March 2018 Newsletter: Mother’s Sharing

By Regina Lua Ubaña, BMSG Volunteer

I have two beautiful children, a 5 year-old girl, Reigna, and a 2 year-old boy, Reignz, whom I have been breastfeeding since birth. Reigna was breastfed till she turned 2 years old. Both my husband and I were determined to give our firstborn the best we could. We are nurses by profession and know that mummy’s milk is the best.

Alas, when my baby was barely more than a month old, I developed severe food poisoning, and my temperature hit 41 degrees Celsius. Not only did my milk supply decrease tremendously, but I was also given the wrong advice by the A&E doctor to stop breastfeeding. Heartache consumed me when I emptied bottles of manually-pumped milk down the sink. The doctors also suggested medications that they said would mean ceasing breastfeeding immediately. I wept, fearing that I might not be able to nurse my child anymore. Thereafter, I insisted only on treatment which would not interfere with breastfeeding.

During my hospitalisation, I was too weak to pump regularly and developed mastitis. The pain was unbearable compared to my natural delivery. Thankfully, I soon recovered. I latched Reigna whenever I could, and due to the pumping which elongated my nipples, she finally was able to latch successfully when she was 2 months old. Yet this was still not the last hurdle I had to overcome. The following month, I had to go for a pre-root canal procedure. At the time, I did not realise that local anesthesia is considered safe for breastfeeding. I feared that it would be harmful to my baby, and requested for the procedure to be done without any painkillers. My elderly dentist told me I was his first ever patient to request this. To this day, I can remember tears pouring down my cheeks during the process. I had found something even more painful than my encounter with mastitis.

From the ordeals that I had gone through, one of my biggest takeaways is this: it is necessary to be well-informed on breastfeeding for medical situations, so that we can get the right medication and treatment that we need.

About two months before I returned to work, I miscalculated and ran out of bottles and bags to store my milk. I cut down on pumping while waiting for my online order of milk bags to arrive, and as a result, mastitis returned to haunt me. Despite my own poor health, I was grateful for the amount of liquid gold I could produce for Reigna. She was chubby, healthy and rarely fell sick even when other family members at home took ill.

With much heartache, we finally weaned when she was 2 years old because I had some difficulty conceiving. My periods were very irregular, which we suspected was due to breastfeeding. My freezer of frozen milk remained untouched in their milk bags for another year, before I impulsively threw them out. I now regret not keeping at least one packet for sentimental value, as that was the precious milk that had sustained my little daughter.

Breastfeeding is a beautiful thing to do, but it does not paint beautiful pictures all the time. Although it has vast benefits and is highly recommended, it is also tiring and not an easy process, especially when there are many medical issues that get in your way. However, practice makes perfect, both for mummy and baby. Persist and don’t give up too easily. It is important for us to try our best, but no matter what, the love we have for our babies is immeasurable.

From the ordeals that I had gone through, one of my biggest takeaways is this: it is necessary to be well-informed on breastfeeding for medical situations, so that we can get the right medication and treatment that we need.

Feb 2018 Newsletter: Struggles of an Exclusive Pumping (EP) Mum

By Diana Yeow (BMSG Volunteer)

Prior to my son’s birth, I had started reading up about breastfeeding and participated in several online breastfeeding support groups to learn from the experiences of other mothers. I thought that I was more prepared than I could ever be and I was expecting an easy, smooth-sailing, and successful breastfeeding journey. After all, breastfeeding is the most natural and instinctual thing a female body was built for, just like childbirth, right? Boy, was I wrong.

From the time my son was just born, we had latching issues. Coupled with his short hospital stay when he was three to five days old for phototherapy due to jaundice, we were off to a rough start. As an anxious first time mother, I had heeded the misguided advice of a friend to offer bottled formula milk as the “best way to flush out bilirubin”, according to her, and to avoid offering breastmilk which could prolong jaundice. I was desperate to try out any measure that can help my child clear his jaundice as quickly as possible. However, I wanted to try to provide for my child with the best nutrition available. Hence, I began my pumping journey and started pumping breastmilk for my baby when he was barely a few days old until his jaundice levels had gone down.

Without a confinement lady, domestic helper, or other family members around to assist me during confinement, my early motherhood journey felt like an endless loop of latching practice, bottle feedings, 2.5-hourly pumping sessions, diaper changes, and whatever chores I could squeeze in during the baby’s nap time. My body did not respond well to pumping initially and coupled with the stress and lack of rest led to insufficient supply. In turn, the undersupply created more stress which undermined any of my efforts to boost my supply. I found myself trapped this vicious cycle of stress and low supply.

I vividly recall an incident that happened when my stress level was at its peak. It was another regular night with my infant. I woke as soon as I heard his cries and proceeded to carry him to the kitchen with me. I placed a bottle of expressed breastmilk in the bottle warmer and stood there swaying on the spot to keep the baby calm and quiet, with my eyes barely open. After about what felt like five minutes, I reached out my hand to get the bottle from the warmer only to realise there was no bottle there. I also realised I was not even carrying my baby. In my puzzled and shocked state, I returned to my bedroom to find my baby still sleeping soundly in the playpen and went back to the kitchen to find the bottle still cold beside the warmer. While I brushed the incident aside and proceeded to prepare for my usual middle-of-the-night pump session, this sleep hallucination episode got me thinking about how much stress and anxiety I had been under since I began my motherhood and breastfeeding journey.

I also came to realise that I had a lot of anxiety arising from tracking yield amounts and my child’s milk intake. Every day, I found myself tracking and chasing my “KPIs”, setting new goals every week that I had to achieve. I kept to my pumping schedule religiously; if my boy was awake, he would be beside me on the bed till the session ended. Due to my strict timeline, I hardly left the house as that would require too much planning and logistics.

At this point, I am thankful for my husband who took on the night shifts throughout his paternity leave and even on some work nights, which gave me slightly more rest time as I mainly focused on pumping sessions at nights. He even took on his daddy duties at mealtimes, even if he was starving after a day’s work, letting his food grow cold while I ate first.

At times I truly hated this arrangement since we never spent any time together anymore, much less have a meal with each other. At the same time, I also felt pressured to be able to handle all of my duties as a stay-at-home-mum. However, my husband’s only condition at that time was simply that I rest more, which I logically understood. Nonetheless, psychologically, I felt a sense of loneliness. As I was not working then, it almost felt to me like I was trapped at home by myself all the time.

Gradually over time, as our child caring duties got less hectic, things got better and I found myself less stressed and depressed about struggling with motherhood and the loss of couple time. I also realised that over time, as I decided to be less rigid on my pumping schedule and less obsessive about my yield “KPIs”, my breastfeeding journey became more bearable and even fun. Ironically, that was when my yield started increasing.

With the gracious help from my family and my in-laws, we were able to have more outings as I also grew more confident about slotting in pumping sessions while we were out – even where nursing rooms were not available. I have had the fun experience of pumping with a nursing cover at cafes and restaurants, in the cinema, and even in the car to make the best use out of travelling time. We even managed to arrange a trip to the beautiful Cameron Highlands.

The early days were definitely tough but in every challenge is a silver lining and an opportunity to rise out of it. Everything else will eventually fall in place; that would be my best advice for mothers out there who are facing similar predicaments as I did.