MUM SAYS How I overcame my low milk supply

Mother of three Joanna Goy details her breastfeeding struggles and how she overcame her nursing challenges.

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“I’m a proud mother of three beautiful girls. My newborn, Jorissa, is barely a month old but is already giving me the most adorable expressions.

Jophia, 2, loves to mimic her older sister; while Jolinda, 5, is my fun-loving girl who loves to dance.

I breastfed all my girls, but it wasn’t easy and breastfeeding my firstborn was the toughest. As a first-time mum, I was completely clueless about breastfeeding. I thought that it was something that came naturally to new mums, so I didn’t prepare myself at all.

Everything that I’d read and did research on about having a baby was about taking care of a newborn. It just didn’t dawn on me I had to learn about breastfeeding.

However, I was determined to nurse my child.

I had problems producing enough milk, and like many other new mums, I was constantly gripped by the fear that I would not be able to provide enough milk to meet Jolinda’s growing needs.

I remember the first time I used a breast pump. Jolinda was 3 days old, and I wasn’t able to produce single drop of milk.

Thoughts about whether she would have enough milk for her next feed plagued me on a daily basis.”

Thankfully, my milk came in on the fourth day. But, I was only able to get 30 to 50ml at each pump session ― this threw me into a state of constant anxiety. Thoughts about whether she would have enough milk for her next feed plagued me on a daily basis.

In addition, family members were questioning me and telling me that I didn’t have enough milk ― and I almost went into a depression.

After my maternity leave, I went back to work. Back then, I was working in the fast-paced environment in a bank, and had to juggle a hectic work schedule as well as family life. I was pumping twice a day at work, and I latched Jolinda directly once I came home.

The pumping and latching helped, but I found it increasingly challenging to find time to pump ― which eventually affected my milk supply. I agonised over this and tried so many ways to increase it ― to no avail.

Jolinda began to rely less and less on my milk when she started solids at 6 months. And much as I persevered, I was only able to provide Jolinda with two full breastmilk feeds for the first 9 months of her life.

While my family questioned my low supply, my husband, Nicholas, was very supportive of me, and I am forever thankful for that. He constantly defended my decision to breastfeed, and always told me that I was doing great.

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When Jolinda was 2, I found that I was pregnant again. While I was over the moon about having another girl, I immediately was reminded about my low milk supply experience with Jolinda.

Determined not to let history repeat itself, I started researching intensely on ways to boost my milk supply.

Another thing I did this time round, was to join a mummy support group. This made a world of difference ― the other mums supported me emotionally, and provided valuable advice on breastfeeding.

However, my fears were realised ― yet again ― when Jophia was born. My milk came in on the second day, and the yield was as low as before! This persisted for several days, and despite trying everything that I had read about, nothing seemed to work.

I was heartbroken.

Determined not to let history repeat itself, I started researching intensely on ways to boost my milk supply.”

I turned to the support group of mums to find out how they were boosting their milk supply, and what tips they had to find success with breastfeeding.

My lucky break came when one of them mentioned something that I had not heard before ― lactation cookies.

I was extremely sceptical ― it just sounded too good to be true. But having exhausted all my other options, I was desperate. I decided to give these a shot.

Then, I found out that lactation cookies are costly. So, I did a bit of research to see if I could bake them myself. Galactagogues (a food that increases the flow of a mother's milk), like brewer’s yeast and oats, are added in these cookies, to increase the milk supply. Here is one recipe.

When I didn’t see an immediate increase in my milk supply, I was disappointed. But I realised that my impatience had gotten the better of me, as my milk production slowly climbed. In a few days, I found that I was able to produce 80ml in a single pumping session.

Soon, I was producing around 300ml in a single pump, and I was even able to freeze a stock of breastmilk in the freezer.

Now that I have another baby girl, Jorissa, I’m happy to say that breastfeeding her is much easier. My experience ignited a passion in me to help other new mums with their breastfeeding journey, so I started Singapore Lactation Bakes, which specialises in lactation cookies and muffins.

I’ve also started training to be a certified breastfeeding counsellor as I realise that there is so much to learn ― from how to properly latch your baby, to the possible problems that can contribute to sore nipples.

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Here are my favourite tips when it comes to boosting one’s milk supply:

1. Latch and pump
Keep latching and pumping to increase your supply. When more milk is drawn, more milk is produced. If your baby is having weight-gain problems, aim to nurse at least every 1½ to 2 hours during the day, and every three hours at night.

2. Be zen
Try to stay relaxed when you’re breastfeeding. Stress is the number one milk-killer! Sleep when your baby sleeps, and keep yourself hydrated.

Stress is the number one milk-killer!”

3. Take foods to increase your supply
Eating certain foods will help to boost your milk supply. As you latch your baby or pump, this signals to your brain to continue producing this increased amount.

4. Skin to skin
Have skin-to-skin contact once your baby is born, and latch on demand from birth.

5. Try to breastfeed exclusively
Avoid offering baby solids, water and formula in the first six months. If you have been supplementing the feeds with formula, it’s not too late to reduce the amount of formula very gradually, to challenge your breasts to produce more milk by latching or pumping more.

I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many new mums, and so many of them seem to face problems breastfeeding.

I just want to let them know that they are not alone! Every time you feel like giving up, just tell yourself ― try just one more day.

Finding a support group, or engaging a lactation consultant can also help you identify, and rectify the problem.”

Joanna Goy, 31, is mum to Jorissa, 1 month, Jophia, 2, and Jolinda, 5. She is also the founder of Singapore Lactation Bakes.

Photos: Joanna Goy

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