When I nurse Alistair, I am overwhelmed with gratefulness. Grateful for this baby. Grateful for another child. Grateful that I am able to breastfeed.
Breastfeeding is such a big thing for mommies these days. During our parents’ time, it was all about feeding babies formula milk. And now, it is all about “breast is best”.
In a way, it’s good. Mommies now are more educated and more aware about the benefits of breastfeeding, and there is also a lot more support and encouragement for breastfeeding. However, the dark side of that is the immense pressure that mommies are put under to breastfeed.
I know a few mommies who admitted that they felt such pressure to breastfeed, and such judgement if they did not. But breastfeeding is not an easy feat. Some mothers really struggle with low supply. Some have a tough journey – cracked nipples, inverted nipples, mastitis, etc. Some just choose not to breastfeed because, well, they have the freedom of choice.
Whatever they choose, these mothers should be supported. As long as their babies are fed well and nice, it’s good! Motherhood is already such a tough and challenging journey; why do we want to impose even more unnecessary pressure on mothers?
When Amy was born, I too felt the pressure to exclusively breastfeed. The struggle was real, and during the first few weeks, I was teary-eyed due to the fatigue, pain and the ruthless commitment. When she was admitted to the hospital for phototherapy (she had high jaundice) in her first week, I felt ashamed that I couldn’t pump out as much as milk as she had needed.
Thankfully, my milk supply gradually came in and I was able to continue my breastfeeding journey without much problems.
When I was about to have Alistair, I told my husband that we should prepare formula milk because he would most likely be admitted for jaundice as well, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to pump out as much milk for him, since my milk would only just be coming in.
True enough, he had to be admitted for phototherapy when he was 4 days old, and by then, the most I could pump out was just 1.5 oz. He needed at least 2.5 – 3 oz per feed, due to the phototherapy treatment. There was no way I could pump out as much, and I couldn’t stay over at the hospital with him due to various reasons. So, I gave the nurses a box of formula milk to feed him when my milk was not enough.
Did I feel guilty? For a brief moment, I DID. I almost felt emotional that I couldn’t meet my baby’s needs and that I had to give him formula. But then, I quickly snapped out of it. Why did I feel guilty when all I was doing was to ensure my baby had enough milk to help him flush out the bilirubin in his body?
While he was in the hospital, I continued pumping at home to ensure my supply keeps coming in, and whenever I could, I went to the hospital to breastfeed him. I am thankful that, since he was discharged, I am able to resume breastfeeding exclusively, and so far it’s been a relatively smooth journey.
What I am trying to say is:
If you are a mother who wants to exclusively breastfeed, I am supportive of you! You can do it! It can be really tough and demanding and painful at times, but you can do it sista!
If you are a mother who wants to breastfeed and supplement with formula milk, go for it! Don’t be ashamed, because you are doing your best for your baby.
If you are a mother who wants to forego breastfeeding and feed your baby with formula milk instead, do it! I believe you have already done your own research before making any decisions, and you only want the best for your child.
Anyway. This post was supposed to be about breastfeeding essentials, but I guess I went ahead of myself.
So, since this is my second time breastfeeding a baby, I felt that I was a little more prepared, and I wanted to share with you the things that helped me kickstart a relatively smooth breastfeeding journey.
#1 Positive Mindset
It is true that you have to start with a positive mindset. Because the first few days can be a huge pain. Especially if you do not have supportive people around you. Besides the usual doubt about whether or not your baby is having enough to drink, the engorgement can be terrible, and the commitment to feed your baby round the clock can further aggravate your post-natal blues. But if you have decided to breastfeed, you got to keep yourself positive, and remind yourself that the pain will pass! (But if the problems really affect you, please look for a lactation consultant or a midwife or experienced friends who can help you)
#2 Nipple Cream
I use the Medela PureLan 100 nipple cream, and it’s been my life saver for both Amy’s time and now Alistair’s. I start putting it on the moment my baby started suckling. Even if my nipples were not yet bruised or cracked, I kept putting it on after every feed to prevent bruising and cracking. After awhile, you kinda develop iron nipples, then you’ll be OK, but in the beginning especially, this cream IS THE BEST.
#3 Massage Your Boobs
When you milk first come in, you will most likely experience engorgement. This can be extremely painful. Plus, your newborn may not have the skills or the strength to suck out all the milk yet. So, you really need to massage your breasts before, during and after your feed. Warning though: it can be really painful. But you need to just endure the pain and press out all the milk, so that you get relief and so that your baby gets all the milk he or she needs.
#4 Nurse Everywhere
When I had Amy, I was shy. I restricted myself to breastfeeding her in the privacy of my room where nobody was around. And when we went out, I always nursed her in nursing rooms. That actually made me quite depressed because she was nursing ALL THE TIME, and it meant that I always had to be in solitude or away from people. After awhile, I felt like all I was doing was nursing and I had no life.
So this time with Alistair, I became quite open. I nurse him everywhere and anywhere in my house, even though I am now living with my in-laws. I will just announce that “I am feeding him here!” and sit at a corner to nurse him, while I continue to watch TV or play with Amy. And when we go out, I am now learning to master the usage of a nursing cover, so that I can continue to nurse him anywhere while I hang out with friends.
#5 Nurse on Demand
You can’t really avoid this. If you want your supply to be established, you need to meet the demands of your baby – even if it’s round the clock. Amy used to want to feed every 1 to 2 hours. It was crazy! But the crazy feeding schedule usually only lasts the first one or two months. By then, your baby would have settled into a pattern and your milk supply would also be enough to last your baby for a couple of hours. (fingers crossed) But then again, occasionally they would go through some growth spurt, then they might want to nurse every other hour again.
Those are all that is in my mind for now, and I’m also being distracted by Amy, and Alistair is going to wake up soon for his next feed, so…
If you have chosen to breastfeed, I hope you will have a smooth and enjoyable breastfeeding journey. Enjoy the bonding with your baby, and when it gets tough, remember that this breastfeeding period only lasts for a while. It will be over before you know it, and you’ll be missing it!