Rina of Living with Low Milk Supply is one of my favourite Mom bloggers so I reached out to her about a month ago and asked if she would be willing to contribute to Happy Human Pacifier. Happily, she was. In case you missed it, Rina gave us this gorgeous Guest Post. Then I interviewed her for our sister site, Inspiring Mompreneurs. Now, here’s Rina’s breastfeeding interview, in which she also shared some Exclusive Breast Pumping Tips.
Why was it so important to YOU to breastfeed?
There are so many benefits of breastfeeding, be it from baby’s side or mother’s side.
But the one really important reason is because it is highly encouraged in my religion. It is even mentioned in the Holy Book (Qur’an) that (ideally) a baby should get breast milk until 2 years old.
The fact that it is mentioned directly in the Book shows how important it is.
To me, it’s not just providing ‘food’ for the baby, it’s an act of ibaadah (an arabic term for ‘worship‘).
Ooh, I love that answer. Because nursing also felt like a form of worship for me. Especially in the beginning, during those long feeds, that was my prayer and meditation time. And with the loving hormone rushing in as you letdown (oxytocin) you do feel that amazing oneness with God and the world.
Did you have any challenges?
Yes, I struggled to breastfeed in the beginning. In fact, my first baby was mixed-fed from day 3. I was silently depressed back then, sometimes I felt I rather pump and give whatever I got to my baby sitter and let her feed the baby (and the top-up), rather than seeing him nurse then cry. I felt inadequate.
With my #2, I was more prepared. When my #2 started to show jaundice sign just like her elder brother, I borrowed a double electric pump from my sis and diligently pump to stimulate my supply. I would spoon-feed whatever milk that I get from pumping to my baby, even if it is as little as 2.5 ml.
It paid off.
I was able to exclusively breastfeed her until she finally weaned at 27 months old.
What made you push through the challenges & continue?
Hm.. I guess it’s a mother’s instinct to provide the best for the kids.
When I was finally able to accept I could not EBF my son, I switched my goal: Ok, I may not have the full supply like others do, but I still give him the goodness of breast milk, no matter how little it is. And I continue to breastfeed until he was 2 years old. I kept pumping 3-4x at work even though I only get 30-40 ml per session.
With my daughter, I realize having to supplement while breastfeeding is not easy. It sucks (in some sense). It felt depressing and I don’t want to go that route again if possible.
That’s why I persevered more in the beginning, and finally able to provide enough for her.
Could you give us your Top 3 Pumping Tips?
- For those who have just started to pump – my first tip is: Don’t give up.
Because some Moms are lucky they just get the pump when they are ready to go to work or when they do some errands, but some Moms need to pump when the baby is just a few days old. Most of the time, for these Moms, they need to pump because either the Doctor or Nurse says the baby is not gaining weight or losing too much weight and they start to question themselves, whether they are producing enough milk for their baby. And when you start pumping you can see just how little milk you’re getting.
Usually during the first few weeks, it’s very normal to only get a few drops because, first, for the first few days, you know you’re only getting colostrum from the breast, right? So it doesn’t really matter… A lot of Moms think when they turn on the pump they will one full bottle immediately but this is not true. First, your body is still learning how to respond properly to the pump. And secondly, the first few days your baby doesn’t need that much, so it’s normal to only get drops.
But as you practice and as you give milk to your baby, the volume will go up as well. Why I say this, because my first baby had jaundice and my Doctor said, maybe you don’t have enough milk, why don’t you pump. And when I pumped I only got about 5ml or even less than that. And when I told the Lactation Consultant this is all I get, she suggested I should supplement with formula right away.
It’s really discouraging. I mean the amount of milk that you pump depends on a lot of things. I mean it’s not only on you. It could be that the pump doesn’t empty your breast properly, you don’t know how to pump, it could be so many reasons. For first time pumper I would say, don’t give up. Give it a few tries before you say this is all the milk I’m getting.
So it’s really just normal to start with a few drops. I’ve heard even the Moms who start pumping just before they go to work, it takes a while for the body to let down for the pump. Yes.
So did you actually supplement with formula that first time?
With my first baby, yes. I continued to supplement with formula. Because of that thinking, I felt desperate because I could only pump about 10ml in my maternity leave. So I didn’t continue pumping until the first day at my work. I just started learning how to pump properly at my workplace. Oh, so this is how pumping should be done! Oh, so this is how I stimulate my let-downs, this is how I should massage my breast, things like that. I didn’t have time earlier and I was stressed. Maybe I could have stopped supplementing altogether but at the time it was very discouraging so I just stopped.
But because I got something from pumping, I got 30ml or 40ml in the beginning and eventually 90 or 100ml. On average I got 90 to 100ml which is only enough for one feeding, but I told myself, it’s okay, at least you’re giving some breast milk, it’s not like you’re not giving anything at all so I continued pumping until my son was 13 months old.
I was very surprised to hear that it was a lactation consultant who suggested you introduce formula at such an early age.
I had a phone consultation so I’m not very sure who was talking to me. I remember phoning the hospital and asking to talk to a lactation consultant but it may have been a lactation certified nurse or someone who had not yet enough experience. So my suggestion is, if someone needs to talk to a lactation consultant regarding milk supply, I suggest you find an experienced one. It’s best to speak to an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) because IBCLC’s need to work 1000 hours serving patients before they can open up their practice.
I’m really sad about the information and advice you were given, because, from my understanding, the best thing to do is just feed, feed, feed right from the start, even if a baby has jaundice.
My 2nd baby also had jaundice so I went to the same Hospital, it’s a Polyclinic, so there are several Doctors there and with my second baby the experience was much better. At that time my husband pointed out that our first baby had jaundice and we had to supplement him to get rid of jaundice. This time the Doctor said, no, you don’t have to supplement right now, we will see how the bilirubin level progresses over the next few days. Keep feeding her.
