Sunday, July 22, 2007

I Battled to Breast Feed Cairo

I have not done any breast feeding for slightly more than a year now. I stopped giving my milk to Cairo when she turned 7 months old. Now why do I feel the need to write this post?

That's because I've just watched a most touching and inspiring programme on the topic. Information I gleamed from my 20 minutes' exposure:

  • formula companies are legally bound not to advertise milk powder for newborns to 6 months old babies in the 100+ countries which signed some agreement in the 80s.
  • thereafter, some milk powder companies have resorted to misinforming and scaring parents that it is not healthy to breastfeed without supplementing with formula beyond the 6 months' term.
  • although breast feeding is getting popular, majority of the mothers are not getting tangible encouragement to breast feed their babies beyond the first 6 months and would even get rude remarks if they happen to be breast feeding their 2 year olds!
  • the rampant problem of health care officials consorting with milk powder companies (for personal gain, what else?) to brainwash new parents to accept milk powder instead of promoting the benefits of breast milk and the continuous feeding beyond 6 months.
  • breast feeding campaign pales in comparison to advertisement campaigns by milk powder companies as about half the cost of the formula actually went into advertising!
  • the Philippines' health care ministry, which proposed the 6 months no-ads law to be extended to 2 years, is being sued by the big boys from the west, for trying to limit freedom of trade.
  • some breast feeding mothers in the Philippines took to the streets and bared their breasts (painted over with slogans and graphics) to fight back!

Now, I have not the guts of these ladies, but I did my fair share when it comes to acts of defiance to fight for what I believe is the right of my baby. I know that a lot of breast feeding mothers have been discriminated at work to some extend and have been keeping mum about it. That is why I must tell you my story now. I hope to inspire fellow victims to fight back so that more babies would get mother's milk longer....

I was working in a small company then. When I came back from my maternity leave 5 weeks earlier than the 12 weeks (which was my entitlement according to the new law), I got the permission of my 2nd boss and started to use the smaller meeting room (which consisted of a desk and 3 chairs) to pump milk during my one hour long lunch time at noon and at 5 pm before I go home.

I knew that my big boss was a calculative person and didn't want to push my luck by doing it during my working hours, even though I had to endure slight engorgement sometimes.

All was well until several weeks later, in a not so subtle act to stop me from breast feeding beyond my maternity leave (which I happened to cut short on his demand!!!), the big boss decided to lock up the room whenever we had no meetings to conduct.

My brain immediately ran through all alternatives.
  • Pumping in the toilet was out of the question as we had only one unisex toilet which fits one at a time.
  • There was no door in our rat infested store room which I am sure housed drawings and smaller construction instruments older than me.
  • I could beg my next door neighbours for help since they have got 2 toilets but..... nah!

Knowing that I had no other choice, I went to plead my case with the person tasked to hold the key instead. A more power-obsessed, boot-licking, obnoxious HR cum Accounts Clerk cum Spy for the Boss, I have never seen. As expected, she turned me down (almost gleefully) and told me that if I wanted to give my kid the best start in life by providing mother's milk, I should have stayed at home as a full time mother instead. And oh, please don't mind her for saying that, as she was only repeating the big boss' words.

That was my big boss, dear readers. Father of 3 grown children, one of which actually gave birth to his grandchild a year before me and did breast feeding too! Did I mention that she worked full time?

I am not a goverment-bashing person and I believe that Singapore is already a very lovely country to live in. They even went as far as paying us to procreate for the country! But hey, where were they when I had to live in fear of losing my job while pregnant (cos who'd wanna employ a pregnant woman?) and where were they when my boss told me that mothers have got no right to work?

Never mind.... I've fought my own battles since young and I am well equipped.


I immediately bought myself a breast feeding aid after work that day. Imagine a half poncho kind of contraption. It velcroed at one side of my neck like a bib and has a thin, perforated section on top which is big enough for me to peer in to see what I was doing. With this, I braved myself to start pumping away in my partition-less seat, the side of which happened to be facing the main glass door of our tiny open-planned-concept-office.

My big boss, not knowing what I was doing at first, walked over to discuss work, even though it was lunch time. Upon discovering that I was actually pumping right there in the open and as we talked, he hastily wrapped up the discussion and retreated back to his room. That very same day, the spare room was unlocked again.

I WON!!!!

Sigh, that was only one of the many unpleasant encounters I faced throughout my pregnancy and even after I gave birth (more to be detailed in another post, some other time).

I decided that I no longer wanted to play games with the management anymore. Even though I won most of the time, my methods left me tired, grudging, and distracted from work. I had to be on my toes and be equally, if not more scheming than the management, a trait which I felt had somewhat tainted the pure bliss and happiness which comes with every new baby.

I moved on to a much bigger and way more civilized company not long after that.


jazzmint said...

bravo...u are great my dear...7 months!!!

