Sunday, August 28, 2011

World Breastfeeding Week

The first week of August was declared as World Breastfeeding Week. There were many activities planned and executed by many parties and is still going on throughout August. In the hospital I work in, there was a day celebration with some local celebraties participating.

As for me, it is already 4 months and 3 weeks since Azry was born and so far, he is still fully breastfeeding. I hope that will continue till he is more than a year old as I do not fancy putting him on formula milk.

Breastfeeding is a wonderful experience but it is very challenging. My mother breastfed three out of four of her children hence I thought it was a normal thing. She only managed to breastfeed my elder brother for about a week and she attributed this to being ill-prepared for the journey. Mental preparedness is definitely the most important thing in breastfeeding.

Now, after feeding is established I can sort-of look back and remember the hardship I went through. I am writing it all down today so that I will never forget and would not brush off a mother's reason for failing to breastfeed. As a medical practitioner, we were all taught the goodness of breastfeeding but never in a million years I thought that it will be a hard and challenging journey.

When Azry was born he had to stay in the NICU for about 2 days. I had not opportunity to feed him at the time of birth as he has some sort of respiratory distress. He was whisked off immediately after the caeserian section and I saw him the 2nd time the next day. I could only express the milk and it was given to him using a syringe as he was in the headbox that provided 100% oxygen to meet his requirements. Only on day 2 was he given to me for my first attempt to feed and oh boy, was it difficult. I was definately at a disadvantage as I never had any breastfeeding counselling prior to delivery despite working and followed up in a 'Baby friendly Hospital'. I was a few of those people who fell through the net as some of the counsellors thought that since I was a doctor I would know what there is to know. So, at delivery,all the information I have on breastfeeding was what I read on the internet.

My inital experience was almost traumatic. I struggled to hold the baby and entice him to latch on. It was good that the nurses were helpful and the ward matron and sister whom I knew personally made it a point to help me out, I was at my wits end. I had so many 'strangers' man-handled my boobs throughout my 5 day hospital stay. Being embarrased was definitely not in my books then. And giving up was definitely not an option.

Despite surviving the first week, Week 2 till 8 did not go smoothly. At times when I thought I had it all under control a new problem presents itself. Positioning of the baby was a problem - he seemed so uncomfortable every time I hold him. Initially his latching was poor as the big breasts made it difficult for him to put the whole nipple in his mouth. I really wished that my breasts were smaller then. I was also worried that I might fall asleep and suffocate him to death.

Another issue and a major one was due to the improper latching and strong sucking I kept getting cracks and soreness in the nipples. Someone told me to stop feeding for a few days and express the milk to give lil' Azry which I did for 24 hours. However, after discussion with a lactation expert (my mom's good friend) I resumed feeding and endured all the pain.

I tried all remedies: applied milk and lanolin to the nipple; expressed some of the milk first before feeding; used cold cotton to numb the nipple prior to feeding etc. They only work partly and oh boy feeding was a dreaded session. At times I would cry prior and during feeding as the pain was so intense. Post feeding the nipple was so sensitive that I would feel the same pain when it rubs against my shirt/bra. My only consolation was that it seems that others have also gone through the same thing and I am not alone. I googled for all sorts of advice, devices that can help me through this bump. Thank god I found a wonderful aid but it took 10 days to come vis post from Australia. After that I still had some sores and cracks but it healed so fast that it was bearable. I wished I knew about it earlier.

Anyway, right now for me the challenge is to express enough milk at work to keep up with Azry's day to day feeding. I was so stressed listening that some people who can express minimum of 4oz per breast each time but after a talk with my mom I gather that these people are the abnormal ones. I can only managed 2-3 oz per breast per pumping session and the current strategy is to pump enough for the next day from Sundays to Thursdays; and pump more to replace the frozen used milk on Fridays and Saturdays. So far, I have been back at work for 3 weeks and looks like it might work.

And to keep me going I keep tabs on the things I have so far achieve by breastfeeding Azry.
1. Azry's weight : birth weight was 2.75kg; 1 month 3.9kg; 2 months 5kg; 3 months 6.2kg and now i reckon he is 7kg plus
2. Azry's health : so far he has not needed to see the doctor for any illness, alhamdullilah
3. My weight : I have lost all my weight gained during pregnancy and even went to the weight before I got married
4. My clothes : I can wear my old working clothes..yeayyy no need to shop for new working attires
5. Bonding : my son knows and loves my smell. Yup, I smell like old milk most of the time and he loves to cuddle up to me. Though some people is telling me he is getting to be to 'manja' or a Mama's Boy

I do hope I can keep this up. To all those working mothers who manage to exclusively breastfeed their children till the age of two years you are my inspiration. And thank you for making me believe it is possible.