The day came, on the 04.01.2008. After a long but otherwise smooth natural delivery, I was not tired at all and manage to latch on Hao Re in the delivery ward, as soon as he has been cleaned up and checked. I couldn't wait to latch him, though I was not exactly sure how, so just tried to apply what I had learnt from the prenatal class. Once I was pushed back to the room, I latched him as often as I can, or whenever the nurse asked me to. I really wasn't tired, I didn't need a lot of rest (I came down of the bed and took shower, including washing my hair, on the morning of the second day of my hospital stay as soon as the epidural had went off) so I can spend all my time on the baby. Because he cried a lot, the nurses said, so they pushed him to us very often, so ended up we kept him with us most of time since we were staying in one bedder. I insisted on total breastfeed, so I rejected their suggestion to give him some formula to supplement. I can do it, I told myself and my dear hubby supported my decision totally, without a single doubt.
So when the 3D2N "staycation" at the hospital had ended, we went home with our precious one. He is just so handsome, so perfect and we couldn't be happier to have our new bundle of joy. Everything was perfect.
Hao Re at Day 3. Do you notice how "yellow" he was?
My mum came to help me during the first month. She did repeat time after time that the baby cried a lot and quite badly, as if he was very hungry. I stood very firm, I was very (over-) confident that I can produce sufficient milk for him. So I brushed her comment off by telling her that she didn't have to be worry, that I attended the classes and I learned how to breastfeed. And on the 5th day or so, I felt my breasts hardened a little bit and I knew it must be that the milk started to flow in (and there was the only engorgement-ish feeling that I got, didn't happen ever again). So I insisted on total breastfeeding. My hubby started to lost confident (frustrated with the excessive crying), but he still supported my decision.
My mum had never breastfed though she has four children. She has inverted nipple and there was no support at all back then to teach her how to breastfeed with her condition. Her gynae just prescribed her with some medicine to stop the milk. She told me the engorgement pain on a solid hard rock breasts was a few times more than labour (and she went all natural birth with no pain killer or anesthesia of any sort). I don't think I can imagine how painful was that. Since my mum would not be the one who give me advise on breastfeeding, I could only rely on what I learned during the prenatal class.
But I forgot the fact my mum IS an experienced mum with 4 kids on her own, and also she had helped taking care of a few of her relative's kids. I shouldn't have just brushed off her comments of the excessive crying, I really shouldn't.
Baby continued to cry a lot which made everyone tired and frustrated with the crying. It's quite bad that at one point, I just locked myself and the baby in the bedroom and did marathon non-stopping latching. Still, he cried. A lot. My hubby started to get very worry. He suggested that why not I tried pumping out. I was not willing to (as per the classes I attended, one should do latching as much and as long as she possibly can, and shouldn't offer bottle to avoid nipple confusion etc etc), but I gave in at the end. Because I was losing the confident myself. What I managed to pump out was a very, very pathetically small amount. Like 10-20ml after 30 minutes pumping on both breasts. The trainer in the prenatal class reminded the new mums, times and again, that insistence is the key. She said, every woman can breastfeed, every woman can do it as long as she can be insistence and persistence about breastfeeding. That's what I tried so hard to.
With the excessive latching and pumping, and the baby crying, and the lack of sleeping, I was so exhausted. I was very near to a full blown depression. We didn't realise if there was anything wrong with the baby because except the crying he was alright. We just concluded that he should be a crying baby growing up and we should be prepared for that. We were due for a post-natal check up at the gynae (me) and the peadiatrician (baby) at the end of week one, so we went for the checkups.
When the peadiatrician first looked at the baby, he immediately knew something was very wrong with the baby. He made a few phone calls right away to arrange baby to be hospitalised. He then told us calmly that baby looked unusually yellow, and he looked pretty lethargic, his eyes sunken, and his diaper has a dark yellow to orange colour. Most likely he could be dehydrated and so making his yellow-ish (due to jaundice) even more obvious.
We were so shock! As we didn't expect to hear it at all, since it should be just for a post natal checkup. We were forever thankful for the scheduled post-natal checkup, imagine if we didn't bring him to a peadiatrician until a later time! He was sent to the ward, and it frightened us that he was so badly dehydrated that even the blood had thickened. They couldn't draw any blood from him for testing.
He was on drip. Could you believe this! A one week old boy was put on drip because this careless mum didn't know the baby didn't get enough milk from her!!! I didn't know how to describe how I felt at that time. It's like I totally went blank, and what happened around me was so unreal. Heard him crying so badly when the nurses pinned him down to insert the tubing etc, it totally broke my heart into a million pieces. But I have the pediatrician to be thankful for, he remained calm and he assured us baby is gonna be alright, that helped a lot, else I would had been so panicked that I passed out.
His jaundice worsen because of the dehydration. His jaundice was so high that he broke the record! The doctor ordered a 4-way phototherapy for jaundice (usually it's just 1- or 2-, or sometimes 3- for those with very high jaundice). A few nurses discussed and quickly set up the special 4-way treatment and my almost naked poor little was being put in the small bed and received the phototherapy and the drip. The doctor had even ordered for a blood matching to be done in case he needed blood transfusion.
Thanks goodness that he was much better after a few hours of drip. Though it did take longer than usual for him to clear out his jaundice totally (adding the fact that he is G6PD deficient). No transfusion was done, thankfully.
