While some mums struggle to produce enough milk, new mum Gracie Chai recently threw out 12 litres of expressed milk from her overcrowded freezer.
You may envy her good supply, but the 27-year-old artist’s breastfeeding journey got off on a shaky start when her baby was born a month early, via an emergency caesarean section.
Weighing just 1.45kg, Eden Yow was whisked off to the neonatal intensive care unit, where he was hooked up to a breathing machine.
“During my pregnancy, I had always imagined having a natural delivery and latching my baby on immediately after delivery. But the plan changed,” she says.
With no baby to latch on directly, Gracie relied on her trusty breast pump to kick-start her milk supply. To build up a good supply, she diligently pumped every three hours, and the nurses fed Eden the expressed breast milk through a tube.
Soon, she was producing about over a litre of milk daily, which was far more than what her baby needed. At around three weeks old, Eden was only taking about 30ml per feed.
“I thought of donating my excess breast milk, but nobody wanted it,” she says.
When he grew stronger, the nurses started him on bottle-feeding, using a combination of expressed breast milk and thickened milk formula. The latter helps preemies better coordinate their sucking, breathing and swallowing skills.
During his time in the hospital, Eden got so used to sucking from a plastic teat that Gracie wondered if she would ever be able to nurse him naturally. But, at four weeks old, the little fighter proved Mummy wrong.
“I read so much about nipple confusion, I thought Eden wouldn’t be able to nurse on his own. We were doing ‘kangaroo care’ in the hospital when he started rooting, and he simply latched on without a struggle,” she recalls.
“Unlike the bottle-feeding session we had earlier, it felt so natural.” The rooting reflex occurs when Baby’s cheek is stroked, leading him to turn towards that direction and make sucking noises.
At two months old now, Eden nurses like a champ and has more than doubled his birth weight. He no longer has problems with his sucking and swallowing coordination.
“That feeling of knowing that I am able to provide nourishment for my baby is spectacular,” says Gracie.
(Photo: Young Parents)