How fast time flies. World Breastfeeding Week 2009 (1-7 August) has just passed. I remember last year’s WBW: hubby and I brought our precious little darling Alicia to Kandang Kerbau Hospital (KKH) for a free baby massage lesson, specially organised for breastfeeding mothers. Back then, she was just a month old, and was still trying to master the latch.
Looking back at my breastfeeding journey, I recall how I almost gave up breastfeeding because of the problems I faced in the first month: very sore and cracked nipples (I could barely recognise them!), blocked milk ducts, and blistered nipples after Alicia bit them (more than once) during the ‘latching wars’. If you think having blistered nipples are bad, having the lactation consultant clear my blocked ducts was far worse. It was definitely one of the most excruciatingly painful experiences of my life, comparable to labour pains.
Breastfeeding in the first month was terribly painful and tiring. I had to pump every 2 – 2½hours for 30minutes (because Alicia couldn’t latch well in the first month), bottle feed her, then wait for her to settle into sleep and hold her up for awhile just in case she regurgitates everything out, wash and sterilise the pump and bottle … and this cycle just repeats throughout the day. I hardly got a two-hour stretch of sleep and was literally a walking zombie. I always looked forward to the weekends (I still do!), when my hubby would help with the night feed after I pump milk so that I could get that little bit more rest. The fatigue was killing me and with the very painful nipples I had to tolerate 24/7 (they hurt just by being in contact with the air, not even fabric!), I really felt like giving up breastfeeding. This wasn’t what I thought breastfeeding was supposed to be. Nobody said that it’d be so painful and tiring. Everyone only said how good breast milk is and how it seemed so natural to just place baby at the breast and voila, the baby knows how to nurse.
I was so tempted to give up breastfeeding because the pain was really getting to me. I tried alternating between formula milk and breast milk for a few times to let my nipples heal and to monitor how Alicia took to formula. In the end, she didn’t take well to formula milk and always regurgitated most of it out. Even then, I was still in two minds about whether or not to make the switch. Eventually, it was the guilt of giving up breastfeeding that kept me on the course: for that few days that I pondered over the matter, I cried uncontrollably whenever I picked Alicia up, thinking what a terrible mother I was to even think about giving up the best milk in the world for her. I could never do such a thing to my daughter. One day, I just decided that I would persevere no matter how difficult it was going to be. I really couldn’t imagine how much worse things could get anyway. There has been no looking back since I made that decision. Now at 13 months, she’s doing acrobatic nursing and is able to indicate that she wants to nurse. I love breastfeeding and I’m so glad that I didn’t give up.
It is only those who managed to overcome the initial problems of breastfeeding who can truly understand and empathise with me. Those who have had a smooth-sailing breastfeeding journey and those who have never breastfed before should avoid commenting on whether or not it is right for a mother faced with such difficulties to give up breastfeeding. Whenever I get someone asking whether they should stop breastfeeding because of the initial hiccups, I would share my story, hoping that they would understand (but not feel pressurised) that there is light at the end of the tunnel – only if they walk far along enough to find it.
UPDATE: Read more about my extended breastfeeding journey.
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