Monday, December 19, 2011

Pneumonia again; and stitches in the head

My daughter came down with pneumonia again in November and was admitted to the hospital for 4 days.  She had had pneumonia for 4 times now since she was born, and she’s only 3 ½ years old. Poor thing. I’ve never been admitted to a hospital in my life until I gave birth to her. 

It started innocently enough; she developed a mild cough, so did her little brother. But as her brother recovers, hers got worse to the point that she started wheezing. The night before she was admitted, she couldn’t sleep (neither could I) because she had trouble breathing and she was already burning up in a fever.  Both my husband and I are well versed in pneumonia attacks - as she’s had it 3 times previously – we were pretty sure she’ll have to be admitted. 

Aliah getting the nebulizer treatment in the emergency room
So when the doctor confirmed that she needed to be admitted, no one was surprised – except maybe my daughter herself. Luckily we left her brother at day care before coming to the hospital. This time was a little more complicated than before; all previous pneumonia attacks happened before her brother was born, meaning she was still the only child. Now we had to think of who could take care of her brother, as I couldn’t watch both a sick child and monitor a healthy child. My husband could not take additional leave days; his job was pretty crazy at the moment. Lucky for us, his parents had just retired a few months ago, so they volunteered to care for the little guy. But as my son is still breastfeeding at night, so my husband would have to pick him up after he leaves work at night. So all four of us camped out at the hospital for 3 nights; me and my daughter on the bed, and my husband and my son on a small, travel mattress on the floor. The first night we had to stay in a four-bedded children’s ward as all single bed wards were full. 

My husband left for work around 6.30am, so I have to bath both kids, dress them and feed them breakfast while waiting for my in-laws to pick up my son for the day. Not an easy feat when one of them is a healthy child. Luckily all the other beds were empty (all of them got transferred to other wards during the previous night) so we had the ward to ourselves. He managed to spill orange juice, spill a container of cornflakes on the bed and on the floor, pressed the nurse button several times (I had to apologize embarrassingly to the nurse) and almost tipped over the IV drip stand; all in the stretch of a couple of hours. At the same time, I had to coax my daughter to take her oral medication and her nebulizer treatment, which she had to take every 4-5 hours.

We got to transfer to a single bedded ward on the second day, around 8pm. So the remaining 2 nights we slept more fitfully, as we got an extra bed; the travel mattress was left in the bag. On the third day, a fruit basket with a Smurfette arrived for my daughter; my office sends fruit baskets to all employees that got hospitalized. The cheerful faces were like a ray of sunshine in a rainstorm; both kids were tearing up the plastic covering like crazy. I was smiling to watch them whooping in delight, until my son started playing soccer using the persimmon as a ball. Lucky the persimmon didn’t crush into pulp under his little feet. 

so happy!
All in all, I think kids and hospital just can’t go together, especially when the kid had to be strapped to an IV drip. The bed was pretty confining and TV got boring after a while; I had to let her watch the Disney Channel to keep her occupied, which kept playing Mr. Bean cartoons again and again. Whenever the IV drip was taken off, she begged to go to the playground at the children’s ward entrance or the small shop downstairs. I spent some money buying magazines, small toys and various biscuits for her, to keep us both from going insane. At first she doesn’t mind the nebulizer treatments, but later she started acting up and refused to take it. I had to make it an entertainment for her; sometimes I carried her and we danced around the bed where the IV line permitted; sometimes I took a few turns at the nebulizer myself, to be ‘fair’ to her. What a mom wouldn’t do to get her child healthy again. So on the fourth day when the doctor proclaimed that my daughter is good to go home, we left as soon as possible, hoping not to come back to the hospital until next year, at least.

My hopes were short-lived.

It was almost 3 weeks after my daughter left the hospital. I was doing a full medical checkup at that same hospital. My employer covers a full medical checkup for all employees once in every three years, and this was my first time. I was waiting for the ultrasound when my maid called. She was new and had just worked with us 2 days after my daughter left the hospital; she doesn’t understand our language very well, so there were some communication problems in the beginning, but she was getting better. She told me that she was washing up my daughter (she just pooped) when my son came running into the bathroom, slipped and fell down, hitting the back of his head on the door ledge. I didn’t hear my son crying, so I didn’t worry too much about it. 

