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Working and Breastfeeding - My Experience

by Ms Lim Guek Har
(This story was written in July 1998)

Jun-Wei & Wei-Ru

I never thought it would be possible to combine breastfeeding with working.  My company had a strict policy of 56 days maternity leave, this is barely enough to set up a breastfeeding routine.  With my daughter Wei Ru, I knew very little about pumping and every working day I would rushed back during lunch to breastfeed her.  All this proved too stressful and I chose what seemed to be a good solution then : supplement with formula while I was at work and breastfed her when I was home.  Very soon, my milk supply decreased and she was solely drinking formula milk.

To my dismay, she frequently developed eczema and wheezing cough.  I cried with her all those times she was put on the nebuliser to clear her phlegm.

When I was pregnant with second baby Jun Wei, I was very lucky to have found the internet newsgroup  It opened me to a new world where breastfeeding is the norm and every day I learned new things about breastfeeding.  I surfed the net frequently and read up breastfeeding books, paying particular attention to pumping, milk storage and handling.  What impressed me most was how working mothers managed to exclusively breastfeed
their babies.

As the delivery date came closer, my siblings asked what I'd like for the baby gift and I asked for an electric breast pump (Medela Pump-In-Style).  This is, up to this day even, the best gift that I had ever recieved.

When the baby finally arrived and my maternity leave ended, I considered myself well prepared and was confident I could breeze through the pumping sessions. Wrong !  I realised what they meant when they said "no pump is more efficient than the baby".  I soon developed fever caused by those painful plugged ducts. It took quite a few nursing sessions to totally get rid of them.  Now I manually expressed after I finished pumping to ensure that the breasts are fully empty.

I pump twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon.  Bottles are sterilised before I left home and pump parts kept in the sterilising solution at work.  The major problem I faced when pumping is stress.   With all the backlog of work and a tight schedule to finish off projects, the stress level is up and the milk production down.

To aid in the milk let-down, I try to relax and think about the baby, sometimes I will look at the baby's photo while I pump.  Pumping releases the hormone prolactin that helps in relaxation.  So this is a two way thing, I relax in order to pump and pumping helps me to relax !  I have since set up about 3 days of buffer supply so that even if I missed out on one or two pumping sessions, I
still have spare milk for the baby.

Personally, I think breastfeeding has helped me connect to the baby while I am at work.  When I get back home in the evening, nursing is the first thing Jun Wei wants to do, even when he has just finished his dinner !

Jun Wei is now a healthy nine month old baby.  You may be wondering when I decide to stop pumping or breastfeeding.  Well, I think I will leave this decision to the little one !

Ms Lim Guek Har is an Engineer by profession, working full-time in an American Firm.
She has 2 children:
Daughter Wei Ru (3 years old) and Son Jun Wei (9 months).
This story was written in July 1998.

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