Monday, August 10, 2015

My breastfeeding journey

Today marks 537 days of my breastfeeding journey.

Phew, let me take a minute and say my gratitude to the Higher Above.

I have been wanting to write about my breastfeeding journey but I kept putting it on hold. Procrastination is one. But mainly because I wanted it to be perfect. Hence all the unfinished drafts, growing fungal in my draft folder. But when I saw Adriana's post, I thought, ah screw it, it cannot get any more perfect that it already is. After all, it is my story. A story that I am very proud of.

Let me start by highlighting that my breastfeeding journey hasn't been an easy one. But precious nonetheless.

The push factor

I only breastfed Isaac for a week. I thought I didn't have enough milk (read I assumed). I thought he cried because he didn't have enough. People around me were pestering me to give formula milk. I obliged. I was young and uninformed. Period.

The thing that really moved me to breastfeed my second born was actually a very petty thing. Nothing gungho like health or anything huge - I met a mom of two during one of our many visits to the fertility centre. This wonderful woman was sharing her story and she made a direct comparison between her two kids. The one that she breastfed was very close and clingy to her whereas the other one was a bit distant.

That was it! I need to breastfeed my second born, I said to myself. Yup, I have always wanted a clingy child.

So when we managed to conceive Sophie, I made a promise to myself that I will read more and learn as much as I can possible do to keep myself motivated. I did research online, I bought books & I joined support groups. I learnt on the benefits of breastmilk (scientific and non scientific). I dug out all the case studies. I bugged my doctor with neverending questions. I made a list of potential challenges i.e. possible let down (which I never faced because I never had that much milk), what to do when my breasts are engorged, how to deal with sore nipples, the right way of latching and unlatching, the right posture and position while breastfeeding, which food to avoid that will dry up my supply and the list goes on and on.

So when we welcomed Sophie into the world, I was  we were ready.

The challenges

1. Similar to the first time I tried breastfeeding, 10 years ago, this time was no different. I wasn't one with abundant of milk. But this time, I am smarter teheee. My milk wasn't a lot, but it was enough. Sure I needed to try all sort of ways to produce enough for my babygirl, and it could get a bit tiring at times but it was not impossible.
2. I have sensitive nipples. They were sore almost all the time. Even before my babygirl had teeth. Of course it got worst the moment her first tooth came out #ouch.
3. Once the confinement was over, I had to go back to work. And my job is not a deskbound job. I was always out of the office especially when I was freelancing. So I didn't have proper places to express my milk. This means I had to pump wherever whenever possible. Among the places you might spot me :-
  • In the car. 
  • In public suraus.
  • Inside clients' cubicles - I had to ask a few clients (during meetings at clients' offices) to use their cubicle because I was really low on supply and if I did not do this, Sophie won't have enough for tomorrow. In case you are wondering, I cried while pumping.
  • In empty meeting rooms - at clients' office, in my office (my first job after confinement was at MGB and my ex colleague was a very nice lady (Rest In Peace, Heidi). She made sure I had a space to pump and she made sure people did not bother me whilst pumping).
  • In empty halls at hotels (when I had events at hotels).
  • Underneath my table - I was freelancing a lot at the end of 2014 so my jobs were projects based therefore I wasn't given a room, only an open workspace.
  • In a cramp storeroom with no aircond nor fan.
  • Toilets (during desperate moments and then I read about the bacterias that can 'jump' into my milk and pollute it and can possibly harm my baby. I cried (again) and stopped pumping in toilets. I cringed everytime I think about this).
  • Everywhere in the office - walking around in and out of meetings with a Freemie hanging on my neck. I looked like I had a bad boob job (senget and oversized boobs all).
4. After MGB, I wasn't blessed with great amazing bosses who would understand my need to pump during working hours. There were times when I had to literally cry to show that I REALLY needed to pump! I was questioned on my whereabouts (padahal I was only gone for 10 minutes). I had to bring my laptop and worked while pumping in the storeroom/surau but I still got the stink eye once I finished. Sigh. 

