I had covered how to kickstart breastfeeding previously.
Well, this post would be to debunk what most people like to say – that it was good to breastfeed because breastmilk was free.
Let us consider the “monetary cost savings” of feeding your child with breastmilk instead of formula milk.
We had to factor in the cost of a good electric breast pump, the other equipment (such as additional milk bottles, ice bag, milk storage bags, milk storage cups and some even buy an additional freezer), the supplements (S$85 monthly for me).
We also had to factor in the time which the mother had to sacrifice from work or from sleep or from anything that she was doing to latch the baby or express milk. There was also time required to wash, sterilize and assemble the apparatus.
Hence, breastfeeding was not cheaper than formula milk and could potentially only breakeven at the 6th to 8th month, depending on how much you paid for the breast pump.
A side note: You could actually get the Medela Freestyle breastpump at S$460 if you knew where to find, as opposed to paying for an authorized set. The only difference was the plug and the one year warranty. I bought my first set at $768 during Z’s time. It was very well used throughout the 15 months. It was small enough to be carried around for meetings and business/leisure travel. Anyway, after nearly 4 years, the battery was not working well. A new battery would cost S$150 and replacement of parts would cost another S$150. I opted to buy a new set from a reseller at S$460.
So if breastmilk wasn’t cheaper, why would mothers bother to do it?
Honestly, I had no idea during Z’s time. It felt more like because everyone said so. It was also because when everyone around me talked about breastfeeding, no one mentioned that they did not breastfeed exclusively. It did not help that while I had no problems latching Z, I had problems expressing the breastmilk. For a very long time, I did wonder if my breastpump was spoiled since no one ever actually showed me how to use it! It turned out that I had milk clots which rendered all breastpumps useless.
Given that I had paid $768 for the freestyle pump and I also checked its poor resale value (cannibalized by cheaper parallel import but brand new models), I was determined to make it work. I would say there was a lot of literal pain and real tears in the beginning. However, if you could make it to the 3rd week, you would be right on track. Breastfeeding would be a breeze and your problem would be to wonder how to store, freeze, thaw and use the frozen breastmilk.
In Z’s time, I overstocked and had to give away hundreds of packets of frozen breastmilk. I even thawed some for foot soak. In X’s time, I was wiser and did not overstock. I only maintained about 30-40 packets in the freezer in case I had to travel for work.
Many new breastfeeding mothers would ponder how to continue nursing at work, especially with respect to the washing and sterilizing. For me, I chose the Medela freestyle, so no issues with its portability and it had built-in battery which could last a few days before a charge was required. If I plan to express milk 3 times a day, I would prepare 3 sets of apparatus and pack them into sterile bags. I did not give Z and X frozen breastmilk. I would express today and they would have today’s supply as milk for tomorrow. In this aspect, they received fresh milk and I saved on disposable milk bags.
On hind sight, some of the perks of breastfeeding, was of course NOT the monetary savings, were:
1. The child would like to drink water
I never realized that children, in general, did not like water because Z used to drink so much water until my mom appeared very surprised. She told us she used to con us to drink water by adding honey.
2. There was an overwhelming mother-child bond which I had never expected.
The honest truth was I never liked children. However, when you had to latch a baby so many times a day i.e. up to 12 times a day in the first month, you carried the baby so often that you would fall very hard for the baby.
3. We could travel very light during the pre-semi-solids’ days
During 0-6 months, I was the walking milk dispenser. We only had to bring diapers and change of clothes. This was the BEST time to travel.
4. The child would be less likely to develop problems such as constipation
During the 0-3 months, they actually poo so much that we did not have to worry about otherwise. You could be rest assured that they always had sufficient hydration due to high water content in breastmilk. It also meant one less water bottle to bring (travel light!).
On to the non-technical aspect of breastfeeding:
- Please maintain zero expectation – if you started on the basis that you would do so well at it, you might fall on a really hard landing. Besides, expectations would cause stress and that would affect milk supply.
- Do attend antenatal classes by Ms Wong Boi Boi – she covers so many personal tips that it is really worth the hassle to accommodate to her schedule.
- Choose a hospital with nurses who were pro-breastfeeding – both my experiences at TMC’s Premier Wing were excellent. While every hospital claimed to be pro-breastfeeding, some were much better than others.
- Lactation consultant/parentcraft team – My experience with TMC lactation consultants were that they were very knowledgeable, patient and drilled in the same message a lot. They were also supportive and very encouraging. The parentcraft team was so awesome that they would give out a mobile phone number to help new nursing moms.
- Support group – Find out which friends were pro-nursing moms and talk to them whenever you had problems. Some problems could be rather sensitive, so only a nursing mom could relate better to you. Let them encourage you!
Lastly, breastfeed your child only if you were comfortable and happy. If it made you miserable or turned you into a monster, formula milk was absolutely fine.