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Pumping vs nursing - By ELAINE DONG


WHEN you breastfeed, you’ll get to know certain words like the back of your hand, words like “pumping” or “expressing”, “feeding directly” and “feeding exclusively”. For my elder daughter, because of my inexperience, I expressed and fed her from a bottle, almost from day one. There were some feeble attempts in the beginning to feed her directly from the breast, but both baby and I were too impatient to learn the proper way of latching on, so I gave up. Feeding from the bottle was easier, I thought. The leaflet I took from the hospital said that feeding from the bottle allowed another caregiver to help me with the numerous feeds a newborn would need.

But expressing was a lot of work. I pumped every two hours to make sure milk production is maximised. You see, the human body is fantastic. It has the ability to produce as much milk as your baby needs.So when you pump every two hours, your body reads the signal: this baby sure can drink! I had plenty of breastmilk. During my two-month maternity leave, I expressed so much milk that I had to throw some away because there was not enough space in the freezer!

When I had to go back to work, it was a traumatic time for me. I was leaving my baby in the care of a stranger, a nanny I had found for her. I would have to express my breastmilk at work, probably a few times, and without a proper place to do it in. I wanted to cry. On my first day back at work, I realised I had to express my milk in the toilet! The first time I did it, I expressed about 240ml of milk (my daughter drinks about 60ml per feed, so that’s four feeds), all of which I threw away because it was the toilet! All those germs!

Much as I hated it, I went to the toilet every two and a half hours to express. I gradually stretched to expressing every four hours. A couple of months into work, I discovered the office store room, and switched to pumping there. It wasn’t the best environment, but it was better than the toilet. I worked hard to keep my milk supply up, because I wanted to feed my baby exclusively on breastmilk for six months. This meant no other food and no water.There were a few things I didn’t realise at the time, things that would affect my milk supply. Stress, not drinking enough water, skipping meals and prolonging the period between expressing milk could all affect the quality and quantity of breastmilk. From pumping enough for five feeds at a time, I suddenly found it hard to squeeze out even one feed worth of milk. I was devastated. I stopped feeding her at five and a half months, about two weeks shy of my initial plan. When I put her on formula, she didn’t want to drink, and I felt like the worst mother in the world.

A couple of years after I had my daughter, my sister had her son. Like me, she also pumped and fed in the beginning, but she learnt to feed him from the breasts. So when I had my second daughter, she strongly recommended I do the same. And because I did a lot more research for my second baby, I decided to give it a try. From the day she was born, I nursed my second daughter every two hours. Sometimes she would be too sleepy to suck, but I put her mouth to my breast anyway. This was something I did not do with my firstborn, because I didn’t know how. By the time my milk came in on day four, my infant was a pro at suckling. (Breastmilk comes in on the fourth or fifth day after giving birth). She was a fast drinker, finishing in a few minutes. I was worried that she wasn’t feeding properly or enough, but the book that I was reading (Secrets Of The Baby Whisperer) said that as long as she was pooping and peeing regularly, she was getting enough milk. And my baby pooped and peed a lot. Either way (pumping or feeding directly), breastfeeding is a lot of hard work. And don’t even get me started on cracked nipples. With so much friction (from pumping and sucking), it is bound to happen. Have a good nipple cream ready. If you can, choose something organic as your baby will be in direct contact with the cream when she feeds. When I was pumping, I felt like I was forever washing my breast pump, milk storage bottles and milk bottles. Everything had to be sterilised within an inch of its life.

When I fed directly, there’s no washing and sterilising, but I felt like my daughter was attached to me almost all the time. No one else could help with feeds. I would feed her, change her soiled diapers, rock her to sleep, which can take 15 minutes to an hour, watch her sleep for 20 minutes, and she’d be up again wanting milk. As her weight increased, her feeding time stretched longer, as did her nap time, so in between I pumped to keep up my milk supply and keep ample stock for when I return to work. My plan was the same, to feed her exclusively on breastmilk for six months. Three weeks before I went back to work, I trained my baby to drink from a bottle. I would alternate between breast and bottle. Imagine my horror when she refused to take the bottle. She eventually learned, but before she did, every feed was a nightmare. She would scream and cry to be nursed; the only way to feed her was to force milk in her mouth with a spoon.
After the six-month mark, I supplemented with formula, but continued breastfeeding. It’s now 20 months and counting. I would encourage all mums to breastfeed, even if they can only do it for a little while. Both my daughters suffered minimum colicky episodes, and I think it was because of breastmilk which is easy to digest. Both recovered from fevers and colds very quickly, for which I am thankful.

There was once when my youngest had a tummy upset, and she couldn’t eat anything for a few days, except for my milk. So for health reasons alone, I advocate breastmilk. Now my daughters try to breastfeed their own dollies because they see me breastfeeding, which is hilarious. This is my gift to them, and I hope they pay it forward.

IF you’re a working mother, or choose to do a combination of breast- and bottle-feeding, here are the basic equipment you’ll need.
● A quality breast pump. It can be manual or electric, as long as it’s from a reputable company. I have used both. The important thing is to make sure the pump is BPA-free. BPA stands for Bisphenol A, a chemical used in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. It is an endocrin-disruptor, which mimics our body’s hormones, and can lead to negative health effects.
● BPA-free milk storage bottles or bags.
● A steriliser.
● A good liquid cleanser for washing your equipment and bottles. Choose one that is gentle and has natural ingredients instead of harsh chemicals. Go for paraben-free cleansers if you can.
● BPA-free milk bottles.
● A good nipple cream to protect against cracks and soreness.
● Breast pads, because you are going to be leaking milk almost all the time.
● A good nursing bra. Your breasts will be sore and tender for the first few months, so choose something in soft cotton. Don’t bother with the padded ones until at least one year down the road, if you’re still breastfeeding.

Sentuhan Bayu: I must admit I experience the same thing since I'm a working mom. I'm lucky because my workplace has a dedicated room for breastfeeding & the room are equipped with freezer, pumps & sterilizer. Unfortunately, there're so many breast feeding mom so we have to fight for the room most of the time. So resort to booking a meeting room just to express the milk timely. Yup, its a lot of hardwork & I gave up after 2 months working. I'd rather focus on my work during office time.

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