I could have continued to latch or pump out the milk while he was hospitalised, right? No, nope, not at all. Because my breasts were totally turned off. It was an immediate turning off. I didn't have to do anything with my breasts. The breasts just stopped producing milk, just like that. No more milk. Finished. No need to pump, no need to latch. No engorgement, the breast didn't even hardened. The breasts just got turn off totally. Psychologically, I didn't feel like continuing breastfeeding at all as I didn't want to put my baby at risk again.
So that ended my one week total breastfeeding experience. I have to say, positively, that at least, I gave him the "golden juice", aka the colostrum! One week worth of colostrum probably had helped built up his strong immunity in the early years! So to me, the one week struggling, for me, is still worthwhile to go through (less the baby suffering part).
Hao Re at one month old. He was much alert and he always smiles!
I am sharing my story is not to discourage you from breastfeeding, not at all. I totally support breastfeeding and I would urge every new mum to give it a try. But just don't get too stress up on breastfeeding because of the peer pressure. It is really okay to feed them formula milk and they still grow up fine. It's evidence with Hao Re, who has grown up so excellently in every aspect even though he grows up drinking formula milk since week one. But make sure you try, just try and you would know, and to experience it to make your motherhood completes.
I certain did try. I tried again with my second born, Xi Yu. It was an immediate hit on with my girl, I popped her to my breast and she just sucked sucked and sucked, and slept slept and slept, no one complained she was a cry baby (which she became one later, while Hao Re didn't cry much from week one onward till now, how ironic!). With the comparison done between these two babies, I can say that how naturally a baby can latch on properly and suck play a very critical part in deciding whether or not the breastfeeding would be a successfully one.
I successfully total breastfed her for 8.5 months. The most common question that I got is since my first experience was so bad, why would I still wanna try breastfeeding the second time, and what did I do to make the second a successful one?
Well. Like I said. I have never doubted the benefits of breastfeeding. And like we always say, every baby is different. It is so unfair if I didn't try on my second child solely based on the bad experience I had with my first one. I was very sure I would have to try.
During the 18 months (Hao Re and Xi Yu was 18+ months apart), I had made some very good friends through the Singapore Motherhood Forum. They all shared generously their genuine experience with breastfeeding and other parenting experience. These genuine sharing is so crucial to me. I learned that it is not that every mum can just press a button and the milk supply is under control. Only very few are that lucky. Most of the mums, they succeeded in breastfeeding because they spent a lot of effort to ensure that they would be able to breastfeed. Not like what the trainer said during the prenatal class or those written in book or magazine, that you just do this and that, follow this and that, you would be okay. It is not like that, there are problems to solve, issues to face. These group of friends were so kindly helping me to troubleshoot when I was in the early phases of breastfeeding Xi Yu. I just threw them any question that I had, any question at all, they replied me immediately, yes, not kidding, they were so supportive (because they knew I failed the first time) that they were like on standby mode all the time. They helped me to troubleshoot and they gave me suggestions and most important of all, they LISTENED to me patiently. Thank you my dear friends if you are reading this.
Mums like me. Our milk factory is of low production. Although I had total breastfed for 8.5 months, I had never wet my shirt, meaning I had no milk leaking issue (a happy one I guess), and so I had not used a single piece of breast pad! I had never had let down, really, I didn't know how's that felt like. I had never had anything extra to store. Whatever I pumped out (after went back to work) was just enough for the next day, not a single drop more. Breasts hardly hardened. No engorgement. When I decided to stop at 8.5 months, I didn't have to do anything. Just stopped pumping. Then stopped latching. And then the milk factory had ceased production completely. Just like that. Baby girl didn't have much issue to stop either, probably she was sick of the slow flow of milk, haha!
But hey, look at is positively, this means that if I can total breastfeed my girl for 8.5 months with such low milk supply, it's really doable for everyone! You just need to get the right help from the right people. Forget about all those so-called experts, unless if you are lucky to find one who is genuinely care for you. I would say a group of experienced breastfeeding mums give you the best support!
Two more things I wanna say before I end this post, yes, I know, it's been a ultra long one. Bear with me.
Remember this - DO NOT ever comment (without knowing the story behind the mum) that formula is such a bad thing to give to your baby. DO NOT EVER SAY THAT. Saying this is like putting one big handful of salt onto a very raw wound 在伤口上撒盐 . Yes, you can say how research studies have shown or proven this and that, and so formula is bad for baby. You have the freedom to say this, anytime. But to say this to a mum who has tried but failed breastfeeding, that is the worst of worst thing to say. Yes, you are proud of your breast milk and want to be an advocate for breastfeeding, sure. But please, please focus on promoting breastfeeding but not condemning formula, there is really no need to do so.
Ultimately, what's the best thing a mum can give to her baby? Is it breastmilk? As many campaigns have said so? Definitely not. It is LOVE, the pure love that you have for your baby, that's the best for your baby.
Best of luck to all mums-to-be who wish to try out breastfeeding and thumbs up to all mums who attempts (successful or not) breastfeeding!
This post is written for the "WHY I BREASTFEED FOR........" blog train ran by MadPsychMum. There will be a total of 24 mums from the Singapore Mom Bloggers community to share with the story behind every breastfeeding mum, so make sure you come back here and click on the button below to read more stories!
The next mum on this blog train is Irene who blogs at Singapore Mom Blog's.
Irene, mother of 3 who started the breastfeeding journey clueless, now have a happily-ever-after tale to share after experiencing it 3 times and over. Having "failed" the first time over wrong advice, "forcefully" stop the second time over "social norms", This third time mom is still going strong at 18 months because she is now educated, empowered and will take no more sh*t! Catch her story tomorrow at Singapore Mom Blog's and find out more.