I immediately called my husband, asking him to get home and check on our son. He was at a car workshop, luckily nearby our home. My son seemed perfectly fine despite cutting his head open; he was already playing with his sister as usual, he wasn’t even crying anymore. My husband took one look, called me and said “I think he’ll need stitches.” I was like “What???” I thought it was like a graze when you fall down on your knees. Since I was already at the hospital, my husband packed up the kids, hailed a taxi (our car was left at the workshop) and came to the hospital to meet me.

I had to cut short my medical checkup and postpone to a later date, and went to the emergency room to meet them. It was already noon, so naturally the kids were getting a little cranky for their naps. I was a little freaked out to see my boy’s little head cut like that. The blood was just oozing slightly out of the cut, without any spills. He doesn’t seem to be aware of the pain too much; he remembered the pain when somebody touched his head, or when he lied down on my lap to nurse. Even when the doctor first looked at him, he said “He doesn’t seem to be in any pain at all.” But he did cry when the doctor cleaned his wound and bandaged his head. We had to wait for the general surgeon for about an hour, to come to stitch him up. While waiting, he jumped around on the sofas, ate some chocolate biscuits and pulled off the head bandage three times. A nurse commented to me, “Weren’t you here a few weeks ago…” I was like, “Yeah yeah, that was my daughter getting pneumonia, now my son cut his head.” 

Aliff in his head bandage
Then the surgeon arrived, looked at his wound, and asked us whether we would prefer for our son to take the general anesthesia or the local anesthesia. To take general anesthesia, he would have to be admitted, not eat anything for 6 hours and stay at the hospital at least for one night. I had had enough of hospital wards, so we decided to take the local anesthesia. I didn’t have the heart to watch my son’s head being stitched up, so my husband stayed with him during the procedure. My daughter was already asleep in the stroller outside in the waiting room, so I stayed with her. 

But that didn’t stop me from hearing my son’s cries, which was pretty distressing for me, imagining what he was going through. I braved myself enough to peek through the door, and I saw him lying face down on the table, my husband soothing him while holding him down with a nurse, the doctor on his left side, stitching away. My son was whining and crying a little, definitely uncomfortable. I was glad that my husband stayed with him; this was totally different than holding down my daughter while she was being pricked in the hand for an IV line. 

Half an hour passed and my husband came out, holding the little boy in his arms. He immediately reached out for me, crying. It was the combination of discomfort, pain, weariness, disorientation and the after effect of the local anesthesia. He doesn’t want to be put down on his feet, but when he does stand on his own feet, he seemed to sway a little on the spot. I tried showing him my phone to distract him but then he took my husband’s phone and matched them, saying “same.. same..” Truth be told, it was rather funny. After getting his meds, we hailed a taxi and scrambled back home. I breastfed my son, and he was asleep within 10 minutes. 

Sleeping on his tummy, like I said.

For the first 3 days, he was still feeling the pain, so he remembered to sleep on his tummy or on his side at night. He was even scared to lie down to nurse or to put on his diapers, so we had to hold his head or put a small bolster pillow underneath his neck to support him. On the 4th day he could already lie down with his head supported with a soft pillow. Now he’s already forgotten the pain and could put his head down like normal. Every time he jumps on the sofa or on the bed, we’ll remind him that he might fall down and hurt his head again. He’ll remember the pain for 5 seconds, touch his head and continue jumping. Ahh, the blissful ignorance of childhood.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The 2-year mark – Success is Sweet

That's my little boy. He's reading A Time to Kill - John Grisham.

My little boy turned 2 years old a few weeks ago. With that, it’s finally official – I have successfully achieved my goal to breastfeed him exclusively for 2 years. And let me tell you; success is sweet. 

                It was difficult, at least in the beginning. Breastfeeding did not come naturally to me, like it is for some lucky moms. It was hard, painful work – in the literal sense of word. I was diagnosed with breast abscess when my son was barely two months old, and I had incision and drainage (I&D) done, which means my breast was cut about 4 inches long to drain out the pus, and was not stitched up, but patched with  dressing to let the incision heal from inside out (whatever that means). 

