Low milk supply
As a new mum, breastfeeding got off to a rocky start. Despite latching my baby on every two to three hours and working the breast pump, my milk supply somehow failed to flow! I admit that this stressed me out at that time, as I was not able to provide for and nourish my crying, hungry baby. When I went back to the pediatrician three days after our discharge, she shared that my baby is not gaining weight well, and is not wetting and soiling her diapers enough. Then the pediatrician suggested that I pump to show how much my baby was drinking each time. To my horror, it was less than 10ml from both breasts!
Although I have read that babies may experience nipple confusion after bottle feeding or may not want to go back to breast milk after tasting the sweetness in formula milk, it seemed I did not have a choice. I could not bear to see my baby girl going hungry. Hence, I started supplementing my baby’s feeds with formula milk through bottle feeding.
Interestingly, putting my baby on the formula took the pressure off of me, and my milk supply began to stabilise. I guess it is true that all mothers just want to see their baby happy and healthy! In weeks 3 to 4, my milk supply started building up, and I was ready to breastfeed my little one again. I also drank more fluids to hopefully help with milk production.
I was advised to express milk every three hours, even at night. That would trick my brain into thinking that the demand for milk is high. However, having to pump, feed, wash and sterilise was incredibly tiring and I just could not keep up any longer. I recall waking up one morning with pain and hard lumps in my left breast, and no amount of expressing or latching could ease the pain! I thus quickly asked for a lactation consultant, who told me that it was mastitis, or inflammation and infection of breast tissue caused by a blocked milk duct. I was told to rest, drink more fluids and continue breastfeeding or expressing. A massage therapist will also be massaging my breasts to get rid of the mastitis.
Later that day, I felt feverish and had to take some over-the-counter medicine. My mother looked after my baby while I slept that afternoon and I took more pills that evening and drank lots of water. I almost wanted to give up breastfeeding at this point because I felt so sick and exhausted. However, I was told that breast milk contains more antibodies when the mother is sick, which would protect the baby! The baby will also not catch the illness through breast milk. Hearing this, I was determined to press on with latching, sick as I was.
Speaking of pumps, I have had my fair share of regrets. I bought a manual breast pump when I was still pregnant, thinking that I should save up whenever I can since it was the cheaper option. It took a long time to pump and required lots of energy! I eventually decided to invest in an electric pump instead, which expressed milk twice as fast. In fact, I could just rest and shut my eyes during the entire pumping process. The only downside was that the electric pump is bulkier and heavier to carry around.
For milk to flow better, I applied a hot compress to my breasts, as advised by my lactation consultant. She also taught me how to do quick massages to prevent any blocked ducts before pumping. I usually pump during nap time so that I do not have to feel the guilt of not being able to carry my baby when she’s crying. I would still put her next to me so that if she needed anything, I would be right there.
On days like these when you feel like nothing is going right, look into the eyes of your little one. This new addition to the family is one thing you definitely did right!
Breastfeeding hurts, especially in the first few minutes of latching! A few times I felt sharp pain, and was very close to tears. I had to bite my lips and endure the tenderness. I later discovered that my nipples were sore because as a newborn, my baby’s mouth was very small! For mothers who are struggling with breastfeeding pain, hang in there! The soreness from a bad latch usually takes several days to go away, so even if you have good latches for the next few days, your nipples would still hurt. Some babies manage to latch strongly, but may slide down to the nipple, which can be painful as well. For me, the pain finally subsided by the start of the second month once my baby grew bigger in size. To prevent sore nipples, make sure your baby is positioned comfortably. Try to express your milk as well, while your nipples heal. All in all, it took me close to 3 months before I could get the hang of things. While being a mother is a blessing, it is tough work!
All in all, I am thankful for the breastfeeding journey with my dear daughter. Although breast milk is best for babies, sometimes circumstances permit otherwise. Every mother is different, and it does not matter if you cannot breastfeed exclusively, nor should you feel guilty that you have to supplement with formula milk. Enjoy every precious moment and enjoy the skin-to-skin contact with your precious infant. For mothers out there who may find it difficult to cope or are on the verge of giving up, here’s a big hug for you! Slow down and take it easy – you are definitely not alone.