Monday, August 30, 2010

World Breastfeeding Week 2010
Essay Competition

Breastfeeding Mothers' Support Group (BMSG) organised an essay competition for this year's World Breastfeeding Week. The aim of the competition was to determine how hospitals can help mothers establish successful breastfeeding through implementing the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) starting by first finding out what mothers want. I submitted the following entry - it's not a great piece of work as I did it at the last minute and had only 1 night to write. But I won a consolation prize - a $20 New Maternity Voucher. Guess that can help me add 1 more nursing top to my collection! :)

I stumbled into the breastfeeding world as a teenager, when I came across a La Leche League Singapore calendar. The photos of the breastfeeding mums and babes look so calm and blissful; it became a memory that resurfaced when I conceived. Hence, I did not hesitate to aim for the gold standard of exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months.

While pregnant, I voraciously read any breastfeeding material that I could get and attended BMSG workshops. My husband and I decided not to stock any formula and milk bottles to deliberately make giving up breastfeeding difficult. We also invested in a Medela PISA. I involved my mother, who would be helping out during confinement and she joined me at the workshops when my husband was unable to make it. That turned out to be a good move as she came from a generation when formula milk was the ‘in’ thing and she was pretty ignorant about breastfeeding. The workshops were an eye-opener for her, an experienced mom of two!

All my research was very handy as my doctor shocked me during a pre-labour workshop that he conducts for all his patients a month prior to their due date. To quote, he said, “It is ok if you can’t or don’t want to breastfeed, formula is just as good.” I suppose that his goal was to ease the anxieties of new moms but I don’t think that helped anyone who wasn’t adequately prepared. I also couldn’t help but notice that a formula manufacturer representative was at the talk. We left with a full-size ‘sample’ tin of infant formula – dashing my hopes of not stocking any at home. I had to hide it in a corner to avoid its temptation!!

As part of my labour preparations, I took a Hypnobirthing course and developed a birth plan which I subsequently discussed with my doctor. Achieving a drug-free delivery was my main goal. Aside from my concerns about a previous spinal injury, I also read that it will help pave the way towards establishing breastfeeding. Now, I think that this was a major factor in facilitating my short and easy labour as well as breastfeeding in the delivery suite mainly because my wishes were made known to the staff, allowing me to avoid dealing with questions immediately post-labour.

Shortly after my son was born, the nurse approached me and proceeded to knead my nipple to extract the very first bit of colostrum. I’m unsure if that was necessary, as it was rather painful and I would have preferred to let him approach me at his own pace. However, that first whiff of colostrum enticed him to start suckling immediately for the next 20 – 30 minutes.

After we left the delivery suite at about 5am, I was left alone in the room with my newborn and when he cried around 7am, I tried to latch him on by myself. Unfortunately, I did not realize that the latching was incorrect and ended up with sore nipples! The LC came for a quick visit in the morning and tried to show me how to position the baby, etc but she was speaking very quickly and somehow I just couldn’t absorb everything. Subsequently, I’ll page for the nurses at almost every feed. They were usually helpful, adjusting piles of pillows to get the right position and giving me lots of support and encouragement. But no one told me how to get the right position when I’m home. It was a case of giving a man a fish and he eats for a day, instead of teaching him to fish so that he eats for life. Occasionally, I encountered some unhelpful nurses. One accused me of not wearing a nursing bra (untrue!), another suggested formula milk when all I needed was some positioning help and yet another insisted that I had to rest, therefore my baby should be in the nursery till it’s time for his next feed. I was too exhausted to fight the last one and caved in but I found little rest as his welfare was on my mind all the time and I worried that he might be given formula without my consent.

As I delivered on a Saturday, there wasn’t an LC present to help out the next day. I finally got to see one again just before being discharged on Monday. However, I felt that her explanations were overly technical and I couldn’t relate to it. I wondered if she had ever breastfed before and left feeling that I just had to grit my teeth and get on with it by myself at home. We left the hospital with a bunch of brochures - thankfully no formula samples, but there wasn’t any information about BMSG or similar support groups. After our discharge, it took quite a long while before we finally found a comfortable position. I often wished that someone would visit and show me how, just like the post-natal support that my friends in Europe get, with a midwife visiting every couple of days for the first month or so to check on the baby and mom. While I was aware that I could arrange for a private visit with an LC, the cost was a prohibitive factor.

As a first-time mom, I felt that post-maternity support is severely lacking. 1 week later, my son suddenly refused to feed throughout the day; he would latch and cry in frustration a short while later. Finally, close to midnight, I realized that he was dehydrating. In desperation, I called the hospital’s emergency line, only to be transferred from person to person. My call was eventually answered by the duty nurse at the ward where we stayed – her response was disheartening: “Why did you call so late?!? What do you expect me to do? Just give him formula!” I refused to give him formula and she told me I could express if I wanted. I hung up feeling angry, discouraged and upset. We raced to the 24-hour NTUC to get milk bottles and I started expressing for the first time. True enough, my poor baby was starving and gulped down the entire bottle before falling sound asleep. It turned out that he caught a viral infection and a stuffy nose was preventing him from nursing.

