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I have woken up for the fourth time tonight to nurse my baby, and I know tomorrow morning I will feel like the back end of a bus.

Don’t get me wrong, I have loved those quiet and sweet moments, nestling my babies. But so help me God, I have had it with this breastfeeding business.

My firstborn son, who is now 2-and-a-half, was mixed fed till he was one. My second son has been exclusively breastfed since he was born about seven months ago.

With my firstborn, breastfeeding was challenging from the first day

Breastfeeding was not easy for me, right from the start. Before my first son was born, I remember discussing the issue with my husband. My mother had warned me that she had serious problems breastfeeding, opting finally to formula feed my brothers and I. I had assumed, therefore, that this was going to be the case with me.

I told my husband that I was going to try my best, but if it did not work, then so be it. My preoccupation at the time was on the imminent labour. At the back of my mind, however, I did think that formula would be a possibility in the feeding of my child. I remember feeling okay about it. Relaxed, even.

The Realities of Breastfeeding

Little did I know what a total mindfuck my breastfeeding journey would be. I did not know how this was going to affect me so much and turn me into an emotional, blubbering, bitter zombie.

I would resent my husband, who slept through pretty much everything, but especially through a baby cryfest at 4am.

My breast pump would be a source of much hate – you stupid, loud pump with your stupid fiddly parts and your stupid bottles and stupid freezer bags. And oh, you sterilisers, damn you shitty sterilisers with your high and mighty ‘killing 99.9% of harmful germs’ crap.

Because I had such difficulty at the start, I had to resort to formula milk early on while waiting for the milk to come in. (I had no idea about colostrum or how ‘milk came in days after’). This would make me feel like a failure right from the get go, and result in me being extra obsessed about breastfeeding my baby. I was so determined that I went from feeding my baby 100% formula milk to 100% breastmilk. Only mums who have gone through the whole breastfeeding melodrama would know how difficult that is.

The Pain, Pain, Pain

Mixed feeding meant I had the worst of both worlds. I had to endure the never-ending chase for good supply, while dealing with the horrid world of pumping, bottles, milk powder and so on and so forth.

I had two tongue-tied babies – which means they could not latch properly, therefore resulting in excruciating pain and bloody, raw nipples. The agony was worse than labour, I remember thinking incredulously – and I have a pretty strong threshold for pain, having had two natural births without a lick of pain relief.

My mother watched me sadly as I cried when it hurt. Sometimes I would hold the baby right before a latch, pause, and take a deep breath, grimacing before the impending anguish. Mum would softly say to me ‘You don’t have to do this, let’s just use formula’.

Forcing a smile on a hard day – pumping equipment a regular sight in our household

I don’t know what happened to the me who said I wouldn’t torture myself about breastfeeding. Yours truly became the least chill person about breastfeeding. I would burst into tears talking to midwives, lactation experts, health visitors, even random strangers. I would spend quiet hours in the night wondering how to relieve blocked ducts and nipple blisters. Nursing on all fours, vibrating toothbrush on blocked ducts, popping blebs – you name it, I did it.

My husband was surprised at how intense I became over the whole thing – he kept reminding me gently that formula milk was fine and he would support me in anything I wanted to do. But my brain was somehow wired to this notion of success – this pressure to nourish my babies through my own mammaries. When anybody told me about how ‘formula was fine’, I imagined stabbing them repeatedly in the forehead. YOU ARE NOT BEING HELPFUL, GO AWAY. This was me, furious with my perfectly helpful and kind husband and mother.

The Lactative Prison Sentence

Why did I do this to myself? After having gone through all that with my firstborn, I was more ready with my second son. I knew what to do now. It would be cool, things would be better.

And they were, to an extent. I knew how to flag up tongue tie faster, and get the release procedure done in a flash. The pain at the start was still horrific, but I cried like shit persevered through it all.

My second son had the benefit of being breastfed since he was born. But that has resulted in its own set of problems. He now comfort feeds through the night, preferring little irritating ‘snacks’ every two hours or so. What is this nonsense, son? This is the thanks I get for supplying you with natural boob juice all this while? For never leaving you for more than a few hours so I can keep you alive? This is what I get for restraining myself from drinking my body weight in wine?

This evening I ranted to my husband and close friends about how I was going to put him on formula milk so I could at least finally release my body from this lactative prison sentence. The only thing that is keeping me breastfeeding is the great loathing I have for the world of bottles and feeding paraphernalia I will have to deal with if I choose to go with the formula route.

Different Mummies, Different Feeding

Having gone through everything and all the ups and downs, I have great empathy for a wide range of mums going through a wide range of feeding options.

To the mummies who have had a lovely and easy breastfeeding experience, you have my admiration and envy, now go away! (Smiley face)

To the mummies who have had a tough time at the start but continued on, well done you for trying so hard for your babies. I can only fist bump you in camaraderie, and hope you don’t judge me if I ditch it all soon.

To the mummies who turned to formula and feel guilty for not having breastfed your children, life is too short for such guilt. You love your babies just as much as the next mum. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

For the Mummies in Tears

But this is especially for the mummies who have tried so hard to nurse your babies, but had to turn to formula. Or the mummies who are agonising so much at the thought of possibly turning to formula.

