Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Breastfeeding: The Challenges and What to Expect

When I was pregnant, I educated myself with so much information on pregnancy and birth. So much that I was so prepared and well-equipped on what to expect on being pregnant for 40 weeks and the baby delivery processes; and so much that I neglected the fact that I had to educate myself with 'baby and taking care of a baby' information and this includes the breastfeeding topic as well.

I underestimated the importance of breastfeeding's preparation and theoretical learning on its techniques to the point that I regret it now. I thought I should apply the 'one-step-at-a-time' rule and could learn the breastfeeding A to Z when my time 'comes'. However, when my time indeed came, it was too late. When I had to start to breastfeed my baby, I was so clueless and encountered tons of breastfeeding challenges without knowing much on how to overcome those issues. On top of that, when I was discharged from the (private) hospital after delivering my baby, no staff from that hospital equipped me with the breastfeeding techniques. I went home with zero knowledge on how to breastfeed my baby or what to anticipate from my breasts in the next couple of post-partum days. In summary, my baby now relies 90% on formula milk. The other 10% of her daily feed is my breast milk. Very little, I know. That's how much I could offer the goodness of breast milk to her for the time being.

Before I experienced breastfeeding, I always had the impression that breastfeeding is one of the most natural things in this world and it should come easy just like breathing air. Simply put the mother's nipple into the baby's mouth and the baby feeding frenzy starts! In addition, when I saw some mothers show off their fridge or freezer full of their bagged or bottled breast milk supply on their Facebook's page, I always thought that I would be one of them and was ready to request a new fridge from my husband just for my breast milk supply. I was that confident! Duh! I was so wrong. Seemingly, breastfeeding is way more complex than just putting the mother's nipple into the baby's mouth and who knew that I would face low milk supply until to date, thus unable to exclusively breastfeed my child.

Naomi-chan trying to hold her milk bottle by herself.

Just to share with other expecting or currently struggling-on-breastfeeding Moms, here are some of the overall challenges of breastfeeding that I have and didn't expect any of these before.

1. Latching-on and positioning are difficult to master. Properly positioning the hungry baby and latching his/her mouth on our breast for breastfeeding are not easy. In the beginning, I always had sore and bleeding nipples too just because I didn't know how to position my baby and latch her on my breast correctly. In the end, I had to get myself some fast-track learnings on breastfeeding skills from YouTube and other on-line reading sources. Moreover, I found it more beneficial and practical to learn breastfeeding techniques directly from the local government's clinic and hospital's lactation consultants and get breastfeeding tips from my friends. Until today, I must confess that starting a breastfeeding session with my baby is equivalent to starting a battle between the two of us. I have to scream "Aargh! Ugh! Ouch! What are you doing? You bit me with your gum again? Why did you do this to me?" many times and my baby has to cry her lungs out first before we both finally settle in a good breastfeeding position and start the breastfeeding session peacefully. Stressful, yes? Clearly my baby and I still need more practices on this department. By the way, if you have extra budget, perhaps you might want to consider purchasing a nursing pillow. It is a great support for breastfeeding and helps a lot in creating a more comfortable breastfeeding experience for both mother and baby.

2. Expressing breast milk is time consuming and not painless either! For me, one session of expressing breast milk using electric breast pump can easily take 45 minutes of my time. This said, get ready for a good time management plan for resting, expressing milk and doing other chores when the baby is asleep. Also, I discover that the process and the aftermaths from expressing breast milk are definitely not pain free. When I first started expressing my breast milk using electric breast pump, I was so shocked with the pains that came from this machine and the amount of breast milk that I could produce from expressing my breast milk. At that time, after almost half an hour of expressing breast milk, I could only produce one teaspoon of breast milk but I fed that one teaspoon of breast milk to my baby anyway because it took me so much pains and efforts to get that amount of breast milk, however little it was. Do you know that breast milk is like liquid gold, so don't waste or lose a single drop of it?

