Paying it forward

2 06 2013

I received a thank you card from a friend’s friend recently. My breast pump has been making its rounds and “fed” many babies with the goodness of their mother’s milk since I stopped feeding mine.

For mothers who are not able to latch, the breast pump is the best tool that can help a mother. With support and persistence, the baby would be able to have breastmilk for as long as the mother continues.

Working mothers benefit from this wonderful tool as well, being able to express when they are at work, and continue to feed their babies when they get home.

I can’t imagine how it was like for mothers many years back, when there wasn’t such a tool. Most mothers stop after awhile, especially if they had to work. My mom used to tell me how difficult it was for her.

Because of that, I’m very thankful that my mom got me the breast pump. A dual electric, heavy duty breast pump that helped me feed my kids for more than 6 months with breast milk. I got a hands-free funnel holder, which allowed me to do other things when I’m hooked up to the machine. Reading, going online etc.

I’m also thankful for the experience, because I can relate to those who aren’t able to latch on, and are continuing with expressing despite the effort that goes into it: Washing, sterilising, expressing x Many times in a day.

With the pump making its rounds, I’m happy that it has helped more new mothers persist with breastfeeding. I’m getting blessings and lots of thanks in return –> A great way to pay it forward if you ask me.

Thanks to those who helped me in my journey of breastfeeding.

Related links:

Things that they never tell you about being first time parents/mums

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The parenthood stretch

14 02 2011

Recent conversations with new mothers reminded me of my journey as a mom/parent.

Rubber bandsRubber Band by Michael Meilen

Parenting/motherhood is a lifelong journey, and nothing really, in my opinion, stretches us quite as much as this experience.

A friend who is a new mom said, “Now I know why they say motherhood is tough! It’s tiring!”

The lack of sleep in the beginning years, when the child is sick. Coping with body changes, new tasks (changing, washing, breastfeeding…etc), learning new things, guiding a child, managing between work and family responsibilities.

How do people cope? Extra pairs of hands would help, having the “right” pair of hands go way further. And sometimes we just deal with the circumstances, and make things work. Be resourceful, find creative ways, learn from others.

Sometimes, we draw from this undiscovered source of energy, just by making sure we get through each day, each challenge (Try feeding in the middle of the night, every other hour and burping, and changing). Other days, coffee is the trick. Or speak to other folks that could share experiences.

Being a parent also made me reflect my values and at times challenge my own beliefs. Kids question everything, and they are often very intuitive and ask the very question that sets us back to think: is this really who I am, what I’m guiding them?

With parenting, I find myself having to learn effective time management. There are many things that need to be done in this 24 hour day, some are more important and essential than others.

The balance between all the stuff that needs to be completed is really up to individuals and it could be through trial and error that we find the right time to complete things that we aim to complete in a day. I’ve given up on straight 8 hours sleep routine, and deep sleep seems to escape from me especially when the kids are not well.

Balancing work commitments and family is sometimes a challenge, and I feel that building that trust and good work reputation helps when situations occur at home. That trust bank at work can help in many many ways, be it getting flexi-work arrangements or drawing on others to help during certain periods.

The things that keep me going are: smiles, hugs, and kisses from the kids, a loving husband and friends around me. The passion to be the best I can, so that I can be the best to my loved ones.

It’s not the easiest journey, but it has been, to date, the one that has allowed me to grow beyond my imagination (and yes, it means physically as well).

And the adventure continues…





First time parents and purchases

29 04 2010

———— This was a post that I forgot to publish last year! 😛  ——————

Went to an exhibition for mothers recently.

Being an experienced mother, I get less excited over all the exhibits and booths. I just zoom into what I need, and head on. Even then, I would be distracted by some products but more aware of what are good deals, and those that are just nice to look at, but not very practical.

Pregnancy, motherhood, and a new baby can be daunting. What to buy, which to buy — decisions that are often not easy to make when you have zero experience. Most of the time, we would rely on magazines/internet/books or recommendations from friends and family.

