Yes, the title is a tad dramatic but we have finally reached the end of the road. The breastfeeding road, that is.
Ladies and gentlemen, I, on 9 February 2014 (Monday), nursed Elliott for the final time and we were done with nursing. It signified the end of pumping, washing parts, painful engorged boobs, lugging huge bags to and from work, etc.
Ah, it was an emotional yoyo. I was glad to be finally done and I can wear my usual clothes again. On the other, I miss our one-on-one, skin-to-skin moments. Just writing that line made my eyes well up with tears. The start of the breastfeeding journey was a rocky one. I set small goals and took one day and night feed at a time. I was also adamant to hit the minimum 6 month mark and told myself that anything after was a bonus. I did not want breastfeeding to become a chore.
Once the magic 6 month mark was crossed, we started to supplement with formula so that I wasn’t the only food source and I was heading back to work. I will always be thankful that Elliott took to the bottle well and switched easily between boob and bottle, breast milk and formula milk.
So I have been back at work for four months. This means that I have been pumping at work for four months now. Everybody say HURRAH.
I actually heaved a great sigh of relief when we crossed the six-month mark and my little man embarked on solids. It meant that I could relax a little and not feel so stressed about pumping enough milk to feed Zac, now that he has other sources of food to fill that Buddha belly of his.
As most working mums who express at work will tell you, their relationship with the pump is a complex, bittersweet one. I am glad that the pump exists to allow me to feed breast milk to my kid and yet at the same time, I can’t help but feel chained to it. Carving out the time to pump at work two, three times a day is a feat, especially when my schedule is erratic.
But at the same time, there are many things that I am grateful for: a cubicle with relative privacy that allows me to pump in peace, colleagues who are understanding. I am able to install a makeshift curtain, draw it and pump at my desk while working at the same time, which makes me feel less guilty about needing to pump three times a day. I can also sit and let the pump run for as long as I want, while getting stuff done.
I was able to pump milk for Aidan all the way till he was a year old, before transitioning him slowly to fresh milk and I am hoping to do the same for Zac. Fingers crossed!
If you are someone who is planning to express at work, here are some tips that may be helpful to you.
Ah, breast pumps.
Working mums who breastfeed are familiar with these contraptions. We know them well, rely on them and yet loathe them at the same time (or at least, I do). But undeniably, these horn-shaped, loud and definitely unsexy machinery are absolutely necessary for mums who work and still desire to feed breast milk to their babies.
(You would think that some design genius would have turned it into something that looks a little better than this but NOOOOOO.)
Of course, pumping isn’t all that bad. I mean, just look at the entertainment that pumping can bring:
Anyway, between Yi Lin, Selene and myself, we have used quite a few sets of breast pumps. We all know that a breast pump is usually on the top of the shopping list of expectant women. And yet it can be a scary purchase, simply because of the variety of pumps available at different price points and the sheer cost.
So we have decided to do the work for you by putting together our collective experiences.
Presenting to you…The Great Breast Pump Review.
I don’t know how it happened but Elliott turned 6 months old last week. Yes, SIX MONTH OLD. Already. I wrote my usual note to him but realised a few days later that I left out an important milestone.
It hit me that I have successfully breastfed him for 6 whole months.
Check out the entry I wrote back in March. We were such noobs when it came to breastfeeding then. When we first started out, I told myself that I’d give it 3 months. If this breastfeeding business doesn’t work out in 3 months, we’d switch to formula milk. No one wants their own kid to starve, right? Besides, like a wise girlfriend reminded me: Formula milk is NOT poison.
1 month flew by.
Then 3 months.
I told myself, Ok, let’s try for 6 months. That’s the recommended timeline from WHO anyway. Every mother who breastfed told me that it will get “easier” over time and honestly, I did not quite believe them at first. Not with sore nipples, engorged boobs, milk blisters, blah blah blah. Those were not fun times.
But somehow, we made it through. And you know what? THEY WERE RIGHT.
Breastfeeding did get easier. A lot easier. We – Elliott and I – both learnt each other’s rhythm and I can now recognise his cries for milk. I guess it also helped that my little man is a milk monster. He loves his milk and takes every opportunity to nurse.
The night feeds have also gotten easier because I have finally learnt how to nurse lying down. This allows me to continue to half snooze while he gets his milk too. Win-win!
To top it off, I recently discovered that I can nurse him on the go in the baby carrier. That was definitely an “Achievement Unlocked” moment for me as Elliott enjoys being nursed to sleep. No one can tell that there’s a baby being nursed below that cover so once he’s done, I simply whip off the cover and continue shopping/eating. Woot!
Elliott just turned three weeks old. Has it only been…three weeks? To say that our lives have changed forever is putting it mildly. I feel like we’ve been thrown onto a fast-moving roller coaster without brakes, doing 360 spins over and over again. The first night he was home, we – the new parents – barely slept. When we finally fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion, we would jolt ourselves out of bed at the first sound of his cry/whimper.
I was besieged with anxiety-filled dreams. I would fall asleep and wake up with a shock because I SWEAR I FELL ASLEEP WITH BABY IN MY ARMS! OH NO! When consciousness prevailed, I realised that it was just me hugging my pillow. The husband did not fare much better, sleeping very little and badly too.
We were getting used to having a brand new tiny human at home, as much as he was getting used to his new strange environment out of the womb. I believe I slept (slept being used very loosely here) a total of 1 hour the entire first night/day we were home.
What made it even more challenging was breastfeeding. Ah, breastfeeding. It was my greatest fear. Bigger than childbirth itself. I have heard a million stories from every new mum who breastfed and every single one told me how challenging and difficult it would be BUT TO PLEASE STICK WITH IT BECAUSE IT WOULD DO YOUR BABY GOOD! To prepare myself, I read up voraciously on breastfeeding. I listened intently at the breastfeeding classes that were part of the pre-natal classes. I asked my new mum friends who were breastfeeding. As you can tell, I’m all about being prepared before s*** hits the fan.
When Elliott was born and we were still at the hospital, it wasn’t too bad to breastfeed because the nurses were on hand to help. Suffice to say, it was a completely different ballgame the moment we got home. For each breastfeeding session, I needed help from the husband to latch him on. I would then try my darnest to get him to latch and more often than not, it took 20, 572 attempts and a screaming baby before we would succeed. It was very hit-and-miss. A typical breastfeeding session would see the both of us bathed in sweat. To say that the husband looked like he just attempted a 42km marathon (think sweat pouring down his forehead, sweat-soaked t-shirt, etc) would be the best way to describe how frazzled we were. All this took place in an AIR-CONDITIONED room.
The above scenario took place for the entire first week and I started to fear breastfeeding. I was, literally, gripped by fear whenever the time to feed came around (and we all know how often newborns need to feed!). I was also nervous by the fact that the husband was only home for one week (paternity leave needs to be at least a month, yo!) and I was going to be alone in trying to latch/breastfeed him. Throw in a lack of sleep, breastmilk-soaked clothes, the crazy hot weather and I was sure I was close to a mental breakdown. Tears were aplenty during this period. My tears, that is.
I was frustrated, scared and not sure what the hell I was doing wrong.