by Sheela Shukla
Returning to work can never be easy, but I learnt that preparation is the key to making things easier. I’m a full-time working Mum and I work three rotating shifts. Being a first time Mum, I had no prior experience or education on breastfeeding. I did lots of reading and constantly sought advice from people around me. My concept of breastfeeding was that after baby was born, I would just latch her when its time for feeding and voila, we are done! Little did I know that there would be obstacles to overcome in my journey!
A month ahead of starting work, I decided to introduce the bottle to baby at least once a day. For those feeds, I would pump in exchange for giving the bottle. Initially, she took to the bottle just fine, even when I offered her the bottle. But just 1 week short of commencing work, baby decided to strongly refuse the bottle. As I live with my Mum, who is her caregiver when I’m at work, it was rather difficult convincing her that baby will not take the bottle from me or in my presence. So, I had to leave for that hour just so she could take the bottle from my Mum. Of course, it wasn’t easy having to be ‘separated’ from baby but my Mum wanted to be sure baby took the bottle. And yes, she eventually did before I officially started work. Phew!
I faced refusal from her when I returned to work after my maternity leave. She refused to latch and that really made me so hurt. I felt rejected. And so I started reading up and consulting professionals. I received a whole lot of different responses, some even telling me to stop latching and commenting I should feel relieved baby has decided to take the bottle! However, I decided that I will get baby to latch again, and so lots of skin contact coupled with lots of patience made it all possible. And within a week, baby started latching all fine again.
It was rather tough getting baby into a routine as my shift hours were confusing to her. Finding a right pumping/latching schedule was indeed tough. Therefore, I went with the 2-3hrs pump/latch balance for myself. This meant that regardless of what time it was, I will pump or latch every 2-3 hourly. What made things even tougher was the fact that break times were a far cry for me, which meant that pumping at work was close to zero possibilities. In order to be able to pump milk at work, I invested in the Freemie cups which allowed me pump to on-the-go whether I had a break or not. The Freemie is obviously not as effective in total milk clearance for a pump session. However, it allowed me to store the milk my baby needs for the next day as she refused frozen breastmilk.
The one thing that really kept me going was my husband’s support. Every time I felt I wanted to give up, he was there to push me on, to tell me how much this meant to baby and myself. It has really been a blessing to baby and I to have him in our lives, and we are now going strong past a year of breastfeeding!
My advise to Mums: follow your heart. People will always give you their two cents worth, but really, baby and you will know best!
By Namrata Trivedi
Dietitian APD, AN
BMSG Board Member
The holiday season is upon us and ’tis the season for plugged ducts, mastitis and fluctuating milk supply. Yes, you read that right. The year-end holiday season usually brings out the merry makers in us, breastfeeding or otherwise. In Singapore, the tinsel and tunes start by November and office Christmas parties and celebrations start long before Santa has his list ready!
Mothers may notice this busy season messes their breastfeeding routine as they need to run more errands, spend more time out of the house, attend more gatherings and parties, which may lead to an exhausted mummy and baby if their day is not planned out well.
So what can you do to ensure your breastfeeding journey doesn’t hit any roadblocks during Christmas?
Do not skip feedings
Keep in mind that missing feedings can cause milk buildup and lead to engorgement, blocked ducts and even mastitis. Take the time to make an expressing schedule if you will be heading out a lot without baby or listen to your baby’s cues and nurse on demand. If you’re heading to parties, your little one may get passed around a lot by relatives and friends. Watch out for baby’s fussiness and cues when she’s hungry and don’t hesitate to simply pluck your little one away to a quiet place to nurse.
The good thing about baby wearing is that you can head out and get your Christmas shopping done while still having your hands free to carry the shopping bags. You can wear your baby in a carrier or a wrap, so you’re still able to socialise and get things done, but are close to your baby, enough to watch or hear her nursing signals.
Enjoy the festive food but don’t go overboard!
There is good news: when you’re exclusively breastfeeding, you need around 500 calories a day in extra energy so dig in and nourish yourself. Just like how we enjoy the Christmas spread, babies, too, enjoy a variety of tastes they get through breastmilk. However, try not to go overboard with desserts and sweets. Aim to include a variety of foods which provide the nutrients you need such as lean protein, complex carbohydrates from wholemeal to wholegrain sources, and good fats from oily fish, vegetable oils, nuts and seeds.
Contrary to popular belief, it is fine to have the occasional drink while breastfeeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Drugs and La Leche League Health Advisory Council member Dr. Jack Newman both consider reasonable alcohol intake to be safe during breastfeeding.
However if you are worried about any amount of alcohol passing through your breastmilk or if you find yourself impaired, it may be safe to pump and dump or wait two to three hours until the alcohol has left your system and you feel normal again.
Don’t be shy in asking for help around the house. If you’re in confinement or if the thought of heading out to buy presents in crowded places makes you cringe, go online to get your Christmas shopping done. The good thing about having a baby during the holidays is that people have lesser expectations of you. They will understand that you have your hands full so don’t cave into pressure and stress yourself out needlessly.
Don’t forget to enjoy this time Momma. Often well-meaning relatives may provide unnecessary advice on breastfeeding and parenting during gatherings. It is important not to get yourself worked up. Simply smile and divert the topics that may make you uncomfortable. Stress can affect your milk supply, so try to relax and take it all in—under the Mistletoe and with your sweetie in your arms to kiss.
Happy Holidays and see you next year!
