(This story appeared in "Keeping Abreast" Jan/Mar 2000 issue)
I cannot remember why I chose to breastfeed, except that I wanted to the moment I discovered that I was pregnant. With my mind set, I started to collect as much information as I could on the subject. I also told my husband that I wanted to breastfeed. He was surprised but supported my decision.
I was working in the USA when I was expecting my first child. When I told my employer that I planned to breastfeed and will have to express milk in the office, they supported me. In fact, my manager was happy because he knew that breastfed babies are healthier and because of that, mothers need not be absent from work as often to care for their sick babies.
I also enrolled for prenatal classes. One of the topics covered was breastfeeding. I found it useful and very informative. It covered nipple preparation, nursing bras, positioning (each mother had a baby doll to practise with), removing baby from the breast, burping, calming a fussy baby, avoiding colic and medications, and how to overcome obstacles. Most importantly it taught about caring for myself, the husband's role, and how they can help nursing mothers. The class gave me confidence and provided me with strong support that I later turned to after the birth of my baby.
With all the preparations, I thought everything would turn out fine – well, it was at the hospital, as the nurses were helpful. But when I went home on the third day, a new set of problems cropped up. My baby wanted to nurse almost every hour! He would cry if I did not put him to the breast fast enough. I felt like a milk dispenser and wondered whether my baby was getting enough milk. I even wondered whether there was any milk! Luckily, my husband asked me to call our prenatal class instructor. She was great. She told me my milk was coming in, and that the baby was just doing his job, sucking as much as he could to increase my milk supply. She also advised me on what to do after hearing my birthing experience. The best advice she gave was in reminding me to RELAX and enjoy my baby. It was such a relief talking to her.
As days went by, I learnt to cope with total breastfeeding. I had my baby sleep with me in the night so that I could nurse him easily. This way, I would not miss any feeding and at the same time could be well-rested in the mornings. For support and encouragement, I also joined the local La Leche League group (a breastfeeding support group popular in the USA).
My husband was wonderful. He did not raise any doubts about my ability to breastfeed. He even encouraged me when I felt like giving up. This was a great morale booster. He was further convinced that breastfeeding is best when we were on our way back to Singapore.
We had planned to stay in San Francisco for a few nights before taking the long flight home. Having been busy with our packing and moving, he had forgotten to reserve a hotel room! There was a major convention on in San Francisco at that time and we could not get any lodging. We drove from town to town in the night looking for a room. It was at that time that he realized breastfeeding is great and very convenient. We did not have to worry about water for making formula or whether there was enough formula. Whenever our baby was hungry, I just nursed him.
We came back to Singapore when our baby was 5 months' old. I thought breastfeeding was very common in Singapore. I was wrong. I could not find any breastfeeding clothes and I received many surprised looks when strangers discovered that I was nursing my baby.
I also received a lot of comments like "Is there enough milk for the baby?" and "You are still breastfeeding when the baby is so old?“. The worst was from my own mother. She said that the baby was drinking my blood. She was concerned that the baby was taking all the nutrients from my body, making me weak and unhealthy. I tried to explain to her but I know she is not convinced. Now I just ignore her. She knows I will not give up breastfeeding.
When I was pregnant with my second child, breastfeeding was the obvious choice. My only problem was my elder child Caleb's jealousy. The younger one – Baby Joshua seemed to get more attention from me. Thus I had to try and pay more attention to Caleb. I also asked other breastfeeding mothers how they deal with such situations and tried to make use of their suggestions. Fortunately, I have no problems so far except for an occasional tantrum. I am still breastfeeding Joshua exclusively. He is now 6 months' old.
I am very happy that I made the decision to breastfeed both my children.
Both are healthy and happy. I am also thankful to have a supportive
husband and lots of support from other women who had breastfed their babies.
I hope other women will also try to breastfeed their babies and enjoy the
wonderful bond breastfeeding mothers have with their babies.
Ivy is a mother to 2 boys. Caleb is now 3 years’ old and Joshua
already 1 year old.