<![CDATA[La Leche League Asia & Middle East - Close to the Heart Articles]]>Thu, 12 May 2022 22:11:33 +0800Weebly<![CDATA[Moving Mountains]]>Tue, 03 May 2022 15:19:35 GMThttps://www.lllasia.org/close-to-the-heart-articles/moving-mountains
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by Ariel Sapp
Yokosuka, Japan

Have you ever passed on an opportunity to do something because you were breastfeeding? What if it could have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience? That’s what my climb of Mount Fuji in August this year turned out to be!
Have you ever passed on an opportunity to do something because you were breastfeeding? What if it could have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience? That’s what my climb of Mount Fuji in August this year turned out to be!

Mount Fuji is located a few hours outside of Tokyo, Japan. At 12,389 feet (3,776 meters), it is the tallest mountain and volcano in Japan and has a very narrow hiking season due to extreme weather conditions. There were so many reasons for me not to do a climb like this. As a military spouse, I have been managing the household and caring for my four children single-handedly during my husband's many deployments. The youngest of my children are 10-month-old twins who are nursing around the clock.

I was inspired to hike Mount Fuji because I love the outdoors, hiking and a challenge. But I was very hesitant about doing the hike. I hadn't been able to do much hiking in the past few years due to a lack of childcare when we first arrived and then being pregnant with twins last year. I had not left the babies for a long period of time and they don't always take the bottle well, so it was very nerve- wracking. I did find comfort in knowing the babies were being cared for by my visiting mother-in-law and my husband. Ultimately, my turning point in deciding to do this challenging climb was fear of not having the opportunity again, because I knew we would be leaving Japan soon.

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I didn't have a set schedule for pumping. I don't pump regularly for the babies, so during the two weeks leading up to the hike I added an early morning pumping session to stock up for them while I was away. I planned to leave one ounce per baby per hour that I was gone, and I estimated I would be gone about 16 hours between the drive, the climb and the decent (4 hours driving and 12 hours hiking). I managed to store up 22 ounces, so I was nervous about not having left them quite enough.

I successfully did the climb on August 14, 2017. I think leaving behind the babies was equally as mentally challenging as climbing the mountain was physically challenging. As I started the ascent, the thought crossed my mind that I was hiking a active volcano, and worst-case scenarios played through my mind!

Earlier that day, I nursed my babies when they woke at around 4am and then headed out with my visiting cousin. I drove two hours to the parking lot where we would take the bus to Mount Fuji 5th station, and I used an electric pump in the car for 20 minutes. I left the electric pump and milk in the car cooler. In my hiking pack I carried a cooler with ice packs, six milk bags and a hand pump. Then we set off, ascending the Fujinomiya trail and would return by descending the Gotemba trail. We hiked about five hours before I felt engorgement, so I pumped at the 9th station. Thankfully I am not shy, after nursing for almost five years straight, and was comfortable enough to pump in the open; there was no seclusion to be found. I went about another five hours until I pumped again on our decent. My final pumping session of the trip was when we returned to the car, after about another five hours. It felt nice to use the electric pump again, as it drains the breast much better than the hand pump for me and I was feeling some tenderness and discomfort after about 10 hours of only hand pumping. I drove home and woke the sleeping babies to nurse for full relief.

Because they eat solids quite well, my babies had been perfectly content with the 22 ounces I had left them, until bedtime when they were a bit fussy because they normally nurse to sleep. The following day, they nursed a bit more than usual, probably trying to catch me up from the previous day’s adventure.

Climbing Mount Fuji was one of the most challenging things I have ever done! I worried about the babies the whole time, but I was distracted by the beautiful views and by pushing my body when I didn't think I could push any more. It was definitely worth it and very rewarding. Arriving at the summit was exhilarating; the last 200m were very difficult, between exhaustion, altitude shock and shortness of breath. When I saw the Tori gate at the top, suddenly I was filled with energy again and just felt so accomplished! The best part of the hike was the view above the clouds; I felt like a bird up there, there seeing the view I’ve only seen through airplane windows.

My advice to other women who might be hesitant to take on a challenge due to nursing would be to ask themselves if they would regret NOT doing it. That is the question I asked myself. I felt selfish, possibly sacrificing a day of unhappy kiddos for a day of happy mommy, but I knew I would always regret not attempting to climb Mount Fuji. I had trusted family to care for the babies and a willing cousin to climb with me, so it all fell into place for me. Thankfully, my babies weren't unhappy for that time I was away, even though I stressed about it the whole hike. It was incredible and I wouldn't change my decision.