We became more proficient as the weeks went by, but it was a rocky road paved with pain, discouragement and tears. At 6 weeks, I developed an abscess which required surgery under GA. Subsequently, I encountered countless painful blocked ducts, sometimes, as often as once a week, at least 2 bouts of mastitis and an episode of thrush. Thankfully, I am blessed with angels who held my hand and helped me along the way:
- my supportive husband, who did much more than I can list here;
- my mom who would drop everything to help out;
- my Hypnobirthing instructor (Ginny Phang of Four Trimesters) who always answered my calls for help and massaged away countless blocked ducts and for her encouraging words;
- my very skilful breast surgeon, Dr Joy Lee, for her patience, kind demeanor and encouragement;
- the unnamed counselors at BMSG who answered my calls when I was at my wits’ end.

All the trials and tribulations I’ve endured only made me more determined to persevere. I am now proud to say that we managed to achieve the gold standard. Today, my son is a healthy, bubbly 19-month old who is still breastfeeding and shows no sign of weaning. Although I sometimes tire of his breastfeeding antics and long to not wear nursing clothes anymore, I think we both enjoy the closeness too much to give up anytime soon.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Book Review:

Happiest Baby on the Block

Author: Dr. Harvey Karp
ISBN: 0553381466
Publisher: Bantam
Format: Paperback
Published: May 2003
No. of pages: 288 pages
Available for loan from: National Library Board
Price: S$21.43 (
Suitable for: Expectant parents,
parents of 0 – 3 months old babies
Verdict: Highly recommended (4 / 5)

This is my favourite book on newborns! A thought-provoking read, Dr. Karp blends modern science and ancient wisdom to prove that newborns are really not ready for the world when they are born. Written in a friendly, fun and engaging manner, I liked the sensible way used to explain the rationales behind the practical solutions that he provides.

Essentially, this book explains why newborns cry (and cry so much) and most importantly, how to soothe them with the simple 5’S approach that trigger the calming reflex (swaddling, side/stomach position, shushing, swinging and sucking). For centuries, parents have tried these methods only to fail because, as with a knee-jerk reflex, the calming reflex only works when it is triggered in exactly the right way. Dr. Karp explains away the age-old myths behind colic, gas and other reasons that have been given for non-stop crying and literally redefines our understanding of the needs of newborns. When first published, this book stunned the medical world (and made parents cheer!) by solving the 3000-year-old mystery of colic with the discovery of the calming reflex – the incredible “off-switch” for infant crying and on switch for baby sleep that can soothe most fussy babies in minutes and add 1-3 hours to a baby’s sleep.

Although I read this book when baby J was 4.5 months old, some of the tricks still worked and above all, helped me understand why he had non-stop crying spells every afternoon (the doctor said it wasn’t colic) and why he would only nap when carried in a sling during those early days. It certainly helped soothe my ‘new mother’ anxieties that I must have somehow gotten something wrong. On the downside, I wished Dr. Karp provided more information about weaning the baby off the 5’S as we are still very much reliant on one of them (sucking).

An accompanying DVD is also available. While I have only seen the excepts on the website (it’s just amazing to watch the screaming infants stop crying almost instantly!), I believe that watching the DVD will be useful in helping one to better understand and visualize the tactics. Certainly, if you are a bleary-eyed, exhausted new parent, watching the DVD will be a much faster solution to yours (and your baby’s) sleep deprivation issues.

Having spoken to many other mothers, it seems that these endless crying spells are a definite with all newborns; so in this regard, this book and DVD is a must-read / must-watch for all expectant and new parents.

About the Author(s)
Dr. Harvey Karp is a nationally renowned pediatrician, child development specialist and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the UCLA School of Medicine. He completed medical school training at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in NYC, pediatric residency at Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles and fellowships in ambulatory pediatrics and child development at UCLA. In pediatric practice, for almost 30 years, Dr. Karp has taught thousands of parents, from working moms to superstars like Madonna, Michelle Pfeiffer and Pierce Brosnan his secrets for soothing colic, boosting infant sleep, reducing tantrums, promoting patience and …making parents and children happy.

Monday, February 1, 2010

This Blog Exists for a Reason or Two

I created this blog because:

1. I needed a reference for myself; particularly for the books I've read as most books are borrowed and I am unable to refer to them as and when I like.

2. To share the knowledge and information that I've acquired since becoming a parent.

Many a time when embarking on a new parenting adventure, I wish that someone who's been there and done there could advise me. Unfortunately, I do not have such a person at my beck and call and have to learn things the hard way. Hopefully, this will help other new parents in their own parenting journey.

