Udder business

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The joke just might be on me.

Having returned from a grocery shopping run, my husband declared cheerfully to me, “I’ve got something for you.” He then brandished the above item before me.

I recall previously shared with him that Laughing Cow cream cheese slices was a favourite of mine as as a child. So it seemed awfully nice of him to be buying it for me. I thanked him, of course, at that time.

In hindsight though, I’m wondering if the joke is on me.

Ever since giving birth, I have assumed a new status as a Cow. Erm. Aargh. I meant Breastfeeding Mum. Not much difference there, I suppose.

To be honest, I didn’t give much thought to what it would be like breastfeeding my baby. It was just one among many things that we had on our checklist as we anticipated the arrival of our dear son (DS).

The decision process between me and my husband probably went something like this:

DH: So, how are we planning to feed Jamie? Breast milk or formula?
Me: Erm, breast milk?

(This being a very rough recollection since I’ve since forgotten the details of the actual conversation. Blame it on pregnancy hormones.)

And so, that was that. The significance of the decision to breastfeed got promptly buried under the ton of other things my husband and I had to do in preparation for the baby’s arrival.

Soon came the day of the delivery, labour and all the excitement, stress and activity that it entailed. Then, before I know it, a tiny little hungry being is thrust into my lap by an enthusiastic nurse and just like that, I am expected to jolt my mammaries into producing milk.

Looking back, it was not an easy journey, by any means.

In fact, by the second or third nursing session, my beloved little son had already chomped hard on one of my nipples, leaving it to turn three different colours not long afterwards.

I found breastfeeding very painful in those early days, especially since my DS loved to twist and turn his head while nursing, all the while still maintaining a tight grip on my breast. This inevitably led to a lot of soreness.

No doubt, all wounds (nipple injuries included) will heal in time. But unfortunately, just as I recover from a past injury, DS would inflict a new one through his overenthusiastic suckling actions.

At my post delivery review with my gynae, I remember asking him what could be done about these breastfeeding problems I had with my very hyper DS. He proceeded to send me back to consult someone from the Delivery Ward, but not before saying, “Some mothers just choose to give up.”

I’m not sure whether it was in defiance to what he said or the fact that after having experienced the special joys of breastfeeding I was unwilling to let it go, but I persevered somehow.

And I’m glad to say that up until today, I am still exclusively breastfeeding my baby, entirely direct latched too (a bottle feeding back up is still in the works). I didn’t have any concrete expectations on how long I would keep this up, but I’m glad that I didn’t give up earlier on.

DS and I have formed a pretty good bond now that he’s 3+ months old. My mother and my husband are frequently pointing out to me how my son always looks around the room for me when they are carrying him. It’s a very heartwarming thing. I’d like to think breastfeeding has helped us develop this closeness.

(Of course, that is not to say that such relations cannot be formed from bottle feeding. However, I absolutely enjoy the feeling of DS suckling at my breast and have concluded that I will miss this experience once it is gone. Hence, I plan to do it for as long as I can).

I’ve plenty more stories to share when it comes to my breastfeeding journey, but maybe I shouldn’t dump it all out at once. This being my first post here and all.

Before I go though, here are some notes* based on what I had faced in my breastfeeding journey so far:

  1. Next to baby wearing, I found breastfeeding to be the hardest thing I’ve done as a new mum. It took quite a bit of time to master, and even up till now, there are still adjustments to be made due to DS changing his eating habits as he grows. However, it has been one of my proudest achievements. It surprised me to discover that very few mothers continue to exclusively breastfeed their child past the initial weeks post delivery.
  2. It was disheartening that not many people understood or respected my decision to exclusively breastfeed my son. Even more so the choice to direct latch him as much as possible. My own mother told me that she introduced me to both the bottle and the breast from the moment I was born, opting to bottle feed me whenever she was out with me. So she couldn’t relate to how I would tote a nursing cover around with me to feed DS while out and about.
  3. On the subject of nursing in public, it is something that takes getting used to. Thankfully, I haven’t had people staring at me or discriminating against me because of my actions. I do my best to breastfeed as discretely as possible, of course, but I don’t think it’s something I will apologise for or hide. It’s a bit worrying though, given the thought that I am quite literally half naked as I nurse my son. It makes me feel rather vulnerable. I keep wondering what were to happen if some pervy man were to come up to kacau DS and I… but I suppose being smart about choosing the location for nursing will prevent this from occurring.
  4. As for nursing covers, I guess you have to try out the different types available for yourself to discover what works best for you. My first purchase was a poncho style one, and this is not an easy nursing cover to start off with. I subsequently bought an apron style one which I found to be much better as you can see what’s going on with your baby from up top. I still use the poncho nursing cover though, but mostly for when I’m nursing with a regular t-shirt on as it gives me 360 degrees coverage which is needed when lifting clothes to nurse (vs pulling down or sideways to nurse, that is). Oh, and I prefer just nursing wherever I am as opposed to being stuck in a nursing room. Which looks dirty and dingy and leaves me missing out on other interesting things going on outside while I breastfeed.
  5. Recognising when baby is hungry took some learning on my part as a mum. In the initial stages, I would usually offer DS the breast a little too late, thus increasing the chances of him chomping on and injuring my boobs. I later came across this article which aptly summed up the hunger cues to look out for. I’d strongly recommend you to read up on this if you’re a first time mother.
  6. Engorgement can be avoided by taking action to express some milk out of your breasts the moment they feel like they’re getting full. For me, this felt as though my breasts were becoming as hard as a rock and would typically be accompanied by a certain degree of pain or discomfort. Applying a hot compress would be necessary if you didn’t manage to catch the signs early enough, but I found that once I could recognise how it feels like, I never had to use this anymore.
  7. I found that for a first time experience of expressing breast milk, a manual breast pump was best. The thought of an electric one scared me, as I was worried about the pain and being unable to control the intensity of the device. I later purchased a double electric pump, of course, but had a better idea what I was looking for after having tried manual expression and realised the shortcomings of it. Also, when it comes to brands, go local. The quality of the products can be just as good, but less expensive.
  8. Not sure if there’s anyone these days that breastfeeds while wearing normal bras, but personally I think comfortable nursing bras and sleep bras are a worthy investment. There’s a difference between the two, and I found that it’s useful having both.
  9. It’s possible to scrimp on nursing tops and dresses and go with what’s already in your wardrobe (I only own one nursing dress, which was a gift; all other clothes I’ve worn ever since beginning my breastfeeding journey are ordinary clothes of my own). Some prior planning is required though. I’ve had some difficult public nursing sessions due to poor choices before. Hehe.
  10. Exclusive breastfeeding for me often means sharing my meal times (and many otherwise free times) with my baby. I find myself eating most meals while nursing DS on my lap. It’s not for everyone, I suppose, but it’s well worth the trouble for the sake of the baby, IMHO. What helps though is that I quit my full time job and will be a Work At Home Mum, hence I have more flexibility in terms of the time and location to breastfeed.
  11. Based on what I’ve read and experienced, it is possible to generate enough breast milk to meet your child’s needs and only a small percentage of mothers have real problems with supply. Not becoming stressed about it and just giving it your best shot helps as well, I feel (DH and I told ourselves the option for formula would always remain open if ever I lacked supply, but this hasn’t happened so far). It takes time to build your supply though. And while there’s plenty of things you can do to boost your supply, the best place to start would be to nurse regularly and as often as possible.

Alright folks, enough from me for now. More udder tales next round. Cheerio!

*Links are for products that I actually purchased and are for the benefit of curious readers who may like a starting point to help them along on their own journey.

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