Was it the same Doctor?
No, because in the polyclinic, there’s a team of Doctors, you can’t really choose which Doctor you want to see. At the time I was lucky to see a Doctor who supports breastfeeding.
I remember my milk only came in on day 5, quite a lot later than other Moms and the Doctor noticed instantly that the bilirubin level stabilized. He gave me the good news that the baby’s bilirubin level was no longer increasing even when we expected it to increase. The thing I was most scared about was that they would have to admit her to hospital to go under the blue lights (phototherapy) but that didn’t happen. They saw significant progress in my baby and said, okay, good job, keep feeding.
So that’s interesting, so the big difference between your first experience and your second, was a different Doctor. A Doctor who was pro-breastfeeding versus a Doctor and nurse acting as lactation consultation who suggested formula. And unfortunately the first time, it was your first child, so you didn’t really know…
As a first time parent it’s scary when a Doctor says your baby has this condition, if you don’t treat it, this will happen.
What did they say could happen? My son didn’t have jaundice so I never looked into this.
It can affect their brain development.
If jaundice is left untreated and bilirubin levels reach limits exceeding 25mg, there is the possibility of cerebral palsy, deafness, or certain forms of brain damage to occur. Jaundice in itself may not become harmful to a baby, but it may be the symptom of an underlying medical condition that can cause other issues.
Oh my word, that is really scary. That’s the last thing a parent wants to hear. I can see how it happened and the second time you were more determined and your Doctor supported you breastfeeding.
So first piece of advice – Don’t give up, there’s only going to be a few drops at first.
Yes, let’s move on the second one.
- Do not only rely on your breast pump.
What I mean by this, a lot of Moms buy the breast pump in the market and then think that by buying the best breast pump and using the best breast pump, I don’t have to do anything, I’ll just hook it up and pump for 30 minutes and I’ll get the milk out. But actually, it doesn’t work like that.
Pumping is something that you need to learn. You need to know how to stimulate the nipples, you need to know whether you’re using the correct breast shield. Breast pumps come with a standard breast shield, but it doesn’t mean the breast shield will fit your nipples. Some nipples are bigger, some are smaller so Moms need to know how to measure this because when you are using the right breast shield, you will get the optimal amount of milk out. When you don’t use the right breast shield, either you get a pain, can be nipple pain or breast pain and you will get less milk than you expected to get.
That’s the second one, and the third one is…
- I really encourage Mothers to do hands on pumping
Which is pumping by massaging your breasts and then following up with either hand expression or using a pump. Firstly, this will make the pumping process faster and secondly, you will get a lot more milk compared to just using the pump on its own. Thirdly, you will get more hind milk. Hand expressing will help you express all the milk that’s inside the breast, the fore milk, and hind milk. And the end result is that you will rarely get blocked ducts or mastitis, or any of the things related to not emptying your breast properly.
For more of Rina’s Pumping Tips go to Pumping 101
So you breastfed your daughter until she was 27 months, and did you say it was 17 months for your son?
I continued pumping until my son was 13 months old and then I went back to breastfeeding him, because at that time I quit my job because my husband was stationed in the United States and we moved there for 18 months. So I stopped pumping and continued breastfeeding him until he was 2 years old.
Do you feel your son’s health was slightly compromised by mixed feeding?
Not really, only when you think of fever.
It’s difficult to say because my daughter’s not at school yet and usually when they’re at school they fall sick more often. At least for now I think she is the one with the highest immunity. Whenever our family goes down with flu, she doesn’t get or is the last to get it and she recovers fastest. My son, when he has a fever, it’s as high as 40 degrees and it will last at least 3 to 5 days so I’m really concerned about his health, so I always try to keep him healthy.
He was mixed fed but he’s a very smart kid. He has a strong memory so I’m not really worried on that side.
And it didn’t affect anything else, for example, digestion, gut problems?
Okay, I’m going to compare my son and daughter.
My daughter only had digestive problems when she started on solids whereas, with my son, he started on formula so early. I remember bringing him to the Doctor because his poop was pale in colour and asking, is this normal? They always say if babies have a pale-coloured poop something must be wrong.
I don’t like mixing formula or breast milk, there are so many unknowns, is it because of the formula, is it because you’re giving too much milk, or is this just something normal? When you are just giving your breast milk at least you know it’s not because they’re getting too much milk because they control how much they’re getting. So there are fewer variables so it’s easier to solve the problem.
What do you love most about breastfeeding?
That I don’t need to wake up and prepare a bottle at night. I just unzip my dress, pop the baby, and go back to sleep, lol…
It is also very easy to nurse on the go. No need to bring bottles, hot water to warm it up and so on.
I wear a pretty wide headscarf that double-serve as a ‘nursing cover’, so I don’t need to find any nursing room to nurse, very discreet =).
Can you describe any joys of nursing… any beautiful moments you’ve experienced?
The moment I breastfed them for the first time, after birth. It seems magical!
What do you feel is the single most important benefit of breastfeeding (or list your top 3 if you prefer)?
I don’t know if it is related, but nowadays, whenever anyone in the house caught some sort of virus, I would immediately worried about my first child because he falls sick easily. I don’t know if it is directly related with breastfeeding or not, but perhaps it is a contributing factor.
Whereas my daughter, who was fully BF, stays healthy, or if the virus is soo bad, she would be the last to fall sick.
Check out Rina’s wonderfully helpful articles at Living with Low Milk Supply and grab your FREE Breastfeeding Checklist while you’re there.
Don’t miss Rina’s Guest Post: 5 Things You Do that Can Cause Low Milk Supply
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