How I managed it

For lacking supply:-
  • I take a lot of booster food. There are different type of milk boosters for every individuals. Mine are longan, soya bean, any type of soup, papaya and fresh milk.
  • I drink plenty of plain water - 4 litre a day.
  • I don't skip meals - this means I eat lotsa carbs.
  • I go for body massage on monthly basis. The massage helps to circulate my blood and essentially promotes my milk production. Also, it helps to keep me sane.
  • The first few months were the toughest. My milk supply was considered low. I only had enough for one day supply at the nursery. And one thing I learnt was to always pump on schedule. During the first year, I never missed a session even if it meant I needed to cry to convince someone. At night, I'd try to wake up for my power pumpings every 2 hours. Today, I have officially stopped pumping because babygirl refuses to drink expressed milk at the school (surviving on water and food). But she is still exclusively breastfed. That means, I am a fulltime cow after 6pm, she is practically hanging around my boobs the entire night (even in sleep). 
  • I made sure I got myself proper pump. There are plenty of good and affordable pumps in the market. Shop around. And if you can afford it, get a set of Freemie too. 

Dealing with sore nipples. Despite the so called prepared knowledge of latching it right to avoid sore nipples, I still faced this horrible challenge. My nipples were dry and cracked. I learnt that I should let her self-latch so I did, I let her do her thing. However, Sophie was having a hard time opening her tiny mouth so she usually just settled with whatever she could get (I guess for as long as there was milk). At times, I will provide help and it resulted to a pain-free latch. But most of the times, I was too tired and disoriented for lack of sleep so I just bit my tongue and let her latch however way she liked. And yes it hurt like hell #truestory. But I never gave up, I just kept biting my tongue and think of happy thoughts (or a brand new Prada hubby got me after I was discharged hehe. Upah beranak he said lol).

Anyway, I usually applied some of my milk on them nipples and air them. I did not use bras at home because I was just too lazy to do all of the buckle-unbuckle everytime she needed her milk. And this girl drank every 15 minutes #phew. Do note that wearing bra can make things worst as the bra will rub against your nipples and caused irritation so yup, apply your amazing-milk on your nipples and just air them. It will heal very fast, I am not kidding. I did have some lanolin cream but I seldom used them. Too lazy.

Sophie learnt to latch properly after a few weeks but my nipples are still sore from time to time. There's nothing much I could do except berserah. Hahaha.

At work, especially with bosses, I just learnt to ignore them and continued doing my part. Buying Freemie was also the best decision I have ever made during my breastfeeding journey (big thank you to my hubby). It helped save time and basically shut them mouths up. So what if I entered a meeting room with my pump buzzing, making noises that distracted them - as requested, I did not 'waste' my time at work by skipping my 10 - 15 minutes break of pumping in the storeroom (eventhough I deserved them). Yup, I practically ignored all the stares because I knew I was doing what's best for everyone - my baby, my selfish boss and myself. And I was proud of myself.

With colleagues and clients were somewhat easier. I just needed to tell them that I needed to take 10 minutes break in between meetings to pump and nobody has ever said anything nasty. Not to my face at least.

As for nursing in public, I never bothered any negative remarks. So it was never a problem to me. Still isn't. Come to think of it, why would I? 

Ultimately, the reason why I am still standing today, proudly saying that I have been breastfeeding my baby for 537 days is because of my husband. I am not bragging but truthfully, I have the most supportive husband. My husband would comfort me when I was down. He would drive me for an emergency massage late at night when I thought my supply dropped due to my body ache. He would do just anything to make me feel good. There was one time when I was so down and I blamed my pump for the lack of supply. So he went to buy another manual pump to motivate me. Yup, still there in the cabinet. Haven't even touched it hehe.

My message to fellow mummies out there

Do what you think is best for you and your baby. If you think you can and able to breastfeed your baby, do it. And when you decide to do it, be informed. Don't let a few negative remarks demotivate you. There are so many support groups that you can join. The one that I am fairly active in is The Breastfeeding Advocates Network on Facebook.

Of course, make sure you take everything with a pinch of salt. Do not be all emotional reading people's posts and most importantly, once you have learnt a thing or two, do not go preaching around and hurt people's feeling. Everyone is different and it is not your right to judge.

It has been a wonderful journey for me and I look forward for many more months (even years if I can) of breastfeeding my beautiful babygirl. And as overwhelming and time consuming as my breastfeeding journey has been, its benefits far outweigh anything unpleasant and I pray for the same for every mummies! #breastfeedingrocks

Please take part in this poll to help raise awareness of the need to support working mummies to continue breastfeeding. Thank you!

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