Celebrating breastfeeding (10 success factors)

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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).

19 thoughts on “Celebrating breastfeeding (10 success factors)

  1. mom2kiddos

    It was pretty painful to read #6 – you’ve been through a lot. You’re amazing. I’m still nursing my girl but I’ve never tried tandem nursing. I weaned my elder at 2 because I was already pregnant with my 2nd and friends told me – oh you better wean your boy already if not you’ll be very susah. As naive as I was, I listened to my friends. I don’t know If I’d have a 3rd but if I do, I’d probably give it a go.

  2. Elena @NaynaDub

    I’m so glad you had #8 – support is so very important when it comes not only to breastfeeding, but just caring for an infant in general. Wow – you really are a trooper with #6. I most likely would’ve just cried and not have known what to do!

  3. Mama J

    Thumbs up for still nursing your girl! Tandem nursing can be quite difficult at times, but it’s well worth the effort. I love it because I can still meet the needs of the older child while having a new baby at hand. No sibling jealousy at all!

  4. Mama J

    This trooper had absolutely no idea what to do! The good thing about being in a ward with 8 other women was that I could peek at them to see how they did things. It was fun comparing birth stories too. The woman in the bed next to mine gave birth in a taxi with her baby’s legs out first. Horrendous!

  5. Kim

    What an incredible support system you’ve been able to experience!! I found the support in Canada for breastfeeding to be so much more helpful than the support I got in the U.S. when I had my two girls (each born in the two different countries). In Canada the maternity leave is much longer than in the U.S. so the women also seem to have more support to continue breastfeeding for the baby’s first year. In the U.S. I had doctors scoff at me for nursing my daughters for so long. It always makes me sad when a friend tells me the nurses in the hospital told her that she had to do formula because her milk hadn’t come in after three or four days. My milk took five days to come in and fortunately the nurses kept encouraging me. I love breastfeeding and can’t wait to experience it with my third daughter once she arrives this fall! This is a fabulous post!! Thank you for writing it 🙂

  6. Cheryl Kangaroo Mom

    I love my roos but breastfeeding them would be taking it just a little too far! Seriously though – good on you for promoting this. What nature intended is always the best if it’s possible and practical.

  7. Gattina

    For me that is a long time ago. At that time it was in fashion not to breasteed, like it is in fashon now to do so. My son is the healthiest man I know, he is never sick, and is very tall 6.6 ft (2m). I think each woman should decide what she really wants. Not all women want to breastfeed and some of them just can’t. Useless to give them a bad conscience.

  8. BB Luvs Me

    Really great blog!!!! thanks for sharing!

    Cheers,
    The BBLM Team

    Shop on bbluvsme.com and enjoy 10% off children’s clothing and accessories.
    Follow our blog at bbluvsme.blogspot.com.

  9. Mama J

    It really does help to have a longer maternity leave, doesn’t it? In Malaysia it is only 2 months – such a short time to adapt to a life-changing event! I’ve had some doctors look at me dubiously for breastfeeding for so long too. The lack of medical support, especially from nurses in the hospital, as well as family support, seems to be one of the strongest reasons why women who really desire to breastfeed end up not being “able” to do so. And that is such a sad thing.

    I’m so excited for you and your third! Nursing a newborn is so precious, I do miss those times. I’d just as well endure severe sleep-deprivation all over again!

  10. Mama J

    Haha!! Breastfeeding roos would be absolutely hilarious!

    Breastfeeding human babies is definitely possible for the majority of women – they just need the necessary information and community support. Too often, women are told they can’t breastfeed, or that they have not enough milk, which sets them up for failure! Personally, I think it’s the most practical thing to do – much easier than sterilizing bottles and making up formula. I love traveling without bottles!

  11. Mama J

    Thank you for this important comment! You’re so right, not all women choose to breastfeed, every woman has to make her own choice. My own mother-in-law did not breastfeed – like you, she told me it was just “not fashionable then”. Now though, she’s very supportive of my breastfeeding efforts. During my first month post-partum, she cooked food that she believed would help increase my milk supply!

    A very small percentage of women face tough challenges in breastfeeding because of health reasons. On the whole, however, every woman IS able to breastfeed. Too many women are told nowadays that they cannot, or that their milk is not enough. They need the necessary information and support to encourage them that they can do it.

    I am a passionate advocate of breastfeeding not only because it really is the healthiest option for both mothers and babies, but also because I feel sad for many friends of mine who really (almost desperately) wanted to breastfeed exclusively but did not, mainly because they didn’t have the necessary support, and/or poor lactation information at the beginning. Undue stress on the mother (even the presence of a discouraging person) – affects her whole being, which in turn affects breastfeeding.

    That said, there is an unhealthy movement these days that makes women feel as if they are bad mothers if they don’t breastfeed – I think that is simply awful. I have many friends who don’t breastfeed, or breastfed for a brief time, and they are great mothers nonetheless! I am learning from them. I don’t think breastfeeding necessarily makes me a good parent, but it is an amazing gift that has helped me a great deal in my parenting efforts.

  12. BeBeWellness

    You’re amazing. For sure, #6 was pretty painful to read. It looks like you’ve been through a lot. I’m still nursing my girl but I’ve never tried tandem nursing. I weaned my elder at 2 because I was already pregnant with my 2nd.

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