Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Why I've Breastfed for 23 months

There are stories of mums who have had so much milk that they had to buy an extra freezer for their homes. Mums who had so much milk they had to donate it. Mums who had so much milk, they had milk baths. And then there was me.

About 5 years ago, I huffed and puffed, blew the house down and popped a baby out of me. I looked into its scrunched up little face and cried. Experts say what I should have done was to pop it on my boob. I didn't do that. I tried many times during the short hospital stay, but chose to spend more time staring at my little miracle of life instead of putting her at my chest.

I wondered if it was my own doing, but I never quite felt that I had enough milk for Poppy, my firstborn. Actually it was more than 'just a feeling'. I nursed her, I expressed milk with the breastpump, and I gave her formula milk.

Experts, again, would say that it was because I sabotaged my own breastfeeding efforts by giving her the bottle. But folks, let me ask you this. Which new mum (even new mums who have done all their readings and attended all their pre natal classes and have spoken to all their breastfeeding friends) can bear to hear her newborn wailing and wailing and try everything to soothe her but NOT give her the bottle because Jack Newman and KellyMom say that newborns can last a few days without any food while mum's mammaries work at producing breastmilk?

We are taught that all babies need is colustrum for their first few days. Precious precious colustrum. How much colustrum? My friends, imagine this: ONE TEASPOONFUL is considered a lot. In our possibly traumatised and very tired, sleep deprived states of post-birth, it is not impossible that we somehow think that one teaspoonful of anything is enough for anyone. Even a newborn.

Things might have been different if the nurses or Lactation Consultants at the hospital had told me all that, and had reminded me about constant latching and the benefits of colustrum, and how my newborn is fine without the bottle. It might have been so different. But that was not how it was.

I was approached by a nurse one night who said "Your baby is crying. She must be hungry. Can we give her the bottle?". And of course, I panicked. Yes yes of course, give her the bottle. What kind of evil mother am I to deny my baby a meal? Crying away? Oh please, do! Give her the bottle! Do it right away!

It did not help that the patient next to me was suffering from badly engorged boobs (as opposed to me who was patiently waiting for my milk supply to take the train from goodness knows where to arrive, and paying the hospital to rent its breast pump to literally pump out air from my non functioning boobs) and the nurses who emerge triumphantly from the other side of the screen with a full bottle of expressed milk saying "Look at how much milk she's got!". I remember it clearly. 100ml. It took me months to reach that amount.

And the Lactation Consultants? One of them saw me for all of 2 minutes throughout my 3D2N stay, 'massaged' my boobs (rough handled was more like it), and asked me to watch the breastfeeding channel on TV. That was that. After we got discharged, my countless attempts to reach the LCs at the hospital (to ask for help for a milk bleb - it's just something that's crazily painful) were futile. I ended up going to Thomson Medical Centre to see their LCs and they were so helpful, so patient, and so warm that I ended up telling myself if I ever had another child, I would go to TMC just so I could be close to these lovely ladies. I did have a second child and I did go to TMC and I did not regret it at all.

So anyway. I wasn't off to a good start. But not to worry, this story has a happy ending. One with (spoiler alert!) tired boobs.

I only managed to sucessfully latch Poppy on for good when she was about 3 weeks old. But still, I stumbled along, and managed to stay on the breastfeeding track for about 17 months, when one day she looked at me, and pushed my boob away with a sound of disgust. That was the glorified end of my breastfeeding days with my firstborn.

My kids: Poppy, breastfed for 17 months, and Calla, refusing to let go of my boobs at age 23 months

When Calla was born 4 years later, I knew to first smile and coo at her, and then immediately try to nurse her. She was exclusively breastfed for the first couple of weeks and I stayed true to my beliefs and to my readings, that breastfed babies may be slightly smaller compared to formula fed ones. My PD unfortunately did not share the same thoughts. It seemed to me at that time that every single answer he gave to every concern we had was "Give her formula!". He said that after each nursing session I should give her an additional bottle of formula milk. I chose to ignore it.

Here, I must share that while I respect him as a PD, I would have preferred for us to discuss other possible options instead of presenting formula milk as the answer to everything.

But having an overly anxious husband was another thing altogether. Max is usually pretty chill and trusts my judgement in most things, this was, however, something that bothered him tremendously. He felt that Calla was not putting on weight at all, and he was genuinely concerned. It started out as a nudge, and slowly he became more insistent.

Ultimately, I called a mum friend and cried while hiding at the laundry area. I cried and cried and cried. In between sobs I asked for support, from one breastfeeding mum to another. And in the end, I caved. Breastmillk may be the best but formula milk wasn't poison, I reasoned. But yet I couldn't do it. I felt like I was betraying my boobs. So I asked Max to give her the bottle. The funny thing is that she wasn't a fan of the bottle. So I became the main food source once more.

With Calla, I hardly expressed my milk, because I was with her all the time. Also, I already spent so much time nursing her, if I also had to express milk then I wouldn't have any time to spend with Poppy (who was about 3.5 years old when Calla was born, and needed me very much too)

I'm not sure how we got through the tough first few weeks but we did, and now she's 23 months old, and I'm still nursing her. Though now it's not really by my choice. I feel that at 23 months, it's justified for me to say "I want my body back!". As much as I want to stop, since it's now mainly for comfort (hers, not mine), I stay on because I cherish this close bond that we share. Plus I don't intend to have more kids so once I stop, it's really the end of my breastfeeding days. Also, I've long burned those horrid nursing bras, so life is bearable again.

