April 30, 2007

Toilet training

We started introducing Yiu Yiu to the potty several weeks by asking her to let us know when she wants to mmpphh mmpphh. She's pretty fascinated by the potty and over the last few weeks, she'll simply say mmpphh mmpphh for the fun of sitting on the potty. Nevertheless, each time she indicated mmpphh mmpphh, we'd just take off her diapers and let her sit on the potty even though we were sure she wasn't going to poo.

Last weekend, when she felt the urge to pass motion, she indicated mmpphh mmpphh to hubby, who quickly took out the potty. She sat on it and quietly completed her business there. We were pretty surprised and happy that she finally managed to use the potty successfully. Even though this is a long way from being fully potty trained, it is a small step to success.

April 25, 2007

Travelling and breastfeeding

I don't classify myself as a frequent traveler but all the same, I've traveled quite a bit throughout these 15 months of exclusively nursing Yiu Yiu. My first trip was to Bangkok for six days. Yiu Yiu was only slightly more than four months then. I learnt from MMB how some moms successfully bring home expressed breast milk (EBM) while traveling and I wanted to do the same. Having trawled through the information in MMB, there were still many practical questions unanswered and I'm grateful that Suzette, the expert "cart home breast milk from overseas mom", gave me lots of tips and encouragement. That first trip to Bangkok, I managed to cart home almost 150oz of EBM.

Since then, I've been to short few days trip to Seoul, Cebu, Singapore, Hong Kong, and various domestic destinations and I'm glad to say that I successfully brought home EBM each time. This contributed to me successfully breastfed Yiu Yiu exclusively for 15 months as these EBM replenished the depleted stocks in my freezer.

This is an account on how I expressed while traveling. Hopefully someone will find this useful and will help them to do the same.

Things I normally bring
• Breast pump and bottle
• Breast milk storage bags (I used cheap ice-cream tube bags instead of those expensive milk storage bags)
• Accessories for labeling (I used marker pen, scissors and sticker labels)
• Sterilizing tablets (I find this easiest to do. Sometimes if the hotel jug kettle is big enough, I'd sterilize by boiling inside the kettle)
• Containers to keep EBM upright in freezer/fridge (I used those transparent plastic bags that hawkers use for take aways. Keep about 6-8 tubes of EBM upright)
• Small cooler box & soft cooler bag (depending on the volume you expect to cart home. From experience, if you plan to bring home frozen EBM, it's best to keep in cooler box as those soft cooler bags are not as well insulated and frozen EBM can thaw)
• Hand carry traveling bag to put in both cooler box and bag (I normally do this to avoid having to carry too many bags)
• Techni Ice sheets (2 large sheets cut into 4 smaller pieces - 2 pieces each for the cooler box and cooler bag)
• Thick towels

What to bring home – frozen or chilled EBM?
My first trip to Bangkok, I brought back frozen EBM and those kept in the soft cooler bag had thawed by the time I reached home. I ended up throwing quite a bit away as Yiu Yiu couldn't consume all those thawed EBM within 2 days (yup...I kept for 2 days instead of the recommended 24 hours). That was a painful experience as each single drop of breast milk is to me, too precious to waste and here I was throwing loads away. Subsequently I brought home only chilled EBM if my trips were 5 days or less. This meant that by the time Yiu Yiu consumed the chilled EBM, it would be about 6-7 days old. The general recommendation is to keep chilled EBM only for 48-72 hours but I've kept chilled EBM for up to a week and Yiu Yiu was fine with them. It really depends on your comfort level. I'd normally just keep the EBM chilled in the hotel room minibar and would get the concierge to freeze the Techni Ice sheets for me. In my trip to Cebu, my Techni Ice sheets were not completely frozen so most of my chilled EBM turned bad after the 12-hour journey home. Another terrible experience, but another learnt so subsequently I made sure I spoke to someone who understood English well to ensure my request was completely understood.

Sterilizing the breast pump while traveling
Most times, I used sterilizing tablet and soak the pump & accessories in the small cooler box.

