Hello! I'm 51 weeks young today!
This funny little girl was waving excitedly at the camera.
I probably fell asleep last night with the phone in my hand because I woke up this morning with a sore back and a phone underneath it. 😅
Little boss stirred at 530am and rolled over to lie on my tummy. She then started singing.
I looked at the clock and thought to myself, ok I'll let her roll around until 6 and then I'll go and make some milk for her.
I gave her a hug and said to her, "darling do you want to sleep a bit more?"
She continued rolling around and I dozed off.
When I checked the clock again, it was 6am. She'd really gone back to sleep!
She finally woke up at 7am, lying on my tummy and looking at me with her big, round eyes, smiling.
I love it when she does that.
So it's business as usual and it's Friday so yay!!
The hubs will be home tonight so yay again!!
I think it's a good time to jump onto the band wagon, at the (nearly) one year mark of being a mom.
I've written about it on many occasions, maybe way more than I'd expected.
You see, before becoming pregnant or even while I was pregnant, I didn't think much about breastfeeding.
I just thought, ok I'll breastfeed for maybe six months.
And that was all I thought about.
I went ahead to buy a breast pump, because a close friend said I would need one.
She recommended medela so I checked it out at mothercare while we were shopping for other baby stuff. Medela turned out to be very expensive and the sales person recommended another brand called unimom, which was at half the price.
Looking back I can't believe how I bought something so important without doing any research!
And I do research for a living wtf. 😅
Anyway I bought the pump believing in everything the sales person said.
"Hospital grade", and "as good as medela".
Fast forward to before delivery
I was past due date and feeling super uncomfortable everywhere and to top it off I was leaking milk.
I felt very clumsy and undesirable.
I later found out from my friend Google that it was colostrum and it was perfectly normal.
I also felt a bit relieved knowing I already have some milk, because in the pre-admission forms, I selected the "total breastfeed" option.
A few hours after Clarissa was born, a nurse brought her into the room and started showing me how to latch and breastfeed her.
She also explained that since I selected "total breastfeed" they'd be bringing Clarissa to me every few hours to feed her.
The first breastfeeding experience was as awkward as it was amazing.
I didn't know how to hold her properly (the videos made it seem so easy!) but she was suckling like a champion.
I already had colostrum and I could actually see her drinking something by her second or third feed.
It felt amazing to have a little someone drinking from me. She looked so small and so powdery and so adorable.
But it started taking a toll by the third feed because my nipples started to really hurt. I felt like she was biting me and it was so painful even though she had no teeth.
A lactation consultant came and taught me the right way to latch and what the wrong vs. right latch looked like.
Her mouth should cover the entire area and not just the nipple.
By Day 2 in hospital I was already spamming nipple cream after every feed and the middle of night feeds really did me in.
Also the epidural effect on the baby had started wearing off and Clarissa turned out to have the most hysterical cries by Day 3.
On Day 3, the morning I was due to be discharged, she'd started crying on and off and we were not sure why.
I'd just fed her and her diapers were clean.
It turned out that she was still hungry and I tried latching her again.
My nips hurt big time and I suspected I wasn't producing enough milk for her.
It was Sunday and the pharmacy was closed so we couldn't get any formula milk powder.
So we asked the nurse for help, and she kindly gave us some formula milk samples to tide us over the weekend.
And then we went home.
It was a breeze at first. Clarissa was sleeping when we got home.
So tiny lol.
But less than an hour after we got home she started crying hysterically.
My nipples were all cracked and I couldn't latch her so we decided to feed her some formula milk.
It was a mess because we couldn't decide whether to feed her with a spoon or with the teat. I was feeling paranoid about the cleanliness of both the spoon and the teat.
She finally calmed down after drinking something and the confinement nanny arrived and took over.
The next morning, the hubs went out with the nanny to get all the supplies and I started pumping.
The hubs helped to open all the pump and steriliser and milk bottles the night before. Hahaha somehow I didn't think of preparing these beforehand.