Close to the Heart Vol. 18, No. 3 (Late-Year 2017)

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<![CDATA[After a Minor Surgery]]>Sun, 24 Apr 2022 16:00:00 GMThttps://www.lllasia.org/close-to-the-heart-articles/after-a-minor-surgery1748945
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by Terry Tsang
Leader with LLL Hong Kong - Chinese Group

We just came home from my son’s minor surgery under anaesthesia. I feel thankful that I am still nursing my little boy, who is two years and eight months old.

When he was disorientated waking up from the anaesthesia, he was calmed down and comforted immediately as he latched on.
When he could only take fluid, he got my breastmilk, which was the gentlest possible nourishment for his body. Furthermore, it soothed both of us.

On the way home, I wore him and his favourite dinosaur toy in a sling, as he was too wobbly to walk. The sling hugged him close to my heart and helped us feel secure together. I comforted him with nummy (our word for breastfeeding) for the whole train ride. There were no staring eyes, no comments from strangers. A baby in a carrier, how on earth could a person complain about it?

​I walked home in a downpour wearing my 16 kg son. I had one free hand supporting his head and neck, the other hand holding an umbrella. My lovely husband helped by re-tying my shoelaces.

My son is snuggled on my chest while I am typing our story right now. He had a harsh morning; he needs mummy and “nummy”.
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In case your own child needs a medical or dental procedure done under sedation or anaesthesia, you may be interested in my suggestions that follow. You might be told that the patient needs to fast (avoid food or drink) for 6 hours before the procedure. If so, you can point out that the American Society of Anesthesiologists approves a shorter fasting time for breastmilk, because it’s much more easily digestible than other types of milk.

Here is a summary of the fasting recommendations:

Ingested Substance        Minimum Fasting Period
Clear liquids                                   2 hours
Breastmilk                                      4 hours
Infant formula                                6 hours
Non-human milk                             6 hours
Light meal                                       6 hours


If you think your baby will have a tough time being unable to breastfeed for four hours before the procedure, discuss this situation with your anaesthetist; some anaesthetists may allow sucking of a recently pumped breast. Another tip is to request to be the first surgery case in the morning. This is least stressful to your baby.

Practice Guidelines for Preoperative Fasting and the Use of Pharmacologic Agents to Reduce the Risk of Pulmonary Aspiration: Application to Healthy Patients Undergoing Elective Procedures: An Updated Report by the American Society of Anesthesiologists Committee on Standards and Practice Parameters 2011.

Close to the Heart Vol. 18, No. 2 (Mid-Year 2017)
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<![CDATA[Partners – do they make a difference?]]>Sun, 24 Apr 2022 15:16:31 GMThttps://www.lllasia.org/close-to-the-heart-articles/partners-do-they-make-a-differenceHow has your partner helped with your breastfeeding journey? What ways did your partner find to bond with your baby?
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I am coming up to a total of five years of breastfeeding between my two sons. While nursing is an easy choice now, and often my favourite five minutes in my day, I remember a time when it was tears, anxiety and physical discomfort. The biggest contributor in having this nursing relationship work is how my husband prioritised and perceived breastfeeding in our family. ​He was 
​nursed well into toddlerhood; his mother was a La Leche League Leader in the 1980s and he believed strongly in the benefits of human milk for human babies. He believed in me. This meant, with our first child, advocating our choice at doctor’s appointments when the scales disappointed, getting lactation consultants over until we were certain the latch was effective, taking turns walking our newborn during “witching hour” to give my body a break, reading many online forums and articles about breastfeeding, and encouraging lots of outings together with the never-ending nursing in the early days. I'm so proud of myself for sticking with it and of my husband for believing in me and being there every step of the way – Kay Herb, Hong Kong
I always knew that I would breastfeed, so it really wasn't a question for my husband. During a prenatal breastfeeding class, he listened carefully; after a quick mental calculation he shocked the entire room with the conclusion, "A mother will spend about eight hours per day breastfeeding!" This is when we began 
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to get a sense of the enormous life change we were about to experience. When the doctor prescribed formula on our daughter's third day of life, my husband didn't fully understand my devastation, but he absolutely supported my wishes and the extra work it took to get our baby nursing effectively: he cooked, cleaned, changed diapers, and brought the baby to me as soon as she showed the slightest interest in nursing. As I started attending LLL meetings and reading books from the LLL library, our parenting philosophies solidified and my husband became a strong advocate for breastfeeding and responding to our baby's needs rather than "training". When my husband's close friend asked, "How do you plan to go about weaning at one year old?" he was taken aback; he didn't realise anyone thought that was necessary, and he took the opportunity to share a different view with his friend. Nursing an older toddler and then a preschooler was a bigger leap for my husband than for me, but he also understood that nursing this child today is just as natural as it was yesterday. Now our third daughter is two months old and we look forward to several more years as a breastfeeding family. Kim Adams, Oman
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I’ve always been a night owl whereas my husband is definitely a morning person, and we always assumed that this would somehow be useful when we became parents. Sure enough, we fell into a routine where I would handle nighttime wakings with breastfeeding, while he would be on duty if our babies woke early for the day so that I could sleep a bit longer, at least on weekends. This really helped me get through those early sleep-deprived months. Conversely, he was 
grateful to have an uninterrupted night’s sleep – once we had got the hang of breastfeeding, our babies barely made a sound during the night. Before our first child was born, he didn’t have any strong opinions about breastfeeding but was happy to support whatever choice I made. Now he tells all his male friends whose wives are expecting their first baby something like, “Make sure you encourage your wife to breastfeed! There will be bountiful breasts and you won’t have to get up in the night. If your baby bottle-feeds, she’ll have you doing the 3 am feed!”. – Jenny Buck, Hong Kong