Guides in magazines are good, but they are sometimes obligated to advertise or do a good advertorial for the client so as to meet their targets. Even with recommendations from friends or relatives, it can get all too confusing for the parent-to-be. Cost is a major factor, and as first timers,  it’s all too easy to go overboard (especially when one is expecting a baby girl).

Here’s a list of purchases that one should consider:

Diapers

Parents need to decide: cloth or disposables?

Cost is an issue with disposables, but they are readily available and there’s no washing required. Cloth nappies would be technically more cost-effective and also more environmentally friendly, but take into consideration of the washing required. Parents with multiples? Disposables may be a better option.

The hospitals would generally provide 1 pack of disposable diapers (newborn sizes, up to 5 kg), and newborns can go up to 8 diaper changes in a day. Though some brands may have better absorbancy, parents may want to weigh the costs, because with the frequent diaper changes, sometimes the diapers doesn’t become full before you have to change it again. I have tried a lot of brands and supermarket house brands may not be a bad idea. Try not to buy in bulk yet. Try and test first.

Clothes

100% cotton. Front button tops worked better for me than wraps. The strings are too much to handle 😛

At least 6sets of clothes for a start for a singleton, double that for twins. More are welcome. With the baby outgrowing clothing really quickly, it would be best to get hand me downs where possible.

Nappy rash cream

There are a few options in the market: Drapolene, Desitin, Mustela etc. Drapolene is good for daily use, Desitin has the most raves for getting rid of nappy rash. Mustela Vitamin barrier cream is good as well.

Prams

I have wrote about this in a previous entry

Baby carriers/Slings

I swear by the sarong slings. If you plan to have more than 1 child, it just gives so much leverage.

There are places that aren’t exactly pram/stroller friendly, so the baby carrier/sling do help to offset some of the pressure with carrying the child, and it just makes one more mobile without worrying about another piece of equipment.

Especially true when you don’t drive or you rely on public transport.

Breastfeeding equipment/related accessories

I was a “100% breastpump mom”. For all my kids, I express my breastmilk 100% for various reasons. Therefore it was very important that I got a good breastpump that is heavy duty, and is able to allow me to achieve letdown quickly. It should also be a dual electric pump, just for efficiency and less stress on the fingers (Try using the manual pump for 30mins, and you will understand what I mean).

I started using the dual electric pump in the hospital once I delivered, to stimulate the milk flow. Obviously, this is going to be contradicting to what lactation consultants would advise if you plan to latch on. Totally understand, but some milk is better than no milk when you are trying the best to learn latching with the baby, and sometimes, it’s just impossible to latch.

There are many good pumps in the market, but for heavy duty usage, I like the Medela Pump in Style Advance. It was a life-saver, and the good piece of equipment has lasted me 2 pregnancies, fed my 3 kids, and it’s been loaned to a few friends. ROI definitely has been achieved.

Another accessory I would recommend is a hands-free bottle/funnel holder that you wear around the neck during expressing. I only got it in my 2nd pregnancy, and it was like the 2nd best thing I had. Hands free during expression, it allowed me to read, surf the web and more. I hear some mums even catch a nap, or drive when expressing in car.

Bottles and milk bags

Once you start breastfeeding, and plan to continue doing it when it’s time to return to work, it’s impossible to not have a breastpump. Next up would be bottles/milk bags for storage, and if the supply is abundant, be prepared to spend on bottles/milk bags. For milk bags, I think the zip lock type of sterilised milk bags are the best. Easy to store, easy to pour the defrost milk out with little mess. It’s slightly more expensive than milk bags that do not have the zip lock feature, but imagine trying to use a rubber band or some other device to seal the milk bag. That’s another cost.

Preferred generic bottles vs using a specific brand with a customised size like Avent because those bottles can fit to any regular size teats, and can be used for feeding. Of course, if one is using the entire series from a certain brand, than sticking to that brand may make sense. I used Pigeon bottles and milk bags for storage, on top of collecting glass bottles (and then buying separate bottle covers as sometimes they throw away the bottle cap) at the hospital where possible.

