Nursing Mom’s Food For Thoughts


12 – 15 years ago the term BREASTFEEDING was not a cool word mothers want to associate themselves with, here in Malaysia. It simply was NOT chic to say you nurse your baby. In fact, I started breastfeeding feeling dejected because the nurse at the hospital from where I gave birth to my first son, Cheeky Koko, now 12, took one mean glance at the miserable 1 oz breast milk I managed to pump after hoarding the hospital pump for 2.5 hours at Day 4 postnatal (we have readmitted to treat Cheeky koko’s jaundice) and declared me a non-productive failure.

At home most visiting relatives told me I was starving my baby because he was crying to be fed every one to two hours. “He must be hungry because you don’t have enough milk!” was the most common comments because they got used to seeing placid, gentle babies who were formula fed and slept through 3 to 4 hours per stretch of nap time.

If there was only one good thing about me, it must be that I was courageous (and rebellious) in my love for my baby enough to prove them wrong. I embarked on a journey buying just about every nursing books on the book shelf and reading up just about every breastfeeding website information there were to know on what to do and how to do it right. Once I mastered the arts and loving every minute of it, I decided to share the knowledge with all the new breastfeeding moms out there who felt the failure as I did. With a writer friend we started a breastfeeding support forum that went on to be one of the most vocal groups to advocate nursing in Malaysia. From then I have been asked to visit some new moms we got to know during their first days in the journey to show them how to latch on right and basically give them the emotional support they need as they learn to give the best nature has intended to their babies.

Baby B

Baby B in action… Nutritional needs of a mom is an important aspect of the breastfeeding journey, especially when one nurses beyond the first year.

Some moms are a natural when it comes to breastfeeding their newborns and their babies come naturally adapted to “working” at this beautiful act with just the perfect latch and calm personality and without what is commonly known as the newborn tongue cut, or feeling too drowsy to nurse and etc, which could frustrate and make a new mom feels easily tired out at even trying further.

While I am no longer able to contribute in the online group due to my work commitment, I have continued to encourage friends, relatives, colleagues to trust in their maternal ability to nurse naturally in the last 7-8 years. Something that I always observe that is a major hurdle to breastfeeding among Asian moms is how traditional values can crash with the basic dietary needs of a nursing mom.

When I still had the loving support of my mother in law (who now resides in Heaven), she would gently and lovingly remind me not to drink too much plain cold water because I was supposed to be in confinement. Water is too “cold” for a new mom. But because I was breastfeeding, I was guzzling down 3.5L water everyday! I felt so thirsty I swear I could drink up a whole water tank! And that was on top of the 2L or so of the sweet red dates soups that I drank daily. The only thing I didn’t drink was those supplementary wines like what most moms would do because I just couldn’t take its bitter taste.

As I am also very Westernised in my health approach (thanks to my own mom who worked close to 30 years in the health field), I believe that there are certain health benefits to proper dietary supplementation for nursing mothers. It is in fact well-documented in the scientific literature that a mother’s diet (and her overall nutritional status) can influence the vitamin, mineral, and the essential fatty acid (EPA and DHA) composition of her breast milk, all of which impacts the overall nutritional quality of the breast milk, and ultimately the overall health of the breastfed infant.

In my case, I continued to take my pregnant multivitamins, and on alternate days, supplemented with colostrum supplement (a year after giving birth), fish oil, organic spirulina and milk alternative such as organic oat milk. And when I got sick, I took antioxidant supplements to get well faster and naturally.

Of course, all mothers intending to nurse should always consult with their own doctors about supplementing their own nutritional needs. Special thanks to Seven Seas Malaysia for sharing with me these findings when I told them that I was going to write an entry about the importance of eating well for nursing mothers:

1. Journal Title: Fatty acid composition in maternal milk and plasma during supplementation with cod liver oil

Cod liver oil influences the amount of essential fatty acids in mothers’ breast milk. Supplementation of lactating mothers with even small amounts of cod liver oil promotes increased DHA concentration in breast milk. Also, the amount of EPA in breast milk increased in all the supplemented groups.

2. Journal Title: The effect of maternal supplementation with linoleic and gamma-linolenic acids on the fat composition and content of human milk: a placebo-controlled trial.

Total fat content and therefore total energy content and the content of essential fatty acids (EFAs) in milk are known to decline with prolonged breast feeding. In a placebo-controlled study a variety of evening primrose oil rich in linoleic and gamma-linolenic acids, or a matching placebo were given to 39 women for a period of 8 months starting between the 2nd and 6th months of lactation. Total fat and EFA contents of the milk declined in the placebo group but rose in the primrose oil supplemented group. A surprisingly high proportion of the supplemented dietary fatty acids could be accounted for by appearance in the milk.

3. Journal Title: A randomized controlled trial of the effect of fish oil supplementation in late pregnancy and early lactation on the n-3 fatty acid content in human breast milk.

Dietary supplementation from week 30 of gestation and onward more than tripled the LCPUFA content in early breast milk; supplementation limited to pregnancy only was much less effective.

4. Journal Title: Antioxidant capacity of human milk

Studies have reported the effect of maternal dietary vitamin intakes and vitamin supplementation on human milk, showing that higher intakes results in a higher concentration of the respective vitamin in milk.

Because I am a working mother who eats out a lot, I don’t always have the convenience and much choice in choosing to eat healthy food always, supplement was also a necessity for my own well-being.

It’s also important to note that besides supplementing, a nursing mom must clock in sufficient good-quality sleep, especially because being a mother can be such a tiring and stressful job. In order to nurse well, do keep yourself hydrated sufficiently – think of your body as the ultimate milk machine, you just need to feed it well with the right ingredients such as water, protein, vitamins, fruits, vegetables, add in good emotional well-being and a good night rest, pretty much nothing else can defeat you!

Despite the initial doubts and hurdles, I went on to nurse all three kids spanning the last 12 years, each baby for 2 to 2.5 years of extended breastfeeding. At the end of the day, I reckon I couldn’t have done it all without the most important ingredients of all — the tremendous love and support I got from Daddy Joe, my mom and also my sister in law, Cathy.

May you believe in what you are capable of as a mother and do it fearlessly anyway and may you live each moment count. Happy breastfeeding, moomies!

Our Best Days… Ever!


Last month my domestic helper who is from Indonesia went back to her hometown to celebrate Eid with her family for 30 days.

