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Breastfeeding my "Velcro" Baby

by Ms Angeline Chia
"Carrying and nursing her constantly... 
she has learnt trust - that Mommy and Daddy are there for her....
She knows that this world is one of tender loving care, 
not one that is cruel and harsh where she has to fight for her own survival."
(This story appeared in "Keeping Abreast" July/September 1998 issue)

The moment I had confirmation of my pregnancy, I decided that I would breastfeed. angeline and jade

Breastfeeding started off well after delivery.  Taking care of Baby Jade was a breeze those first 2 days in the hospital since she slept most of the time.  However, just as I began thinking htat I had a very "good" baby, I was jerked to reality the moment I returned home!

With the effects of the anaesthetic (pethidine) fading, my baby changed into a totally different person.  She was awake a lot, demanding all my time and attention.  With nursing intervals of 1 to 1-1/2 hours, and each feeding lasting up to half an hour at times, I really felt like a milk dispenser, working round the clock to satisfy my baby's insatiable hunger pangs.  And as each feeding stimulates her bladder and bowel movements, I was practically doing nothing but nursing and changing nappies all the time!

This feeding pattern led my relatives to quickly suggest that I supplement my baby's feeds with formula.  Their reasons ranged from "you are so small-sized, are you sure you have enough milk?", "your breastmilk is too watery to satisfy your baby's hunger", "formula-fed babies sleep better"...

Relatives were also fearful that breastfeeding for too long a period would hinder her developing independence.  My husband once joked that Baby Jade seemed to be "velcroed" to me.  When he left for work in the morning, Jade was at my breast.  When he called during the day, I was nursing and rocking her to sleep.  When he returned from work, he would STILL see her at my breast.  It is trud that Jade is really "stuck" to me and that she takes a long time to warm up to unfamiliar faces, but after all, she is still a baby!

Speaking to counsellors on the BMSG(S) helpline was a great confidence booster in those early days.  I remember calling the helpline everyday - sometimes 2 or 3 times in a day!

So, other than the advice and pressure from relatives, breastfeeding Jade has been a relatively enriching and smooth-going experience.  She has a voracious appetitie and I did worry about her not getting enough milk in the first days.  But she has thrived.  At 3 months, Jade had already doubled her birthweight, and at 6 months, almost tripled.  That was when I won some of my relative over.  Many of their worries have proven to be unfounded.

Jade is also a very healthy girl.  Once when I developed a cold, I was again given strong pressure to keep away from her.  However, I resisted, believing that Jade would have already been exposed to the germs from my cold even before I'd shown any symptoms.  True enough, she stayed fit throughout the period.  I gathered that the antibodies my body was producing then must have been passed on to her via the breastmilk;  thus giving her immunity to my cold virus.

My only "problem" with Jade lies with weaning.  I started weaning her to some solids at 5 months, but to this day, she still has not taken much of a liking to solid foods.  She is an extremely fussy eater.  She could be enjoying her cereal today and reject it the next.  Or, she would savour eveyr bit of her fish porridge at lunch but shake her head voilently when the same food is offered at dinner.  Again, I am under pressure to wean her onto formula as well-mening relatives tell me that Jade's refusal of solids is due to her "overdependence on breastmilk!"  I really don't see the logic in this, especially as Jade seems happy and well.  I guess that even if she rejects all foods, I can still take comfort in that she still enjoys her breastmilk.

I KNOW that I have made the right choice.  Jade seldom cries these days.  When she does, it is probably due to pain (like a vaccination) or fever.  Carrying her and nursing her constantly in those early days will not affect her adversely.  Instead she has learnt trust - that Mommy and Daddy are there for her.  A little whimper will bring Mommy or Daddy quickly to her side to pick her up, to hug her, to nurse her, and to play with her!  She knows that this world is one of tender loving care, not one that is cruel and harsh where she has to fight for her own survival.

Angeline has just completed her Counsellors' Training Course.
She has been a Stay-at-Home Mom since Jade was born.
Jade is now over 1 year old.
This story was written in May 1998.

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