Always stack milk bags flat in the freezer. Sort by date, first in last out (so that you always give the baby the freshest milk). I used plastic boxes to hold the milk bags in the freezer, just for easy sorting.

Nursing balm/nipple cream

Very important to have these on hand because during the early stages, and sometimes, the nipple may crack and it’s not going to be comfortable expressing/breastfeeding the baby. Some people like Lanolin, I prefer the texture of nipple creams (e.g. Mustela) for regular use, and Lanolin for the very serious condition 😛 The other best cream: Your own breastmilk. Just spread all over after you are done with feeding/expressing. Worked for many people.

Breast pads

Leaky breasts that show through your clothes is no fun. Either choose disposable breast pads or buy washable ones. One may not leak all the time, but if you are out of the house, it’s not fun to see wet spots on your top.

This is not the most exhaustive list of items to purchase, but I think it covers the basics.

Hope this helps some of you out there!





Healthy kids

19 05 2009

Everyone wants a healthy kid, and parents do what they can to ensure that the children are in the pink of health.

From conception to pregnancy, some mummies would up their vitamin intake/folic acid, change their diet, avoid seafood etc, to make sure that they are in good shape for the baby, and all the good nutrients would go to the one in the womb.

Post-delivery, mummies will try to breastfeed, with the belief that breastmilk is the best. There has been a change of tide, from the push to feed formula milk, to now pro-breastfeeding.

I bottle feed with breast milk for 8 months, and I like to believe that it has helped to make the twins strong.

But nothing prepared us for the time when they first start childcare. The frequency of the girls visiting the doctor was scary. Every other week or 2, we went to the GP to get medication. They had coughs, fever, runny nose. Thank god they were nothing major, yet, when the frequency was so high, I got really worried.

Questions and guilt came: Did I do my part to watch my diet when I was breastfeeding? Maybe I was too lax with giving them vitamins and minerals that they need? How about their intake of food and milk?

There is no direct answer. In an attempt to improve their health, we decided to try Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The physician advised that their bodies are “weak and cooling”. When I heard this, my heart sank and the guilt factor rose. I could feel that subconsciously, there were comments and thoughts that blamed me for it.

A friend said to me, “Exposing them to the outside environment is also a way of building up their health by maturing their immunity system.”

“You have done what you can, and it is up to the child’s body to adapt to the environment.”

That last statement eased my guilt. I am sure many parents, especially mummies, face such situations once a while.

Take the advice and comments from others with a pinch of salt, observing and paying attention to the child plus doing what is possible to treat each symptom or illness as they come, while improving their diet and health through food and keeping them happy goes a long way into ensuring the optimal health of a child.

I’m still on the learning curve, I’ve come to accept that there’s only so much we can do for prevention.

So don’t feel guilty. Do your best, and God will take care of the rest.





The working mom and stay home mom

15 04 2009

I chance upon an article this morning, about an expert who declared that all moms should stay at home. (Read the article if you are keen)

I read further and saw the comments on this, and not surprisingly, there were many who felt that this statement is simply too general, and it’s very debatable to say the least.

Emotions were strong in some, some related to the statement, some felt that they don’t have a choice and have to be working mothers.

Stay Home moms — the pros

I’ve seen and heard some experiences of a stay home mom. The obvious benefits of staying home is that one is always there when the child has his firsts: first time walking, first time calling mommy, first time crawling etc. It’s also the joy that kids bring and the laughter. One friend told me she would give up her career anytime, and does not regret making the choice of being a full time stay home mom. She loves being with her kids, bringing them to classes, being totally involved.

Financially, she rather spends on the family, and the children. They lived simply and most of the budget would rather be channeled to the kids’ learning and expenses rather than on herself.

Stay home moms — the not-so-great points

Some common points that I have heard from friends who stay at home:

– Not being themselves anymore. They are just known as someone’s mommy when they bring the kids to school.

– No personal time

– Husband do not always appreciate that staying at home is hard work too.