                Oh, there were a couple other obstacles as well, such as the fridge breaking down, so I had to throw out 50 bags of frozen milk, and the doctor advising me to take medication to stop my milk flow as to let my incision heal. Nothing serious, nothing death-defying. 

                But you know what? What doesn’t kill you, can only make you stronger. The hardships I went through made the success even sweeter. You can only appreciate your success properly when you know how hard it was to get there. After all, you can’t make a rainbow without any rain, right? 

                In a way, breastfeeding an older infant i.e. more than 1 year old is more satisfying and rewarding. By this time, the bond between the mom and the baby would have been cemented that your baby wants to be with you all the time and mom became the ultimate comfort, which can be very flattering to the point of annoyance. (Again?? You just fed like, 10 minutes ago!) But believe me, this phase will pass. The time will come when you’ll be the one chasing your kid around, calling out “Hey (put your child’s name here), you want mommy’s milk now?” while he’s busy playing ball or building a bricks castle. 

                The convenience is nice. When travelling, I just need to bring bottles and formula for my older daughter, no milk bottles needed for my son, therefore less space taken up in diaper bags and less time washing up bottles. When he wants milk, I just sit down somewhere comfortable, keep us properly discreet and there we go. I have breastfed in zoos – on the tram and during animal shows, during corporate family days, in the middle of the living room surrounded by relatives during festive seasons, even in the middle of a futsal tournament, soaking wet and sweating profusely. I should have asked my husband to take a photo of us that time, but my face was all red and puffy, it would be too embarrassing even for me to look at it. Heh. 

                I’ve stopped pumping at work now, and supplementing with some fresh milk, as he still won’t take formula. He doesn’t drink too much milk, but I’m not too worried as he’s a big eater for such a little guy – you’ll be surprised how much food can go into that tiny body – he gets his calcium dose from other sources such as cheese and broccoli, his favourite vegetable. But as soon as I get home, he’ll run after me, asking to be picked up, and wants his milk immediately, hands patting my breasts. Sometimes I had to let dinner start without me. I keep asking my boy to stop for a while, and we’ll continue ‘milk’ right after I eat. But he’ll mumble and shake his head, and put up his little hand, telling me to wait. Huh.      
                People are telling me to stop, now that my son is already 2 years old. He’s getting bigger, taller and heavier for me to hold on my lap. As he feeds, his legs dangled around and his hands would sometimes rub my nose, play with my hair strands, and pat my chin. Sometimes he smiles as I tickle him, showing his little dimple. And I realized how much I love breastfeeding him, and how much I treasure this bonding time with him, and I just can’t bring myself to wean him off, at least not yet. Despite the many times he wakes up at night to feed, and despite the clinginess that I have to sometimes cook while holding him in my other arm, I really LOVE breastfeeding. Needless to say, I’m hooked. And I’ll stay hooked until the day he pushes me away and grows up. Sob.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


I’ve been sending my 3 year old daughter, Aliah to a nearby playgroup, ALIMKids, for about 6 months now. The playgroup is held on Saturday mornings, perfect for working parents like me. Despite the belief that playgroups are for stay-at-home parents to be able to get together with other parents with their children in tow, my ultimate reason of sending my daughter to a playgroup is for her to socialize with other kids her age. As she stays at home with her little brother and my maid all week long, I thought it would be good for her social skills, besides the fun things she could do and learn at the playgroup.

As my kids age gap are quite close (their birthdays are 20 months apart), the sibling rivalry is pretty intense i.e. a lot of fighting and bickering and pushing, and of course, bawling. The playgroup actually teaches my daughter to share things, take turns at doing something and learn some manners and the appropriate behavior with her friends. In turn, she teaches her little brother how to share. It’s really funny to see them ‘sharing’ a toy; they weren’t even playing, they just keep passing the toy back and forth to each other!

As a working parent, I have to admit, it’s difficult to find time to do activities with your kids by yourself. Just imagining myself sitting with them, painting and scribbling, gives me a headache. Because they definitely won’t sit down quietly; they’ll bicker over the crayons or paints, or even worse, run around the house and mess up the walls, sofas and the tv! A child may not be allowed to use scissors or make messes at home, but painting, scribbling, cutting, gluing and messes are definitely encouraged at playgroups.

