Breast is Best.

Before I go any further, I’d like to stress a million times that by no means is this post intended to be judgmental, offensive or hurtful to anyone out there- it is purely my own candid expression (pun intended) of my own experience.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a friend’s aqiqah and unlike ours, they did theirs (on time) on the baby’s 7th day birthday. We went into the bedroom to say hi and found my friend sitting oh-so-elegantly on the edge of the bed, legs crossed and her gorgeous son discreetly suckling from beneath her hijab. On the way back home in the car, I turned to hubby and said, “gosh that was such a different picture than when I’m breastfeeding”. My husband laughed and said “yeah, if we wanted to find a totally opposite breast-feeder to you, she would have been the one”. Great, thanks for rubbing it in(!) But I totally agreed with him. For many months (even sometimes now), feeding Aidan was a clumsy affair. I need loads of pillows, muslin cloths, flannels and to be in the right position, hair tied back, a drink next to me; trust me it’s messy.

Before Aidan was born, there was never a question whether I would be breastfeeding or not. And if there had been, the answer would have been a resounding, “yes, of course!” that you would have heard it all the way in Timbuktu. My mum had breastfed me until I was 2.5years and my mum-in-law (who was also an advocate of the Malaysian Breastfeeding Association) until hubby was 2, so it only seemed natural that I would do the same. All the books and online articles I read also repeated over and over the fact that Breastfeeding was the Best thing you could ever do for your baby. Ever. Talk about a whole load of pressure to live up to.

While all the books stressed on the importance of breastfeeding, they also did mention that if you couldn’t do it, it’s not the end of the world. However, I felt that this was mostly mentioned so half-heartedly that it was more like a feeble attempt by the authors to insert a “disclaimer” just in case a mother who had adopted a baby or who medically could not breastfeed (there are some cases where the baby is allergic to breastmilk, poor little mites) decided to sue them for inciting emotional distress or something. So, there I was, poring over all the possible problems associated with breastfeeding and mentally preparing myself for it, that by the end of my pregnancy I thought my new-found knowledge about nipple creams and shields, cracked and inverted nipples, blocked milk ducts, latching issues, let down cycles, front and hind milk, milk storage, manual expression, electric pumping etc etc, was enough to carry me through a fulfilling breastfeeding journey with ease. Fat chance.

What I wish I had known was:

  1. It’s not easy.

  2. It’s not easy.

  3. It’s not easy.

  4. You will fight with your husband about milk and you will cry.

  5. You will fight with your mum about milk. And you will cry.

  6. You will fight with your nanny/helper about milk. And you will cry.

  7. You will cry in your boss’s room when you tell her that you are waking up at 5.30 daily to feed and pump because if you don’t your baby won’t have food.

  8. You will cry when you open your freezer to find one pack of frozen milk left.

  9. You won’t believe your helper when she calls to say that two of your frozen milk packs have gone off (and you will only believe it after you attempt to feed your baby sour milk. And he spits it out).

  10. You will meet people who will tell you stories about how they went on business trips armed with a fisherman’s cooler box packed with dry ice and how they personally went to hotel kitchens to place their milk in the freezers because god forbid that their 1.5 year old should have anything other than breastmilk in their body. (These supermums don’t even believe in weaning on to solids until their baby is way past the 1 year mark. And you will want to gouge their eyes out for making you feel like such a failure.)

  11. Formula is not poison. You may feel that it is, but it’s not. Your baby will not suddenly fall sick and become less intelligent if you need to have a formula S.O.S moment.