Close to the Heart Vol. 17, No. 3 (Late-Year 2016)
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<![CDATA[I am a breastfeeding mother… hear me roar!]]>Wed, 09 Sep 2020 15:14:33 GMThttps://www.lllasia.org/close-to-the-heart-articles/i-am-a-breastfeeding-mother-hear-me-roar
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Photo credit: Juliana Redondo, the Wish Photography
by Heather Lin
Hong Kong

Why must I roar, you may ask, as you cover your ears in nervous anticipation? It is so that I may be heard over the din of a culture and society that says breastfeeding must stop at a certain age, must only be done in such and such a setting, or is only appropriate or nutritious given certain rigid circumstances.

How is it that I had a dormant nursing lioness in me this whole time? 
It is because I never suspected, when I was a blissfully unaware non-parent, that nursing one’s offspring would come inconveniently packaged with a whole bunch of misinformed, unsolicited mis- advice from well-intentioned loved ones and strangers alike.

As seems to be the case with many things, parenting was very much a “figure it out as we go” process, despite my attempts to be prepared beforehand. Who knew poop could shoot up to baby’s armpits? Wanting to be constantly held, literally 24 hours a day – apparently that was reasonable, according to my red-faced progeny. Razor-sharp fingernails that mysteriously regenerated moments after I snipped them – normal!

Nursing whenever baby wanted, wherever baby wanted, for as many years as baby wanted? That was also a revelation for me as the months rolled by, but it turns out that it was the most reassuring, calming and heartwarming one.

As I responded to my baby’s cues by nursing on demand, I realised I was doing precisely what he wanted: fulfilling his needs and desires. Soon, his needs widened to include needing to play on swings, needing to “vroom” his toys, needing to eat an unbroken banana (beware the fool who tried to helpfully break my son’s food into more manageable bites), and yet he continued to need one of the most primal and basic needs of all: comfort at the breast.

I had originally told myself I would nurse him at least until he was a year old. That seemed like a nice whole number to wrap up with. As the months went on, though, it became clear my son would never willingly choose to wean at that age. Okay, maybe until two years old then. When that milestone came around, I still didn’t see the point in forcing him to quit something as wholesome and loving as hugging or cuddles.

I learned that breastfeeding beyond two years is supported by many health authorities, but this news seems not to have filtered down to the rest of society yet. Here are some actual comments I have received, some from medical professionals:

“You should stop nursing when he has teeth.”
“You should stop when he’s old enough to ask for it.”
“Isn’t it weird to nurse him, since he’s so old?”
“Breastmilk no longer has nutritional benefits at that age.”
“You’re nursing for your own pleasure.”


People can say what they want. More often than not, they mean well, and before I had children I may have agreed with them. I remember once raising my eyebrows at a friend’s wife who nursed a four-year old, and also seeing that infamous Time Magazine cover and thinking, “That lady nursing her three-year-old is so weird.”

And guess what ... I became a lady who nursed her three-year-old. I suspect my son would still be nursing, had he not self-weaned during my second pregnancy when my milk reduced in volume. I sincerely hope that my daughter will able to nurse as long as she wants and that she will be able to remember nursing.

I learned how to be a breastfeeding mother. I learned how to roar in defence of a relationship that I value. Most importantly, I learned the beautifully simplistic golden rule that, in my opinion, underpins successful breastfeeding: trust your body and trust your baby.

