Tag Archives: nursing

Coming to the (almost) end of the breastfeeding journey

This round, I would be calling it a day earlier than during Z’s time.  I completed about 15 months of breastfeeding during Z’s time.

For X, it would seem to be 13.5 ~ 14 months.

Travelling always render breastfeeding a pain to deal with logistically.

Now that we had 2 kids, we had more barang barang to carry around.  Hence, there was ‘urgency’ in getting X to accept 100% formula milk before we flew off to Bali.

I never thought I would be able to go through another year of breastfeeding after Z’s time.  I surprised myself by taking this on.  Experience did not make this round easier though.  A routinely fed baby would.  I had so many engorgements with X as compared to Z’s time.

When we came through DFS after flying home from Bali, we stocked up on wines and beers again.  It had been a very long hiatus of nearly 2 years.  I did miss an occasional Hoegarden or a glass of chill white wine.  Maybe I should be sentimental that I would cease being the source of milk provider.

However, I would really not miss the days and nights of expressing milk, having lesser time to myself or with my family or even work, carrying around bags of equipment, bagging milk for freezing and dealing with clots.

It was a journey that I would look back, that I would reminisce and I would share with my friends or my sons and their future wives.  Like a new business, it was difficult to start up.  However, once you grasp the ropes, it would bring in a steady stream of income milk.  It was time to ‘wind up’ this milking business.

The biggest contributor in the equation was Mr H who would relentlessly help to wash, sterilise and assemble the apparatus.  Between the two of us, we had punched in so many manhours that really, it was time for formula milk to relieve our sanity and unclog our precious time.


Introduction to formula milk

With X turning one year old two days’ ago, it was time to move on to formula milk.

It was a bittersweet decision.  First, I felt sad that I was selfish to stop providing him breastmilk.  Second, I looked forward to liberation and that the medela breast pump would finally stop being my critical life support.

Using formula milk would be so much more convenient especially for travelling.  At the moment, I had to express milk 5 times a day – 930am, 130pm, 530pm, 11pm and 4am.  Trust me, when I was sick or extremely tired from the lack of sleep, I really wanted to stop breastfeeding.  However, I held out because I had persisted during Z’s time.  Z was also only introduced to formula milk after one year old and fully transited out of breastmilk by 15 months’ old.

Breastfeeding was, honestly speaking, hard work.  How many times had I expressed milk till I nearly fell off the chair?  How many times had I nodded off? Countless.

However, it had become such a natural duty that we just continued.  It felt like the default choice of beverage was only breastmilk.

Of course, I acknowledged the benefits of breastmilk.

Most importantly, I had an unsung hero – Mr H.  For both rounds, Mr H was the amazing spouse who helped to wash, sterilise and assemble my breastfeeding equipment.  That really eased the entire operations of breastfeeding.

I spent approximately 30min per session and that meant I spent 2.5 hours a day to express milk.  If you counted the waking hours, 2.5hours easily constituted 15-20% of my day.  It really helped to have readily assembled parts for use.

It would not be practical for me to continue but I guessed Mother Nature’s really knew how to guilt-trip nursing mothers.

About cabbage leaves

I never thought I would ever have such bad engorgement issues, considering I was quite a ‘veteran’ in the field of breastfeeding.  Z was such a good and regular drinker that the only time I encountered it was in the early stages due to a poor fitting nursing bra.  X, on the other hand, was a terrible drinker.  He had irregular frequencies and quantities.  However, the science of breastfeeding dictated that the babies could resolve all milk clots.  The only problem – X had weaned himself off and would only consume all milk from the bottle 5 months’ ago.

Two weeks’ ago, I was caught in an overrun meeting and had worsening engorgement throughout the weeks.  It got more and more painful everyday, and I had to spend a very long time to massage out the clots and it was still not easing up.

I finally went to a GP to ask for medication.  I was told that I could take antibiotics (Augmentin) only when the engorgement developed into an inflammation (aka mastitis).  The GP, a very nice lady, advised me to use cabbage leaves.  I had heard of this old wives’ tale but coming from a GP?  Seriously?

Anyway, I did not want to get into a situation where I had mastitis.  I bought the cabbage leaves.

You know what?  It worked.  I left it on for 2 hours, and the engorged milk clots dissolved in another 2 hours’ later.

Mr H was amazed that it really worked.

He ran a Google Search to understand the science why cabbage leaves helped and found this.

Quoted from the site:

The common green cabbage (Brassica capitata) is used for engorgement therapy. Cabbage is known to contain sinigrin (allylisothiocyanate) rapine, mustard oil, magnesium, oxylate and sulphur heterosides. Herbalists believe that cabbage has both antibiotic and anti irritant properties. (Lawrence and Lawrence 257-258)

It is theorized, that this natural mixture of ingredients from Mother Nature’s Kitchen, helps decrease tissue congestion by dilating (opening) local capillaries (small blood vessels), which improves the blood flow in and out of the area, allowing the body to reabsorb the fluid trapped in the breasts. Cabbage may also have a type of drawing, or wicking action, that helps move trapped fluid.  In many cases, science is finding cures from Mother Nature’s Kitchen can’t be duplicated in the laboratory.  This may be the reason why a gel made from cabbage leaf extract was not effective in treating engorgement (Ayers, 2000; Caplan, 1999; Shifer, 1995; Roberts 1&2 1995)

I had no idea how true the above italicised data was but dear cabbage leaves, thank you for being my saviour and I would never belittle you again!

Economics of Breastfeeding

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.

Seriously.  NO.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

The Ultimate Breastpump with the oddest battery ‘policy’

I used the Medela Freestyle breastpump and really loved it to bits.  I had chosen this because I wanted a dual pump in the past.  It was extremely portable and the battery was very handy.  I meant, it was shocking for me to find out that another particular brand selling a premium dual pump version had no slot for batteries.  It meant you would need a/c supply all the time.  How would that be sustainable?  Anyway, this Medela freestyle pump had been to countless airports and meetings with me because it was that small.  It was great at triggering letdown and helped to express milk fast.  If you could not express milk via this breastpump, it would be a user problem – too much blockage at the milk ducts.

Later on, I realized I could have saved a lot more by buying from blogshops.  In any case, I had 2.  The first one was an authorized set from Z’s time where I used for 15 months and I stored it away for 22 months.

When I dug it out again, needless to say, the lithium ion battery was faulty and could only last 15minutes per full charge.  It used to last me 2-3 days, 5-6 pump sessions a day.  A brand new Medela battery would cost me S$150 and another S$150 to replace the tubing/membranes/bottles/connectors.  A brand new complete set from a blogshop which brought in its goods from USA would cost S$460.  Of course, I bought a brand new set and that was the second set.

Given that I had used it for so long, I never knew that once you removed the battery from the breastpump motor, the battery would be depleted to zero capacity.  When my friend had problem with her medela freestyle breast pump and shared this with me, I was surprised too.  Then again, I had never tried taking it out.

Until one dreadful morning.

I woke up to express milk at 3am and nodded off at the sofa.  Yes, the noble chores a nursing mother had to do, but gladly!  I knocked the back cover off and the battery was shook out of position.  I was in disbelief that it dropped to 1 bar immediately.  I charged the breastpump later on and after 3 hours, it was still at 1 bar!

I messaged my friend and the answer to the solution was – to charge the breastpump for a stretch of 24hours, as advised by the Medela service folks.  It was not a product issue but a mechanism.  How odd!

But yes, it worked.