5 things I wish someone had told me about breastfeeding
Like any soon-to-be mother, I was full of anticipation for the arrival of my little girl. Of course I wanted only the best for her, so I decided very early on that I would exclusively breastfeed.
I made sure I did my research - I spoke to mummy friends, read article after article, and joined every mummy's forum I chanced upon. I bought the best breast pump in the market, nipple cream, breastfeeding pillow, breastfeeding shawl, breastmilk storage bags, nursing bras. I even had in mind to buy a separate freezer to store my stash.
With what I call the "logistics of breastfeeding" all taken care of, the rest, I thought, would come naturally.
Boy, was I wrong.
Long story short, I was constantly battling with latching issues and low milk supply. I faced challenge after challenge, disappointment after disappointment. My breastfeeding journey (or lack of) left me so physically and emotionally drained that I almost went into depression.
How could something so natural, be so hard?
In my search for answers, I was given a lot of good, genuine advice, which I truly appreciated. But looking back, I wish someone had shared with me these five things:
Stress is your number one enemy
I was in perpetual stress mode trying to find ways to produce more milk. Every time I read about something that helped boost someone's milk supply, I would try it with renewed hope that it would work for me. And believe me, I tried everything - all the milk boosters you can think of; three different pumps; lactation consultants; breast massages; prescribed medication; acupuncture even. Nothing worked.
Beyond being a milk killer, being stressed really took a toll on my emotions.
Mastitis comes in close second
I was struck by mastitis four times in four weeks. Yes, you read it right - FOUR times in FOUR weeks.
When I experienced my first high fever and severe chills within the first week of bringing baby home, my confinement nanny was quick to attribute it to me going out (ok, so I sneaked out with hubby to grab some sashimi. Totally justifiable, right?). I did not know what mastitis was, let alone know how to prevent it, or that a visit to the doctor was necessary.
There IS such a thing as being a low-supply mum
It had never crossed my mind that there would be the slightest possibility that I wouldn't be able to produce enough for my baby, so you can imagine how confused I was when my supply stagnated at 40ml per pump after weeks of religious pumping.
I now know that there are medical reasons why some mothers have low milk supply. I don't know for sure if this was the reason behind my struggles, but had I known, I may have had less "it can't be" moments.
If it doesn't work out for whatever reason, it is OK.
Let me qualify - breastmilk is still the best for baby.
But the social pressures of exclusive breastfeeding can place undue stress on mothers who really cannot.
Each time I asked "what if I can't", well-meaning mummies would cheer me on - "No, you surely can!" Which would give me some motivation to press on for a few more days, before I got upset again for not seeing results.
I wish someone had, at some point, told me, "you know what, it's ok".
Breastfeeding is important, but so is savouring the moment.
I was so obsessed with increasing my milk output that I spent most of my waking hours (and there's a lot of that with a new baby) searching for answers. My memories of my first month of motherhood are sadly clouded by all the sweat and tears trying to master breastfeeding.
Till this day, I still have some regret for not making a conscious effort to just enjoy being with my new squis.
It took me a few months, but with the help of my very supportive husband, I finally came to terms with my inability to exclusively breastfeed my daughter. I started being kinder to myself and became a much happier person. And with that, I could truly be who my daughter needed me to be - her mom.
If I have one piece of advice to offer, it would be this - reading up is essential, but don't let everything you read (especially online) or hear get to you. Remember that every breastfeeding journey is different, and sometimes, you just need a sound support group (whether family, friends or colleagues) to help you keep those emotions in check.
About the Author:
Melissa is a communications professional and first-time mum to a young toddler girl. As a freshy to motherhood (and now, toddlerhood), she is still learning the ropes as she juggles both the demands of her day job and the responsibilities of motherhood. She likes to express herself in words and spends most of her free time with her husband and daughter, as well as volunteering in church.
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