By Nurfadilah Hussin (BMSG Counsellor)
It’s hard learning something new. There is usually significant struggle in the initial stages. Along the way, we overcame the challenges but the key to staying firm despite the obstacles is, in part, by having someone there to help you; having support. Breastfeeding is no exception, although it may seem like it should come naturally. As with learning anything new, breastfeeding takes time, practice and support for both mum and baby.
How it All Began
I have a two-year-old daughter, with whom I was blessed with a relatively easy pregnancy. However, when it came to breastfeeding, it was a completely different story. The struggles of breastfeeding came as quite a shock, especially for a first-time mum like me.
My first hurdle was when my daughter was hospitalised at five days old. She was down with fever caused by a urinary tract infection (UTI). On top of that, she had been spitting up forcefully after almost every feed and was not gaining a reasonable amount of weight. The medical professionals in the hospital ruled out reflux. They also claimed that my breastmilk was too “diluted” (it was never explained to me what that meant or what is implied about my supply) and that an anti-regurgitation formula was required to be added to her feeds, on top of my breastmilk. We heeded the advice without much thought as we were concerned with her weight gain.I felt discouraged as I had wanted to breastfeed exclusively. We had never expected our daughter to have any issues that may interfere with breastfeeding. I also began to waver in my decision to breastfeed since it seemingly appeared that breastfeeding was not in our favour. I was not allowed to latch her directly in the hospital and had to express my milk. What’s more, every time my daughter took the bottle, she would spit most of the milk out. We were worried about her milk intake at that point. I was incredibly overwhelmed as there was just too much happening at once. My husband was as clueless as I was.
Despite the first few frustrating weeks of breastfeeding, we continued to soldier on. Things were still hard but we worked around my daughter’s condition and tried to make breastfeeding work. When we were discharged, I told my husband that I wanted to ditch the formula and he supported my decision. I also had friends who guided me during those initial days such as helping me to work on my daughter’s position and attachment when nursing. I also started to read up on reflux and breastfeeding. I watched my diet too as I discovered that food sensitivities could cause excessive spitting. Babies with reflux, like my daughter, tend to be fussy too due to the discomfort.
Throughout that gruelling period, my husband had definitely been a key pillar of support. I remember how he would position my daughter upright for about 20 minutes and try to burp her after every feed to reduce the spit-ups. He did this during the night feeds despite having to work the next morning, to allow me to rest after nursing. My daughter’s reflux did get better gradually and by the time she turned nine months, there were no more spit-ups. If I had not received support, I doubt that I would have been able to persevere for that long.Hence, the support of the husband and family is important to ensure success in breastfeeding. Therefore, I would like to implore families to:
- Attend classes together. This is important, as we need to make informed decisions in the midst of well-meaning advice that can be conflicting. As much as breastfeeding is a natural process, it is also a learned skill.
- Have a common goal and understanding of breastfeeding the child. This will help to remind the wife why she wanted to breastfeed her baby in the first place and affirm her decision when she is feeling overwhelmed with breastfeeding.
- For mothers, do talk it out with someone when it gets overwhelming. Be it your husband, mother or best friend, sometimes we just need someone to validate our feelings and give us the assurance that we are doing fine.
“If I had not received support, I doubt I would have been able to persevere that long.”
Breastfeeding requires commitment and perseverance and having support from others will definitely help in your journey. Mummies who wish to try their best at breastfeeding should be supported with whatever social resources they can get (other breastfeeding mummies, best friends, etc).
I am extremely thankful that I had managed to breastfeed my daughter for two whole years despite the small but many roadblocks. Exclusive breastfeeding is a commitment and a journey that require perseverance. Therefore, the support of the family is important.