When we last left off in Dragon’s story, he had been released from hospital after gaining a suitable amount of weight back, and we were in the midst of a complicated trio of breastfeeding, formula supplementing, and artificial attempts at increasing my milk supply.
I’m happy to say that at 7 weeks, he’s a chubby little monkey who is growing out of clothes with each week.
And I’m also happy to say that we’ve resolved our feeding issues…in our own way.
When my mother was here, I had an extra pair of hands, an extra bit of time, and an additional person to discuss our feeding issues with, and I came to three conclusions. I like breastfeeding, and I think Dragon does too. And I can’t give it up. I just can’t. But – we also can’t go with just breastfeeding. We have to supplement, and my conclusion about supplementing with formula is that formula is also good, and I am happy that I have an additional way to feed my child when he can’t get what he needs from me. My final conclusion, was that the aspect of feeding which was stressing me out was trying to boost my milk supply. I was sick of pumping between feedings, sick of looking for more supplements that might increase my milk, and overall, just sick of trying to find that magic formula which would get it back up to where it needed to be for exclusive breastfeeding. Sorting out the various feelings and thoughts surrounding how and what Dragon eats gave us both a great deal of peace, and I think removing that stress from my life actually naturally increased my milk just a little bit. I’m not sure if we will ever be able to give up formula altogether, but that’s okay! We’re doing what works for us, and Dragon is back on track with this compromise.
Previous to and after Dragon’s birth, six other friends gave birth here in Korea within seven weeks of each other. And out of the seven, four of us encountered substantial breastfeeding issues, which led three of us to supplement and one to switch to formula alone. I know that these numbers are probably in part the result of the interconnectedness of the birthing expat population in Korea, but it still appears that many women struggle with breastfeeding. Therefore, keeping in mind the unique challenges English speaking expat mothers have in Korea, I’ve decided to put together a list of resources that either I or others I know have found helpful for helping us to deal with breastfeeding challenges. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I welcome readers’ suggestions and experiences because I want any woman searching for this information here to have the most comprehensive list of resources available to them so that they can make the best choices for themselves and their babies.
1. Lactation Consultants – I really really really wish I would have called a lactation specialist in right after Dragon’s birth. There’s a great group of women you can contact here. When we finally did make contact, the consultant came within hours of the call, and she came at 8 pm in order to be there for when Mr. Lee could be at home. The visit was 80,000 won and lasted just under two hours. During that time, she examined my breasts, watched me struggle to breastfeed, worked with Dragon to latch and…got me to get him to latch every.single.time. Seriously. Half an hour with her, and he became a perfect latcher. Of course, depending on the situation it might take more than one visit, but two other people I know have used this service and had equally positive results. There are women in different regions in Seoul and across the country, so there is probably someone in your area who can help you asap should you need assistance. Seriously, if you need help, call in the experts immediately. Of course, the women in this group are Korean, and most will not have very strong English skills. Mr. Lee was there to help me, so it wasn’t a problem, but even so, breastfeeding is so hands on and kinestetic, that if you have minimal Korean skills, you can probably do fine without a translator. Very helpful assistance can also be obtained by contacting any one of the doulas listed in the blog roll if you would prefer going that route, or if you want an English speaker. Additionally, while there is no longer a Le Leech League in Korea, apparently there is a leader who can consult with individuals. You can contact me if you would like her name.
2. Breast Pumps – There are several types and brands of breast pumps available here in Korea. Other than the baby fairs, gmarket is usually the cheapest and easiest way to compare prices and features. I have a Medela Swing, and it’s been a very good friend these last few weeks – especially when Dragon was hospitalised. However, the Medela website itself also allows you to rent a hospital grade pump which is often necessary to truly increase milk supply after a decline in production. You can also purchase a supplemental nursing system through the site if you are worried about nipple confusion.
3. Herbs and Supplements – Iherb still has the problematic shipping option as discussed here, but there’s a new passport option for expats without access to a Korean id number. However, iherb remains the easiest place to access herbal supplements like fenugreek and blessed thistle. You can also get Mother’s Herb Tea on Gmarket or Still Tea on Mom’s Mom.
4. Milk Bank – This is for mums with an overabundant supply as well. It seems, like blood donation, non Koreans have a difficult time donating breast milk here. However, there is an informal community that helps connect mums with extra milk with mums who need more. The group, Human Milk 4 Human Babies – South Korea, can be easily found through a Facebook search. If you need help or can help, this is a useful group for connecting with others!
5. Miscellaneous Items – When we brought Dragon home from the hospital, I was really struggling with caring for a newborn and trying to find time to breastfeed/pump/formula feed at the same time. So Mr. Lee did a lot of research and found a couple of helpful items to help reduce the amount of time I was spending on his bottles. If you are a formula feeding mum, you probably know about this already, but if circumstances suddenly force you to formula feed, you may be like me and not have any clue about the products available to help with bottle feeding. We ended up buying a fancy steriliser to help with the bottle cleaning load. Now, you can buy a smaller, cheaper steriliser; however, we went with this one because it was larger and could be used later to sterilise his toys, pacifiers, etc. Mr. Lee also found this electric kettle that keeps the water at an appropriate temperature to make up bottles quickly. Or, there’s also bottle warmers easily available here. Finally, although we started with The First Years’ ‘Breastflow’ bottles, we didn’t think they were very good for the transition between breast and bottle, so in the end, we bought the Double Heart nipples 더블하트 신모유실감젖꼭지 which are available on Mom’s Mom or Gmarket. They seem to help him go back and forth between breast and bottle much easier, and they attach to Avent bottles without problem.
6. Classes and Groups – There’s a range of breastfeeding education options available now. Birthing in Korea has a class, Journey Doula travels around holding free classes for mums who can get enough people together for a group, and starting soon, breastfeeding and baby care classes will be taught at Mediflower by Casey and Stacey. Birthing in Korea also hosts a breastfeeding support group at Homestead Coffee on the 3rd Thursday of each month from 10:30-12.
So those are the resources I know about, and the ones which have helped either myself or friends with breastfeeding issues. As I said earlier in the post, I welcome other info about resources in Korea because it is important that if mothers are struggling, that they get the help they need immediately so that their children remain healthy and thriving.
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