When this happens, a stay home mom would just go on life managing the family routine, kids and her home with much grace, flair and poise that make her home completely functional as it has always been.

Forget about grace and flair with her counterpart who happens to be a working mama! The operative word was PANIC at this Seven2SevenMom planet! Short of clinging on to my helper’s leg even before she stepped off my front door, I was lost. I was petrified. I thought I’d crumble. First, I thought of my work – how do I cope with washing all the 3 bathrooms and 4 bedrooms in our apartment AND iron all the kids’ school uniforms after working 10 hours at the office? Then I thought of the crazy-beyond-description school routines of my kids and their mountain-high homework piles, which meant I would be coaching homework with my kids sitting on the kitchen floor while I (try to) wash all of the pots and pans and numerous little plastic cups and utensils after dinner. Multitasking will surely take on a whole new meaning in my life!

Maid-less day: The home was in a crazy mess but baby B found room for simple joy and laughter.

Maid-less day: The home was in a crazy mess but baby B found room for simple joy and laughter.

But when I thought of how my family-work balance will be temporarily thrown off its balance and yet I could have a chance of living my childhood dream of being an all-present, all-loving stay-home mom… I was elated!
After I succeeded at applying for a one-month special work arrangement with my extremely understanding bosses to work only half day at the office and the other half day to take care of what mattered most to me – my kids, I pictured myself launching into a supermom mode for the next 30 days doing the following loving things for the family:

1) Laundry at 5am – Oh ya. I will rise early and sort out my laundry into different colours and making sure that the stubborn sweat stains of Daddy Joe and Cheeky Koko’s shirts are rid of like they are new shirts. I even bought stubborn stain removal to get this job done that I thought was super-easy! (What really happened was: Laundry at 2pm because I only got to go to bed at 1.30am the night before after I finish ironing the gazillion of school uniforms and toddler clothings! In fact I closed one eye to the stubborn sweat stains after a capful of bleach was poured over the laundry load over a few days and it just didn’t work! Curse I had over the bleach solutions because they don’t get the job done!)

All rules broke loose! Pumpkin Mei-Mei was happy to have traditional chinese delicacy tang yuen in weird colours combo as supper!

All rules broke loose! Pumpkin Mei-Mei was happy to have traditional chinese delicacy tang yuen in weird colours combo as supper!

jtg2

Bake-happy days: One of my whimsical favourite comfort food: Ji Dan Gao (Chinese Steamed Cake). I was really one fearless chef who would just bake and cook to my heart’s content.

2) Making home cooked breakfast for the family by 6am which included preparing cute bento lunch sets for the three happiest little people — oh I would prep those rice meals into cute bear shapes, served with motivational love notes to spark up their days. (What really happened was: Kids made their own cereals and milks at 6am and bought food from the school canteen instead because mama was so exhausted from housework the night before she was still snoring away at 6am! I even rationalised to myself that my kids needed calcium to grow strong bones. So, have your milk today? )
3) Make up and change into my working attires by 7am (What really happened was: It took place at 8am. Blame those mountain-high pile of laundry!)
4) Send Baby B to nursery at 8am – and I won’t even forget about packing along Baby B’s favourite snacks and child vitamin into his lunch bag that our helper often overlooked. (What really happened was: Checked. Everything was lovingly done the way I would have it done!)
5) Reach office at 9am and conduct efficient meeting with staff because work load is still the same, half day or not, I just have to continue to optimise my productivity in half the amount of time. (What really happened was: The staff queued up to update and seek opinions over everything because I only had few hours for them everyday. On the hindsight, I was happy that I was deeply missed by them. Hehe…)
6) Get off work by 1pm, drive to pick up baby B from his day care at 1.30pm. (What really happened was: There was always pesty, long-winded meetings and discussions with staff for urgent matters that spanned a little longer than expected and I got fine just about everyday for five to ten Ringgit because I was so ridiculously busy!)
7) Get Baby B to nap at 3pm so that I can free myself for the next 2 hours to prepare and cook dinner as well as get some house chores done. (What really happened was: In between singing the Barney’s I love you song to get Baby B to nap, often we cuddled up and slept together!)
8) 5pm is my allocated one-hour clean up time when I would set a small amount of time, like 15 mins each room to clean up the apartment, room by room. (What really happened was: I was chopping the veg, some poultry meat and soup ingredients away like a mad woman because the older kids were coming home in an hour and I had not even washed the anchovies and potatoes yet!)

The kids were on dysfunctional mode. Hey mom, someone is using those tang yuen's flour mixture to press into his toy car! OMG.... Whatever!

The kids were on dysfunctional mode on some days. Like here, someone was using those tang yuen’s flour mixture to press into his toy car! OMG…. Whatever!

9) Cheeky Koko and Pumpkin Mei Mei, my two older little people would come home from tuition day care at 6pm into the warm embrace of their mama and the entire apartment would smell like a rockin’ celebrity chef has just made the best gourmet meals cooked with the freshest ingredients in the whole world. (What really happened was: The kids came home hungry, waited for another hour before mom is finally ready and before that, they still had to help to clear the dining table from the mess they left over from their school projects last night!)
10) 8pm is homework time – normally this is the hour when everyone would either complete their homework or have some quiet reading time. (What really happened was: Older kids helped clean up the house, and mom is still cleaning up the kitchen and everyone get a little dizzy over the mom barking restrictions about the number of clothing one wears in a day (just so that she would not have to wash two loads of laundry per day). Her idea is the kids should just wear the school uniforms as home lounge wear and pyjamas, one set per day, that’s ALL!)

wpid-20140426_214000.jpg

Clean, cook, vacuum and laundry were synonymous with my existence.

Time flies and our helper finally flew back into our home which survived a super busy working mom commando in chief’s lacklustre management for 30 days. Did any good come out of it? Yes, plenty.

In that one month we have had many good times just enjoying each other’s presence as a functional family, albeit a home that always had unfinished chores and a mom who always seemed to be slaving away at the laundry and at the kitchen. It was great to see that for once, I was licensed and given the blessing to prioritise my children and my family, instead of work.

Yes I was stressed still juggling half-day work at the office and nothing went according to The Mom’s plan. But I love every moment of it and I mourned for the loss of this precious time when it finally ended. In that one month, I have also cooked and baked like there was no tomorrow – it was how I envision a family should smell like. I could spend an hour watching Barney sing and dance with Baby B and yet not feel hurried to rush because I have to go for a business conference. I was not pursuing anything related to career. I was simply a mom spending time with my kids and doing the whole Barney dance with them and loving it every moment even if I had danced it the fifth time that afternoon.

