Breastfeeding is a unique motherhood experience. 10 Hong Kong mothers share their heartwarming tales.
Breastfeeding – some new mothers love it, others find it challenging, some feed their babies for years, others wean their bubs off (or their babies do it themselves) at the first opportunity, some mums love the skin-to-skin contact and others would much rather pump and let their partners bottle feed instead. No matter what their experience has been, most breastfeeding mothers realise that it is different from what they expected. Many admit that the information, images and advice about nursing can be confusing and they wish they had also heard more stories from mothers like themselves beforehand. And so, here are some honest breastfeeding tales from Hong Kong mamas.
Editor’s note: Some mothers have shared their breastfeeding tales but requested that their names be changed for privacy.
During my pregnancy, I’d be warned about the sleepless nights and explosive diapers. I wish someone would’ve told me how difficult breastfeeding was going to be! You see other mamas feeding and it looks so natural and easy, but no one really talks about how challenging and tiring it really is. I read the books and went to antenatal classes so I knew that it would take a few days for my milk to come in. But sat alone in my hospital bed (I gave birth during COVID-19 so no visitors allowed), having been told my baby wasn’t getting enough nutrition from me I burst into tears. I’d been trying to hand express for hours with not even a drop of colostrum and then I overheard the mama on the other side of the curtain ask the midwives for extra collection tubes.
“I couldn’t help but compare myself, this was one of my first jobs as a new mother and I couldn’t even satisfy my baby’s basic need. I felt like a failure.”
Upon arriving home, my BF journey didn’t get any easier. My milk had come in but I wasn’t able to get my baby to latch correctly. I was in so excruciating pain during each feed but at the same time I was too afraid to take my baby off as I wanted to do anything possible to feed her. The agony of sore cracked nipples plus lack of sleep led me to countless crying outbursts. Although my partner was so supportive during this whole time, I felt resentful to him for not being to fully understand and this led to him getting shouted at alot.
It wasn’t until we had a lactation consultant come see us that it all started getting better. She spent hours with me and baby, teaching me not only how to get a good latch but also different positions I could try.
“Slowly but surely, my confidence grew stronger. Six months on and I’m still breastfeeding.”
People have started asking me when I plan to stop, I know I’ll have to eventually, but for now I’ll continue to cherish these precious moments together with my daughter.
I breastfed exclusively for two months with my first baby, and slowly introduced formula in the third month to help with supply. I completely stopped breastfeeding after four months.
“It was a tough decision because I felt very guilty choosing not to breastfeed. I was exhausted, unhappy and wanted my body back to myself.”
With my second child, I hoped I could continue for longer, but I only lasted a few weeks. The age gap between my two kids is 18 months, so I was extremely sleep deprived trying to juggle both their needs. I needed to focus on my mental health in order to be a better mother and partner. I am now eight months postpartum and my older one is two years old, they are (touchwood!) extremely well and thriving. Making that decision was the best thing I did for myself, and my family.
Tip for other mums: Trust your mom instinct and do what makes you happy. We often doubt ourselves with so much noise and opinions from family and society, but you carried your child for 10 months. You have a completely special bond with your babies. You know them the best, so trust yourself.
My breastfeeding tale began with me being told that I might struggle because of how engorged I was. That sent me into a bit of a tailspin at the start of my journey! Thankfully, as I really wanted to be able to breastfeed, my daughter and I learned together.
“Of course, I went through the rollercoaster that is leaking boobs, nipple pain and reduced flow on returning to work but I’m pleased that I continued.”
We got into a great rhythm and I eventually found it easy to feed her on demand (even in random places, such as while suspended in a cable car!). While we’re no longer connected by her being on the inside, I continuted to feel bonded on the outside.
Tip for other mums: Try not to panic too much about how much milk your baby is getting as I did. Knowing now that she was growing extremely well (as each paediatrician appointment confirmed), I wish I’d spent less time looking at the clock and just enjoyed watching her.
I had every possible problem at the start of my breastfeeding journey. Cracked and infected nipples, mastitis, vaso-spasms, Raynaud’s Syndrome, breast thrush and serious abscesses. I would have thrown in the towel early on, but my daughter has an immune deficiency and I knew that breastfeeding was one thing I could do that could actually protect her, and I believe it really has.
“The pain and complications felt like they would never end, but when my daughter was about three months old, it was suddenly like everything fell into place.”
That’s when I finally started enjoying the quiet moments in the early morning or late afternoon when it was just the two of us, and it really helped with my baby blues. I pumped for over 18 months and continued to direct feed until she gently weaned herself around two years old.
Tips for other mums: Try not to compare your breastfeeding story to anyone else’s – whether it’s a day, a week, a month or a year. Don’t be intimidated by mums who find it the easiest thing in the world, don’t judge those who don’t breastfeed. Focus on making the time for you to find a rhythm that works best for you and your baby.
I had two really different breastfeeding experiences. The first time around there was, quite literally, blood and tears (mostly mine, not his!). Two weeks in, I had to switch to exclusively pumping for the sake of both my body and my sanity. I had plentiful supply, and really wanted to pack it in, but felt like I had no “excuse” to give up. It was my mind that didn’t want to continue rather than my body telling me I couldn’t.
“Other mums would tell me how much easier it was to just give the baby the boob. But for me, it just didn’t work.”