Activities like these are best supervised by parents, but knowing the busy moms nowadays, who would have the time to play all day when you have cleaning and cooking and laundry to do? At playgroups, the playtime is somewhat structured; you sing first, then do some crafts, then you put away the crafts and do some physical play, then finally a group reading. When it’s time for the next activity, the children would clean up to get ready for the next task. For example, when a child wants to keep on colouring, she sees her friends cleaning up and gathering around the teacher to read a book, she quickly cleans up too, not wanting to be left behind. It’s like the children are automatically conscious of their peers, making them want to blend in, do the same things together, conform to each other and work as a team.

It’s kinda funny, but I myself look forward to these Saturday playgroups, which means exclusive bonding time spent with my daughter. This exclusive time is pretty scarce, as both my kids are endlessly fighting for my attention (sounds flattering, I know. But believe me, it’s a lot of headache.). It’s nice to be able to focus on her alone, see her play and sing and scribble. This one hour is also like a break for me from things, stuff, tasks – to do at home.

Here are some of the activities they do at the playgroup, which are mostly group reading, craft play, alphabets, singing and some physical play.

Group reading

Singing and dancing with body movements

Messy crafts such as finger painting


Even birthday celebrations

Making music

Lots and lots of colouring

Ribbon play

A special activity done by ALIMKids – Parachute play

The truth is, I’ve never seen a parachute play before encountering this playgroup. So I feel that it’s worth a brief explanation in itself.

Benefits of Parachute Play

  • Encourages cooperation, teamwork and creates a group awareness
  • Non-competitive - Differing abilities and even differing ages are non-issue. It focuses on playing, not winning
  • Refines perceptual skills - Reinforces turn-taking/ sharing
  • Develops a sense of rhythm - Requires following directions
  • Promotes social interaction - Enhances language development
  • Delightful imaginative play – encouraging role play such as pirates, princess or treasure hunter


Finally, graduation!

I highly recommend enrolling your kids to a playgroup like this. It’s a fun and great social environment plus informal learning for your child. It’s also a great bonding experience for you and your child. What’s not to love?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Water Babies - Toddler update

When teaching your toddler to swim, the 3 most basic things to teach would be:
  • Blowing bubbles
  • Going underwater
  • Floating

Blowing bubbles

When you teach your child to blow bubbles, you’re actually teaching him to blow out the breath while underwater, which is the proper form while actually swimming. People who have never joined a real swimming lesson would say, swim a breaststroke, while holding the breath while being underwater and blow out the breath when the head breaks the water surface (like myself, before I joined a swimming class. See, even a clueless adult can get this wrong). It’s actually the reverse; you take a deep breath, dip your head into the water and blow out your breath in bubbles while underwater.

Firstly, teach your toddler to blow soap bubbles, which is great fun!

Photo courtesy of

Once he’s got the hang of it, you can try and get his face close to the water and blow something across the water, say a boat or a rubber duckie. When he’s comfortable enough, you can show him to blow bubbles underwater. You can demonstrate by taking a deep breath, put the lower half of your face into the water and blow out bubbles.

Photo courtesy of

These gradual steps ease the fear and pressure off your child, while increasing his confidence with water. Most children love to play with water, by getting your head underwater is whole different story.

Going underwater

There are basically 2 ways to go underwater, by holding your breath or by blowing out your breath (duh). In my opinion, blowing out is easier for a child than holding the breath. Some kids simply do not understand how to hold the breath! It’s better if you can make a game out of it, say holding your breath and blow out three candles at once. Or using the earlier example, hold your breath and blow a rubber duckie as far as you can across the pool.

Once he can do this, then you can teach him to hold the breath, while you pour water over his face. Another way is to hold the breath before you pour the water, and blowing out when you actually pour the water. When he masters this, then you can proceed to telling him to hold his breath, and gently dipping him in the water.

Holding the breath is one of the most basic skills needed when one learns to swim. If you have ever enrolled yourself in a swimming lesson or you’ve tried swimming on your own, the first thing you do to swim is hold your breath, head underwater, arms up and straight in front of your head and kick your legs. Teaching your toddler to hold his breath is a preparation for this, sparing him the unfortunate swallowing or inhaling water through the nose or mouth, which can be very painful and traumatic. It could even scare your child off from trying to hold his breath again.


