful. She was silently staring at me with those round, wide eyes. Those tiny eyelashes curled, just like my husband’s. After about an hour of staring at each other silently, she began to nudge and wiggle. She seemed uncomfortable. That’s when I thought it was a feeding cue, and attempted to breastfeed her.
|My 1st Daughter as a newborn|
Of course, my first attempt wasn’t as fruitful as I thought it would be. She latched on for a while and went to sleep. When I unlatched her, she cried. Then when I latched her again, she only latched for few seconds and went to sleep again. The cycle continued for 2 hours until I gave up when I saw blood oozing instead for milk. I became frightened. The nurse comforted me saying it was normal for new mothers to experience that. Hence, my spirit was still high, and I was still optimistic.
Since we were discharged the next day, there was me and my husband to take care of the baby on our first night at home. We were given a small tin of formula milk sample from the hospital upon discharge. That tin of formula milk became my saviour at that moment. My baby was always crying, never satisfied at the breast and only became calm after formula feeding. So what I understood at that moment is that I might not be producing enough milk to meet my baby’s needs. I slowly gave up direct feeding because I really felt that I was going insane with the baby shouting and me being in pain.
I then opted for expressing milk. Someone gave a low-grade electric breastpump as a gift upon my delivery. I tried using it but no milk came out, so I decided hand expression works better. I only manage to get an ounce or so after half an hour of expressing. In total, my baby only gets about 3 ounces of expressed breastmilk a day.That too, the quantity became less and less each day, until finally, my baby was just comfort nursing.
Yes, that was the sad reality of my first breastfeeding experience. Alhamdulillah, my baby got a taste of breastmilk. Any amount of breastmilk is better that none, I am sure of that.
Moving on to my second pregnancy..
|8 weeks POG|
|16 weeks POG|
We were more mature this time. I decided to try breastfeeding again. I bought a branded single electric breastpump, because it wasn’t as pricy as a double breastpump but the MAIN REASON deep inside, I am still unsure that I can do it, so I wasn’t keen on splurging on a breastpump, just in case I fail again. I lost confidence from my first experience!!
My baby came four weeks earlier than expected. I informed the labour room staff that I wish to breastfeed my baby as soon as possible and to avoid formula milk feeding. Being hypertensive during my pregnancy this time, I was told to rest upon delivery and only held my baby about 5 hours post-partum. Of course she was already given formula. Best part is, the nursery nurse proudly exclaimed ` She feeds well, she drinks 2 ounces at one go’. Can you imagine how my heart broke hearing that? A newborn’s stomach is so small that only 7ml of milk per feeding would be sufficient for them.
I didn’t think twice and demanded that my baby be given to me for every feeding, even at night. This time around, I stayed for about 2 days post-partum because the doctor insisted to monitor my blood pressure. I attempted breastfeeding at all my baby’s feeding time, but history seems to repeat itself. She was never satisfied at the breast, and kept clinging on until blood started oozing again.
The same scenario continued at home, and desperate for some sanity, I resorted to formula milk. To add to my despair, some gave remarks such as `Don’t torture you baby, you are not producing milk so just give her formula.’
Desperate to make it work this time around, I tried expressing milk using my pump. It was more fruitful this time around. I manage to get a total of 10 to 12 ounces a day. It was enough for my baby the first two weeks, but as she approached the first month, my supply dwindled and her demand increased. I became discouraged. I was very weary. I had two children to think of this time around. After much struggle, and after my supply sank to an ounce a day, I gave up. Believe it or not, I gave up.
Days pass by, and my baby was about 3 months old. She was overweight and put on a lot of weight after being fully on formula. As pleasing as it was to see a chubby baby, she was always colicky. Deep inside me, I yearned to breastfeed her again.
God granted my wish. I was determined to breastfeed again. I told myself that I am not going to give up this time around.
So I started my relactation programme when my baby was 3 ½ months. The first week, there was no milk at all, followed by droplets for the next 2 weeks. As if it’s not challenging enough to find the time and energy to pump, pumping only air with no milk is even more emotionally disturbing. To top that up, there were the disturbing comments and unwanted so-called advice. Determined not to give up, I continued pumping 4 times a day. I stuffed myself with what I believed to be milk boosters. I tried latching on my baby directly but she angrily refused, so I decided to exclusively pump.
Alhamdulillah, the quantity of milk increased day by day.
When my daughter was 6 months old, she was fully breastfed (of course, she started weaning as well). How contented I was. Goodbye to colic, hello to happy and healthy baby! When she was 6 ½ months old, we bought a deep freezer to store excess milk. Few months later, I have about 1200++ oz of milk in the freezer. Believe it or not? Yes, do believe it :-)
|From droplets of milk..|
|To a freezer full of milk..|
I even give some to my elder daughter mixed with her cereal. I make ice-cream and smoothies from my milk for her. I even had the chance to make soap from my milk for her to bathe with. My children eat, drink and bathe from my milk, Alhamdulillah. Being a mother who failed and learned from experience, I want other mothers to learn from my mistakes and successfully breastfeed their babies.
|Mother's Milk Soap|
|Mother's Milk Ice-Cream|
I hope this inspires other mothers out there to breastfeed no matter what the problem was that caused them to stop or not breastfeed at all. It can be done! Consult a lactation counsellor to help you overcome the problem, and please do not resort to formula milk. Every individual case is different, so different approaches need to be taken to help you successfully breastfeed. Breastmilk in every way is the best food, drink, nutrition, medicine and comfort for your baby.