It was every breastfeeding mum’s worst nightmare – a week after Reina Tan resumed work after a 15-month hiatus, she opened her deep freezer to find her entire supply of expressed breast milk had thawed.
Her new domestic helper had accidentally turned off the switch to the freezer containing 35 packets of breast milk, which she had painstakingly built up months before starting work.
She had to throw away everything.
Needless to say, the 32-year-old first-time mum bawled her eyes out.
“I didn’t blame my helper as it was an accident, but I was in shock for a long time.
“My milk supply has never been abundant; I only had enough for my baby. So I can’t even begin to describe my anguish, because it was not easy for me to pump and store,” Reina recalls.
After the tears, panic set in. What would her daughter drink when she was at work?
Now 18 months old, Hannah has a milk protein allergy, which means regular milk or other dairy products can cause a bad reaction, like blood in her stools, which has landed her in hospital twice.
It was one of the reasons that Reina had put her early-childhood career on hold for over a year. She is now back as an early childhood vice-principal.
She says: “I was in shock for a long while before I ran out to buy another breast milk pump, as I had left mine in the office. I also cancelled my weekend plans and stayed home to pump and build up another supply.”
The incident stressed Reina so much, she fell seriously ill for a week. During then, she was advised by doctors and family members to wean her toddler.
“They advised me to stop breastfeeding, so I could take stronger medication for my illness.
“But I saw the bigger picture. Breastfeeding has given Hannah so much comfort and nourishment,” shares the devoted mum, who took nursing-friendly medication instead.
Reina’s breast milk freezer is now empty, but that does not faze her. Instead, she maintains her milk supply by pumping at work and latching Hannah directly at night and on weekends.
“Breastfeeding is harder for me now that I am working. I need to pace myself at work to pump and also fulfil my job responsibilities.
“It doesn’t help that Hannah still wakes up frequently at night to nurse, so I have very little rest,” she adds.
Despite the obstacles, Reina doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon as she feels “it is the best gift” she can give her daughter.
“The irreplaceable special bond we’ve built through breastfeeding is something I treasure a lot,” she says.
(Photo: Young Parents)