The pump was painful to use!
Both in the process and for my poor nips.
I thought pumping would be less painful since nothing will touch the cracked nips, but no lor.
It hurt really bad and I was pumping out blood instead of milk.
Clarissa started crying and I felt so helpless because there was neither breast nor formula milk left for her.
I called the hubs asking him to ask the confinement nanny if I could feed her some water instead and it was a big NO NO.
I can't believe I thought of that. Drinking water is life threatening to newborns omg. 😰
The next few days were spent letting my nips recover while I pumped and built supply.
The nanny anyway wanted me to pump for the night feeds so it was easier for her to directly feed Clarissa and I could get more rest at night.
So I did and supply came fairly quickly, with all the fish and fenugreek I was having.
We had to supplement with formula milk at night so I was anxious to get supply up so she could be on total breast milk.
Then we decided to start latching her again, because latching helps supply.
It was very tough.
We couldn't get the groove.
I needed help to latch her on and each time she loses the latch, Clarissa would scream murder.
The confinement nanny would step in again to help and Clarissa could only be comforted by her.
Me carrying or cradling her would only make her angrier.
It didn't help that we had a confinement nanny from hell who was super insensitive and sarcastic.
She'd be saying things like, "Aiyo it's very easy what, why can't your mommy do it?" to a crying Clarissa.
I found out in her last few days with us that she has never breastfed her own children before. She said she took the pill immediately after delivery to stop the milk from coming. Because she couldn't stand the idea of breastfeeding.
Can you imagine how cheated and disgusted I felt?
Thinking back I think she's partly responsible for my tumultuous breastfeeding journey. 😤
Because she couldn't teach me properly and she was so discouraging.
Hahahaha one of the rare pictures of a satisfied baby after drinking directly from the source.
Barely a month young! 😁
Post confinement, I mostly pumped but also tried latching Clarissa once or twice a day.
By then my supply was steady and she was on total breast milk.
I started latching in the early mornings so the entire block didn't have to wake up to her cries while I warmed the milk.
It worked for a very short while, until she protested, for reasons still quite unknown to me.
We used to call it breastfighting.
She'd be drinking ok but once the milk flowed too quickly or once she broke the latch, she'd scream murder and everyone would wake up.
I felt very stressed because my kpi back then was to ensure the hubs got to sleep properly after his 10pm-12am shift. I also couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong (I still don't).
Pumping was tough.
I hated it. I used to sit for an hour pumping the heck out of it.
Only to realise, a few mastitis attacks later, that it was all wrong.
I was massaging too hard and pumping for too long.
The first and second mastitis attacks were traumatic.
The pain and infection was so bad that I cried while the lactation consultant massaged through the lumps and squeezed out green pus.
When I visited them again after the third and forth attacks the legendary Mrs Wong took pictures of my breasts (without my face of course) to show them back to me.
They were so badly bruised.
She told me I needed to relax and stop stressing myself out.
By then I'd done my research on pumps and joined the pumping forums and what nots so I decided to get a new pump that was highly recommended in reviews.
I remember it was my wedding anniversary present to myself haha. That was when Clarissa was around three months young.
Ironically I had another mastitis attack right after changing pumps but I blamed it on my bad habits and bad luck. I used the pump wrongly because I couldn't brain the instructions fml. 😅
One of the top recommended ways to clear blocked ducts was to get the baby to suck the milk out, so in between all the mastitis attacks, I continuously tried to latch Clarissa every now and then.
Not just to clear the ducts but also to save some time washing the pump and bottles.
It didn't work.
Her protests were super loud and violent, and it sometimes got to a point she was inconsolable.
We'd try again after a day or two. But each time the protests and struggles and pain came back.
After four months or so, I stopped latching her altogether.
I pumped exclusively and we enjoyed a peaceful bonding experience with me holding the bottle of expressed breast milk for her while she drank on. 😅
I think there are many ways to bond so no point forcing it when it only causes more stress for all of us.
