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Breastfeeding Journey Part 1

To me, it wasn’t so much a choice as just a mother’s instincts. You see, unlike many other mommies who spent a lot of time reading and attending pre-natal classes to prepare them for their bundles of joy, I’m a workaholic mommy who continued to work long hours (from 6.30 am to 10.30 pm or even later) during my entire pregnancy. I continued to carry heavy IT equipment, running around with my big tummy in heels and doing all the taboo activities that a mother-to-be’s not supposed to do.

I worked so hard that I fell down not once but twice due to lack of rest. So with a long list of tasks to complete every day, I barely even had the time to research the benefits of breastfeeding my girl – Baby Cassie.

But breast-feeding Baby Cassie did have to do with one selfish thought – my health.

With both my paternal grandmother and auntie passing away due to breast cancer, my sisters and myself are encouraged by our doctor to breastfeed our little bundle of joys. Watching my sisters breastfeed their children, it seemed like the natural decision for me to breastfeed too, and to lower my chance of having breast cancer. Little did I know that this mother’s instinct of mine would change my entire journey as a parent.

It turned out to be a tough breastfeeding journey with lot of tears, blood, and sweat, as well as a battle with depression.

How hard could breastfeeding be? Breastfeeding is such a natural activity, so it could not be that hard, right? But that didn’t turn out to be true.

Because despite my utmost efforts in breastfeeding Baby Cassie around the clock, she did not put on any weight in her first month. Apart from that, she was not pooping enough to pass out the bilirubin, which resulted in her having a high jaundice level. It was such a heart-breaking experience to see my little baby girl laying in the small cot in the hospital crying her lungs out, yet not being able to hold her and comfort her.

So to ensure her jaundice level did not get any higher, I started pumping around the clock to build up my milk supply. The pain from my sore, cracked and bleeding nipples due to long breastfeeding hours and pumping, the lack of rest as well as support from my husband’s family, topped with their often unkind remarks – all started to shake my determination. Had I made the right decision to breastfeed my girl?

Thankfully, I have a group of supporting sisters who not only donated their own breast milk to my little girl, one of my sisters even drove all the way to my house to pass us her milk. After several days of hard work, Baby Cassie finally came home with us. But we continued to fight her weight gain issue. With the help of a lactation consultant, we finally discovered that Baby Cassie has a tongue-tied issue.

We were told to give up the thought of breastfeeding her directly and only bottle-feed her with expressed milk.  At that moment, I felt like I had failed as a mother to her. As advised by the lactation consultant, I continued to pump around the clock to ensure a constant supply of milk for her, but I felt even worse as I saw myself as no different than a milk cow.

I was stuck with the pump machine, leaving me little time with her to bond. Hence, I started reading online to find out how to overcome this issue. With the help of experienced breastfeeding mothers, I start to latch Baby Cassie on directly to my nipple. It was a process that involved a lot of crying on both our parts.  She cried very often in hunger, because of the less effective latch and I too cried due to the pain of sore, cracked and bleeding nipples. There was a time my nipples were bleeding due to the improper latching.

I do not know what force kept me going, but somehow I was really determined to continue, and I braved through the pain. And finally after 2 months of battles, I won the war – Baby Cassie finally mastered the proper latch. She started to put on weight and I stopped suffering from sore nipples.

Some unforgettable moments

Once when Baby Cassie was about 4 months old, she was sucking happily on my breast when she suddenly stopped, turned her head towards me and gave me a bright smile before continuing. It was as though she was telling me: “Mom, thank you for the yummy milk”.  She continues to do so until today, especially on the days I’m having a hard time at work.

There was also time when she was being cheeky and wanted some “milk shake”; she used both hands and gave my breast a good “rock and roll” before proceeding to have her milk. These are the moments that I would not have gotten to enjoy if I did not persevere through the hard times.

The ONE and ONLY Reason that kept me going 

There is a long list of medical reasons and advantages listed in books or on the Internet on why mothers should breastfeed. After breastfeeding for close to 28 months (Cassie was fully breastfed up to 14 months, now supplemented with goat milk/fresh milk), I can firmly tell you that it’s not any medical reason or advantage that encouraged me to brave through the pain from the cracked and bleeding nipples due to long hours of breastfeeding or pumping. It really is the special bonding, the indescribable connection, the closeness and trust that we have built up during those breastfeeding moments, that I have with my God’s gift – Baby Cassie – that kept me strong and determined to give her the best in the world. You can also check out part 2 of her journey.