Saturday, June 22, 2013

Fashionista Mommy Adventures: Breastfeeding

Knowing the kind of person that I am (patience and perseverance has never been my forte) and my lack of experience at being a mother, I have decided earlier on to cut myself some slack and even told myself, if breastfeeding is not for me, then so be it. I don't think I'm a lesser mom if I'm unable to breastfeed my baby. To me the main factor in deciding to breastfeed is in its benefits (both to the baby and the baby's momma), so despite my lack of confidence in breastfeeding, I would like to see if I can make it and how far can I go. To tell you the truth, I'm really hoping that I can make it until she's two years old.

So this is my experience in breastfeeding so far for the past 24 days (I have only been a mom for 24 days and yet sometimes it feels like a lifetime).

To my surprise, I love breastfeeding (I initially thought that I wouldn't be able to adapt to breastfeeding, but in a surprising twist, I look forward to my breastfeeding sessions with Alexa). I really do. I didn't know breastfeeding would give me so much joy and satisfaction. As a first time mom, everything is a new experience. I have been rather excited to start my journey parenting my baby as best as I can, although initially I had thought about trying to take the easy way out in parenting (i.e. using formula milk and disposable diapers and also getting a maid that'll help me with my baby) but I have since changed my mind. I decided to try the traditional route; cloth diapering (I'll share my cloth diapering adventures in another post), breastfeeding but I am retaining the maid (there's only so much a girl can take, and a maid is not something I'd like to live without).

Things that I know now that I didn't know before about breastfeeding:

1. Breastfeeding makes me hungry. Like super hungry. Although I do know that breastfeeding helps to burn 500 calories a day (which is one of the huge plus point in helping me lose the weight I've gained during pregnancy), it makes me ravenously hungry. Unfortunately, trying to eat (the hunger pangs comes without warning at such odd hours like in the middle of the afternoon or in the middle of the night) while trying to attend to the baby is not an easy feat to master. Usually the hunger loses against the baby. That would probably explain why I've lost about 11 kilos so far (I only gained 8 kilos during pregnancy so I'm now weighing less than where I was before I got pregnant *yeay*).

2. Breastfeeding also makes me extremely thirsty. I don't know whether it's because the fluids in my body has been converted to milk and then supplied to the baby, or is it the combination of meds that I'm taking (other than the doctor's meds I'm also taking traditional Malay herbal pills) or is it just simply recovering from childbirth but I am thirsty all the time! Usually I'd be drinking about 2 litres of water a day, now I think I drink about 3 - 4.5 litres of water a day. And if you think I'm drinking way too much, even my skin is dehydrated and dry (and that just proves that I need to drink more water *sigh*).

3. Breastfeeding also makes me super sleepy. Sometimes, it's a combination of all three! Sleepy, hungry and thirsty and the worst part is, you have your hands tied, one to hold the baby and the other to also hold the baby (my baby seems to have grown longer so one hand to hold the upper part of her body and the other to hold the lower part of her body).

4. Nipple cracks and nipple sore seems to come with the territory. Initially I was quite gung-ho with breastfeeding so I breastfed on demand, this was until I discover how sore my nipples could be when the baby couldn't latch properly and also overusing the nipples (due to frequent breastfeeding obviously). I got nipple cracks and it hurts like hell (or a version of hell as I imagine it to be). At this point (I think it was less than 10 days after birth), I was seriously thinking about giving up on breastfeeding, it was simply too painful for me to endure. Luckily hubs came home with a nipple cream and nipple shield *relieved sigh*. I guess hubs has better insight on breastfeeding than I do.

This is what hubs bought at the pharmacy. It's been really useful (both for me and the baby, she has a few rash spots around the folds of her skin) and my areola also seems to heal really fast. I use it whenever nipple sores occur, usually lathering them at night before I go to sleep after I'm done with breast pumping. 

Hubs initially bought this at the pharmacy but I found out that when the skin comes in contact with the nipple shield (this occurs when the baby is breastfeeding) my nipple felt really painful (it's almost similar to the pain when I direct latch the baby without any nipple shield) so I decided to forgo using this brand and bought another one. 

So I ended up buying this one from this online store called Little Kids and have been using it regularly whenever nipple sores occur (now it occurs less because I think the baby has practiced better latching techniques, so there's less pain when breastfeeding *yeay*). I was informed by a friend that nipple protectors might reduce your milk supply and was not encourage to use it often so I only use it whenever my nipples feel sore. 

Mistakes that I made in breastfeeding:

1. I stopped breastfeeding for about 2 days due to nipple cracks. It was really painful and I can even see the skin of my areola peeling off and I almost cried when I breastfeed. Due to this I had to introduce formula milk and the bottle to Alexa. She took to both well but I do feel that if I let her use the bottle longer she wouldn't have the patience to breastfeed (I noticed that using the bottle is easier for the baby because they need less energy to suck on the bottle teats compared to the nipple). I have since started using nipple shields and the Bepanthen ointment whenever my nipples starts to get sore.

