I know, I know. I have been away for a good three-month hiatus, and I have very good reasons behind it. Job changes, building my business – it has been a rollercoaster, but that is for a different post, another day.
Today, I will be writing about my breastfeeding journey – the ups and downs and my essentials, tips and hacks. Fahim had just reached six months old yesterday, and alhamdulillah, I have also reached my goal of exclusively breastfeeding him without any formula supplementation needed.
To be honest, breastfeeding did not come easy for me in the beginning. I had doubts (which mother doesn’t?) and Fahim was hospitalised after two days of us coming home after delivery. He was kept in hospital for five days. And during his second month checkup, his weight had only gained 800g and the nurse asked me to supplement as it wasn’t enough (apparently, his weight was near the yellow line on the baby weight chart). To hear a medical professional say you’re not producing enough is truly painful and hard, and did nothing to cure my anxiety on whether I can exclusively bf or not.
But then, the more I thought about it, the more I asked myself. Why was I agonizing whether Fahim was exclusively breastfed or not anyway? As long as I was pumping, it is better I supplement than let him go hungry. I know the benefits of breastfeeding, but I also know that the main importance is to keep my baby fed and healthy. Who says formula isn’t healthy anyway? The moment I stopped stressing and started telling myself I’d have no problem with supplementing if I needed to – that was the moment things changed for me.
Three things that I believe are essential for a successful breastfeeding journey (in order) are: positive mindset, research, and a pinch of stubbornness. When I was pregnant, breastfeeding was my main concern and I had researched a ton about it, reading various message boards and blogs and articles and info websites. I had done thorough research and knew that a weight gain of 800g is normal for a breastfed baby. There’s also common sense that there are big babies and small babies and lean babies just as they are adults, so expecting all babies to weigh a certain range at a certain age seems quite odd, really.
So I persevered. I asked my husband permission to spend another month doing my best to increase my supply and fully bf my baby. If the weight gain was still not sufficient when Fahim reached three months old, then I would supplement with formula. My husband agreed. So I asked around for advice, and my sister-in-law said I should change my diet. Eat healthier. Take in calcium. Worry less about going back to pre-pregnancy weight. And so I did.
By the time Fahim reached 3 months old, his weight had increased by 1.7kg. And I was on a pump-today-for-tomorrow routine. Until now.
Fahim’s typical milk intake is 4oz x 5 bottles = 20oz from 7am to 6pm. It has definitely not been easy to meet his demand to grow chubby, but as a pump-today-for-tomorrow mom, I think I have a few pointers to share. I have never taken fenugreek or any supplement to boost milk supply. And I maintained my output during fasting month. I am not an oversupply mom. I’d say I’m a just-enough supply mom, sometimes facing dips which required me to add pumping sessions at home and at midnight, sometimes needing me to use my FBM stock. So here are some tips to share:
- Have a good electric pump. I use the Milk Genie pump by Pumpables, which is also a gift from my brother and sister-in-law. ❤ It is a portable electric pump weighing only around 260 grams and is suuuuuuper quiet with a battery that can last me five or six pump sessions. When they gifted me this pump, my SIL said this pump will be my life in the next two years. Boy is she right haha.
- Go hands-free. To me, this is important. I’m busy, I have things to do. I don’t want to spend two cumulative hours every day holding pump flanges. I invested in Youha Youcup (like Freemie, but with silicone flanges) and it has been the best purchase ever. I hardly use the original flange for the Milk Genie now I can go hands-free with Youcup.
- Be positive. I think this is the most important thing. When I used the original MG flange, I could see how much I was pumping after ten minutes, and it’d send me hyperventilating. This is the biggest mistake. With the Youcup, it’s much harder to see, so normally I’d just turn the pump on and do my work while giving no other thought to the pump. Being relaxed and happy and not at all worried gave me such a higher yield, plus, pumping became less of a chore.
- Never replace baby with bottle. I mean never. Even if I pumped enough only for three bottles the next day, when I’m at home with baby, I let him nurse on demand and never pacify him. My baby stimulates more milk than a plastic and whirring pump can ever do. Pump after baby nurses, or do tandem pumping, or pump when baby sleeps, or use FBM to make up the loss.
- Do not rely on FBM. For me, I did not have much of a stock. And a sad incident after a blackout at my apartment also ruined all my stock when Fahim was four months old, so yeah. If you cannot pump enough today for tomorrow, then work on it. Add sessions, power pump, eat and drink healthy. Be a little bit stubborn on yourself.
- Pump often, even if only for 10 minutes. I actually love to pump. I find it relaxing, and with every spare time, I’d just pump hands-free while I scroll through FB or watch YouTube videos. You’re doing nothing anyway, so might as well multitask.
- Find your milkboosters. I don’t necessarily mean supplements. I mean healthy foods that you can increase in your everyday diet. For me, it’s oats and dates. During Ramadhan, I’d soak five dates overnight and blend it with 3-5 tablespoons of whole rolled oats and fresh milk the next day. My supply maintained and even went higher when I started drinking this smoothie every day.
- Never voice out your worries and insecurities. This one works for me. I think some people need to “let it out of the system” and talk about how worried they are if supply is not enough and all, but not me. I just do my best and think positive that I can do it. Because it plays with your mind. The more you talk about being worried you can’t pump enough, guess what? You won’t pump enough.
- Feed the baby, not the fridge. Direct latch time is direct latch time. I recommend buying a Haakaa to do tandem pumping, but if baby wants more, then give him the milk you’ve collected. Take things a day at a time.
- Have faith in Allah SWT. This one is the most important for me. I lost count how many times I found another bottle of expressed milk in the fridge when I was sure I had not expressed enough. Even last night, I added a night session because I was 2oz short, I pumped the required 2oz and went to sleep. When I divided the bottles today, I had 2oz extra. It always happens. Just do your best, and Allah SWT will do the rest. Allah has fed you until where you are now. Trust that He will also feed your baby with the best.
So that’s it, my breastfeeding essentials, tips and currently six-month journey. Let’s see where I’ll be when I check-in for the 1 year update. InsyaAllah, my regular weekly blog updates will resume as usual from here onwards.
We’ve hit a new exciting milestone now: starting on solids. I’ve planned to do a mix of purees and baby-led weaning. Starting for purees first, especially as it’s easier to send to daycare, but will also share how BLW goes. Am still purchasing things to start Fahim on solids. Any recommendations are welcome!
Maibreakstheice is a blog where I like to tackle life questions through my personal experiences and, where applicable, through my knowledge as a graduate in family counselling. Keep your eye out for updates every Tuesday, or subscribe via email to receive updates straight to your mailbox!