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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).

Sept 2018 Newsletter: Breastfeeding a Jaundiced Baby

By Nur Azrin Binte Abdul Wahab (BMSG Volunteer)

Nur Azrin, a mum of one, shares her initial struggle when she first started breastfeeding her jaundiced baby and how she persevered through the challenges.

Azrin and her beautiful daugther Azrah Adarina.

My pregnancy and birth were manageable with minimal to no issues. I was able to direct latch my baby immediately after I birthed her. The best part? My husband was also very supportive and encouraged me to breastfeed my baby. He even clapped when our baby girl burped on her own after latching. I was extremely grateful for this turn of events as I had been anxiously praying to have a smooth start to breastfeeding. It was beautiful in the hospital during my stay as the nurses and lactation consultants (LCs) praised my supply and how my baby girl had no pressing issues so far.

Unfortunately, the nightmare began the moment I was about to check out of the hospital. My daughter had developed a dangerously high level of jaundice, which caused her to have a fever. She had to be warded in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and as a first time mother, I was at a loss and caved in to the hospital’s insistence that infant formula would reduce her jaundice. I was torn; a part of me wanted to continue giving my baby breastmilk while another part of me wanted my one and only daughter to get well as soon as possible as she was only three days old.

Upon reaching home, I continued to pump every three hours as suggested by my LC to keep up my milk supply. That same night, I received a call from the hospital that my baby girl did not want to drink or even have a sip of the formula milk the hospital was providing, not even through a syringe or a cup. However, the nurses told me to give it some time and that she would provide me with an update the following day.

Fortunately, she was discharged the next day in the morning at 8am with no fever. She was very hungry as she had drank very little the night before. I immediately latched her and, lo and behold, she latched like a champ for an hour. I wanted to cry because I knew deep down that she must have been extremely hungry.

A baby undergoing UV light therapy for treatment of jaundice. Azrin’s baby had to go through a similar treatment at the NICU.

We brought her home subsequently but her jaundice levels rose again on her third day at home, resulting in another episode of high fever. We rushed back to the hospital and the doctors said my baby girl and I had different blood types and that this was a case of breastmilk jaundice; it was suggested that I supplement with formula again to quickly bring her levels down. Knowing that my daughter was thriving on her breastmilk, judging from her healthy diaper output and very good latch as assessed by the LCs, I informed the doctor that I would like to continue to provide baby with breastmilk on demand. However, should her fever persists or gets worse, I will bring her back to the hospital and provide a supply of expressed breastmilk during her stay.

This time round, her fever did not subside as quickly as the first time and it took about three to four days before her fever went away. I latched her as much as possible and as much as she wanted to. I also carried her a lot so there was ample skin-to-skin contact between us. I did not feed her based on any sort of schedule but just waited for my daughter’s cues. I also noticed that her fever went down bit by bit after longer latching sessions so I picked up on that and latched a lot. However, I was extremely tired from it.

It was all good though because there was a follow up after a week from the second visit and by then her fever was completely gone. Although her jaundice level was still high, it was no longer in the danger zone and she didn’t need to be warded. We had follow-ups at the hospital once a month and by the third month, she was completely cleared of any signs of jaundice and was a perfectly healthy baby.

With God’s blessings, my baby girl has just turned a year old and has been purely on my breastmilk with direct latching. We’ve had no issues so far other than the fact that I was on oversupply. My goal is to continue breastfeeding her until she turns two. With my strong faith in my ability to breastfeed, I believe I can manage this. Because I fell in love with breastfeeding my daughter, I may just go beyond two years old.

I hope to inspire and create awareness to all mothers who are struggling or having issues to breastfeed. Don’t stop until your child wants to and is ready to. Believe in yourself and your ability to provide breastmilk for your child, especially if you are obviously making enough milk for your baby. If your baby is thriving on your milk, stand up for your right to breastfeed and trust that you are providing enough for your baby.