Transporting the EBM from foreign country back to home
Before checking out, I'd line the cooler box with Techni Ice sheets, followed by a thick cloth towel around the ice sheets, before putting in the chilled EBM. I then cover the EBM with another layer of thick towel and add more ice on top of the towel to fill in the space. The ice can be easily obtained from housekeeping/restaurant.

I carried the cooler box and soft cooler bag as hand luggage. This way, I could remove the ice water and add more ice to the box while flying. But with the additional security measures, some airlines may not allow EBM to be carried on board.

I would normally check in my entire luggage and carried only the traveling bag with EBM, and my laptop backpack on board. Most of my colleagues and customers whom I traveled with frequently knew what's inside my hand luggage. Now that I'm no longer expressing, can't say I missed lugging all those things on my trips!

April 23, 2007

Connected, at long last!

For the longest time, I've wanted to install broadband at home. We didn't have a phone line at our old apartment and since we were moving, we decided not to pursue the idea till we moved to the new house. Not having internet connection at home was a major inconvenience, as I had to stay in office late to surf and blog. With the limited time I have to go online, coupled with my extremely heavy workload lately, I've not been able to go online as much as I'd like to.

I was considering whether to install Streamyx or the recently introduced Maxis broadband service. As I wasn’t sure of the stability of the new service from Maxis, I finally decided to stick to the conventional Streamyx and visited TMpoint office at Damansara Utama last month. To my disappointment, I was informed that my house has not been updated in their system and as such, I couldn't apply for a phone line, a pre-requisite for Streamyx. This was a major surprise to me as I knew very well some of my neighbours in the same row already have a phone line. The lady at the counter offered to help me to log a case to register my house in their system but was not able to tell when this could be done.

I was on leave that day and headed to 1-Utama to do some shopping and bumped into a friend. When I told her about my predicament at TMpoint earlier, she encouraged me to go for Maxis as she was having a lot of problem with Streamyx. As luck would have it, there's a Maxis service centre at 1-Utama and there's a promotion whereby the deposit, registration and installation fees, would be waived. I went ahead and registered, and opted for the basic 3G package which offers unlimited monthly access at 384kbps for RM68, inclusive of modem rental.

Yesterday, almost 4 weeks after I registered, I've got Maxis broadband installed at home. Hopefully, I can go online more frequently now.

April 06, 2007

My breastfeeding journey

When I was pregnant, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed my baby. I was aware of the goodness of breast milk and was determined to give the best to my baby. I knew it was not going to be easy but I didn't really read up a lot to prepare for it, which was just as well as I was blissfully ignorant of the possibility of blocked ducts, mastitis and other potential problems. I didn't even prepare any formula milk as I has simply assumed that my milk would just come and I'd be able to breastfeed successfully, just as nature intended.

The first couple of days were the most difficult. Yiu Yiu was struggling to latch on and kept crying in frustration when she couldn't. As we struggled to establish nursing and she didn't get much for the first two days, I started to worry if she'd be starved even though my gynae and paediatrician kept reassuring me that she'd be alright. On the third day, she developed jaundice and since she was lethargic, she nursed even less. I was told that she needed more fluid in her body to help flush out the bilirubin and as she wasn't nursing well, I finally succumbed and asked the nurse to spoon feed her some formula. The next morning, I was reprimanded by my gynae when he found out and told me that they would know if she needed supplemental feeding as her blood glucose level was monitored daily.

After that incidence, I resolved to keep her off formula as advised. My milk finally came on the third day and I was so thrilled when I could express 2oz from both breasts using the hospital pump. Not a lot, but enough for a tiny baby's intake. I could be discharged from the hospital already but as my breast pump was in Ipoh (I was going to have my confinement in my parents' home in Ipoh) and I couldn't express at home, I decided to stay put in the hospital. Paying RM195 a night for another three nights wasn't exactly what we had planned but I was determined to breast feed my baby successfully.

