Ok... I have been trying to write this lactation story of mine for ages.
Now that I have decided to become a breastfeeding counselor, part of my first assignment to be considered to undergo the training is to write my lactation story.
Tristan is now 15 months and yes I am still breastfeeding :) yes! I am! For those who do not have a child or never breastfed this may be... weird, but for those who knows.. it's a acheivement. Well, it's a achievement for me at least. So here goes my story :
Title: Journey of a new mom in breastfeeding.
In the beginning
When I was pregnant, I was asked if I was going to breastfeed? I said yes. Partly because I was fortunate to have a sister in law who successfully breastfed her 2 girls till about 4 years of age. With a role model before me, I thought I will do my best at nursing my first born at least for the recommended 6 months.
The day came when I was in labour for 16 hours. I was extremely exhausted. I carried my little Tristan in my arms, so tiny, so fragile. After 9 months of anticipation and 16 hours of labour, it was indeed worth it. I thank God for my little angel from heaven.
My first experience of nursing
About two hours later, Tristan started crying. It was time for me to breastfeed for the first time. With a bit of guidance from the nurse, I fed him his first meal. Well, what the book said was true, babies are born with the reflex of suckling. I sang him little tunes and prayers while I nursed him. It was a magical moment.
2 hours later, I woke up.. without any alarm. Coincidentally, Tristan was crying in the next room and was brought to my arms again, hungry. Little did I realised that his tummy will be my alarm from now on. And.. it's every two hours, even through the night. My motherhood journey has only just begun. After we return home, Tristan was waking up in shorter and shorter intervals. Crying every other hour to be nursed. Tired, I carried on nursing on demand. On the third day, he surprisingly slept through from 6am to 11am. And he had whizzing sound coming from his breathing. As I was still recovering from the labour and not ready to move about freely, Chris, my husband and my nanny rushed him to the clinic. The first doctor said he had 'lung infections'! In disbelief, my husband went to another who referred him to the specialist. Arrived at the hospital, he was admitted and tests was conducted on him. Finally, to realise that he was just hungry and too tired to wake up and cry for milk. He was fed with formula at the hospital.
I had sore nipples from the every hourly feed and felt really depressed that it was my fault that he went through all that. I felt that I failed as a mother for not being able to provide milk for my son. He lost almost 500grams of weight. I was devastated; I totally blame myself for everything.
My sister in law came and together we went to the hospital to visit little Tristan. I cried the moment I saw him. He had developed jaundice and was put in the incubator with 'tubes' attached to monitor his heart beat and eye patch to cover his eyes. He looked so different from the day I met him, he lost so much weight. I tried to express my milk at the hospital, but after 10 mins, only one drop of Colostrum appeared.
We went to see the pediatrician to see if every thing was fine. In our conversation, my sister in law asked if I was able to continue to breastfeed. The doctor replied to say: 'dont be too sad, some mothers just have no milk'. I was speechless. The doctor confirmed my fears.
My sister in law told me not to worry and not to give up despite what the doctor said. She told me her milk supply only came in after 5-7 days. And from my own reading, I was told that almost 90 over percentage of woman can breastfeed. On top of that, I do not believe my breastfeeding experience will end this way, I was determined to continue nursing and pumping.
When Tristan was discharged after the fourth day, he then had developed 'nipple confusion'. When I tried to nurse him, he refused and kept turning his face away from me and cried as if asking for something else. Knowing that he had ended up in hospital from not having enough milk, we gave in and supplement with formula. He suckled happily from the bottle of formula. Although only a few drops, I still continued to express my milk and tried to nurse him every feed before giving him formula milk. This struggle lasted for a whole week.
On the 6th Day, we had a celebration for my 25th birthday. The best present I got was four ounce of breast milk! Yes I finally expressed four ounce of milk.
Without realising, I was nursing him more and giving less of the bottle. Before he reached his first month, I was really happy that I was finally able to breastfeed him exclusively.
Maternity leave over, back to work
We moved to Johor Bahru since Tristan was born as we had family members that could help care for him there. After three months of maternity, it was time to go back to work. Feeling unsure of what to do, and how to manage expressing and handling Expressed milk. I attended the Breastfeeding Mother Support Group (Singapore)Back to work workshop which gave me the confidence and knowledge to continue breastfeeding even after I went back to work.
As I wanted to spend more time with my little one and breastfeed directly as often as I can, I wrote to my boss to request for part time work. After much correspondence through phone calls and meetings, he finally managed to arrange part time work for 3 months. I was really thankful that he fought this request for me. [Actually in Singapore, the government provides a grant of WoW!(Work-Life Works) Fund, a scheme to help organizations implement flexible work arrangement, employers are more willing to arrange flexible work arrangement.]
When I went back to work, I had to carry a cold box, ice pack, pumps and containers to and fro through the customs from Johor Bahru to Bedok via public transport everyday. I was expressing diligently 3-4 times daily. Once before I leave for work, once when I reach work, once after my part time shift and once when I return home. This is so that Tristan will have enough supply for the next day. My colleague would ask if I was carrying a lunch box, well it is a lunchbox, my son's.
Traveling away from baby for work
After the part time arrangement was over, I felt the traveling was taking up too much time and I decided to sacrifice my job. I managed to find another job in Malaysia which is 10 mins away from my home. However another challenge came with this change. This new job requires occasional travel to other states of Malaysia. I panicked the day when I had to travel to KL for a weekend without baby.
I brought all my pumps, containers, ice pack along, but I was too tensed and stressed up to express much milk. I could not relax initially, but like all things, practice makes perfect. Taking deep breaths and visualizing my baby helped in let down of my milk. I would request the hotel to then freeze the expressed milk for me and plenty of ice for me to transport it from one place to another. After a couple of practice, it began easier for me to look out for places where I can pump and methods of storing and transporting my milk. I pumped everywhere, in the rest rooms of convention halls, in the car, borrowed a office room or store room, the list goes on.
Six months passed and I was still happily nursing my son, and thought I had no reason to give up. Since then, I found a way where I can spend more time with Tristan and still earn an income. I started a business manufacturing my own line of baby sling and selling them via an online store. With a baby sling, mothers can breastfeed in public more easily and in turn encouraging them to breastfeed longer. Going back to work did not stop me from giving the best to my son. I breastfeed him till today, my son will be turning 22 months in February 2008.
Well, the initial 9 months of pregnancy and 16 hours was just a test of patience, strength and endurance to the mother. It was a preview of what a mother would do for her own child, a lifetime of love, sacrifices and perseverance. Although I am happy to have walked so far, my journey as a mom has only just began!