By Karen Abts, BMSG Volunteer
May the depictions of Mother Mary breastfeeding the infant Jesus in early Christian art uplift us in our nursing journey this Christmas.
Christmas has taken on a deeper reality for me after having children. In celebrating Jesus’s birth, we are struck by His Humanity: this swaddled infant, born in the humblest of places, must have fed at the breasts of His Mother, Mary!
Yet I had never thought of Mary and Jesus as a breastfeeding dyad until I encountered this in religious art. As a new breastfeeding parent then, I felt comforted and affirmed by images of Mary nursing as it provided me with a relatable icon from antiquity and reminded me of the intentional, life-giving design of the female body.
Maria Lactans in Early Christian Art
Among various depictions of Mary throughout history, the motif of Maria lactans [i] (Latin for “Mary nursing”) featured prominently in the Middle Ages until the Renaissance (Gibson, 2012). Maria lact was first seen to mature in the East among the Coptic Christians while the Byzantines called their interpretation, Theotokos galaktotrophousa (Greek for “God-Bearer Milk-Giver”) (Miesel, 2009). In Russia, such iconography is called Mlekopitatelnitsa (“Milk-Feeding”), with Mary’s breast oddly depicted near her shoulder to avoid any trace of sensuality (David, 2016).
Devotion to Our Lady of the Milk
As the West adopted the Byzantine icons, European artists sculpted three-dimensional figurines and Renaissance masters including Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Rembrandt perfected paintings of Maria lactans up until the 18th century. Spanish missionaries brought their devotion to Nuestra Señora de La Leche y Buen Parto (Our Lady of the Milk and Happy Delivery) to the United States around the 1600s. It was once thought that “the virgin’s nursing breast, the lactating virgin, was the primary symbol of God’s love for humanity” (Miles & Lyon, 2008).
In Church and Around Us Today
Pope Francis invoked this ancient devotion earlier this year when he welcomed mothers at his sermon to feed their babies “just as Mary breastfed Jesus[ii]” (Vatican Radio, 2017), reiterating his encouragement for breastfeeding mothers time and again. Today, there is a resurgence in this devotion among mothers, breastfeeding advocates and pro-life[iii]. In Singapore, the Catholic Mount Alvernia Hospital features a sculpture of Mary breastfeeding.
When you go into Church this season, I hope the image of Maria lactans stays positively with you and encourage you to feed your children in Church without fear. Merry Christmas!
- Figure 1: Image downloaded on 9 December 2017 from the Gallery of Maria Lactans on fisheaters.com. Tucciarone, Tracy. Maria Lactans: Mary as Nursing Mother. [Online] Available https://www.fisheaters.com/images/marialactans1.jpg (link to image)
- Figure 2: Image downloaded on 11 December 2017 from http://www.instituteoftheincarnateword.org/accompanying-mary-season-advent-copts/ Link to image: http://www.instituteoftheincarnateword.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/SSVM-Adviento-Maria-4.jpg
- Figure 3: Download from https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/17.190.185/
- Figure 4: Image downloaded on 12 December 2017 from http://www.themasterpiececards.com/famous-paintings-reviewed/bid/38042/Famous-Paintings-by-Leonardo-da-Vinci
- Figure 5: Image downloaded on 11 December 2017 from http://valeriya.in/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-medieval-lactation/
- Figure 6: Image downloaded on 11 December 2017 from the Fisheaters Gallery of Maria Lactans. Link to image: https://www.fisheaters.com/images/marialactans-miraculouslactationofstbernard.jpg
- Figure 7: Image downloaded on 11 December 2017 from the Fisheaters Gallery of Maria Lactans. Link to image: https://www.fisheaters.com/images/marialactans1659.jpg
- Figure 8: Image downloaded on 6 December 2017 from http://fmdminternational.co.uk/our-locations/malaysia-and-singapore/
Miesel, S. (2009, October 3). Mothering God. Retrieved November 22, 2017, from Crisis Magazine: http://www.crisismagazine.com/2009/mothering-god
Gibson, D. (2012, December 11). Jesus was not a bottle baby. What happened to Maria Lactans? Retrieved November 22, 2017, from Commonweal Magazine: https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/jesus-was-not-bottle-baby-what-happened-maria-lactans
Miles, M., & Lyon, V. (2008). A Complex Delight: The Secularization of the Breast, 1350-1750. Berkeley: University of California Press.
The Vatican. (n.d.). The Christian Catacombs: The catacombs and the Mother of God. Retrieved from The Holy See: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_commissions/archeo/inglese/documents/rc_com_archeo_doc_20011010_cataccrist_en.html#Madre
Vatican Radio. (2017, January 8). Pope Francis baptises 28 in the Sistine Chapel. Vatican.
David. (2016, June 23). The Nursing Goddess: From Isis to Mary. Retrieved from Icons and Their Interpretation: https://russianicons.wordpress.com/tag/galaktotrophousa/
[i]A comprehensive chronological Gallery of Maria Lactans can be found at fisheaters.com: Tucciarone, Tracy. Maria Lactans: Mary as Nursing Mother. [Online] Available https://www.fisheaters.com/marialactans.html
[ii] Pope Francis baptises 28 in the Sistine Chapel, 8 January 2017, Vatican Radio http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2017/01/08/pope_francis_baptises_28_babies_in_the_sistine_chapel/1284342
[iii] In the Philippines, for instance, the devotion to Our Lady of La Leche was promoted since 2000 with permission from the late Manila Archibishop Jaime Cardinal Sin. Source: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/254228/devotion-growing-for-breast-feeding-virgin-mary