I see your tears, and I feel your pain. You have tried or are trying your best, and it is making you feel depressed, distressed and helpless.

Do not fret about using formula – it is not the demon monster some people make it out to be. My firstborn was a mixed fed baby and is thriving. I feel a certain debt to formula milk because it allowed me to help feed and nourish my baby while we worked on improving breastfeeding.

So long as you are caring and loving your child the best way you know how, fed is best.

Breastfeeding can be wonderful, but even as a breastfeeding mum, I can say that my love for my children is not defined by whether I nursed them or not. Fed is best.

And even as I wake to another day thinking ‘Okay, maybe I am not done with breastfeeding yet’, falling into that guilty-mum vortex again, I see you now, and I assure you that it will all be okay. Fed is best.

With my two thriving boys – fed is best.

 

By Laych Koh

Laych Koh is the editor-in-chief of makchic.com

 


 

Dylan by Zhao !

A study carried out by Professor Katie Hinde, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University, gives reason to believe that formula milk should be tailored differently for boys and girls as the growth of a boy differs from that of a girl.

During Hinde’s speech at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago, she described her work in rhesus monkeys that showed mothers produce milk with 35% more fat and protein for male babies, and even richer milk when the male was firstborn. When mother’s feed new born girls, they are said to produce more milk overall but with less fat and more calcium to support the growth and strengthen the babies bones.

As a result, research shows that formulated milk would benefit the baby if categorised for boys and girls. “Boys and girls have different developmental trajectories, so if they are not getting what they need, their development will not be optimal,” said Hinde.

Although it’s not entirely explained as to why the milk produced by the mother varies as a result of the child’s gender, it’s understood that female babies and male babies respond differently to the milk they are drinking. Far more research has yet to be executed to find as to how constituents of milk affect the babies overall.

Source: The Raw Story

Image credit: Flickr user Zhao !

Formula Baby

Yup, you read that right. I’m a formula-feeding mother. I can’t say I’m proud of it, but neither am I apologetic about it.

When I was only 12 weeks pregnant, I bought my Medela Freestyle breastpump. When I was 20 weeks pregnant, I bought boxes of breast pads. When I was 32 weeks pregnant, I called a professional mid-wife for a home visit and a one-on-one guide to breastfeeding. We agreed that she’d come visit me when I’m 35 weeks, just before I hit full term.

Then my water broke. My daughter was born at 34 weeks and six days via emergency c-section. She spent three days in the neonatal intensive care unit and a couple more in the nursery before we were sent home. She was 1.88 kg. The pediatrician discharged her under the condition that she continued to gain weight and thrive.

Under immense pressure, the militant mother in me immediately set to work. I recorded every drop she drank, woke up at 3am to pump, and armed myself with a stack of Medela feeding cups since I supplemented my feeds with formula. I didn’t use milk bottles because it could cause nipple confusion. Or so I was told.

A midwife visited me every alternate day to check my baby’s progress and weight. Every visit ended in tears because my milk supply wasn’t up and neither was my daughter’s weight. At the brink of a nervous breakdown, I turned to a lactation consultation who advised me to try spoon-feeding. That was when I knew I had enough of advice and opinions. I was just going to go with what I felt was best for my baby and me.

So I went out to buy her first milk bottle. As if to add insult to injury, the milk bottle box came with a warning sticker, kind of like those warnings on the cigarette box: MILK BOTTLES COULD CAUSE NIPPLE CONFUSION. MOTHER’S MILK IS BEST. Ridden with guilt, but at my wits end, I gave her the bottle. Within days, she gained weight.

Then I thought that it would be a good time to do away with the formula. I started direct latching more and pumping even more frequently. Although this meant that I was feeding her almost every hour, I told myself it would get better.

I did everything by the book. When I pumped, I would try to relax. I’d think good thoughts, happy thoughts, positive thoughts. I’d think about my baby and look at her picture. I drank oat milk, took what felt like half a bottle of fenugreek daily, massaged, and did compression. I wouldn’t peek at the bottle when I was pumping so that I wouldn’t feel pressured and instead, perhaps be pleasantly surprised. That never worked.

After about a week of trying, I found myself on the verge of yet another breastfeeding meltdown. I called my husband who was at work to tell him that I hated motherhood and I was walking out! I couldn’t accept that this was turning out to be a failure. I thought I was prepared for breastfeeding. I bought all the equipment and read the books but no one or no book tells you how challenging breastfeeding can be. When I was expecting, all I heard and read was that breastfeeding would come naturally. So, I took the whole process for granted and now it was robbing me of the joys of motherhood.

After I finally calmed down, I started topping up my daughter’s feed with formula again. I also stopped worrying about pumping and just did it whenever I could. A month later she was completely on formula. She was three months old at that time and I was a happy, well-rested mom. As the story goes, we lived happily after.

It wasn’t an easy decision to give my baby formula and unfortunately, it was a decision not made easier by some mothers. I had to remove myself from the breastfeeding groups that seemed to belittle or bully mothers who have decided not to or can’t breastfeed. Giving up breastfeeding may not be the best or the right decision for most mothers, but it certainly was right for me.

Yin Peng is struggling to accept that she can’t be it all – a super mother, super wife and super woman. She tries to take things a day at a time and does so in a pair of comfy flats.

Image Credit: Flickr user Bigpresh