I may never have had a freezer full of frozen expressed breastmilk, but I have nursed two children for a total of 39 months (and counting!).

Was it always smooth sailing? Nope. Was it always pain-free? Nope. Do I have to put up with well-meaning strangers who tell me I've been breastfeeding for too long? Yup. Do I regret hopping on the breastfeeding train despite all that? Nope. But what do my boobs think about this whole breastfeeding business though? You can read about that here.

If you're a mum struggling with your breastfeeding journey, I wrote this some time ago, about what I wish someone had told me about breastfeeding; I hope it will help you somewhat.

Also here are some tips that I found useful:

1. Surround yourself with like-minded friends. Support is very important. As is encouragement. Talk to them often. Your friends, not your boobs. They'll tell you what works and what doesn't. For the record, I took lots of fenugreek+blessed thistle during Poppy's time, and sacred tea during Calla's first few months.

2. Get your husband on board - he may feel like he's trying to help by saying "shall I prepare a bottle?" but it will affect your psychologically and emotionally, and honestly, the couple of weeks after giving birth? You're going to be pretty much an emotional wreck, sista.

3. Don't go into it blind - breast milk is best but formula really isn't poison. If your baby needs it, she needs it. Sometimes you really just need a break because breastfeeding is one heck of a tiring journey, and it can be very lonely too. Sometimes you may want to give the bottle to just give yourself a break from all that pumping or nursing, and personally I don't feel that there is anything wrong with that.

4. Remember that you're not a bad mum, no matter what you choose. Well except if you choose to give your newborn Bourbon.

5. Don't make it all about milk. Babies grow very quickly so don't be obsessed about milk milk milk; look at your baby, take lots of pictures, because before you know it, she'll be much bigger and you'll yearn for the newborn days again. Just like I did, but I quickly slapped the back of my head and reminded myself that I've been through it twice, and it's really enough.

When should you stop? Only you and your child can decide that. Not your mum, not your mum-in-law, not your friends and sure as heck not society. Well except if your child is in her teens. All the best for your breastfeeding journey, mums!

If you know of a new mum who's struggling with breastfeeding her baby, I hope you will share this with her. It helps to have some support, even if it's from a stranger who's been through the same thing :)

This post is part of a Blog Train hosted by Madeline at MadPsychMum. Head on over to read the other breastfeeding stories by Singapore Mom Bloggers!

Tomorrow Beverly from Hello Little Sunshine will be sharing on her breastfeeding journey.

Beverly blogs over at Hello Little Sunshine where she documents her parenting journey as a stay at home mom. As a first-time mom, the initial days of breastfeeding were difficult and Beverly was uncertain how long it would last. Despite the naysayers, sleepless nights and more, she preserved in her breastfeeding journey and has no regrets.

Read about her breastfeeding journey tomorrow!


  1. I miss the breastfeeding too though not enough to have number 4. Muffin actually rejected the boob at 8 months while teething. And because I nursed the twins for 2 years, I felt that it would be unfair to muffin if I didn't so I expressed till he was 25 months!!! But I totally get the guilt!

    Oh, from one nursing mom to another (especially if you were formerly flat chested), cherish the nursing boobs because they totally disappear when you stop for good. It's like they got tired of the abuse, ran away and jumped on someone who wasn't going to put them through so much!

    1. You expressed from the time he was 8 months till 25?? Whoa. Kowtow! Respect!!!!!

      Oh boob size. Let's not go there.

  2. Similar to your story, I had an extremely difficult time trying to breast feed my child 5 years ago. That plus complications to my c-sec recovery AND the confinement, oh the confinement. I think my sisters thought I was slipping into depression and thinking back now, I think I did. Don't you just want to smack the well meaning folks for pushing the bottle and constantly reminding you your crying child is starving & it's all your fault? I am still going to try breastfeeding my #2 but this time I will do it my way and for as long as I can. You are right. FM is not poison. If I can't squeeze anything out after 2 hrs I shouldn't blame myself for feeding the child FM. Thank you for the honest post. I am so glad to know I am not alone.

    1. You are def not alone! And you're doing really well now with Y :D

  3. You go mama! Although I can see why Max was concerned, I can totally feel your pain! But well, Calla is sooo big now (I mean, she can wrestle you, she is strong man!) and that is the most important thing! =)

    1. Oh my she IS strong! Both my kids! They're slim but STRONG!!!!

  4. One teaspoon. I remember the nurse in Sweden telling me "Don't be worried that your baby is not eating enough, you must know her tummy is soooo small now and this is all she needs", and used her thumb to point to the tip of her pinky. It was really a very assuring statement and how I wish all nurses would tell new mums that instead of offering the bottle. Seriously. But well, you go, mama, I would have melted down if the hubby insisted on giving the baby formula too but we all know he meant well, just that I totally understand the boob betrayal feeling you mentioned. But well, 39 months and counting! You rock, mama!

    1. If we had such nurses in SG, Summer, I'm sure many more mums would be nursing! 39 months and counting. Pant pant!!

  5. I'm a new mum struggling to keep up with the growth spurt of a 2-week old baby. Thanks so much for this entry. It made laugh, it made me cry. And I agree that formula isn't poison although it is very hard to take that route because every other person would say BREAST IS BEST! STICK TO IT!

    1. Oh newborn phase is so lovely! Frustrating at times, but lovely. You know what? Just be true to yourself. It's a new situation for everyone, especially you and Baby, so just do whatever feels right. And if 'right' is popping a bottle in baby's mouth while you catch a half hour nap, then do it! Hubby's support is VERY important!! Good luck, Mama!

      PS love your name lor!


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