I am back to work now but in my heart, there’s always the tender spot that cherishes those Barney days that I simply would not trade with anything else.

Baby B Self-Weaned (Yes, just like that!)


My breastfeeding-addict boy, Baby B, just weaned himself from nursing just few days short of turning 27 months old about 15 days ago!

Sigh. I wish he could breastfeed longer as much and as long as he wants to, and I wish the event leading to his self-weaning was more heart-warming and tender but somehow he just stopped breastfeeding completely overnight without any warning nor reason and I am left standing cold turkey, drenched in guilt of a busy working mama.

The whole event started around two Saturdays ago when I woke up very early in the morning trying to tiptoe to the bathroom to get ready to work. I wanted to hurry to the office to complete a humongous project at work and knew I was going to clock in at least a half-day work because the deadline for the project was looming close.

We have always been co-sleeping because he is the type of wakeful nursing baby who wakes up every 2 to 3 hours to nurse for comfort. Co-sIeeping made it easy for me to just wake up lightly enough to hold him up on the crook of my arms for those endless breastfeeding sessions through the night without ever leaving my bed. And if I nursed him lying down sometimes, we’d both fall deep into the sweet slumber land shared blissfully between a nursing mom and her baby.

That Saturday, as I turned on the bathroom light, Baby B found me standing in front of my bathroom staring back at him. He sat up on the bed gently rubbing his eyes and called me back saying, “Mommy, baby wants Nan-Nan” (his baby lingo for breastfeeding). Ridden with guilt that I was going to work on a weekend off day, I quickly climbed back into my bed and happily obliged by giving him a quick nursing session while my mind went through a quick breakdown of all the details of the project like a super computer processing all the tasks that I was going to do that Saturday.

His body felt a little warm that morning so I checked his temperature with our digital scan but he was actually not having any fever. Still, I covered him with his soft baby blanket and informed Daddy Joe to make sure to check on his temperature again when he woke up later. I then sped off to work and soon got so caught up with all the work that by the time I reached home, it was already 8pm.

As I put down my non-woven bag filled with all the heavy working files, our family helper informed me that Baby B cried in pain when he was having his food and water throughout the day and that she suspected that Baby B could either be having some teething pain or mouth ulcer.

When Baby B saw me, he walked up to me happily stretching out his arms and asked me to carry him for a “Nan-Nan”. I sat on our nursing sofa in the living room and held him up as usual but just as I pulled up my t-shirt to breastfeed him, he quickly turned his head away and gently pushed me away saying, “Baby pain pain…” Baffled, I asked him if he was having any pain inside his mouth to which he nodded and repeated “pain… pain.”

I checked his mouth and saw a little ulcer on his right cheek but it was nothing major. We checked his temperature again and noticed that he was having a mild fever. After being fed a low dosage of fever medicine, he cuddled next to me and instead of asking for “Nan-Nan,” he asked me to give him a baby massage on his back. I felt that he really wanted to breastfeed but somehow the discomfort of the ulcer prevented his usual appetite for his favourite drink – his “Nan-Nan”. “Baby don’t want Nan-Nan”, he said repeatedly. And he has repeated that the next day too and thereafter. Just like that, my baby has self-weaned himself completely and started sleeping through the night!

I don’t really know what caused him to wean himself off completely and I guess I would never know. I feel a little sad because deep down I wonder if he had stopped breastfeeding that day because when he was feeling the discomfort from the pain and the mild fever during the day time, I just wasn’t there for him. In fact I was buried deep beneath my working files and a heavy work load.

All I know is that had I known that that very morning was going to be our last nursing moment surely I would not have rushed it through but instead made sure it was the sweetest memory we both could cherish.

To all the breastfeeding moms out there who wonder if all those sleepless nights and constant waking up for night feeding would ever end, well I just want to encourage you to hang in there and cherish it as it lasts because one day your baby will grow into a mini person ready to take on the world as it comes and the one who is not ready is often us, the cow mama.

On the other hand, thanks Baby B, for weaning yourself at 26 months old, which makes your sis, Pumpkin Mei-Mei the longest nursling champion in the family as she clocked in 27.5 months of breastfeeding and the shortest being your eldest brother, Cheeky Koko who clocked in 22 months of breastfeeding. You are not too bad, anyway, having at it for at least 4 months longer than your Koko. That’s equivalent to the time it takes spring to turn into summer and about half of the time it takes for you to stay inside mama’s womb as God slowly moulds you into the little darling that you are to our family.

Mama’s not ready as you are, Baby B, but I will try to get used to the idea that anyway one day you will grow out of it and it seems that you have fast forwarded your own weaning and made it so smooth and easy for yourself and for all of us.

On the plus side, now I do sleep through the night and finally I can wear nice dresses to shopping mall and dinners with you little fellas without having to worry about you pulling up my dress in the middle of the concourse in front of twenty random strangers staring at my old, awful panty while you make a demanding call for ‘Nan-Nan’.

Yah, not a bad idea, really. 🙂

Image

Nursing In Progress (NIP)


Every breastfeeding mom has a secret. My secret is now out in the open.

image

Well, almost.

The secret is that I breastfeed at any time and at everywhere — when I am dining, driving, travelling, shopping, watching TV, reading, blogging and when I am half asleep in the middle of the night. I nurse my baby, now 23 months old at weddings, social gatherings… At exhibition, sales and in the restaurant, at the park, shopping mall, at his older siblings’ public school canteen and even in the car park.

There is nothing ceremonial about this regular routine of me and my nursling except that I shall proudly say that I am a maven of discreet breastfeeding. Try to spot and catch me while I am at it but chances are, you won’t even noticed that I am actually nursing my baby… at least 95% of time.

image

Wore this gorgeous SPRING maternity dress to a social function at KL Tower and not a single soul knew this was a prego cum nursing dress, brilliant!

And the other 5% isn’t because I have a wardrobe malfunction that would make you go, “She’s doing what???” I really am a modest Asian, after all, and exposing myself and trying to blame it on a wardrobe malfunction is just not my cup of tea.