It has not been an easy journey, as any breastfeeding mother can relate:
• the endless hours of sucking in the early weeks, where she'd spent one hour sucking and the moment I tried to unlatch her after foolishly thinking she was asleep, she would be wide awake and screaming for more.
• the endless interrupted nights as I am not among the lucky few whose baby slept through the night after several weeks or months. At 17 months now, she still wakes up at night but at least I've mastered the skills of nursing lying down so when she wakes up, I'll just carry her from her cot to our bed and let her nurse while I continue to sleep. So much for training baby to sleep on her own!
• the endless hours spent expressing milk at home and at work, and feeling that I was compromising my work. I used to express three times daily – once in the morning before going to work, once at about 2pm and another time after work at about 7pm. Luckily Yiu Yiu is not that big an eater and my three pumping sessions produced enough to meet her needs, with some to spare for freezing to be used when I traveled. Since she started on solids at six months and her demand decreased, I gradually cut out the expressing session in office.
• worrying endlessly whenever my supply dropped and did not express enough for her next day's feed. During these times, I would busy myself cooking numerous soups that supposedly enhance breast milk production. Among those I've tried are green papaya soup with fish, white radish soup, cashew nut soup and fenugreek tea.
• the countless times she chomped on my nipples to soothe her itching, teething gums.
• the countless times I've become her pacifier. Sometimes she just wants to suckle for comfort and she'll be hanging onto my breasts just for the fun of it. I enjoy these bonding sessions with her and I'll tickle/sing/talk to her while she suckles but there are also times when I wished she wouldn't spend so much time at the breasts, leaving me with no time on my own. Wicked mom but hey, I'm only human after all.

Now that she's only nursing whenever I'm around and on formula at other times, I think she's suckling mainly for comfort as I don't think she gets much from the breasts. I know she probably should be weaned off soon but I'm not sure if she's ready. I definitely am not!

April 05, 2007

From exclusive to mixed feeding

The last few months, my production has really dropped and I've had to resort to using my freezer stash to supplement Yiu Yiu's daily intake. As I was to be away in the USA for two weeks and my stash in the freezer would not last two weeks, I started asking the babysitter to introduce her to formula in February. I got samples of formula from different companies and asked her to experiment to see which brand my little princess will agree to. The first time she tried, she mixed ½ formula and ½ breast milk to help Yiu Yiu get used to the taste, which according to other moms, doesn’t taste nice at all, what with a metallic aftertaste! True enough she rejected the feed. Babysitter then extended the time for her next feed and perhaps due to hunger, she finished the feed this time. As I had also been busy and neglected to express most days, whatever little I brought to the babysitter's place was insufficient for her daily intake, so that’s plenty of opportunities for her to experiment with formula milk. Gradually she took to taking a full feed of formula without complaints, so I needn't have to worry about her going hungry while I was away.

I brought my pump along with me to the USA and was planning to keep expressing to maintain supply but as the yield got lesser and lesser by the day, I totally stopped expressing after about 10 days. I did worry whether my supply would dry up completely by the time I returned but I comforted myself with the fact that at least Yiu Yiu was on breast milk exclusively for 15 months.

Upon my return, Yiu Yiu still remembered to ask for nen-nen. The first time I put her to my breast, she suckled and immediately pulled away, with a confused look on her face. It's as if she tasted something horrible. She then turned away and refused to nurse anymore. Some time later, she pointed to the breast once more and said nen-nen, but yet again, she responded the same way. The hesitancy continued and I felt really sad, though the rational side of me told me that I should take this opportunity to wean her. I was having this internal tug of war but I eventually succumbed to the emotional side and continued offering her the breasts. I finally understood why some moms said weaning is traumatic for the mother as much as it is for the child. Anyhow, on the third day, she finally accepted the breasts again and has been happily suckling away whenever I'm around at night and during weekends.