Book Review:

Baby Led Weaning
Helping Your Baby to Love Good Food

Author: Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett
ISBN: 0091923808
Publisher: Vermillion
Format: Paperback
Published: November 2009
No. of pages: 256 pages
Available for loan from: National Library Board
Price: S$26.64 (
Suitable for: Anyone who has yet to offer finger foods to their child
Verdict: Highly recommended (4.5 / 5)

I wish I read this before I started weaning my son.

I've heard of Baby Led Weaning (BLW) through friends and on the internet. However, there was a dismal lack of information about how to go about doing it and how to deal with the various situations and comments one will come across. I was unable to get the book until recently when we've been on solids for about 5 months and had stumbled through BLW with many doubts and questions.

After reading this book, most (if not all) of my concerns were answered. I am a lot more confident about BLW, sharing it with my friends or when I need support for when Grandma is horrified. This is certainly a good read for parents who think that feeding a baby means jars and purees. Even if one chooses not to use BLW, this book contains useful general information on topics such as nutrition, portion sizes and feeding.

The photographs included in the book are a cute diversion and gives one an insight into BLW in action. What was missing are recipes that can be used for BLW once baby progresses beyond the beginner's steamed vegetable sticks, cut fruit and toast soldiers. If you're looking for recipes for "baby" food, tables of what food to introduce at what age, or detailed lists of foods to avoid, you won't find them here. This is just a reassuring introduction to the idea of simply feeding your baby from your own healthy meals.

About the Author(s)
Gill Rapley has studied infant feeding and child development for many years. She worked as a health visitor for over 20 years and has also been a midwife and a voluntary breastfeeding counsellor. She developed the theory of baby-led weaning while studying babies' developmental readiness for solids as part of her Master's degree. She lives in Kent with her husband and has three grown-up children, all of whom tried their best to show her that they didn't need any help with solid foods.

Tracey Murkett is a freelance writer and journalist. She originally trained as an artist and was deputy editor of Artists and Illustrators magazine until she left to have her baby. After following baby-led weaning with her daughter, she wanted to let other parents know how easy and stress-free mealtimes with babies and young children can be. She lives in London with her partner and their daughter, now aged three.

Baby Led Weaning Helping Your Baby to Love Good Food


Singapore's 1st Subscription-Based
Toy Rental Service

We used toy rental services mainly to try out expensive and/or bulky items before deciding if we wanted to purchase for long-term use as we felt that the rents do not always do justice to the cost price of a toy as well as having to deal with the inconvenience of having to collect and return the rented item or pay delivery charges.

However, our interest was piqued when we received an email advertising a subscription-based toy rental service that included free delivery and collection of toys. Baby J was only 6 months old then so we decided to KIV this service. When he was 9 months old, we felt that he was bored with his existing collection of toys but didn’t know which new ones to buy; hence we embarked upon a 3-month trial period with Toys-A-Month.

We signed up for the basic package which provides 3 toy credits per month for $48. That means, that we could have either 3 toys worth 1 credit each, 2 toys worth a combined 3 credits or just 1 large toy worth 3 credits. Furthermore, we could either select the toys by adding them to an online wish list or leave it to Toys-A-Month to propose a selection of toys. Families with more than 1 child will probably find the Silver or Gold packages with 5 and 6 credits respectively a good deal.

Compared to some toy rental companies (which do not operate on a subscription basis), Toys-A-Month’s selection of toys is limited. However, since we joined, we’ve noticed that they’ve added quite a large selection of new toys so we assume that the lack of variety is due to the fact that they are still a fairly new business (which translates to the advantage of having rather new toys!).

Now into our 4th month, we’ve been very pleased with their service and outcome. We don’t know if it’s baby J or us parents who anticipate the new toys more! The toys are always delivered cleaned and in good condition. Where possible, they are shrink wrapped to keep them in their pristine state.

Towards the end of each month, we will receive an email arranging a mutually convenient collection/delivery date and time and the proposed toys for the upcoming exchange. If we prefer to have other toys, Toys-A-Month tries its best to co-ordinate other members’ rental schedules unless the toy has been reserved by someone else. When we did not know what to select, Toys-A-Month will revert with appropriate suggestions. If baby J doesn’t like the toys of the month, we could get an exchange by paying a $15 transportation fee. However, we have never exercised this option as baby J always had at least 2 toys of which at least one will capture his interest for the next 3 to 4 weeks. Thus far, it has also helped us to figure out what types of toys suit baby J’s interests and developmental stage when we would like to buy him something.

Toys-A-Month also responds promptly to feedback. The first delivery coincided with baby J’s nap and the door bell woke him up. Since we informed them, the delivery person has always sent a SMS to inform us that he is on the way so he can find out whether it was convenient to use the door bell. It’s a small matter, but such a gesture means a lot to a mom who struggles with naps almost everyday.

We will certainly continue using this service indefinitely. Even if we could afford to buy every single toy available for baby J, living in land- scarce Singapore where apartments are becoming smaller means that we have to resort to creative toy storage methods. It will also save us the hassle of having to discard or sell toys that baby J has outgrown - and we all know how quickly that happens!!