So the 5% is likely that you are my friend and family or that you have known me as a hardcore breastfeeding mom in the last decade nursing all 3 kids that you have been conditioned and gotten used to seeing me breastfeed either one of my children that you don’t even noticed the act anymore.

Of course, it’s so much easier when one is nursing a baby, because with just a nursing cover, you can lift up your tops and let the baby nurse to his heart’s content without breaking a sweat.

It’s a different ball game once the child starts to journey into toddlerdom. He would want to lift up the curtain (i.e. the nursing cover) so-to-speak, to take a peek into the exciting world while he is nursing, exposing the milk factories that should be kept in privacy.

Breastfeeding an older baby often starts with the toddler making some fussy sounds of “Nan-Nan! Nan-Nan!” (which, in Hokkien means milk, breast or a combination of the two) which often sends the mom into a hyperventilation mode because it means she would have to stop whatever she’s doing to serve her royalty baby already, but the problem is they could be stuck at a place such as a glorious wedding or when the family is just about to visit the Orang Utan’s habitat at the local zoo!

Naturally, she’d usually try to distract with an offer of a sip of water or juice or a snack, failing which she’d have to nurse the curious toddler either by shuffling off to the nearest quiet spot to evade any attention (including that of the breastfeeding Orang Utan’s baby who may mistake her as his mom with less hair) or if she was at a Chinese dinner, to fight with the person opposite the round table to pull the edge of the dangling red tablecloth on her side of the table to cover her modesty. Poor diner seated opposite probably never understood why his rice bowl and chopsticks kept moving further away to the centre of the table and that the tablecloth just seemed to shift to the opposite side of the table as the night progresses!

Proving that tablecloth fighting with a random diner can be a totally stressed up session, we all need nursing tops and dresses to make that tranquil breastfeeding both a discreet and fashionable experience. Enter SPRING Maternity & Nursing apparels that has made my life immeasurably better with their choice of intelligent, gorgeous, bright-coloured and fashionable nursing tops.

My favourite from their collection of fashion staples is a maternity dress that doesn’t even look like a prego dress at all. This gorgeous dress comes with a slim red belt that cinch the waist and gives off the illusion that even mom of three like yours truly does have a waist. For a pregnant mom’s growing tummy over the course of a beautiful 9-month journey, simply wear the dress without the red belt and paired with a little cardigan or accessories such as a necklace can expand the versatility of the dress for different day and night look.

image

The blue dress has a nursing access on both sides which makes nursing my toddler a walk in the park.

image

This maternity pants is paired with a white work shirt for casual Friday. None of my colleagues knew I was wearing a maternity pants that is also both comfy and fits greatly.

This dress also has hidden nursing slits through side access that makes tablecloth fighting with a stranger over a dinner a thing of the past! On another note, for the longest time, I forgot that I was a woman on the weekends because I just couldn’t wear dresses on those outings with the kids. Yes, I am a pants person but there’s just that girly feeling I want to feel going out dressed pretty in a dress and being able to nurse whenever I can and wherever I want to, and now this sleeveless knit dress sees to it that I can unleash my feminine side on these outings.

SPRING started in our friendly neighbour country Singapore in Oct 2003 with only a single maternity store and has since grown into one of Singapore’s largest specialty maternity and baby retailers. SPRING has more than 4 stores island-wide and 2 stores in Malaysia (under the brand name of CAMOMILE SPRING).

I also own their maternity pants which I still wear post-natal because they look chic enough to carry me from day to dawn, without looking too baggy like some maternity pants do. In fact I am not the only one who still wears a maternity pants almost 2 years post-delivery. Most of their customers buy SPRING maternity pants even after giving birth because they offer great fit, are versatile and oh-so-comfortable that one can wear them before, during and after birth.

I once told their staff that their maternity clothes look so chic that I wanna get pregnant again but with stacking bills and a busy lifestyle of work, family, Church, and kids, I’d just stick to the nursing section in their stores.  The 2 stores in Malaysia are conveniently located at Bangsar Village 2 (BV2), KL and Setia City Mall (SCM), Shah Alam, but if you are a busy mama like this cow mama here, their SPRING online store is a much-welcomed, easy click-away shopping option.

image

This pretty nursing blouse makes for the perfect choice for weekend outings with the kids to places like a book store, because I could breastfeed Baby B discreetly and in complete peace of mind.

The nursing apparel from SPRING that I have looks just like an ordinary sleeveless blouse except that when Baby B wants a quick Nan-Nan even during a visit to the museum, all of that feeding needs and loving bond between me, the breastfeeder, and him can be conducted happily through smart nursing access on both sides even on any bench I could find and out in the open without the need to lift up the blouse, hide in an obscure corner or stress over how I could try to cover up my modesty with an active nursling who may decide to stop breastfeeding halfway to play peekaboo with his siblings.

image

One of the KPIs of a mother (sorry, I always talk corporate, guess old habit dies hard, hehe) is being able to keep more savings for the family. When you can have the same functional closet that you can wear throughout every journey of motherhood and still look fabulous, instead of buying separate clothing for different seasons of life, the economist in me calls it a Brilliant Investment.

And of course, not having to worry about pulling off the whole red tablecloth to cover your modesty is a very tempting thought. LOL.

Breastfeeding My Toddler


It is 20 months and still counting for me as I continue to breastfeed Baby B in this motherhood journey without supplementing any other types of milk or formula. Every evening as I prop him up on my lap and as we both immerse in the deep bond of love through breastfeeding, I am grateful for the privilege to be able to continue nursing him into a healthy toddler.

There are many different reactions whenever someone hears of my extended nursing story and testimony. The unimpressed ones often glance down to my chest level as if determining if the two humble abodes hanging in front of me can really hold enough milk to nurture my Baby B who is quite chubby.

The doubtful ones think that I must been so overworked that I am getting senile – May be I have forgotten that I secretly mixed formula with breast milk for my 3 kids when they were a baby. The rationale is that since I am a Chinese, it’s impossible that I even have mammary glands large enough to produce sufficient milk.

But nope, I did exclusive breastfeeding even with my humble Asian-sized milk factories and raised up three kids nursing exclusively for 6 months and thereafter continued on until they turned two to two-and-a-half. A decade ago, when I was still nursing Cheeky Koko when he reached 19 months old, a distant relative told me that although she thought nursing was a good deed, I might risk raising up an overly clingy mommy’s boy.

