Breastfeeding Diaries tells the stories of moms, dads and supporters of breastfeeding to inspire others to embrace their own journey in breastfeeding. To share your story, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My first pregnancy was a rough one. We had several health concerns as early as the first trimester but my husband and I held on. Despite more issues that came up before my due date, I gave birth via Cesarean section to a healthy baby boy in September 2010.
I held my son, not exactly skin-to-skin, but I held him. I made him latch on to my breasts, in what I thought was the proper way, so he could take my milk. By the end of the second day, he was still fussy and kept on crying despite being latched on.
In the brink of frustration, I resigned to return my son to the nursery so that both my husband and I can rest. The nurse who came to get him informed me that she would only take him back if I would allow her to give my baby formula milk because his crying would wake up the other babies in the nursery. My husband and I, feeling helpless, defeated and confused, agreed to that condition. Instantly, I felt more disempowered for even trying to breastfeed my son all day.
The irony was that, after an hour or so, my breasts were fully engorged. But it was already too late. Formula had been given to my son when I asked for him back. I didn’t know how to hand express my breast milk so I had to endure excruciating pain for four to five hours. In the following days of our hospital stay, my son would directly feed from me in the day and would take formula at night. The hospital staff reassured me that my son was getting the “best of both worlds”. My son was completely mix-fed by the time we went home.
The belief that mixed feeding is good was ingrained in my mind. My whole family supported the belief that formula milk would also supplement my son’s nutrition if my breast milk was not enough.
I should have known better. I should have known that mixed feeding would compromise our breastfeeding experience.
Before I could establish my milk supply, my son would be so fussy after direct feeding that our midwife resorted to giving him formula to satisfy his hunger immediately. This eventually hurt my milk supply. My son got used to the faster flow of formula milk from a bottle that he refused to stay latched long enough to effectively drink the milk from my breasts. As a result, I became dependent on the breast pump to fully drain my engorged breasts. I was also prone to having clogged ducts because of my use of the pump. To top it off, I was exhausted from preparing formula milk and pumping milk at night when I could have just nursed him to sleep in a side-lying position.
My son was mix-fed for 21 months. We found out we were pregnant and were advised to quit pumping breast milk and wean him immediately.
Looking back, I should have asked for help from a lactation counselor to make our breastfeeding experience better.
With my second baby, despite going through Cesarean birth and having “unexpected things” happen a few weeks before delivery, I was more prepared. I was better equipped with experience and knowledge – from my personal experiences, readings and trainings on lactation. I was confident with handling my daughter, checking for the right latch, and stimulating early milk production through breast massages.
Breastfeeding this time around was a successful one for me. My daughter is on extended breastfeeding at 32 months now. Because of what I have seen for both kids of mine and the benefits of breastfeeding, I am proud to boldly breastfeed!
About the author: Cheryl Chan-Wong is a mom of two. She is a lactation educator, an Arugaan-trained breastfeeding peer counsellor and a doula. She says that advocating for breastfeeding and gentle birthing are her ways of resolving her personal experiences.