A basic back float can be a life saver if a child accidentally falls into a pool or a lake. The key to floating on your back is to relax. Fear and panic will definitely bring him down into the water. This is why teaching a baby to float is much easier, because babies are more relaxed and feels comfortable in water, due to their previous water-like surroundings in the mother’s womb.

To ease this fear, you could help your child to float by laying him gently on his back in the pool, with his head resting on your shoulder, one of your hands on his back in the water and your other hand on his chest to make him feel more secure. When he’s confident enough in this position, you could move your hand from his chest and support the back of his head. When he’s relaxed enough, gently let go of your hands.

Okay, time to take a picture!

“Going down to the pool” has become a weekly activity for my kids. Both of them had not started swimming yet, but they certainly enjoy just being in the pool, splashing each other and play ball. My daughter, while wearing arm floats, has started floating on her back, which she practically learned on her own. I was watching my boy when my husband, who was taking photos from the side, called out. I turned around and saw her floating on her own. She has yet to learn to go without the float, though.

And there's my little boy.

Just for fun, watch these videos of my kids in the pool. Sorry about the video quality, it was taken from my 2 MP old camera phone. And please excuse yours truly yelling in the background. A mom just gets too excited sometimes. Heh.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tips on how to boost your breastmilk - my breastfeeding journey

Before I had my own child, I often thought that breastfeeding is something that comes naturally and easily as breathing. Well, now I know that it is natural, but it is definitely not easy! I thought that the milk would always be there like a water pipe; the baby wants milk, just turn on the faucet, it’ll come out. The baby doesn’t want milk, turn it off and it’s gone. Just like magic. How na├»ve of me!

My baby boy has turned 14 months old and he’s a fully breastfed baby, despite my contracting breast abscess when he was just 1 month old. I’ve a lot of friends and relatives, even strangers, asking me, “How are you able to produce so much milk?” FYI, I don’t actually get 12 oz at each pumping session. I used to be able to pump about 6 to 8 oz of milk every session, 6 times a day, before my baby turned 6 months old. That means the total milk I produced for the day would be about 36 oz, give or take (this doesn’t include night feedings).

I guess it’s kind of a no-brainer when I tell you, that the best way to boost your breastmilk is by increasing the number of times you pump or breastfeed. The best time to do this is during your maternity leave days when your baby is still young.

I’m telling you this because I’ve learned it the hard way – during my breastfeeding my eldest daughter. She was 14 months old when I decided to wean her off altogether as I was already pregnant with our son. My first breastfeeding journey with my daughter was far from easy. I had started mixing her feedings with formula right from the start. It was a combination of not having enough knowledge plus the influences of the more experienced group – our mothers. My mother, specifically. I had cracked and bleeding nipples right from the start; latch on seemed so difficult!

Breastfeeding was so traumatic that I did not even dare to try breastfeed while lying down at night. I figured that I couldn’t even relax in broad daylight, let alone in the dark at night. So for night feeds, I would get up and prepare formula milk in a bottle for my daughter, only pumping in the morning when I wake up. Nevertheless, my breastmilk dwindled quickly as none were coming out at night for at least 7 or 8 hours.

But I wouldn’t give up entirely. I keep on working on latch on during daytime. When I returned to work after my maternity leave ended, I was pumping 3 to 4 times a day, getting only 2 or 3 oz each time. At times I felt like a total failure, not being able to breastfeed my firstborn child properly. Then sometime during the fourth month, I decided to wing it and give night feeds a go. One night, when my daughter started to cry, I pulled her close while lying on my side and nursed her, just focusing on keeping both of us comfortable. She seemed okay, nursing until she nods off to sleep. From that time onwards, I never woke up to prepare formula again (until I weaned her off, of course).

So when my son was born, I don’t have too much trouble with breastfeeding him. Because the first time with my daughter seemed like torture, at least at first, the second time I breezed through it smoothly. I nursed him for the first time about an hour after the birth, and I had him roomed in with me at the hospital after he was born. The lactation counselor even called me the “expert” breastfeeding mom when I told her that I breastfed my firstborn until she turned a year plus. Yeah, right. She didn’t know how hard it was for me to become that “expert” mom!

