Monday, June 19, 2006

My Breastfeeding Journey - Part II

I quickly made an appointment with the breastfeeding consultant at the hospital when we took baby for her first check up. We were horrified to discover that our healthy 3.61kg baby weigh just 2.75kg 2 weeks later, a time when most babies should have regained their birthweights after a small drop before that. That was a whopping 25% of her weight. My baby was beginning to look gaunt and was crying all the time, so was I. The pediatrician at the hospital was not very supportive and told us to “just give her some formula if she’s not getting enough”.

The breastfeeding consultant showed me how to hold baby to breastfeed and lent me some books and magazines. I saw an ex-colleague featured in one of the magazines sharing her success story and quickly rang her for advice. She recommended us to her pediatrician and breastfeeding consultant who was very dedicated and devoted to helping mothers with breastfeeding problems. That was the turning point for us. We made an appointment with the pediatrician who was very kind and supportive. She showed me how to breastfeed baby and told us how much baby should be taking.

Sitting in her office, I felt like I needed to be and octopus with 6 arms as it took that many to get baby to latch on correctly i.e. the pediatrician’s, my husband’s and my own two arms and I thought it would feel like the most natural thing in the world! I was also advised to pump and feed the baby the pumped milk since she had not learned to latch on correctly yet. Sometimes I had to pump 3-4 times just to make up one feed and it was really tiring. My sweet husband ran out and bought several pumps for me. During this time I had many discouraging advice from well meaning friends. “Why are you stressing yourselves up?” “Just give the baby a bottle of formula” “Your milk is not enough. Mine too. I could only pump 15 ounces a day.” (I was green with envy as I could only pump ½-2 ounces each time).

Still we plodded on. We tried various methods to get baby to latch on correctly and to boost my supply, all accept medication which I felt uncomfortable with although we were told it was safe. Eventually we had to supplement with formula given from a spoon. It was really hard. I felt like my days were one endless feed after another. It went something like this “Pump – spoon feed – breastfeed – pump – breastfeed – spoon feed – pump..” In between, I managed to get some sleep somehow.

We went for weekly visits to the pediatrician and monitored baby’s weight gain closely. I remember feeling miserable. It was during the confinement month, I was supposed to be at home resting with my new baby and husband at my side but there we were, all three of us huddled under an umbrella in the rain to get to the doctor’s office. It was the raining season then.

My husband had returned to work and it was tough on him too to rush home after work to take us to the pediatrician. Although my husband was wonderfully supportive (I couldn’t have done it without him) the stress took its toll on him too and we had several arguments about it. Everyday we spoke about giving up and struggled with our decision to carry on breastfeeding. Feeding baby formula seems so much easier in comparison. The pediatrician also contributed to our breastfeeding success as she was extremely supportive. She sent us home with specific instructions on how much to feed baby and when and it was such a relief to at last have some direction. She would even call me up at home to ask if I was doing ok. The phone calls really meant a lot to me as I was feeling down and so lost.

Eventually baby learned to suckle from the breast but that was not the end of our woes. I had recurrent mastitis (an infection of the breast which causes fever and chills) at least 4-5 times during the early months. One time I felt so ill that my husband and I almost called emergency services in the middle of the night. It was quite scary. Occasionally the infection got so bad there was pus and I had to just pump and discard the milk. It was very hard work to pump and look after my newborn when I had the fever and chills.

Originally I had planned to breastfeed for 6 months but it was only after 6 months that things started to get easier. It was only after 9 months that I started to feel that breastfeeding was freeing and relaxing instead of work and stifling my lifestyle. It became mummy’s special weapon, worked like magic every time, to calm, comfort and give baby nourishment, such a wonderful gift and it is wonderful to watch baby grow in your arms. At first her little hands were clenched up into tiny little fists at my breasts. Later, the tiny fingers opened up in various positions and then she started to pull and tug at my clothing and now she often touches my face and smile.

My baby’s weight gain eventually caught up and she is a healthy baby with only one cold during her first year. It’s really been a wonderful journey to give my baby the best milk. She never learned to drink from a bottle, I had to spoon feed her the supplements for 6 months. I later learned that the window of opportunity to get baby to suck from a bottle is one month after which some babies just don’t know how. I struggled with spoon feeding her for 6 months. It felt like an incredible long time but that too has passed and we taught her to drink straight from a cup at 6 months. She also does not use a pacifier so no need to wean her from that.

When we have the next baby we will definitely be breastfeeding her. I keep on saying we because my dear husband is very involved.

I just wanted to share our experience with all the new mums out there who are struggling with breastfeeding as I know how hard it can be. (Some lucky mums say breastfeeding is a breeze and don’t have these problems, some have other problems like engorgement pain etc). I wish all the mums good luck, happy breastfeeding and persevere if you can. It’s really worth it.

Related Posts:

My Breastfeeding Journey - Part I
My Breastfeeding Journey - Part III

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