I finally understand why some moms would choose not to breastfeed their babies.
Knowing nothing about breastfeeding, I thought that everything come naturally. Namely that:
- Babies should know how to suck and feed on their own.
- Moms would naturally produce milk after the baby is born.
I was so wrong…
The first 3 days after giving birth were my most clueless times. While running on my postpartum adrenaline rush, I insisted on direct latching to breastfeed my baby and somehow did not feel tired regardless of the sleepless nights.
After checking in to the confinement centre, I was pressured into giving formula milk to top up because baby ‘didn’t have enough’ and they were ‘afraid of jaundice developing’.
I was very hesitant. If anything I was against it because I was producing milk! It was not because I think that formula milk is not good, but I felt that if I had breastmilk, I wanted to be able to provide that to my baby. Especially in the first few days, as breastmilk (colostrum) is nutrient-dense and high in antibodies and antioxidants to build a newborn baby’s immune system. Of course I would want to give that to my precious baby!
But the thing about direct latching is…
We will never know how much baby is drinking. Which is how my struggles started.
Baby A was crying most times (every 30-60mins) on the 2nd and 3rd day. After a while, I was convinced that my baby did not have enough to feed on. I tried to make a rational decision. So after trying for 3 days, I agreed to top up with formula milk from the 3rd night onwards. There and then, Baby A could sleep through 1-2 hours, and I could finally take a break and sleep for a few hours straight.
I started reading up a lot and consulted a Lactation Consultant (LC) to better understand my breastfeeding journey. These are a few important factors that I felt contributed the most:
- The latch.
Baby A was ‘latching’ in my eyes but I later found out that her mouth was too small to cover my whole aerola, and was only sucking from my nipple. So, she probably did not get much milk in her stomach.
- Yes, one may not have ENOUGH milk supply in the first few days.
I was stubborn…
- Rest and water intake are important in the production of milk.
I probably neglected both…
Now that I was more aware of these factors, I made sure that I had enough rest and liquid intake. True enough, my breasts started to have a surge of milk on the 4th/5th day. Once again, despite not knowing much, I tried to direct latch Baby A but something still seemed off. I realized that my breasts were hard and hot. Soon, the hardness and hotness would wake me up in the middle of the night. I tried to pump it out but nothing came out. I did my best to resolve this by asking Baby A to feed more so that I could get some relief.
Thankfully, I consulted my LC the next day and found out that my breasts were engorged. She had to help me massage to clear the milk ducts. I was also told to use a warm compress before feeding Baby A. On top of that, although I had milk, it was still not enough to be pumped out. The only other option I had was hand expressing milk.
Since then, I constantly began massaging it (I am referring to feeding/hand express every 1-2 hours, that made it 12-24x of practice in a day) to prevent engorgement and soon, I got the hang of it!
After this, my journey in breastfeeding became quite smooth! There were hiccups here and there in which there were some lumps, but my LC always managed to help me clear it out. Also, I always knew when to look for help!
Because of how diligent the nurses and myself were in feeding her regularly, and because Baby A was good at pooing regularly, her jaundice level was always under control. Thankfully she never needed to undergo any phototherapy!
Reflecting on this journey, my message to all new mothers would be:
Please don’t get discouraged should your breastfeeding journey not go as planned. You can always look for help! Believe in yourself and give it your best shot! However, if you have done your best yet the result is not what you have expected, it is also not your fault! Embrace this amazing motherhood journey whereby you have so much more to give <3.