– Not as much freedom in spending on themselves

– Losing touch with friends and the world

It really depends on the character and personality of the individual, some of these points may not affect them at all, or have very minimal effect. Another common point though, some have indicated to me that they do hope to go back to work, but on a flexi-time basis.

Working moms – the pros

Despite some complaints that I have heard about some people not having a family friendly environment, I do think that there’s pros to being a working mom.

– Being connected to adults. (Try asking a stay home mom to relish the time that you don’t have a kid screaming “mommy!” all the time)

– Financially independent (in dual income families)

– Having some personal time (especially important when you are the type who wants the personal space)

– Self identity intact. You are still you at work, not known as someone’s mommy only.

Working moms – the not-so-great points

– Not enough time in the day to be with the kids
– Missing out on the “firsts”
– Not having enough rest because after work, when you go back home, you still have the mommy duties to handle
– Could potentially be more stressful because there’s stress coming from work, home and kids.
– If the working environment is not family friendly, there’s potential of imbalance in work/family time.

My own take

I’m a working mother. I know myself very well that being a full time stay home mom is not something I want to do. It’s not because I don’t love my kids. I do, but I love my own personal time and being able to earn my own keep as well.

I’m lucky that the nature of my job allows me to work from home, though this is not an arrangement that works well for me with 2 toddlers running about. I also have the flexibility of time, and a very understanding boss who focuses on the results, not whether I’m in the office or how many hours I spend in office. In many ways, I have probably unconsciously chosen companies that are more flexi with working hours, and am grateful that I’ve met my fair share of good bosses as well. I have also done my part in ensuring that the work gets done, so that I’m in a position to ask for some arrangements that suits both my family and work responsibilities.

Ultimately, there’s really no 1 set of arrangement that would work for everyone. Be it a working mom or a stay home mom, it’s really a choice of what the priorities are. Rightly said, there’s no right or wrong on how to be a mom. As long as we do our best, we are happy with our choices, then that would make us a good mom.

It is impossible to please everyone, and one thing I’ve learned is that I can only please myself. When I’m happy with what I have done for the family and myself, I can be a better person, and then I can be a better mom. A family unit is all about cooperation and team work, so it is also equally important that the spouse is mutually agreeable and comfortable with whatever arrangements that work for the family.

Defining your priorities is the first step, work out the finances and speak to the husband. There is always a way to work out something, and don’t feel guilty if there are comments about the type of choices you make as a mom, and as an individual.

Mommy is just one of the many hats we put on, not the only one that matters.





2nd birth experience

22 03 2009

This birth experience is different from the first in many ways.

C-section with epidural wasn’t new to me, I knew what to expect, what’s the process and all.

Some of the interesting incidents:

– The nurse had to extract a sample of my blood for matching, in case I bleed during the operation. 1st attempt by the staff nurse, she tried to extract blood from the back of my right hand. OUCH! It was painful, the flow of blood was slow, and in the end it wasn’t sufficient! I still have a bruise now. The nurse manager came to extract my blood again, this time taking it from my left elbow. This time it was much smoother, and no pain at all!

– At the operating theatre, I had to ask the nurse to apply more pressure on my legs as they were injecting the spinal block from the back. The nurse said, “Huh, but I got no strength”. The doctor quickly said that “aiyo, you didn’t eat breakfast ar? This mummy so calm, can advise you” 😛

The nurse also turned me on my back again too slowly, resulting in my left side feeling numb first before the right. I felt sensation back on my right side first post-operation.

– The effects of epidural was felt very immediately when the operation started. I felt nauseous but the doctor can’t give me anything to ease the effects prior to the delivery of the baby. This didn’t happen in the delivery of the twins.

– My cheeks were flushed with blood, the chest area felt a lot of pressure when they were trying to push the baby out. It was almost as though I was pushing the baby out together with everyone. In no time, the baby was out! Had more time with her as well, they put her on my chest so that we could look at her and take some pics.