  12. If your baby misses a feed, he will survive. Yes he will.

  13. Oh, and did I mention, it’s not easy?

A few weeks ago, my pump failed on me. So much for ‘one of the leading brands in the market’. It had been a bit wonky from the beginning, but this time it completely stopped working mid-pump and won’t even start. So after a lot of tears, I left this note to my helper:

photo

When we came home later that night, Aidan was asleep with an untouched bottle of formula. Our helper said she had tried to feed him but he just refused and then cried himself to sleep (aw, my poor baby). But what happened to me after this incident was a welcome revelation! The next day I found my milk supply had increased and the flow was good. This happened the day after and the day after that too. It has been 23 days since the day we tried giving Aidan formula and so far it’s as though my body has totally taken a chill pill since the Formula Incident and has been producing enough to feed him. Aidan drinks about a litre a day now. I think I had been carrying this enormous amount of stress and pressure and scared myself silly at the thought of formula feeding, that when it actually happened (and he rejected it), I finally could relax and breathe. And relaxing definitely does wonders for milk-flow!

What I hadn’t banked on was just how emotional the whole process would be for me. The books never really went into this side of things. In the beginning I thought what could be so complicated? – step 1: Place Baby On Breast. Step 2: Baby drinks. That’s it, right? Well how wrong was I?! My birth recovery was so traumatic that to this day, almost 6 months later, I still can’t carry Aidan for more than a couple of minutes and I can’t play a lot of physical lifting games that Babycentre keeps telling me to try. So for me, being able to breastfeed him was very symbolic. So, I couldn’t carry him until he was 4 months? It’s ok, at least I am breastfeeding. So I couldn’t hold and bond with him through cuddles? It’s ok, cos I’m breastfeeding. So I am not the one he looks for to rock him when he wants to sleep? It’s ok, cos I’m breastfeeding. So I am not the one he cries for to comfort him when he has a fever after his injections? It’s ok, cos I’m breastfeeding. And the list goes on. You see, I missed out on a lot of small mummy-pleasures due to my tough recovery; like changing his diaper or just having him fall asleep on my chest and belly; and this has been something that has saddened me.Breastfeeding Aidan has given me a sense of purpose and has been the only link I feel that I have with him- something that only his Mummy can give him and no one else can.

But on a positive side, what I also hadn’t banked on was meeting new friends and bonding over breastfeeding. I met a lovely girl who is my go-to person when it comes to milk issues. Although we’ve only physically met each other twice, we have developed a nice friendship over whatsapp and she even offered me some of her milk stock if I ever find myself in a dire situation. What an angel. (I just gotta make sure that if I do take her up on the offer, we’ll have to stay in touch until our kids are grown up so that Aidan and her daughter don’t accidentally fall in love, cos they would be regarded as siblings in Islam!). And another positive note; Aidan has also started solids and I will introduce water to him soon too, so that should hopefully make feeding him more manageable for me. I will write about that soon 🙂

In case you were wondering, the pump I’m using is the Avent comfort double electric breast pump. I honestly love it but I think I got unlucky with my unit because it seemed to have problems from the start. It retails in Malaysia from RM1899-RM2000 so I will be bringing it around to different shops soon to see if they can fix it for me.

 avent-comfor-breast-pump

My aunt in London bought it for me because she said this picture reminded her of me lol!

 Philips-AVENT-Comfort-Breast-Pump-SCF334-Double-electric-pump_Lifestyle1_l

Since the whole pump-failure fiasco, my cousin also loaned me her Medela Freestyle and although it’s portable and quieter than the Avent, I honestly found the Avent to be better because of the silicone massage bit that fits onto the cone. It’s also less messy because I found with the Medela, the milk would go all over the suction cone too and I’d have to stop mid pump to wipe it dry.

 freestyle_indexspot

I also bought this Snowbear pump online as a backup – it was so cheap and was supposed to arrive 10 days ago but it still hasn’t, so I hope I didn’t get conned! If it’s any good, I’ll update my thoughts here.

 snowbear%20Electric_Breast_Pump-500x500

So to all fully or partially breastfeeding mums out there, I want to acknowledge and salute every single one of you. This is by far one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and if I meet my personal target to exclusively breastfeed until Aidan’s first birthday, then I will be the happiest mum in the world. To my mum, I don’t know how you did it for 2.5 years with me (I must have not eaten as much as Aidan!) hehe! Love you and thank you mama!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s