But then, this “expert” mom contracted breast abscess. Not very expert of her, huh? The breast abscess itself was a tremendously emotional and physically painful, long story. I’ve already poured my heart and soul on this subject; you could read all about it here.

Like I mentioned before, the single thing you absolutely must do to boost your breast milk is to pump or breastfeed more frequently during your maternity leave. This is the most ideal time, as you have, hopefully, more time to waste on pumping and more time to spend bonding while breastfeeding. The focus at the time would be for you to recover, take care of yourself and the baby, so nobody expects you to do much else.

You need to offer the baby your breast at least every two hours, or every time your baby gives out hunger cues such as crying, turning her head towards you to search for your nipple or any type of restlessness. Don’t limit the suckling time; it’s her food after all! How would you like it if someone takes away your plate while you were eating? Wait until she lets go, or until she’s sound asleep, then break off the latch gently by inserting your little finger into the corner of her mouth. If she normally takes a long time suckling and falling asleep at your breast, lie down, relax, close your eyes and take a nap (you deserve it!).

If you’re too agitated to sleep, or you want to watch a favourite movie or tv show, (moms are nothing if not multi-taskers) first of all, make yourself comfortable. I used to prep myself on a comfortable sofa with lots of pillows with a laptop in front of me so I can surf the Net while nursing. My trick was I nursed my baby using the football hold so I have my hands free to do other things. The football hold was my favourite position in those early days, because it was the easiest latch method for my baby. If I want to watch tv, I would settle myself and the baby in an armchair, with lots of pillows and the remote.

Right after nursing, pump until no more milk comes out. This is what stimulates your breast to produce more milk. Think of this metaphor; imagine you’re at a restaurant eating dinner, and you drink half of your glass of orange juice. The waiter will come and fill up your half empty (or half full, whichever you prefer) glass, right? If you finished the whole glass off, the waiter would fill up the whole glass. The point is, you need to finish off the whole glass, so you can get the waiter to refill up more. So the faster you finish up your glass of orange juice, the faster the waiter refills it for you (this waiter is a very efficient worker).

This is exactly what you’re trying to get your body to do; you need to empty your breasts completely and faster so they can ‘refill’ it back quickly. To summarize this


Here’s the rationale - During the early weeks of the baby’s life, your breasts will usually produce more milk than the baby’s needs. This is the time of engorgement, breast fullness and leaking breasts as they are adjusting their milk production according to your baby’s (or babies, if you have twins or more) actual needs. This is the best time to set the high bar for your milk production. Pump or breastfeed until your breasts are completely empty every 2 hours for the first 2 to 3 months of your baby’s life, and you’ll never have to worry about your milk supply.

Around the 3rd month, your breasts will have regulated their milk production up to the 6th month, and there’ll be another slight dip in your milk output as your baby starts eating solid food.

If you read about my breast abscess experience, you’ll know that my affected breast was producing about 1 oz due to the leak the incision made. You’ll also find out that my mom’s fridge broke down, destroying about 50 bags of my frozen milk stash. It was definitely not an easy time for me.

There are also proven research that shows milk volume or quantity is normally higher in the morning, and the quantity lessens as the day progresses. So it is imperative that you empty your breasts the first thing in the morning. What I do is, I would breastfeed my baby right before I wake up. Then after taking a shower and getting dressed for work, I would pump another 10 to 15 minutes, right before leaving for work. I won’t get much milk as one breast would be almost empty, but the purpose here is to empty both breasts.

When you get to my stage, (my baby is 14 months old now) you’ll be heartbroken to dump 2 to 3 bottles of breastmilk everyday, as you are still producing more than your baby’s needs. I’m used to this, so I no longer get heartbroken. My baby is currently a reverse cycler; he drinks just one bottle of milk during the day and nurses like crazy when I get home from work.

Even though he’s a little small for his age, but he’s eating well and he’s very active, so I’m not too worried (He’s even began to play ball with daddy, a soccer star in the making. I hope). A few weeks back, I threw out about 50 bags of frozen milk, some dating back to 5 months ago. I can actually get by without taking out the frozen stash, but it’s always comforting to know that backup milk is there if and when I need it.

So there it is, the proven method to boost your breastmilk. Pump often in the early days, and you’ll reap the benefits later. So don’t be lazy, get out that pump and get moving!
Related Posts with Thumbnails