Keng ah...I think if I were you, I wouldn't be that daring..I'd probably hide in my own car and pump LOL...or complain to top management hahaha...

I guess I'm the lucky one, though gotta walk to another block to pump, at least we had a proper nursing room.

cairo's mommy said...

thanks *bow down 90 degrees*

i tarak car hehehe... and my big boss IS the top most level of management lor, small company wat, hahaha :p

hmm ya, your co is really a very pro family co, lucky u :D

The New Parent said...

Hi CM---that's quite a story and kudos to you! It has always amazed me that formula companies can be so disinterested in the tru well-being of our children.

Thank you for sharing this!

jean said...

Cairo's mommy, Cairo is really blessed to have you as her mom. I am touched by what you did to ensure that your girl has the best.

I miss those times when I bf Grace too but she self wean in her 9mo. And I didn't think of pumping to give her more.

cairo's mommy said...

seems like the $ sign still speaks louder than the well being of our next generation... mother's milk is god given, no chance of that being polluted isn't it?

apparently, it's ok to be be led by leaders who grew up drinking pollutted milk formula (Wyeth's formula got polluted by typhoon @ the Philippines but they sold most of it for a year b4 they got discovered by the authorities) but no way are we gonna miss making more money, eh?

cairo's mommy said...

thanks jean. though i do regret that i've only managed to bf cairo for 7 months. my milk production dropped like mad.... maybe not only my brain succumbed to duress, breast too hahaha

Grace sure is lucky to be breastfed directly... that's even better than extracted BM :D

montessorimum said...

You are great!!!

I'm not sure if I manage to do it if I'm working full time.

cairo's mommy said...

thanks :D with more support from everybody, i am sure we can all do it longer!

my site guys were very embarrased everytime they bumped into me washing the pump n freezing my milk :p

i was extracting milk in my next company's toilet cubicle n everyone was saying i fed my girl "toilet milk" (i do feel bad for cairo everytime someone came in to do big business while i pumped)

got a bit discouraged after a while....

Etcetera~Mommy said...

Laughing at jazz's comment. Yeah.. I'll likely hide in car and pump but then in SG, probably no car already :( I like your determination to get thru all obstacles for what's best for Cairo. She will be proud of a mommy like you. Well done!

Blur Mommy said...

Kudos to u for fighting for ur rights!! I really admire you working moms. It's difficult enough pumping at home, I can't even imagine how to pump at work.

Big Pumpkin said...

I also have a breastfeeding story to tell. It's been sitting in my Drafts File for ages. Time to post soon. Thanks for sharing and reminding me about my horror breastfeeding days.

And claps to you for office pumping. It's not easy - AT ALL!

cairo's mommy said...

etc mommy:
yalor, if got car, can pump there but if in KL i scared kena tangkap but d malay police for exposing myself in public pulak, hahaha!

blur mommy:
not all are horror stories. my cousin who worked at great eastern had a good time pumping in her office. jazz is a good example too. i guess small co are more calculative la...

big pumpkin:
i have a feeling you're one of those who kena opressed also....cant wait to read about it!

Zara's Mama said...

I think you are very courageous to be pumping in the pancho kind of thingy!!

Way to go!

And your blardy big boss.. to hell with him.. I think some of these ppl are so uneducated or misinformed about breastfeeding they just don't give a damn, and think why we mothers want to go through the trouble to breast feed.

You did well!

Anggie's journel said...

wow... u r great to fine way out too... "mother-LOVE" ..
thanks for sharing .

J@n!ce said...

hehehe.. I breastfeed my elder boy till 2 yrs old. Only gave up after having the younger one. The latter only breastfeed for 11 mths. I felt guilty for the younger one cos I went for a short holiday with my hub to bali. When I returned, my milk production dropped tremendously & my mum ask me to as well stop feeding.... :)

Lian said...

You have indeed done well. I'm lucky to be at home, feeding on demand, no need to deal with pumps. You have fought a good battle and inspired many (like me).
BTW, I am passing on to you the badge of "Rockin Girl Blogger". Check it out:

cairo's mommy said...

thanks. i was drawing my strength from ppl like my cousin (my hero, too bad she doesn't blog) n you.

i reckoned that if you guys are willing to go through so much trouble (pump n fly in milk while away on business trips!!!) i should not give up so easily either.

hahaha, when there's a will, there's a poncho :p

wow, i salute u! u may wanna consider tandem feeding for your next kid together with the first 2 :D

oh wow, i am so honoured!!! arigato gozaimasu :D

Rebecca said...

w00t! Congrats to you for bringing down the man! :P Seriously though, good for you. I'm glad that you ended up working for a company that was more fair and didn't make you so miserable. Your little girl is so cute! And I love your scrap pages. Are they digital? I haven't gotten into that yet but am excited to try out some hybrid pages.