That one can make such comment only shows how ill-informed so many people in our society are about breastfeeding. Mothers who have been in the local nursing scene spanning over the last decade like me have witnessed that sadly, breastfeeding has only just begun to catch its fire in Malaysia about 10 to 12 years ago. Ever since then there has been a mushrooming effect on online and traditional stores selling breastfeeding related merchandise. Suddenly hospitals compete in putting up posters about being breastfeeding friendly. Sweet-looking nursing room for breastfeeding moms swiftly become one of the top priorities for shopping malls.

But in overseas, the systematic approach of promoting breastfeeding from the first days well into the baby’s first year and beyond have long been established and practiced. Their healthcare authorities recognise that continued breastfeeding is good for the health and welfare of both the mother and child. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics is now encouraging mothers to breastfeed at least one year and then for as long after as the mother and baby desire. And UNICEF has long encouraged breastfeeding for two years and longer.

Breast milk is, after all, milk. If we have never questioned about parental choice of continuing to feed their baby with cow’s milk, goat’s milk, formula, oat’s milk, soya or any other types of milk, why then is there such a big hooha over a child who is still being fed with the best milk nature has intended for him?

Last weekend, such views that nursing a child in the public is somewhat ‘weird’ and that nursing a toddler beyond the first few months of life is just socially unacceptable have led to a total of 450 local mothers rally for normalising breastfeeding in Malaysia. The event was also included into The Malaysian Book of Records as having the largest gathering of mothers nursing their babies simultaneously. The breastfeeding landscape is finally shaking here in this country!

The question is why rush mothers to stop breastfeeding beyond the first year? Even after six months, breast milk still contains staple source of nutrients such as protein, fat, and other nutritionally important health elements which babies and children need. Breast milk has also been proven to contain immunologic factors that help protect the child well after he has turned two.

Some research data also shows that since children older than a year are exposed to more infections than young babies, the immune factors and compositions in breast milk will cleverly self-adjust biologically to suit the nutritional needs of an older nursing toddler. In other words, there are simply greater amounts of immune factors present in the breast milk in the second year of life. Plus, breast milk still contains special growth factors that help the immune system to mature, and which help the other organs such as the brain and gut of a child to develop and mature.

Nursing is also a source of comfort and a place of refuge from the big scary world for the child. It is the perfect cure for all sorts of emotional tantrums, growing pain, stress and potential meltdowns for the toddlers.

The health benefits of extended breastfeeding aren’t just for the wee ones either. Working moms who continue to breastfeed return to work with less needs for emergency leave to care for their little ones because their babies develop fewer illnesses and are healthier overall. Studies also show reduced risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, and heart disease for nursing moms, not to mention the great calorie count they continue to lose effortlessly (some 300 – 700 calorie per day) when breastfeeding beyond the first year.

Nursing Baby B is rewarding to both of us and so, why stop?

Breastfeeding Baby B is rewarding to both of us and so, why stop.

The more curious ones often ask if there might even be a moment that I felt overwhelmed with the crazy combination of full time work and breastfeeding. I often say, yes I do, but really, I am just overwhelmed with the two-way love I enjoy from breastfeeding my toddler. Nursing helps me wind down after a crazy day at work, learn to slow down and focus on him alone and nothing else. Whenever I nurse Baby B cradling him in my arms, stroke his soft hair and smile into his playful eyes, I’m savoring every special moment of that motherhood that I know will be gone all too soon.

When will I ever slow down? I guess I’d be ready when he is, but for now, we are just too happy to carry on.

In conjunction with August being a Breastfeeding Awareness Month, let’s toast to better awareness and more support for extended nursing here in Malaysia!

The Cow Mama Travels For Work


Work travel - a mama misses not just the festive but also her baby.

Work travel – a mama misses not just the festive but also her baby.

It’s the cheap flights season now as airlines offer cheap and sometimes free flights just to encourage domestic or international travel for fellow countrymen. I don’t know, may be the airlines’ CEOs wake up from the right side of the bed, pressed the speed dial to the Advertising department and said to one of the Marketing’s Big Shots, ‘hey Bill, bring out those free seats, I wanna reward Malaysians! Let them fly for FREE, let them get inspired, get stylish, and oh, while they are at it, let them eat to their heart’s content while they travel!”

OK, I am just imagining but whatever it is, some moms are jetsetters due to their work. Thank God I have definitely passed the age (ok, don’t even try to guess my real age!) to apply for a highflying job that would have been nice as I imagined, to have a secretary make a nice warm cup of coffee for me every morning or decide the fate of a company’s fifty million ringgit deposit on some mega investment on a whim but which would probably also require me to leave the kids behind to do some globetrotting trips for the company more than a few times a year.

However, even just a few times of work travel a year is quite a lot for a breastfeeding mama though, considering all the planning and logistics involved in being committed as a nursing mother. So much as I am committed to extended nursing until my last happiest little people aka Baby B at least turns 24 months old, in my little world of corporate reality I am required to travel for work an average of twice a year sans the baby, and the longest of such journey was a good 8 days away from him.

I would like to share some tips of making work travel work for nursing mama. Whenever I get any advanced notification for work related travel, I would plan way ahead before the trip by including a pumping session over the weekends or add on an additional pumping session at work to get a good stock of Expressed Breast Milk (EBM) supply in the freezer that Daddy Joe or the babysitter could reach for to feed the baby when I am away.

Over the years, I have worked out an average of 6 bottles of EBM a day for a baby who has not started solids and 4 bottles of EBM for a baby who has started solids. Once they have started some semi-solid food, my baby has managed anything between 4 to 8 bottles of EBM per day when I was away, so somehow this math has worked out well for us.

To maintain my milk supply when I was away, I would take Moringa Capsules and at times Nursing Tea to build up my milk supply which would naturally dwindle a little due to us mommies not being able to get into direct nursing and cuddling of our baby over so many days. On top of that, I would make sure that I eat healthily and had sufficient rest.

If motherhood is all about getting creative and make do with any challenges that come your way, man, pumping while travelling sure is the cream of the crop when it comes to thinking out of the box for a place to express your milk. I have pumped away using a manual pump at nursing rooms of malls, beg a waitress for a pumping corner covering my dignity with a nursing bib at a restaurant, and I have even pumped at a DJ control room stuck with 15 gorgeous models changing for their next catwalk!

