Newsletter #32: Never Say Never – Story of an EP Mum

As told to Nabila Hanim (BMSG Editorial Team Member)
Photos courtesy of Andrea Salleh

Being an exclusive pumping mum does not stop Andrea Salleh, a mother of two, from doing what she needs to do.

No baby but a breast pump underneath that cover! Andrea calmly pumps while on the move as it has become second nature to her.

If you ever bump into Andrea Salleh along the streets, you might spot her with a big bag and a huge nursing cover. Don’t be fooled; underneath the pretty cloth is her double breast pump strapped to her chest.

The mother of two children, a two-year old girl and seven month-old boy, is no stranger to pumping on-the-go, even while on public transport. “I have pumped in the MRT, the bus and even in taxis and Grab Cars,” quipped Andrea, an art educator and also a passionate face painter.

Being invited to parties and booths form part of the demands of her job. Andrea, who has to be mobile for work due to the nature of her job, does not allow her work demands to stop her from providing breast milk for her children. As she is contracted by the hour, and sometimes has long queues at the booth, pumping while working is not a choice but a need!

Pumping while at work. Pumping doesn’t stop Andrea from doing what she loves!

Andrea, who is still breastfeeding her seven-month-old second-born, had managed to breastfeed her first child up till one year old. She attributed her success at exclusively pumping (EP) to a friend, who was the first to suggest that she learn to pump on-the-go. “I was initially using a single manual pump and pumping was such a chore. But once my friend taught me how to pump while on the move, I was hooked and loved the experience so much,” said Andrea, who also pumps regularly even when bringing her children out.

Having trouble latching her firstborn after her birth and coupled with oversupply, Andrea turned to pumping with the encouragement of her husband. With inverted nipples and her baby’s shallow latch, Andrea felt a lot of pain when she tried to breastfeed her child. Feeling dejected after bouts of mastitis that plagued her weekly during her early postpartum days, Andrea came to terms with having to pump although she initially struggled having to keep up with frequent pumping at regular intervals.

For now, pumping has become so natural to her that she can even pour her bottle of expressed milk into a milk storage bag right after pumping under her nursing cover in a moving vehicle! She also makes things easy by putting everything she needs into a large cooler bag that contains several compartments. The bag can even fit her pump, although she admits the bag is heavy for her.

A screen-grab from Andrea’s social media page shows her pumping in a bus.

Andrea also tries to maximise her time when she is out for work assignments. Although pumping while working is a given, Andrea also makes it a point to pump on the way back home. “This saves me a lot of time. Since I have been away from my family, especially the children, for a number of hours, I don’t want to waste more time pumping as soon as I reach home,” she added. With this time saved, she is able to attend to her children’s needs right away when she reaches home.

Andrea admits that exclusively pumping while taking care of one baby was still manageable as she had the help of family members to take care of her child as she pumps. However, pumping with two children in tow is another challenge altogether. She tries not to stress herself when her pumping schedule gets delayed due to her kids’ cries for attention. “If my toddler is having a tantrum, I calm her down first (before proceeding to pump),” Andrea said. She also invested in a front and back double pram so that she is able to put both her children down to pump when they are out.

Nothing stops Andrea from pumping when she needs to. In the middle of having supper with her husband and their friends, Andrea took a moment to pump milk for her baby.

“Managing expectations was probably one of the most important things I learnt as an EP mum,” said Andrea, who succeeded to provide her daughter breast milk up till one year old. Although she had to supplement her daughter with donated breast milk when she was seven months old due to a stressful period of her life that dwindled her supply, Andrea feels satisfied over the long battle she has gone through. Andrea has also started to mix feed her second-born after making an informed decision not to accept donated milk. As her first child has already had three wet nurses*, she feels that keeping in touch with them is already challenging.

Having religiously kept to a strict pumping schedule of two hours for the first five months of his life and maintaining a good milk supply, she found her supply drying up when she could not keep up with his demand. “I started pumping every four hours instead and sometimes dragged my pump (session) because I was occupied,” said Andrea.

However, Andrea is determined to continue providing whatever amount she can for her son. “Embrace your choices and make an informed decision. Do not ever compare yourself to another mother. Just do your best and take things a step at a time,” she declared with well-deserved pride.

Embrace your choices and make an informed decision. Do not ever compare yourself to another mother. Just do your best and take things a step at a time.

– Andrea Kauthar

*Wet Nursing in Islam

In Islam, wet nursing and/or milk-sharing are seen as a noble act, and comes with its own stipulations and guidelines. When a nursling receives five full feeds from a different mother, a consanguine relationship is established between the two. This nursling will also be considered as a milk sibling to the other lady’s own biological children, and as such are not permitted to marry one another. Hence, the implications of this is that Muslim families who practice wet nursing and/or milk-sharing are encouraged to have each other’s details and to keep in close contact to one another so as to ensure that the relationship is rendered as common knowledge. You can read more here (section under Wet Nursing & Adoption).