2. I started breast pumping one day after I stopped breastfeeding due to the nipple cracks. At that time, I could pump about 40 ml per breast. Unfortunately, due to baby demands (crying, feeding, pooping and even more crying contributed to lack of sleep and fatigue) combined with a lack of discipline, I stopped breast pumping (this was about a week later) for about 5 days and this contributed to a reduction in my milk. When I started pumping again, I got less than 5 ml for one breast and only 20 ml on the other (I almost cried when I saw how less milk I could pump). I was advised previously by my friend Remus that the amount of milk produced is dependent on demand and supply, so I have since decided to pump 4 times a day (if possible) and put myself on a pumping schedule at 6 am, 12 noon, 5 pm and 10 pm (this also depends on if the baby's asleep, if she's awake then I'd do a direct latch instead). So far my pumping supply has increased from less than 5 ml to almost 20 ml for one breast and for the other, it has increased from 20 ml to 30 ml (and sometimes almost 40 ml *yeay*). I haven't taken any supplements for breastfeeding (I know there's a lot of friends out there that are promoting supplements to increase milk supply) simply because I am currently taking too much meds (Malay traditional meds, doctor's meds and supplements for my c-section scar) so I don't want to overdose on the meds (most of them causes the body to heat up so I don't want my milk to be too heaty either). Maybe I'll reconsider the breastfeeding supplements once I'm done with my confinement.

And despite all this trouble, why breastfeeding?

Okay, I have to be frank here. My reasons for breastfeeding are purely selfish. Seriously, they are absolutely selfish reasons.

1. Breastfeeding makes the baby sleepy. I don't know what it is in a mother's milk (I'm sure I'll know the answer if I google) but Alexa would close her eyes in the middle of breastfeeding and when she's done, she's fast asleep! So that means less work for the mom (that's me, obviously), I usually just have to burp her (she usually keeps her eyes closed and having to burp doesn't even bother her at all) and then put her in her crib and she'll be fast asleep. I've experienced her sleeping from 1 hour and 30 minutes to about 5 hours and 30 minutes after breastfeeding, so that probably means that my milk supply is lesser if she sleeps less and more if she's able to sleep more. In the instance that she's asleep for more than 4 hours, I would wake her a little just to breastfeed (usually she'd be sucking with her eyes closed) and then proceed to leave her to sleep once she lets go of the nipple (after she burps, of course).

2. Breastfeeding makes me lose weight. This is among one of the things that makes me so motivated to breastfeed. I mean, I can't exercise (I do have the c-sect scar to think of) and I have to stay indoors all day so the best way for me to lose weight is via breastfeeding. And considering how successful my weight lost is so far, I am very determined to breastfeed so that I can hopefully drop a few more kilos.

3. Breastfeeding boosts the baby's immune system. So far we have eliminated jaundice together (me and Alexa, that is) and hopefully she has a strong immune system that'll help her fight off any virus attacks in the future.

4. Breastfeeding is good for my uterus. I don't know how to explain this, but you can read it [here].

5. Breastfeeding also saves money. It's free and definitely very convenient. No waiting time for the baby, just pop it into the baby's mouth and you are good to go.

Unfortunately, so far I have not been able to breastfeed exclusively, and I do have to top up with formula milk. I am trying to reduce my dependency on formula in the hopes of being able to breastfeed exclusively. To do that, I have come up with a small strategy. Usually Alexa takes about 60 ml - 125 ml of formula milk (this depends on how much time had elapsed since the last feeding). So I use 2 strategies to help me improve my milk supply.

Strategy A - I start with breastfeeding. An indication that she's full is when she's asleep and the sucking has stopped for a few minutes. If the milk supply is low, she would wake up about 10 minutes later crying for milk. I would give her the same breast (I do this because I want her to get as much hindmilk as possible so that she's full for a longer period of time) and she would repeat the same process (remove her mouth from my breast as she falls asleep). I would only give the bottle when she awakes for the second time 10 minutes later. Usually she'd only take between 20 ml - 60 ml of formula if I use this strategy. Sometimes, I would give her my other breast and see it will be able to make her full. In the initial period, she'd feed off both breasts twice and still cry for milk so I'd give her formula milk then. But lately (the past two days or so), she's able to sleep for at least 1 hour and 30 minutes after she feeds on just one breast. So I'm hoping that this means that Strategy A is working and my breast milk supply is increasing.

Strategy B - I start with formula milk. I would stop after between 20 ml - 60 ml of milk have been consumed. I would then burp her and proceed to give her breast milk. I use this strategy when she's super hungry because if she's ravenous, there's a higher probability of her injuring my nipple and cause them to become sore, so I'd rather feed her a little bit to appease her hunger then proceed to breast feeding.

Oh, here's a great article on sore nipples and how to overcome them that I read. If you'd like to read it, click [here].

And this is my breastfeeding journey as a first time mom. Hope this post helps other mommies out there who are having problems with breastfeeding just as I have. It's not easy, I know but it's not impossible either, right?


xoxo Mrs Fashionista