Close to the Heart Vol. 20, No. 1 (Early-Year 2019)

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<![CDATA[Breastfeeding in Splendid Isolation During COVID-19]]>Mon, 20 Jul 2020 12:54:21 GMThttps://www.lllasia.org/close-to-the-heart-articles/breastfeeding-in-splendid-isolation-during-covid-19by an anonymous mother
Xiamen, China

When news of the new coronavirus outbreak came, I was busy preparing for Chinese New Year while taking care of my daughter. She is almost two years old and enjoys playing outdoors. News of the outbreak was spreading widely and I was anxious about the unknown risks. How serious is this new disease? How will it affect me and my family?
On the evening of Chinese New Year’s Eve (24 January), my partner and two-year-old daughter and I went downstairs to set off firecrackers. We wanted her to experience our childhood thrill of chasing Spring Festival fireworks! Our splendid firecrackers attracted several other children who came around to watch and I took care to keep my daughter a safe distance from the crowd. When we finished, the three of us got into the elevator to go upstairs, and then another child came in behind us. Curiously I asked him, “Hello, my friend, you look unfamiliar – which floor do you live on?” As he replied, he mentioned that his family had recently moved in from another part of Xiamen.

Four days later, an ambulance appeared and picked up someone from downstairs. My partner soon received a phone call from the property management office and answered their questions on the health conditions of our family members. He asked if we had had any close contact with the new family downstairs. My mind immediately went back to the elevator ride four days ago, with the child from that family. None of us were wearing masks back then.

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I felt anxious about this new information. My maternal instinct to protect my baby kicked in. What was the probability of us being infected? What could I do to protect my daughter? All I could think of was to stay close to my daughter. I was really glad that we were still frequently breastfeeding. I knew that there were antibodies in my milk that could help protect her.

​The disease prevention and control office required our family to be isolated at home for 14 days. A community worker came to take our temperature twice a day and provided us with other necessary assistance. The presence of a confirmed case in our building made us feel that the danger was literally on our doorstep, so staying at home felt like self-protection rather than being grounded. At the time our neighbour’s case was confirmed, there were only 17 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Xiamen.

My partner and I are both doctors. I am a mammary surgeon and an IBCLC. Usually we go to work early in the morning, almost every day. Those days of isolation at home enabled us to spend hours with our daughter and we did many things together: brushing our teeth, washing our face, reading books together, etc. My daughter particularly enjoyed her father’s company and wanted her dad to sit next to her when she was playing, reading or drawing and even as she was breastfeeding, as if to compensate for his absence during her early months.

As her father kept her company, I had more free time during my home isolation and joined an online breastfeeding support meeting, where I chatted with other mothers and shared information. Towards the end, we were invited to share our current situation during the outbreak. I told them that my neighbour was one of ten confirmed cases in Xiamen (although it turned out to be only a suspected case on that date), and it was a coincidence that they lived so close to me. Being able to share my experience helped my nervousness flow away, and having the other mothers listen helped to calm me down.

After 14 days of isolation at home, the COVID-19 outbreak was still severe. Our family did not go out immediately; in fact, my daughter and I did not leave our apartment for one month. She was so happy to have to whole family beside her as she constantly invited us to join in her games. I think she rescued us from the fear of the epidemic and helped us to join in her world of joy. We made bread and cake together, did housework together, read books and drew, and all these innocent activities let us feel quite happy during the COVID-19 outbreak.

We kept breastfeeding all the time, and she enjoyed the fact that my milk was always available. In February, I volunteered to support breastfeeding mothers in Hubei Province and Hefei City by answering questions in temporary chat groups as a breastfeeding medical specialist.

When my daughter, herself a breastfeeding toddler, heard that some babies needed help getting their mother’s milk, she became quite willing to play by herself for a while to let me have some time to help others. It seemed that because she felt satisfied with her own breastfeeding, she wanted all other babies to enjoy breastfeeding as well!
The COVID-19 outbreak was initially a source of fear for me. However, when the pace of life slowed down with the epidemic, I was able to spend more time with my family and feel the beauty of life itself. The epidemic also gave me the opportunity to join online meetings and be supported by others, to help other breastfeeding mothers via online methods, to spread breastfeeding concepts and to get a lot of energy out of all that!
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For my daughter, the COVID-19 outbreak obstructed her desire to play outside. However, her mood did not suffer. On the contrary, she received more attention and was well nourished by more warmth from her family pouring into her life!

Close to the Heart Vol. 21, No. 1 (Early- & Mid-Year 2020)

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