It’s World Breastfeeding Week 2011. How can I not celebrate?
Breastfeeding has been a daily part of my life for the past 5 years. It has given my 3 children the best nutritional and immunological start in life, revolutionized my thoughts on parenting, and bonded me to my children (and each other, through tandem nursing) in the most indescribable way.
How can I not celebrate?
I am SO grateful for the people and circumstances that have made my breastfeeding journey a success. That includes 3 years of tandem nursing – continuing still!
1) The University Hospital (now known as Pusat Perubatan University Malaya) where I delivered all my Bunnies. PPUM has an excellent commitment to breastfeeding. There, I attended 2 compulsory seminars on breastfeeding, pre- and post-natal, before I was discharged with my baby. The most important thing I gained was a positive and confident attitude that I could breastfeed.
2) PPUM’s policy is to encourage early breastfeeding, skin-to-skin, within the first hour of birth in the labour ward. Starting to breastfeed in the first hour of life is associated with increased rates of exclusive breastfeeding and longer duration of breastfeeding (Millennium Development Goals: 2006 Report, UN).
3) In PPUM’s maternity ward, all babies are roomed-in with their mothers. I could watch my baby all the time, learn how to read her hunger signs, and breastfeed her whenever she was hungry. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if she were in a nursery, away from me.
4) The nurses were wonderfully supportive in teaching me how to breastfeed while I was in hospital – even at 4am in the morning. There was the occasional curt one, but the rest were pretty warm and friendly. I had all the information and practical help that I needed.
5) Formula milk, bottles and artificial nipples were completely banned in the maternity ward. All the mothers had no other option but to learn how to breastfeed. Harsh! but it forced me to succeed.
6) Visiting hours were short and strictly enforced, even for fathers, because there were 8 women to a ward. The idea was that new mothers might feel awkward breastfeeding in the presence of other men and so inhibit milk let-down. It was so hard, that first birth – meconium-stained waters dashing my hopes for an epidural, absolutely no pain relief (!), a vacuum delivery, complete with multiple lacerations and heavy bleeding. That notwithstanding, I had to learn how to breastfeed a jaundiced baby who needed phototherapy and change diapers all ON MY OWN for 5 days. After the crucible, including a bleeding nipple, I learned that I could go through a lot. I survived. I came out of there in one solid (albeit shaky) piece, with breastfeeding well-established to boot.
7) Before the birth, Sweet Man and I had agreed we would never buy a single tin of formula milk. Together, we believed that I would breastfeed, like all women down the centuries who lived before the invention of formula. We believed that breastmilk is truly irreplaceable nutrition for babies. On difficult days, Sweet Man urged me on. He was, and still is, my No. 1 partner and supporter in breastfeeding, among other areas!
8 ) My mother. She came over everyday post-partum to help me with meals and housekeeping so that I could rest and concentrate on breastfeeding. Never once did she make me doubt that my milk supply was sufficient (as some mothers and mothers-in-law do). I am so grateful for all her support and confidence.
9) My lactation consultant, Dr Koe Swee Lee. She helped me persevere through engorgement and a bleeding nipple, checked my baby’s latch, and pointed me to the best resources. She put up with all my inquiries about nursing during pregnancy and famously answered my questions on tandem nursing with, “You can breastfeed 2 children at the same time, you have 2 breasts!” What a glorious woman. Love her.
10) My own breastfeeding experience has confirmed to me, in practice, what is already known in theory. This motivates me all the more to continue. Breastfeeding provides the best nutrition and immunology to children. It is not solely about nutrition, it is also a parenting relationship. During times of insecurity or illness, it comforts my Bunnies in a way that nothing else can. Rather than creating an unhealthy dependence, it has made them remarkably independent over time – naturally.
I am sad for mothers who try their best to breastfeed, but fail because of misguided information, poor hospital practices, and insufficient family or community support. I’d give anything to see them succeed.
To continue celebrating World Breastfeeding Week, I’d love to talk about 20 steps to breastfeeding success. 20 steps in my next post, so look out!
Happy World Breastfeeding Week!!
Related posts (Updated): How to get a successful start to breastfeeding (Part 1); How to get a successful start to breastfeeding (Part 2).