Shika Shika

Got Milk?

I’ve always wanted my baby to be fed breast milk and to be on a total breast milk diet for as long as possible, mainly for the health benefits it provides to the baby (of course, the prospect of quicker weight loss is an additional bonus). During pregnancy, I read about the ordeals and horror stories of mothers who tried to breastfeed — mums who pumped till their nipples bled, were so stressed out by their lack of breast milk that they suffered post natal depression and gave up eventually, had painful blocked ducts and mastitis (inflammation of the breast tissue).  So I knew full well that breastfeeding wasn’t really as simple as putting your baby to your breast and voila, you are done.

It was a good thing I did all the reading up. When Calvin prematurely came into being, I knew I would have a harder time producing milk for him since I did not have the benefit of stimulation from baby’s suckling. At any rate, in the first few days, mothers produce only colostrum which comes in very small amounts. It is usually around the 3rd day or so when breast milk will be produced in more significant quantities.

While KKH claims to be pro-breastfeeding, I was not spared some rather disparaging remarks about my lack of breast milk in the first two days when I was still hospitalized. I can imagine that a new mum who didn’t know any better would be discouraged and even stressed out, thinking that she is incapable of producing breast milk for her child. The ironic thing is that stress actually reduces the amount of milk the lactating mother produces, which in turn causes more stress. So the cycle continues ad nauseum until some give up on breastfeeding altogether.

Even knowing that it was normal for me not to have milk at that point, I was still upset when one of the nurses passed off-hand comments about the one drop of colostrum I managed to eke out and wanted me to toss it instead of bringing it down to the NICU to be mixed with the feed they are giving little Calvin.

1st Day at the NICU. He had a drip and a respiratory device hooked up.

Thinking back, it must have looked ridiculous but I’m convinced that it might help him just a wee bit because colostrum is supposed to be loaded with antibodies.

After being discharged from the hospital, I purchased a breast pump which I initially thought might not be necessary if I latched him directly. I stuck religiously to a 2 hourly pumping schedule  , except I try to get a longer period of undisturbed sleep from 12 midnight to 4 or 5 am. Each pumping session was taking about 45mins to 1 hour. By the 3rd/4th day, I was producing only just enough for 1 of 12 of his feeding sessions.

I decided to take the herbal supplement fenugreek that’s supposed to increase breast milk. Unknowingly, the oatmeal I eat for breakfast every morning was beneficial as well. By the 5th day, I managed to provide enough for 11 of his 12 feeds. At that time, he was given about 150ml a day so it wasn’t exactly a great feat but I was overjoyed because this was the only thing I could do for him. Even during the hour that we get to see him everyday, he was always sleeping.

It was tiring work pumping breast milk. I was spending about 8 hours everyday pumping, 7 hours sleeping and the remaining hours were divided between eating, washing and sterilizing the pump parts and a little time in between all that for myself. Slowly but surely, my supply of milk has been increasing. Though Calvin is no where near consuming that amount, I still stick religiously to my pumping schedule. Who knows, he might go through a growth spurt 🙂 Plus, it’s much easier to slow down production than it is to ramp up.

The prospect of keeping up with exclusive pumping is tiring though. Imagine doing this for more than a year, day in day out. Now that I’m producing enough for him, maybe I can cut down on the number of times I pump in a day. Maybe I should first try cutting out the amount of fenugreek I’m taking. I think it gives me a funny odor. It’s supposed to make you (or is it the breast milk) smell like maple syrup?!?

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