3. Breast engorgement, what's that? Engorged breasts are hard (as a stone!), swollen, lumpy, painful and uncomfortably full breasts as a result of not nursing the baby frequent enough. On some worst cases, which I experience often, being too lazy to drain my breasts would give me symptoms of mild fever. During the day, when I feel that my breasts are 'too full'; I would breastfeed my baby directly or just express the breast milk using breast pump. At night, I am the kind who would rather sleep, whenever I don't have to attend my crying baby, than expressing breast milk just because ideally I have to breastfeed or express milk every 2-3 hours or so to prevent breast engorgement. However, these days, the pains from my breast engorgement are so very great and they are powerful enough to get me out of my bed at 2am or 4am and start expressing my breast milk with eyes half open to relieve my breast pains.

4. Nipple shield doesn't entirely fix your breastfeeding problems! Recently, I invested on silicone nipple shields to protect my inverted and cracked nipple during breastfeeding. I thought they would help me a lot. But no, the immense pains were still there when my baby sucked the nipple shield. Anyhow, maybe I didn't know how to use it correctly.

At the moment, as a new Mom, I could only lay out all the current challenges that I face from breastfeeding, without sharing much on the concrete breastfeeding solutions since I have not solved my breastfeeding problems just yet. If you are expecting a baby and plan to breastfeed when he or she arrives, please learn from my lessons here. Go get some information on breastfeeding from the internet, join a breastfeeding forum/support group, get a contact of a lactation consultant or ask around few friends and/or relatives with breastfeeding experience before your baby is born so you can breastfeed your baby successfully later on.

Last but not least, here's some wisdom on breastfeeding that I want to share: Breastfeeding requires good techniques, patience, determination and lots of practice. This line may sound so simple but these are the four things that I currently try to improve to slowly breastfeed my baby as much and often as possible.

6 comments:

  1. Hmm it looks like your site ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I'll just sum it up what I had written and say, I'm thoroughly enjoying your blog.

    I too am an aspiring blog blogger but I'm still new to everything. Do you have any helpful hints for first-time blog writers? I'd genuinely appreciate it.
    my page: eed

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  2. Hi, thank you for your comment and I am sorry that your previous long comment on this post didn't go through. I am not sure what the problem was.

    Sorry, I can't really share any tips on first-time blogging because I don't consider myself as a successful blogger just yet. I blog because I simply enjoy it.

    All the best with your blog too!

    Cheers,

    Christine

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  3. Hi Christine,

    You should check out The Breastfeeding Advocate Network on Facebook :) It's a Malaysian group with a few experienced mummies whom can advice :)

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    Replies
    1. Hi, thank you for sharing this. Let me check their page on Facebook! :-)

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  4. Hey Christine, I've been reading your blog for a while and just delivered my baby girl on 26 Sep.
    I must say this post is really apt! I always thought BFing was a natural thing too, just pop the nipple in the mouth and wala!
    For me, I had the milk but no skills to latch the baby. When I was still in hospital, the lactation consultant did teach me how to latch, baby is a gold latcher, she just sucks so naturally. But once I'm on my own, latching her is so random, sometimes I can do it, most of the time I can't. In the end, I started cupfeeding her and bottle feeding her with EBM.

    We then spent money and time with a lactation consultant just to get my latching techniques right. Who knows, she went was ok for a few days, went through a cranky day where she absolutely refused to latch. Till today, we still fight over latching as she still bites! But I'm sure we are getting there and you can as well.

    Continue to latch and the milk will come in when you are more relaxed. Also, there are a lot of recipes out there that helps to increase milk supply, my tcm did give me a recipe if you are interested.

    Let's work hard together! :p

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  5. Hi Vulenier,

    Thank you for sharing your story with me and congrats on your baby girl!!

    Yes, I have the same experience like you. When the lactation consultant taught me BF-ing correctly, I thought I could do the same correct technique at home. However, when I am at home, sometimes I can latch my baby just fine but most of the time, I can't.. Although she can suck naturally too! I think my milk isn't so much either.. That's the problem. I have to rely on formula milk to make my baby full.

    I thought we are not supposed to drink TCM when breastfeeding? I only drink red dates and longan tea for now.

    Cheers,

    Christine

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