I went on to have more mastitis attacks, with the final tally at 6, out of 8 months of breastfeeding/pumping.
It was a combination of lack of rest, incorrect pumping, incorrect sleeping positions and a lot of bad luck.
I was in pain and depressed.
I wanted to give up after each attack but fear of the unknown kept me going.
Weaning was a tedious process which I tried to approach methodically from 4 hour intervals to 4.5 to 5 to 5.5 to 6 to 7 hours.
I'd stick to the intervals and pump accordingly, even if it meant waking up at crazy hours.
I'd feel panicky whenever I was alone at home with Clarissa because she'd cry while I was pumping or about to pump and I'd be walking around the house with a crying baby and leaking boobs.
I can't count the number of times my tshirt got soaked through with milk dripping all over the place while my baby kept crying, nor can I describe the despair I felt and the fear I had.
Of the lumps and blocked ducts I'd have from missing the right timing to pump.
After the 6th attack that happened a day before I was due to return to work, supply dropped dramatically.
I'd already bought another pump for use in the office, naive and hopeful that I could continue pumping after going back to work.
Well I tried, I really did.
My office is pumping-friendly with a nice nursing room available on every floor. My colleagues don't have an issue with me taking 30 minutes off to pump.
But my schedule was tough.
On some days it was impossible to find time to pump. I had to pump before leaving office.
Before my helper came, I had to spend time washing all the pump parts and milk bottle after work and I was exhausted.
I didn't mind doing all these of course, but the returns were got lower and lower and worst still, I actually had blisters on my nips after each pump. They'd peel off and bleed a little and I'd pump and then they'd form again and the cycle repeated.
The hubs was already telling me to stop because I was anyway producing only enough for one feed by the time I'd started working for two months and Clarissa had no problems with formula milk.
Throughout my breastfeeding journey, despite the mastitis attacks, he'd never asked me to stop or continue but now the tribe (leader) has spoken. 😅
So one unceremonious night, as I've written on dayre before, I pumped out blood due to the stupid blisters and he said, "I think you should just stop."
And I stopped.
I was feeling sentimental about how unceremoniously it ended.
But after a week or so, #thetruthis I have not looked back.
It was liberating.
Spending time with Clarissa and the hubs instead of pumping after coming home from work.
Not worrying about trying to pump in between meetings.
Not worrying about bleeding nips and sore boobs.
Freedom to wear any outfit without thinking about whether it's easy to pump in it.
I also quitted all the breastfeeding and pumping forums.
I'm grateful for all the things I've learned and the encouragement I've got from these groups, knowing I wasn't alone and there were so many sweet people and friends giving me advice and support.
But there were a few of those "advocates" that really soured the experience and I didn't like it.
At the end of the day, every breast, every mom and every child is different and it's not up to you to judge the decisions other mothers make.
Most importantly I was happy to leave all the mastitis episodes behind.
They affected not only me, but everyone around me.
The hubs who had to take on more duties when I was down and couldn't do anything, my mom who had to help out with the baby, and my family who was worried about me.
Breastfeeding is one of the most sensitive and controversial topics, besides parenting and weddings.
As parents, I believe we all want to do the best for our children but who is to judge what's "best" when every family and every circumstance is different?
The best solution is the one that fits the needs of you and your family most.
8 months of breastfeeding/pumping, 6 mastitis attacks, countless sleepless nights, at least 1000 rounds of pump parts and bottle washing, and lots of sweat, leaks and tears.
So glad I took time to pen this, even if no one's reading it. 😅
Would I do it again?
Yes, I would.
But similar to my delivery drama, give me more time to get over the trauma please. 😅
Would I do it differently?
Yes, I would.
The way I approach it, and my attitude towards it.
I've learned that the fear of the unknown is the worst kind of fear, because you don't even know what you are afraid of.
I've also learned that self-assurance needs to come from within, not only from people around you.
Be as kind to myself, as I am to people around.
And last but not least, happy mommy, happy hubby, happy baby. 😁