Once I am done, I would normally ask for help from any restaurants if I could store the EBM and cooler gel in their fridge until I was done with my work. Just before we head back to our hotel at the end of the day, with a lot of apologies I would ask my colleagues to wait for me while I rushed back to the same restaurant to retrieve my precious EBM. Thank God for really kind and supportive bosses and colleagues I have had all these years!

At night, I wash and sterilize all of the manual pumps and bottles and fit in another pumping session via an electrical pump just before hitting the sack and then at 6am again before I get ready for work. If the room had a chiller I would leave the EBM in it, but I have travelled to enough hot and humid places to notice that you just can’t trust the chiller in most of the hotel rooms. In that case, one would just have to ask for hotel front desk or their restaurants for help to store EBM elsewhere.

If you are travelling for work sans the baby, make sure you bring along at least a manual pump and an electrical pump since not all places or countries that you travel to have a power socket at the place you pump and because you would be pumping quite often. Yes there will be so much pump parts and bottles to wash at night and so many logistics to think about, but it’s worth every droplet of health for the baby!

Some countries have strict airline regulations that all frozen EBM are to be packed along with some cooler and ice packs inside a separate cooler bag and kept in one’s luggage to be checked in, which I have done while travelling for a 16-hours journey only to reach home to half thawed EBM. Some airlines are ok that you hand carry your cooler bag then speak to the air hostess inside the plane and have your cooler bag kept in the chiller compartment of the pantry.

Also, bring some breast pads, breast milk bags (they are lighter to lug around plus you can write the date and baby’s name on it), nursing supplement, cooler gel, cooler bag, wet bag, some wet tissues in case the place you are pumping is not that clean), sterilizing tablets (in case no jug kettle is provided in the room to sterilize stuff), baby bottles detergent and a sponge for all the washing you will be doing nightly.
Last but not least, it will be helpful to carry a photo of your baby to look at while you pump away from home. It also serves as a loving motivation that all of these sacrifices and commitment will one day come back to you when your child, in his successful 30s self, call you from out of his HQ in London that he will be sending a private jet plane to fly you and his dad to Paris just for a nice breakfast with him, overlooking the Eiffel Tower and all. Just saying. 

In this seven2sevenmom’s planet, there is no harm to be super-imaginative while one checks out some cheap flights for the next well-deserved holiday. Happy globetrotting, fellow moommies!

Milk Donation


Image

Still on the topic of breastfeeding, well, I saw a video on China Mother’s Milk Bank from Yahoo a month ago, as the link below:

http://my.news.yahoo.com/video/chinese-breast-milk-bank-starts-170101629.htm

According to the news, here’s what’s happening in China now:

The first mother’s milk bank in mainland China has opened in Guangzhou. It is starting out with four rooms and 80 mothers donating milk. The southern city has a population of more than 12 million. But the two founders at the Maternity and Childcare Hospital say new callers have been eager to give, and the response is more than they expected.

One donor said she was motivated by the sick babies she learned about on television, who she felt sorry for. China was struck by a terrifying food scare in 2008 when parents feared for their babies’ lives.

At least six infants died and 300,000 fell ill from drinking store-bought milk laced with the industrial chemical melamine. Beijing has tried to reassure people that milk powder and dairy products in China are now safe and rigorously tested.

However, lax regulatory enforcement is still a problem. Demand for foreign milk powder is high. Animal milk production in China falls far below demand. A cow there produces one third the milk of an average Western cow.

In 2010, China imported 550,000 tonnes of powdered milk, and today half its needs. Ten years ago, most of the country’s dairy operations had ten cows or fewer. Now, well over half of them are much bigger, having been grouped together into modern cooperatives for efficiencies of scale, hygiene and quality control.

Scandals shook consumer confidence in Chinese-made baby products and led to shortages of powdered milk in Hong Kong and Australia as people bought boxes to export to China. Some British stores have rationed sales after Chinese visitors and bulk buyers cleared their shelves of baby milk to send to China.

The rise of the middle-class Chinese working mother has greatly increased sales of baby milk in the world’s most populous country. Paediatrician Liu Xihong said there are relatively few breast-feeding mothers in China, and that another problem is she found just eight percent of mothers would agree to let their child feed on another mother’s milk – rather than formula.

The UN Children’s Fund said fewer than one in three Chinese under-six-month-old is breastfed.

Hmmm… Wonder if Malaysia would ever set up a milk bank as a reliable bio-nutrition source to help ailing babies and kids in the paediatric wards fight off diseases and speed up healing and if we did have one, how many moms would sign up as donors and how many moms would be willing to accept milk donations for their babies.

I still remember when I was breastfeeding Cheeky Koko a decade ago, I was part of a group of weekly mama milk donors for a little boy who was undergoing chemotherapy for paediatric leukaemia. By God’s grace, he survived the cancer and after the treatment, did so exceedingly well in terms of healing and growing up. Like donating blood, milk donation does have its life-saving merits, in combination with other medical treatment.

Of course, it boils down to raising the breastfeeding rate and acceptance level amongst Malaysian new moms first. May we one day be a land overflowing with precious mama milk, eh!

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/found_drama/3411453025/”>found_drama</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>

Confession of A BMW! (Breastfeeding Mom Who Works)


pumpingI opened up the big plastic container at the corner of our kitchen and started admiring the collection of electrical and manual pumps I have collected over the years like how a fashionista would admire her collection of Jimmy Choos.

It’s not an obsession, really, but to me, having the right breast pump can help a mother carry on breastfeeding even if she had to go back to a full time work after her two months maternity leave. Over a span of a decade, I have had six pumps to carry me through nursing of 3 babies and working at a demanding job all at the same time. With Cheeky Koko, now 11 years old, I inherited a first generation hand-held Medela battery-operated pump from my sister in law which did not work as well for me with its over powerful suction and overwhelming motor noise (To be fair, I heard Medela has since improved its design, ease and comfort of usage since then).

After just one month, I saved hard on every cent and decided to invest in the award-winning Avent ISIS manual breast pump. Although this was a manual pump, its cushy massage cushion was a delight to use as it encouraged a good let-down, in that I felt like my baby was with me although I was pumping in the office’s store room. Its excellent ergonomic design allowed a mother to control the pumping speed which mimicked the nursing rhythm of her baby.

