By Stacey Tham, BMSG Volunteer
Photos courtesy of Stacey Tham
From an exclusively pumping mother-of-one to a fully latching mum, Stacey tells us about her rollercoaster breastfeeding journey breastfeeding her two children.
Facing Unexpected Challenges
When I had my first child, I knew that breastfeeding was what I wanted. I was surrounded by other mothers, some of whom were already breastfeeding, and I also felt that breastfeeding should be the norm. However, I did not know what to expect; I was not part of any support groups for mothers online or offline and nobody told me breastfeeding could be challenging.
Breastfeeding was not at all what I had expected. Although my supply kicked in really fast by Day 5, I was soon down with engorgement, mastitis and also blocked ducts caused by milk blisters which I was totally unaware of. It was indeed depressing for me as a first-time mum. At first, I remember feeling annoyed that everyone around me was telling me not to give up and to endure for the baby. I felt that everyone was focusing on the baby and not on my well-being as a new mother. I cried almost every day during my confinement because I always woke up with engorged breasts; it was happening about 80% of the time! It would dampen my mood for the rest of the day, especially since I was experiencing some sort of baby blues. I visited my gynaecologist, lactation consultant and also a breast specialist every other day for the first month. Everyone told me my problem was due to oversupply and it was a happy problem. But I felt embarrassed that I totally did not enjoy motherhood, and sad about how my life took a 180 degree turn from what it was before.
I felt that everyone was focusing on the baby and not on my well-being as a new mother.
When I decided to open up about my plight with my friends, I came to know of several breastfeeding groups and I read about other mummies’ experiences there. It is definitely more comforting when you realise that there are also other mummies who are in the same shoes as yourself. Reading more about the benefits of breastfeeding also helped me to remember the reason I was breastfeeding – that it would benefit my kids, rather than trying to keep up with other mums.
Turning to Pump Exclusively
As my nipples were extremely sore, and I never managed to successfully latch my baby, coupled with all the other issues I had, I ended up exclusively pumping. I am very pleased to share, though, that I managed to bless my excess milk supply to two other babies during my first breastfeeding journey which lasted one year.
However, I was determined to exclusively latch my second child when I discovered that I was pregnant again.
The Start of a New Chapter
When my second child was born, I was eager to latch my baby. I was experiencing sore nipples but was determined to bear with the pain so that I can continue latching. Little did I know that I was suffering from open wounds on my nipples. I had four episodes of fever during my confinement because of that, visited the breast specialist and subsequently infectious disease specialist before I got the nipple treated.
During this period, I exclusively latched on the other breast, while pumping the affected one as pumping was less painful. However, the pain was still very unbearable due to the open wound, especially since it rubbed against the flange of the pump. The wound took about one month to recover.
Despite the rough start, I went on to breastfeed my baby, who will be turning 2 in July 2019.
Blessing Excess Milk
This time round, I was also really pleased to bless my milk to other babies again, especially a preemie who was born at just 28 weeks. The baby’s mum shared with me that she was not able to keep up with her baby’s needs, and when her son had been discharged from hospital, she was not able to obtain breast milk from the milk bank for her baby anymore as he was over the age limit. She tried feeding formula milk exclusively but as her son’s digestive system was not matured yet, he tended to regurgitate after every feed. I supplied her with my milk stash for a few months and I was really happy that my milk was able to help a baby in need.
My past experience on breastfeeding definitely help managed my expectations this time as a second time mum. That also helped me to manage my emotions and I enjoyed the journey right from the start. It was much better when I was mentally prepared for it.
Advice for New Mums:
- Support is Crucial
For a pleasant breastfeeding journey, any kind of support helps, especially from the family! For example, my husband helped to wash my pump parts while my mum very gladly emptied up her freezer space for my pumped milk when my standalone freezer was full. Such acts made me feel that I was not alone on this journey.
To the husbands, your support and companionship do a lot for the relationship between you and your wives. I once joked with my husband that he was always getting a good night’s sleep while I wake up frequently to latch our second baby throughout the night. After that, however, he ended up carrying the baby to me for every feeding throughout the night. I was very touched as he was also already back at work while I was still on maternity leave. As a man of a few words, his actions meant a lot to me. He was willing to have interrupted sleep just to show his support for me on this journey.
My family members also helped me in supporting my breastfeeding journey; they were such a great help and understood the importance of helping a nursing mum out. Once, my freezer compartment broke down and my brother- and mother-in-law drove by to our house to bring my milk stash to be stored in their freezer temporarily. I really appreciated that gesture very, very much.
To the husbands, your support and companionship do a lot for the relationship between you and your wives.
2) Gaining as much knowledge about breastfeeding as possible
Reading up on breastfeeding is one of the best things you can gift yourself as a new mother. It really helps when one is equipped with the basic knowledge of breastfeeding. The infographics in the BMSG online support group and website are extremely useful!
3) Share your concerns with other mothers
Don’t be afraid to seek help and share your problems! I always feel so much better speaking to fellow mummies when they can totally relate to what I have been through.
Don’t give up easily. I share my experience to let fellow mummies know that they are not alone when they face breastfeeding problems. Maintaining mummies’ well being is very important and I believe a mummy needs to be happy so that she can enjoy motherhood. However, it is also equally important for them to put in their best if they want to breastfeed their babies.
I am honest with my friends by telling them that the best way to boost milk supply is to constantly remove milk from the breasts. As we all know, a mother’s milk supply is highest at night and if the baby is not nursing at night, then they will need to pump to boost supply. It can be really difficult when you are very tired but we know that the midnight pump yields the best supply.
Being a mother really makes you realise the strength that you never thought you had. Most of the time, it is really about biting the bullet and moving on. Things will get better!