Ready, get set... no go? Breastfeeding - usually a natural process - may not come easily to all mothers.
First-time mother Ms Lilian Lee is one such person.
The eager new mum of a two-month-old baby girl started on breastfeeding as soon as her infant was born but she was forced to stop 11/2 weeks later.
The 27-year-old teacher said: 'I'd wanted to breastfeed as long as I could but I soon experienced engorged breasts. They got very hard, painful and red.'
She had developed mastitis, an inflammation within the breasts. Her doctor gave her antibiotics to clear the bacteria infecting the plugged milk duct in her left breast and she had to stop breastfeeding because of the medication.
The mastitis was caused by bacteria entering the milk duct through her cracked nipples, which occurred when her infant did not latch onto her breasts properly.
She recovered and returned to breastfeeding her baby. However, Ms Lee then came down with a 40 deg C fever and another bout of mastitis.
It was back to the hospital for the mother. This time, the doctors said an abscess had formed in her left breast.
A breast abscess is a local accumulation of pus within the breast due to infection.
The abscess had to be drained six times before her breast healed. Although that infection is now cleared, Ms Lee still needs to be scheduled for an ultrasound breast scan to determine the condition of her left breast later this year .
She has stopped breastfeeding her baby completely and is currently on medication to stop lactation.
Her painful experience has put her off breastfeeding her children in future.
She said: 'I'm a young mother and I had this painful and traumatic experience. Yet I see mothers all around me and they're all right with breastfeeding.'
She is now feeding her baby infant formula, an alternative which costs her more than $150 a month.
'Initially, I was sad I couldn't breastfeed my baby but my husband encouraged me by saying that formula milk is also very good as it has all sorts of added vitamins and minerals.
'I see my girl growing well with it, so I feel less guilty now.'
SHE HAS ENOUGH MILK FOR TWO
Mother of two Ms Violet Teo has a way to nip sibling rivalry in the bud.
The 33-year-old administrative executive breastfeeds both her children at the same time on occasion.
She said: 'When my elder boy sees how close his little sister is to me when I breastfeed her, he'll feel I love him as much as her when I breastfeed him too. It teaches him the concept of sharing.'
Ms Teo's son Davin is two years old and her daughter, Jeslyn, is five months old.
Even when Ms Teo was pregnant with Jeslyn, she continued to breastfeed Davin.
Asked if she experienced any difficulties breastfeeding Davin while pregnant, she said: 'My nipples and breasts were more sensitive then. My milk supply also dipped towards the end of my pregnancy as it changed to prepare for the new baby.'
Jeslyn was born premature at 33 weeks. As the newborn was too small to be breastfed, Ms Teo expressed her breast milk into bottles and bottle-fed her.
After one month, when Jeslyn had grown bigger, Ms Teo began breastfeeding her directly once a day to encourage her to learn how to coordinate suckling and breathing.
Ms Teo said: 'By her second month, she could latch on strongly and she could better coordinate her breathing and swallowing.'
Asked why she felt strongly about breastfeeding her children, Ms Teo replied: 'It's the best gift you can give your kids. Women can only breastfeed after delivering a baby.
'And looking back, you do save a lot of money.'
Ms Teo plans to nurse her children until they lose interest in breastfeeding.
That is still some way off for Jeslyn. On weekdays, she is bottle-fed breast milk eight times a day. On weekends and on weekday nights, MsTeo - freed from the needs of work - breastfeeds Jeslyn directly as and when she demands it.
She admits that returning to work while still breastfeeding was tough.
'Even if I have a lot of work to do, I still have to squeeze some time out to pump breast milk. It's like an extra item in my work routine.'
This article was first published in Mind Your Body, The Straits Times on Aug 21, 2008.