I live on a sailing boat, on a fixed budget.

When I became pregnant I hadn’t even thought about feeding the baby. I had been bottle-fed, same as my husband. What other choice was there?

During the antenatal classes at the hospital, the paediatrician spoke about breastfeeding. It is THE totally natural way to feed your child. It is designed to meet your baby’s needs perfectly, there are no chemical additives, no shelf-life and it cannot spoil.

Breastfeeding as a way of saving money short-term and long-term appealed to my husband: no need to buy bottles, teats, formula, sterilization kits, flasks etc., etc. in the short-term and in the long-term both baby and mother will be healthier and so will need to visit the doctor less.

Okay, it is a sacrifice of the mother’s time and it takes quite a bit of effort initially but the rewards of giving your baby the best start in life will be reaped for years to come.

So, as we don’t have much room on our boat for all the “formula stuff”, the fact that it would save us a bundle and the fact that it was the best for our baby were the reasons why we decided to breastfeed.

When my son, Oscar, was born it all happened so fast. I was a shy, newbie mum that didn’t really have a clue about my rights and my hospital wasn’t quite there with being a child-friendly hospital so, before I knew it my baby was whisked away and I was told I’d see him when I was in the maternity ward. Approximately one hour later I was up there and they did bring him to see me briefly. He was asleep and they said they’d call me when he cried for a feed. I kept asking if he needed a feed but they said he was still sleeping. They didn’t call me to BF until the next morning. He must have needed feeding and so they must have fed him formula from a bottle. All to let me rest? Fortunately he took to Breastfeeding quite well and pretty fast, considering we were both new to it. My husband was amazing and told me if I looked after Oscar, he would look after me. He cooked all our meals, cleaned and tidied and even bathed, changed nappies or rocked him to sleep when I was just too exhausted and close to tears.

Just after three weeks Oscar started not wanting much milk, crying lots and my nipples were painful during feeding too. I wondered whether this was “cracked nipples” and so I persevered. The crying was driving us to distraction and at the “wetting the babies head” party, all the guests were questioning why Oscar was crying. Had we done this and were we doing that! Then a small group decided he was full of air and so went off to get some local oil. We thanked everyone for their concerns but didn’t use anything. The next day was Oscar’s one month check-up. Our paediatrician instantly noticed white blobs in Oscar’s mouth and raised lumps on myMontgomeryglands (coloured area around the nipple) confirmed I had a yeast infection which had spread to Oscar’s mouth and throat. It was too painful for him to swallow and so he was crying because of the pain and because he was hungry. A gel, for us both, cleared things up within three days.

The reason I contracted the infection was due to the fact that I was producing so much milk and leaking at any baby stimulus that my reusable breast pads couldn’t cope so I had two face clothes shoved in each bra cup. The humidity of Malaysian weather plus the moisture within my bra was the perfect breeding ground for such infections. I am obviously susceptible to such things as the complaint came back several times. Fortunately I knew the early symptoms of slight pain for me when I fed Oscar plus I had a ready stock of the gel to clear things up quickly.

I could never get to grips with a breast pump. I tried using one to help wean Oscar, after six months of exclusive breastfeeding. I wanted to express milk and mix it with solid food; to help ease the transition. It was as if the breasts knew there was no baby there. I had to give up and just kept to direct feeding alternated with pureed fruit and vegetables.

I have since learned that I should have massaged the breasts to stimulate them, prior to pumping plus the recorded sound of your baby, the smell of their clothes and a picture of them can all add to stimulation and then the pump can, theoretically, do it’s job.

When my second son, Jack, was born I had more knowledge of breastfeeding and was more confident because of it. Fortunately my hospital had become more baby-friendly. I made sure everyone at the hospital already knew I wanted to fully breastfeed my baby and I also requested that my baby and I have skin-to-skin contact for the first hour.

The staff did take Jack away briefly, to clean and weigh him and check his responses. I accepted this but was not 100% happy. Other than that he stayed with me, even in the ward. I kept him on my chest (skin-to-skin) all the time I was in hospital. It kept him calm and meant I learnt his actions and noises very quickly. The only time we were separated was when I wished to use the bathroom or if I wanted to sleep myself. Then I would call the nursing staff and sign the baby over to them until I had finished in the bathroom or had awoken.

The only time I had a problem breastfeeding Jack was after I used a new shower gel. It had a rather strong but lovely perfume. Jack refused to go to the breast and was screaming and crying. This went on over the course of two feeds. I was getting worried about him dehydrating plus we were going on holiday the next day. I called our paediatrician in the evening and she came up with the theory that the strong perfume of my shower gel had washed away and overpowered “my” smell. He couldn’t smell me or milk! She advised me to go and shower again but this time with just water and to concentrate on the breast area. By then Jack had cried himself to sleep. I slept fitfully, with very full breasts. Jack woke in the night for his next feed and although I was worried, he took to the breast as if nothing had happened. From then on I never put soap directly onto the breast area when washing. There are natural, antiseptic oils secreted by theMontgomeryglands. These help keep the “latch-on” area clean and give you your unique smell.

Breastfeeding does take time and effort but is very rewarding. Consider an average life-span of seventy years. Breastfeeding, even to two years, is less that 3% of your life and it is certainly not wasted. I consider it a small sacrifice which becomes an investment. What or who better to invest in than your own children!

 

From : Deborah Lee, Malaysia

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