April 04, 2007

17-month old

I promised I'll write about my recent trip to the US but I have been really bogged down by work ever since I came back. I've had absolutely no respite at which I can put my thoughts and photos together so I guess the account of my trip will have to wait just a little longer. But I've got to jump start my writing again, so Yiu Yiu turning 17 months is just the right impetus to do so. So here's an update of her development:
Physical: We've not weighed her since January so I have absolutely no idea how heavy she is right now. But when we were back in Kuantan last weekend for Ching Ming, my sister-in-law commented that she looked visibly more "meaty". She has four teeth on both her upper and lower gums. Unfortunately, I've not started her on the habit of brushing teeth so I hope I'm not too late. We've just bought her a training toothbrush last weekend so will have to start getting her used to brushing.
Mobility: She can walk steadily now; in fact she's developing a knack for running. Ironically, instead of refusing to let us hold her hands while we are out, now she likes both mummy and papa to hold her hands, one on each side. She also likes to perform head tumble on the mattress.
Comprehension: She can comprehend even complex sentences and understand the concept of cause and effect. Since she's still such a boob addict, sometimes when we are out and she wants to nurse and points to my breasts, I'll say "We are outside now, no place for nen-nen. Mummy gives you nen-nen when we are in the car, OK?" She'll simply nod her head with an emphatic "Mmpph" and wait to claim her reward when we are back in the car. Whenever she hears any mobile phone rings or the alert tone of an incoming SMS, she'll draw our attention by calling out "Papa". Funnily enough she thinks all the phone calls are for her papa. She's getting better at letting us know her needs: asking for more milk by handing to us her empty bottle, pointing in the direction of the cupboard where her diapers are kept if she needs changing.
Language: Her recent vocabulary includes (in Cantonese or Mandarin) oi (want), moi (don't want), ye ye (paternal grandfather), ma ma (paternal grandmother), gu gu (aunt, hubby's sister), jiu jiu (uncle, my brother), yi yi (aunt, my sisters), che che (big sister), ko ko (big brother), xie xie (thank you). In fact, she can repeat most single syllable words we teach her such as ball, shoes, horse, bath.
Feeding: She still insists on having her own set of bowl and spoon whenever we eat. She can self-feed quite OK now with morsels of food dropping here and there. So most times when we eat, we'll just fill her bowl with some food and let her practise self-feeding. She still uses her hand to pick up pieces of food from her bowl whenever she gets frustrated with not being able to scoop any with her spoon. Luckily her appetite had improved in the last month and she can at least finish three-quarters of what I intend to feed her.
Social: She is sociable and extremely pleased when she has other children for company, be it her cousins or the neighbour's daughter. She doesn't mind sharing her toys with other children so I hope she'll grow up to become a generous child. She knows she's loved and she'll try to manja (Malay…) at every opportunity. Last weekend while in Kuantan, she's got a red mark on her right arm from an insect bite. We were chatting in the living room and she cruised from person to person to show each of us the bite mark and expect everyone to sayang (love in Malay) her arm. She also knows how to reciprocate by tenderly stroking mummy's and papa's cheeks when we ask her to sayang us.
This & That: We bought her a children table and chair set and some colour pencils. Her early fascination with these new gadgets includes inserting the colour pencils into the nooks of the table. When she's in the mood for drawing, she'll scribble loopy pictures on the stack of recycled papers that papa put together. And she'll insist that either mummy or papa sits next to her and draws along. Papa bought her a toy motorcycle while mummy was away in the US and she loves to ride on it. She was introduced to the Barney song recently and will cross her arms to hug her body when we come to the line "With a great big hug and a kiss from me to you." She can perform simple tasks such as throwing her soiled diaper into the waste basket, and imitating the roar of a lion by holding both her hands up and hollers "Waaa!" And she's showing signs of becoming the next Imelda Marcos…she absolutely adores shoes. Whenever she steps out from the house, she'll point to the shoe cabinet and says, "Shoe shoe". And whenever we walk by the children shoes department while out shopping, she'll refuse to leave till she's dragged away. When buying her shoes, she'll refuse to take off the new pair we put on for her to try. Poor mummy and papa have to bring the empty box to the cashier for payment!

Clockwise from top left: notice the colour pencils jutting out from the table nooks, artist at work, vrooming away, her masterpiece

Clockwise from top left: hear me roar, her shoes collection, doing the Barney hug, her current favourite book