When Pumpkin Mei-Mei came along, I continued using the same Avent breast pump for a good 8 months, before buying a new set of the same pump from a sale in Singapore (seriously, who could resist a great deal?!!) that came in a cool sleek black cooler bag. With Pumpkin Mei-Mei, I was slowly moving up the career ladder and as such had an office room to pump in absolute privacy. To make sure that I get an uninterrupted pumping session, what I’d do is to stick a nicely printed mini poster with a picture of her head next to a dialog bubble that said, “Please excuse my mom for 20 mins as she is making my lunch for tomorrow!”

With Baby B, I am using a Spectra Electrical Breast Pump now that has worked out just as well for me in terms of comfort, efficiency and low maintenance for a good 14 months before I stopped pumping altogether since Baby B likes all things fresh, and prefers only direct feeding all of a sudden as he turned one year old.

This is what I do daily with the expressed breast milk (EBM):

1) Get ready two milk collectors which come in handy when pumping on one side, and for collecting letdown from the other side of the breast. You don’t need these if you have a double pump.
2) Pump 10-15 minutes on each breast. If you can control the speed of pumping on the breast pump, try to start with a gentler suction speed for about a few minutes and once the let-down takes place, gradually adjust the speed to a comfortable suction level.
3) When done, carefully close back the lids of the bottles, clean up the surface, label and date the collected EBM.
4) Leave the used pump or breast phalange (the shield part that comes in contact with breast) with the EBM inside a half-opened cooler bag and store in the fridge until the next pumping session.
5) Take out the cooling/ice pack from the freezer and put it into the cooler bag to keep the milk cooler for a longer time (since no one can predict traffic jam in KL!)
5) When reach home, wash, sterilise and dry all the bottles and breast pump parts carefully.
6) Pack the breast pumps, the milk collectors, cooling/ice pack and milk bottles into the cooler bag to get ready for the next day’s labour of love. 🙂

All of the EBM from my pumping sessions were kept in small quantity of 2.5 to 3 oz per bottle, and kept in the office refrigerator to keep them chilled. Then just before leaving the office for the day, I would bring back 4 to 6 bottles of EBM in a cooler box or bag together with some cooling pads to help keep them cool until I reach home.

I would then store the EBM at the back of the refrigerator for the baby’s next day consumption. If it was a Friday, I would straight away freeze the EBM, since I nurse directly at night, on my off days and weekends. On Monday morning before I go to work, my MIL or the babysitter would thaw 3 bottles of EBM from the freezer by moving it into the refrigerator compartment and only heat it up about 15 mins before feeding.

Do work out a system of first pumped first served where the grandparent or babysitter knows exactly which bottle to thaw or feed first, and occasionally do remind them to shake the bottle gently before feeding to ensure that the super antibodies from mama milk that got stuck to the wall of the bottle will not be left behind during each feed. To ensure that the antibodies do not get destroyed by varied temperature in the fridge, do remember that the cooling coils are located just behind the refrigerator, which means the bottles with the EBM should NOT be placed in contact with the back wall of the fridge.

I usually pump once during lunch time at 1pm and another time at 4pm. I kept at pumping twice before the baby turned 9 months old and reduced to once a day after the baby turned about 8-9 months old and was taking solids well. I usually continue pumping until the baby turns 12 to 15 months old, before introducing formula as supplementary milk drink for day time, but I’d continue breastfeeding my baby until he or she turned two years old. Since we went with a child-led weaning, in Pumpkin Mei-Mei’s case, she only weaned at close to 28 months old. When she turned 24 months old I wondered when I could regain my life sans the nursing. But when she finally did get ready to wean, I had the hardest time letting go of this act! 🙂

Nursing needs not take a break just because mama has to work. Imagine all the mama milk goodness one can carry on providing for her baby even though she is at work. Of course, not every employer is understanding and kind enough to support one’s decision to pump at work, but with a little bit of persistency, persuasion (get them to see the economic value of you not calling in for emergency off frequently to take care of your bub since breastfed baby is healthier in general) and wonderful help from all these modern breastfeeding pumps and accessories, breastfeeding can be an easy yet nurturing act of ensuring our baby continues to get the best start in life.

Breastfeeding Tips for New Mom


Congratulations, you are expecting or have just delivered your baby and decided that you prefer to exclusively breastfeed your baby. I am not going to share why I choose to breastfeed here, because I already posted about my passion for nursing at

http://seven2sevenmom.com/2013/02/21/moo-therhood/

I get asked many times by mommy friends on how to breastfeed successfully. I am not a breastfeeding guru nor a lactation consultant, so I am just going to share about getting breastfeeding on to the right start from day one based on my own breastfeeding experience with my 3 kids, all of whom were and one is still being nursed for a minimum of 24 months. For more information, do check on websites like breastfeeding.com or babycentre.com.my or breastfeeding books such as The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding or Nursing Mother, Working Mother.

To starts off, let’s debunk some myths about breastfeeding that I get asked by some friends all these years:

1)      The size of your milk factory does NOT matter. Human milk is produced in tiny milk sacs called Alveoli and stored in tiny network of Milk Ducts. So it doesn’t matter if you are an A cup or a D cup, you can breastfeed on either size.

2)      Breastfeeding may not come naturally for some. For me, nursing the first baby was a whole lot of tears for a good six weeks with engorgement, wrong latching position and cracked nipple (ouch). I thought I would fare better with baby no. 2 but I had the same excruciating pain for a good five weeks. And with baby no.3, I am glad that though I experienced the same discomfort and pain, it was for only 4.5 weeks. So it may not be poster-bliss for some, but the key to successful nursing is to make sure the latch on is correct, find your most comfortable nursing position, persevere and also try to work on the issues with a lot of reading and TLC support from family and husband.

3)      The early bird gets the worms. It means the earlier you start nursing the more successful your nursing journey will be. Tell the midwives or your doctor that you intend to breastfeed your newborn right after birth or within the first few hours of birth. Yes it does feel awkward like your newborn is not sucking anything off your breast that has not become full yet but during the first few days after birth, your baby will be consuming tiny amount of yellowish, creamy and rich substance that is super good for them called Colostrum.

4)      Colostrum is not the tsunami of a milk supply. I have not tried to pump colostrum to see how little there is but most websites and books will tell you that it comes in very tiny precious amount per feed, about a teaspoon at most. So you are going “what, my newborn is going to starve, holy cow!’ which is a perfectly normal reaction but calm down, your newborn has a stomach diameter the size of a teaspoons too so it is definitely enough for her.

