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!

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. 🙂

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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!