If you’ve ever watched a breastfeeding mom pop a baby onto her boob like it was nothing, then grimaced and asked yourself “What? How?!” then you are just like me…
I remember thinking that when I paid a visit to my dear colleague when she had her baby. I was at her house, the baby was hungry, and she unbuttoned her shirt and the baby popped right on there and she carried on talking to all of us like it was the most normal thing in the world.
My insides were wincing; I was having flashbacks of the pain I went through at my first attempt to breastfeed my daughter. How is she doing this so easily? She’s still just chatting & laughing away. How is this happening? I was so envious — I wanted that so badly.
My first attempt at breastfeeding was a total failure
Throwback to 2011 when I had my first baby. I remember being pregnant and telling myself, Yeah, I’m going to give this breastfeeding thing a shot. I mean, it’s good for the baby and all, right? How hard can it be?
And boy was it HARD! During my first few days at the hospital, I put my baby to my breast and waited for all the sucking action to happen. It did happen, but I must have not done something right because it HURT LIKE HELL. I mean, bleeding-nipples level of pain.
But I persevered. I sent family members off to buy me nipple shields and I pressed on. The 4-week growth spurt came along and the baby just kept crying, seemingly unsatisfied by whatever my boobs were producing. I wanted to give up. I did give up. I can’t do this, I told myself. I’m just not producing enough.
Does this sound familiar to any of you – can you relate?
This happens to SO MANY MOTHERS, it’s mind-boggling how so many still don’t think it’s important to educate yourself before embarking on breastfeeding. I realise now there is SO much to learn before you take this on. And how this learning can really make a HUGE difference to your breastfeeding journey.
This time around, I was determined to make it work
How did I do it? I got completely info-hungry. And determined as hell: I CAN DO THIS. I just need to know how.
Working at Sassy Mama luckily exposes me to so many experts in the area of pregnancy and parenting. So I hit up one of my long-time contacts, a lactation consultant who runs her business under the name Mumsfairy. I asked her to please be there for me when I gave birth, and that I’d pay whatever price she asked. I wanted her there, by my side, to show me how it’s done, explain to me all there is to know about “latching” … which, I eventually learnt, was everything.
She did one better – she asked me to join one of her Breastfeeding Workshops, a 6-hour long class she runs for expecting moms. Six hours?! Did I really need that much time to ready myself for breastfeeding? What else was there to know besides “latching” right?
Turns out, A LOT.
Learn Learn Learn
My message to all first time breastfeeders — educate yourself. I can’t say enough about how not only latching correctly has helped me, but also knowing that the more a baby demands, the more you produce; what to do exactly in the first few days to get your milk supply in; what is expected and what is not expected (hint: A lot of the very uncomfortable stuff is actually expected!); and that it’s very normal to just want to CRY about it sometimes!
Not knowing, not learning, just makes you a lot more susceptible to giving up.
Don’t just get support from family and friends; be part of a Breastfeeding Community
This is SO crucial to breastfeeding success. Many articles will tell you to just make sure your husband supports you. That you need to be surrounded by supportive family members. I’m telling you, it’s not enough.
Surround yourself with other breastfeeding moms. La Leche League Singapore and Breastfeeding Mothers Support Group are two primary options, but there are also many new-mom groups within which many moms breastfeed. Meet up with them once a week and share everything with them and cry about it too (yes, more crying!). This is going to help normalise what you are going through and make you feel less alone when you feel the challenges pile up on you.
It’s all so worth it in the end – and yes, it DOES get easier
This may sound like a cliché, but it’s true! When my baby turned 6 months, I was sitting in one of my Sassy Mama team meetings. All my colleagues knew how challenging my first breastfeeding experience had been. I suddenly looked up at all of them and said: “You guys – I made it to 6 months and I’m still breastfeeding, holy crap!”
I’m one of those moms now, ladies. I flip up my top, unhook the bra and pop the baby on my nipple without even looking at how his lips are flanged to get the latch right. He pops right on there and sucks away, happily. I did it!
Don’t drive yourself crazy
Now at this point you probably think I’m some kind of hardcore breastfeeding evangelist. Actually, I’m quite the opposite. And I would also encourage you to stay away from the hardcore purists in this journey, as it can be destructive to your breastfeeding morale.
I remember logging on to a breastfeeding forum one day and posting an innocent question asking which breastfeeding teas without fenugreek (which caused my baby to be pretty gassy) could help increase my supply. A breastfeeding consultant started to answer me by first interrogating me about why I wanted to increase my supply. Then she asked me if I was bottle feeding, or latching fully. Then she asked me if I was supplementing with any formula. I found myself innocently answering them all, and then got to a point where I realised: Wait – what has this got to do with breastfeeding tea? At some point, she started to question why I found it important to supplement with some formula at night (Answer: Because I choose to. The end.)
I realise her heart was in the right place, but at the end of the day every baby – and every mother – is different, and you need to do what works FOR YOU, without feeling bad about it.
Do what feels good for you. I’m sharing my story to tell you that even if you have struggled before, THERE IS HOPE. Education, supportive community, determination, all this can help you overcome failure and if I can succeed, so can you!