– Hubby was in the theatre with me this time, when he came in, the incision was already done, I felt that this time we could participate in the birth more. But it was really a non-event, because everyone blocked his view during the pushing process

– I had more rest after changing to a single room this time. Paid more for sure but the amount of rest and privacy I got this time was much better. The girls came on Day 3, and there was also more space for them to move about, had a short nap too.

– First time off the bed wasn’t as painful as the previous time. Perhaps it’s due to experience, I already know what to expect.

– Milk supply kicked in much earlier than the last time. I decided on full time expressing and quietly ignored the friendly advise of the Parent Craft counselor to start latching on the minute I was transferred to the ward. I decided to let the nurse feed the baby formula milk, until I felt better on Day 2, after the drip is removed and when I was more mobile. The milk supply came in on Day 3 afternoon, after my efforts to use the pump in the hospital from Day 2 onwards.

My own pump worked better as compared to the hospital pump, and I could finish expressing in 30mins instead of 1 hour in the hospital.

– Less visitors this time round meant I had more time on my own to rest, to watch tv and rest.

Overall, I think experience does count. After surviving twins, a single baby seems much easier, although everyone at home has to recall how to care for a newborn again. We felt blessed that this little one was a good drinker, (she is drinking up to 90ml now!), her good birth weight made it easier to care for her as she’s more sturdy to hold and carry.

The adventure of the first year begins again!





Parenting – a team effort

27 02 2009

Lately I have been speaking to various people. Some ask me about possible childcare arrangements, others relate to me the problems that they are facing as a parent.

Ifeel that parenting is a team effort. The team can be the couple, the first-time mother with her mum, maid+mother, part-time cleaners + couple, childcare centres, grandparents, external support group, friends etc. There can be various combination, schedules, arrangements set up in different families just to provide the adequate care for a newborn.

I am lucky. I stay with my in-laws, and my hubby is very hands-on with the kids. Again, having twins also meant that we needed extra pairs of hands where possible, especially during the initial period when I was coping with healing from the delivery, getting the hang of breastfeeding, learning how to be a mummy.

Some other first time mummies may not have that luxury of having trusted caregivers or that they find that the “volunteer” caregivers have very different ideas of parenting and experience to take care of a newborn.

I remembered having arguments with MIL during the first few weeks when I first came back home with the twins. Difference in opinions regarding confinement practices, what the cries of the babies meant, ideas about breast milk, hormonal changes — all these contributed to the stress and tears in that initial period. And then, we learned. Both me and her, and everyone else. We give and take, we discover new ways of adapting to the babies, deciphering their cries, anticipating their needs. Our bodies adjusted to naps and frequent waking at night. We also implemented some routines, in hope that the babies learned the difference between day and night, therefore allowing us to sleep a little more every night. It was really tough in the beginning. The initial months were never easy, and it was hard to enjoy the babies when the daily aspects of taking care of them were tiring everyone out.

I was adamant about having my own personal space, and expressing breast milk became one of the best times for me to take a break from carrying/feeding/washing/changing the babies. I could read books, magazines, watch tv while I express. This was only possible only because I had help. And really, having those extra pairs of hands helped a lot. The milk supply was established, I was not so stressed out, I gave up insisting that things are done my way, or having the idea that it’s either my way or the high-way.

You may wonder where this entry is going. I just want to encourage all the first time mummies out there to hang in there during the initial periods, to know that there are help around, and sometimes when some arrangements are not working out, it may be better to solve the root problem and find solutions that do work for the benefit of making you, the mummy, happy and giving you the rest you need so that you can do all the mummy stuff.

Motherhood/parenting is an on-going learning process, our limits get stretched, our bodies changed, mentality changes. All for the little life(s) we brought into this world. We continue to grow as a person, a mummy, a wife, a co-worker, an employee. It’s never healthy to just define who we are by what we do as a mummy and forgetting our personal self.

To be a better mum, we need to be happy. We need breaks sometimes. All these can only be made possible when we have a good team. So treat the “team” well, treat yourselves well. Then one would find that the little ones become much better too.