Nov 2018 Newsletter – Nur’s Story: Nursing Through Pregnancy & Tandem Nursing

As told to the BMSG Editorial Team

For many of us who are expecting our second or subsequent baby while still nursing our older baby, nursing through pregnancy and tandem feeding may seem to be an uphill task. We speak to our EXCO member and breastfeeding counsellor Nur Shirhaini, a mother of four, as she shares her experience nursing her third child during her fourth pregnancy and how she survived tandem nursing with the arrival of her youngest.

Nur (centre) managed to tandem nurse her two younger daughters, Dyana and Maria (in stroller), who were born 18 months apart. [Photo courtesy of Nur Shirhaini]

Making the Decision to Nurse During Pregnancy

Nur, a working mother of four, loved breastfeeding her children. When she was pregnant with her fourth child, her third baby was a mere seven-month old. As breastfeeding had gone rather smoothly since her little baby was a newborn, she was keen to continue breastfeeding her third child. “When my OBGYN confirmed my pregnancy, he advised me to quit breastfeeding as it was believed that it could cause early miscarriage,” said Nur.

The early childhood educator refused to stop breastfeeding and was positive that her pregnancy would turn out well. Having done her research, she knew that as long as she had an uncomplicated pregnancy, any possible risks of breastfeeding were low.

More importantly, she felt her third child was much too young to be weaned. “I did not want to put my very young baby through the trauma of weaning off breastfeeding,” said Nur.

A Temporary Bout of Nursing Aversion

All was smooth-sailing during the first two trimesters and the thought of prematurely weaning her third was never on her mind. However, when she arrived at the third trimester, things took an unexpected turn.

“I suddenly had nursing aversion. My nipples were always sore and hot from nursing my toddler to sleep. I found it difficult to wear a bra or a t-shirt without feeling uncomfortable,” said Nur, who felt that it took every bit of willpower to keep on breastfeeding.  The struggle was real and it was an ordeal during every feed. She would feel her daughter’s tongue grating on her nipples and the pain was so hard to bear that she couldn’t wait for each session to end. At times, Nur would avoid breastfeeding her baby but her cries were too much to bear for her mother’s instinct. She would then cave in to her baby.

Nur describes the dilemma of wanting to nurse her baby but fearing the pain: “I would ask my husband to put my daughter to sleep because I was afraid to nurse her. However, whenever she cried, it would crush my soul and I would run back into the room and offer her my breasts.” Her third baby was the first child she had breastfed for so long; she loved breastfeeding and enjoyed nursing her previously. “But at that moment, I dreaded it so much that I prayed she would just self wean,” said Nur.

However, luck was on her side in the form of robust family support from her spouse, her mother and her in-laws. She bit her tongue and endured for a few more months until the day her newborn arrived.

With good family support especially from her husband, Nur managed to tandem nurse Dyana and Maria for seven months. [Photo courtesy of Nur Shirhaini]

How Tandem Nursing All Began

The moment was surreal; there was her precious newborn on one side and her 18 month-old daughter on the other. “I remembered Maria (the toddler) looking at me while I was breastfeeding Dyana (the newborn). She then went over to the other breast and helped herself to it!” Nur continued to tandem feed her babies for another seven months until her fourth child was hospitalised for bronchitis. Her toddler then self-weaned at that point.

Nur acknowledges that tandem feeding was not without its challenges. She had her fair share of sore and cracked nipples, coupled with exhaustion especially with her newborn. However, she reminisced about the feelings of bonding and positive association with her children that breastfeeding offered to her and her children, especially as a working mother: “I felt somehow that when I managed to tandem nurse as a working mom, I represented the possibility to other working moms that it was possible. Although it was hard, it was achievable.”

Dyana (left) and Maria (right) share a special bond as tandem nursing siblings. They almost look like twins! [Photo courtesy of Nur Shirhaini]

Tips on Breastfeeding Through Pregnancy & Tandem Nursing

Nur’s advice to other mothers who are apprehensive about tandem nursing include the following:

  • Do lots of research on breastfeeding during pregnancy and tandem nursing. Your OBGYN may not recommend that you continue breastfeeding while pregnant. However, it is important that you read up and make an informed decision.
  • Be mentally prepared. Tough times build resilience. It will get easier with each passing day. Nur’s toddler would always help herself to the right breast and she would say the left one is for the little sister. This made it easier for her as she knew her daughter was finding a way to cope and adapt with the change in circumstances. Tandem nursing also helped to tighten the bonds between the two sisters.
  • Make things easier around the house as tandem feeding may mean that you are spending more time with your children at the breast. Nur chose to invest in healthy foods and snacks so that she had one less task to worry about.
  • Find ways to connect with your toddler or older child. Talking to your older baby/child and doing some simple activities like reading and playing can greatly help to assure your older children that you still love them.
  • Babywear your younger child so that you have your hands free. Nur found that her baby slept better when she wore her, which gave her more time to bond with her toddler.