5)      Breast Milk is somewhat like fashion designers —- they won’t show up until the grand-finale. Anytime between day three to within a week after birth, this precious golden essence will turn into whitish human milk whence you will experience fuller breasts (which is still rich with colostrum substance) for the baby (and all moms say with a sigh of relief, “finally!”) and some of you may experience temporary discomfort called breast engorgement.

6)      Breastfeeding works on demand and supply principle, like simple economy. So to get the supply established, there must be a healthy demand. This means that to mentally and physically prepare yourself to exclusively nurse your baby, don’t go out and get the can of formula yet, as you need to feed on demand especially during the first 6 months of your baby’s life. Go Google more but the research will tell you that the act of nursing frequently to ‘empty’ your breasts sort of send brain signals to get these good (hormone) guys called Prolactin and FIL (no, it’s not father in law) to produce more milk for the baby.

7)      You will feel like you don’t have enough milk because your newborn keeps on crying and demanding to be breastfed. Come on mama, your baby will not be able to communicate by talking so he will be crying a lot (and I mean, really a lot) to tell you that he is sleepy, hungry, or just pooped and will also cry to tell you also that he is unfamiliar with all these external stimulations (such as all those noises and lights that can feels a bit overwhelming to a newborn as compared to when he was in your cosy womb). As for him constantly demanding to breastfeed is a beautiful instinct to help regulate and bring up your milk supply over the next few months. Personally, I was breastfeeding every one to two hourly during the first two months (so yes, it is NORMAL during the newborn phase to feel like you are ALWAYS nursing though I thought I was so sleep deprived I must have turned ABNORMAL to imagine myself as a milk machine in a pink pyjamas).

8)      Mix feeding with formula. Let me stress that I am not anti-formula –feeding due to whatever reasons, personally or medically because I firmly believe love comes from the heart, and feeding is only one of the nurturing acts that a mom encompasses. It’s proven, however, that if you are a die-hard fan of breastfeeding then let’s not give in to the temptation of mixed feeding from day one. You may want to start that only if you have established your milk supply and need to get back to work after maternity leave and your new work place is not mom-friendly. Perhaps you have supply issues and after consulting your doctor or lactation consultant and taken some remedies, your supply just isn’t sufficient for your baby. It could also be considered when your baby have started solid and you plan to scale down breastfeeding to prepare for gradual weaning. In normal healthy breastfeeding, once you start mixed feeding, your breasts may have mixed feelings about not being able to produce as much milk as before (Oh love my rhyming!)

By the way, happy mother’s day to all you great moms out there. To my own Mom who means the world to me and who inspires me in every way and stood by my decision to breastfeed all of my kids, I just want to say, you are awesome, Mom.

More posts coming in the near future about pumping. Happy breastfeeding, peeps!

Moo-therhood


Moo ... Moo...

PIcture courtesy of FreeImages.co.uk

Moo … Moo…
PIcture courtesy of FreeImages.co.uk

I stood in front of the two brightly decorated nursing rooms inside Isetan with baby B screaming “nan-nan, nan-nan” (Baby Lingo for Mama’s Milk) ever so loudly it sounded like a medical emergency from one of the ER episodes!

It was probably only a quick 5-minute wait, but when one is straining to carry a 14 months old babbling baby the generous weight of a big pack of Thai Fragrant Rice on one hand, while clutching on to 2 shopping bags, a baby bag and her handbag on the other, it is entirely a balancing act that only an ingenious mom can manage, such as your truly.

Moments later, a young mother came out from the baby room carrying her adorable sleeping infant in her arms and gave me a warm and understanding nod accompanied by a sweet smile that only a nursing mom would exchange with another fellow nursing mom, as if sealing our sacred ring of Nursing Fellowship and affirmation for one another for choosing to breastfeed our babies despite the odds and pressures of modern days.

All mothers are great and I have had family members or friends who choose to breastfeed only for the first few months and some do not breastfeed at all and with all due respect, I think it is as much a personal choice as the preference for coffee versus tea. You are still a loving mother even if you have had no choice but to go for formula for your cutie pie.

But it is no secret that I am extremely passionate about breastfeeding.bfd1

 I believe that breastfeeding is nature’s way of extending protection for an infant beyond her nine months inside the mother’s womb. Apart from the protective colostrum, its superior and ever-changing nutrient tailored for human infants cannot be completely duplicated by any infant formulas or cow milk. All these goodness in the mama’s milk have the added advantage of being able to protect babies from contracting certain serious diseases and allergies through their lifetime.

As a working mother, the ability to nurse all three of my kids from the first day all the way through until they were at least the age of two has been a comforting thought during those occasions when I have had to put in the extra hours at work due to my demanding job.

In that sense, when I was expressing milk in the office, I was assured of the ability to nourish her, so that she continued to receive the benefits of antibodies in the expressed breast milk the next day during the day time when I was away at work.

When we were united again at the end of the day, I would happily nurse my baby away from the prying world in our favourite nursing corner. It was our special time together to catch up on the lost time and I cherished those beautiful sacred moments of serenity.

In the exclusive 30 minutes of nursing nothing else seemed matter when the two of us reconnected through an unspoken act of love when the baby would nurse on hungrily as I hum to him or her a song or two, and when her hunger has been satisfied, she would sometimes look up at my face and lovingly touched and twirled my hair with her chubby fingers and sometimes sneaked in a sweet baby smile as I tickled her oh-so-cute little feet.

The only little inconvenience I get from committing myself to nursing is whenever I travel for work sans the baby. Imagine I would excuse myself from lunch or dinner or party and hide in a store room or a baby’s room and pump away few times a day and bring back one full chiller box of expressed milk from a five days business trip!

I still get mixed reactions from people whenever I share that I plan to breastfeed baby B until he turns at least two years old or even beyond that. To me, mama milk is the perfect, most natural food for the baby and the act of breastfeeding the baby has helped sooth away the many bumps and negativity endured from the world for both the mama and her happiest little people.

Yes I get the stares whenever I walked out of a nursing room. Instead of a young infant, I came out with a walking and babbling toddler. Oh bother, this is my moo-therhood and I shall be waxing lyrical about breastfeeding and will carry on till the cows come home. Mooo….

For more tender loving reminders of why breast milk is beyond awesome, do check out this website which had been my source of inspiration through the years:

http://www.breastfeeding.com/