It didn’t fill me with much hope in the lead-up to my daughter being born, but she was just a different baby… despite having a horrible bout of mastitis (that left me hospitalised) three weeks in, we pushed through. Feeding came much easier the second time around, so much so that it was difficult to introduce the bottle! I chose to end my feeding journey when my daughter was eight months old, ironically just after Breastfeeding Week when my article was published.
Tips for other mums: There’s no right time to stop or start feeding, just what’s right for you and your baby. Whether you exclusively breastfeed, bottle feed or opt for the baby formula (or any combination of these) what matters most is the health of your baby and yourself — and that includes mental health! And it’s no one’s business but your own!
My first baby couldn’t breastfeed directly. So many lactation consultants tried to help (even with Skype sessions!), but my daughter just couldn’t or wouldn’t latch. I am nothing if not stubborn, so I persevered – I expressed and fed my daughter for 11 months.
When my son came along, he learnt how to latch naturally and instinctively. I did get engorged on the third day though (which I hadn’t experienced with my first) and I think the pain was much worse than labour and delivery! It passed soon though (fortunately!) and I went on to feed my son for 16 months.
“After experiencing both expressing and directly feeding, I must say that what I loved most about direct breastfeeding was the convenience, more than the bonding.”
I hated the pumping and sterilising cycle, so I am grateful that my son spared me the effort.
Tip for other mums: Your pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding will rarely go as planned. Don’t beat yourself up for the choices you make or the circumstances you face. You are the best and the only mother your baby deserves and you will do the right thing for him or her. Trust yourself!
When I became a mother, I possessed the naivety and optimism of a new mum and believed the pain, the blood and the mastitis were a rite of passage and part of every breastfeeding tale. I was determined to give the best to my child during her first few months. But, I only breastfed for two months because I wanted to appear “professional” when I returned to work. I was in my dream job when I got pregnant in a male-dominated industry. That was incompatible (in my opinion, which I now consider wrong and immature) for an employee who also wanted to be a mother. I didn’t want to pump at lunchtime or leave a client dinner early to breastfeed. So even though I was getting the hang of breastfeeding and experiencing the positive emotional associations as a by-product, I forced myself to wean.
Tips for other mums:
“In hindsight, I regret the decision but believe each mother will ultimately do what she thinks necessary at that time and should have the freedom to decide how to feed her child.”
My experience got off to a rocky start. During that first year, I was plagued with worry because her paediatrician in India (where she was born) and government doctors in Hong Kong were concerned that she wasn’t gaining weight, to the point that the doctors here diagnosed her as Failure to Thrive. As a result, I was made to feel I wasn’t producing enough milk for Arya and I supplemented with formula, something I might have done without any compunctions if I felt the choice had been truly mine. Once Arya turned a year old, I weaned her off formula. While I hated breastfeeding during Year 1, I have loved it since then.
“When people ask whether it’s time to wean her, I simply tell them that neither of us is ready just yet.”
Tips for other mums: Read up on breastfeeding while you’re pregnant. It’s something I was advised to do by a friend and I didn’t. I wish I had known about Perceived Insufficient Milk. And more in general about how individual babies breastfeed. Now that Arya has been having solids, I see that she eats small meals and snacks a lot. That’s precisely how she breastfed too, so I needn’t have worried that I wasn’t producing enough for her.
Read more: Where To Buy Nursing Bras In Hong Kong
If I am honest, I wasn’t someone who totally fell in love with breastfeeding. With my first, I really struggled with pumping and keeping up supply at times. I was one of those mums who was counting every ounce I had in the fridge to make sure I had enough for when I was away from my baby.
“I had to keep reminding myself it’s not about feeding the freezer, it’s about feeding the baby!”
Even though I didn’t go gaga over the breastfeeding experience, I specifically remember when my second baby was born and he breastfed for the very first time. It brought back so many amazing emotions. Two weeks later I ended up with mastitis and I really clung to that wonderful feeling I had to get me through it and continue breastfeeding (mixed in with formula feeds) until the six-month period.
Tips for other mums: If you are going to pump at all, invest in a hands-free pump bra. I had this Simple Wishes one and I was unsure of it when I got it at my baby shower but it ended up being hands down the best gift I received.
I was incredibly grateful for the lactation support and guidance I got during the 48 hours we spent in the hospital after she was born. The piece of advice I took most to heart was “It doesn’t matter if you just fed her. If she is crying it is because she is hungry.” In the first six months, this meant that at times I would be feeding her every hour which was exhausting but on the flip side, this meant that we had a super relaxed and easy-going baby that rarely cried or complained.
Thanks to what the lactation volunteer told me after Celia was born and the amount of travel we did in her first six months of life, I mastered breastfeeding almost invisibly in plain sight.
“The bigger she got the easier it became to be more discreet about it. I managed to breastfeed her as a two-year-old standing right next to my friend without him noticing it.”
Tips for other mums: I was never breastfed and most women in my family returned to work within three months after their babies were born. Growing up, I also did not hear any breastfeeding tales nor did I see a lot of examples of breastfeeding women around. In the early stages, I even faced criticism from some family members about “exposing” myself whilst breastfeeding her in my own home. My tip is to focus on yourself and keeping your baby fed, calm and content.
Editor’s Note: “Breastfeeding Tales: 10 Mamas In Hong Kong Share Their Stories” was originally published in July 2021 and updated by Alex Purcell Garcia in July 2022.