Nursing the Dragon, Milking the Chick

Oh no it isn’t some award-winning film Ang Lee is producing this Summer. It’s just baby dragon nursing his hunger off mummy hen – the story of our lives. One that I enjoy while I can with this helluva hungry boy!
It was really tough the first 2.5 months because he latches on me every other hour. I would say, it is the most draining part of mummy-hood besides putting him to sleep. That (the awaken dragon) warrants another blog post altogether so let us focus on breastfeeding here.
Every pregnancy seminar you attend tells you, “Breastfeed till at least 6 months. It’s the best gift you can give to you child.” None, not a single one or even Mrs Wong Boh Boi (Assistant Director of Thomson ParentCraft Centre), shared that it will be the most painful and punishing task a mother will have to undertake. Already we are deprived of sleep, we still have to endure the sores and bruises from breastfeeding. To my fellow soon-to-bes. don’t fret just yet. Once you get through the toughening part, you will start to enjoy breastfeeding. In fact, you might miss it when the little one decides to wean off you on his own.
Let’s go back to Day 1 – 30th May 2012.
I was very excited to nurse Ewan. I knew this is what I want for my child. Well-loved and breastfed. When I cradled him in my arms and brought him close to me, I guided him to his milk and YeeOWCH! He, who was only a couple of hours old, had no idea how to latch and suckle properly without hurting mummy! Worst of all, there was no lactation consultant on site to guide us through the next few feeds because he was born at 1:07am. By the time help came, I was bitten, cracked and battered. Now wait.. can I bold bitten, cracked and battered? *haha*

I was absolutely sure we had it all wrong because it shouldn’t hurt like this? Guess what the LC said …. he was latching correctly and I guided him alright. Oh gosh! If all is right and it hurts this much, I have no idea how long I can survive this.

Day 2 … Day 3 … he kept crying. The old folks all concurred that I am not providing enough. That put me in doubt and I did consider introducing formula. We want only the best for our pride and joy. So if the best can’t sustain him, we have to go for alternatives! Besides, I needed a break from all these nippling. They were so cracked, I was taught how to syringe the colostrum out for feeding. Another very tiresome duty because I was up for an hour syringing out just half a syringe of colostrum.
So I talked to my LC and gynae about it but they assured me that I am providing enough for Ewan. A little baby do not need that much of milk. “So why is he crying? How much is he supposed to drink at this age?” The answer I got, “Give him however much you have even if it’s only 5ml”.
Wow… is that enough? But I persevered because I felt guilty even thinking about giving Ewan formula. How interesting societal pressures work their thing on us huh. Just because breastfeeding is now strongly encouraged worldwide, we are pressured to steer clear of formula. The tagline “breastfeeding is the best gift you can give your child” is an intimidation. It is a challenge. We all know so well thought that we were all formula-fed. What’s wrong with us now? Absolutely nothing really.
I gave Ewan formula in the hospital. Just that one feed because I was going crazy with the number of times he was brought in to me and the night-shift nurse insisted that my baby is famished. Her words, “just let me show you what formula can do”. She wanted to show me that formula can shut Ewan up. You know what? It did shut him up but I felt like crap.
The next day, my gynae came to visit and I confessed tearfully that Ewan was formula-fed. I really regretted I was swayed into it. Yeah … all these guilt thing lah. The whole nursing team had a trashing down from my gynae that morning and she ordered Ewan to room-in with me from then on. Yes. I agreed that the night-shift nurse shouldn’t have given such suggestions because ultimately I should be the one making the decisions.
We checked out a week later and back home I continued to breastfeed. So here, no more nurses to tell me what to do but there’s the nanny. The O-So-Experienced nanny whom I listen obediently to. Ewan finished his small-tin of Similac Comfort Stage 1. He was both breast- and formula-fed. I was so tired breastfeeding him every other hour and hearing his cries that I agreed to formula for certain nights while I catch up on my sleep.
I broke down several times because it was so hard to keep up with Ewan. On his full-month party, I decided to miss two latches just so I can entertain guests. Holy cow! I ran a fever and rock-hard breasts. It was so painful I wanted to die. I had mastitis. It is a breast infection in the tissue of the breast because I did not empty them when it needs to be emptied. Before this episode, I had plugged ducts too and I felt so down. It was very difficult but these tips helped a lot:
You will notice one of the suggestions is to vary baby’s position? This was such a challenge for me. I’m already so sore and cracked from the cradling position, I still have to suffer more pain from changing his cradle hold to football hold? OMG! Crack crack Craacckkk! So that’s double the pain. Welcome to all breastfeeding mummies’ world. I called all the hospitals’ parentcraft centres every other day just to clear my doubts but really just to keep sane by talking to someone.
Q: My son is crying everyday. Am I feeding enough?
A: If he has 7-10 wet diapers a day, he has enough
Conclude: Yea he does so he has enough but he is still crying
Q: I have plugged ducts. What shall I do?
A: Do this..blah blah.. Do that.. blah blah
Conclude: Do Everything there is to help clear the plugged ducts
One day, I called in a lactation specialist. I had been crying and feeling helpless. Ewan is not sleeping after nursing. He is still crying like crazy and I had no idea what’s up with him. I hardly got any rest myself because he latches ONE HOUR on me, sleeps for ONE HOUR and wants to latch again for another HOUR. Hello?? I am literally a mother cow.

Doris Fok came to my rescue by giving me a sense of renewed confidence (unlike my nanny who constantly reminds me that my son is hungry). She stayed for 1.5 hours talking to me about the science and benefits of breastfeeding. She calculated his birth weight and matched against his current, gave me a big thumbs up and said, “He is gaining weight well! Meaning, you are providing him enough!”

Yay! That set my mind at ease but why is he still crying so much? It seems that we found the answer with Doris. Ewan suckles for comfort and what she told me next made me nurse Ewan with love and understanding.
“It seems to me that your baby looks at you as his comfort object. When he suckles, he feels safe. Instead of feeling tired and angry, be proud that you are so important to him. But do away with formula. Stay focused and strong. NO amount of breastmilk will make a baby obese but constant feeding of formula will.”
I did it! I ride through the pain and sleepless days (and nights). Ewan is fully breastfed till today and I am enjoying every bit of it. No more pain but beware of the engorgements that might creep up on you if you aren’t careful. That’s a nightmare!
Please keep this list of telephone numbers close you your bedside. You will need it, trust me!
Oh, just to share, Ewan’s high on milk look. I love it! He don’t do this anymore now that he is older but here’s him at Day 11. Also, just a word of encouragement to all soon-to-bes out there, when you hear people say, “It will only get better”, It’s True lah!
Ewan high on milk at Day 11

3 thoughts on “Nursing the Dragon, Milking the Chick

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