Every month, they take about 80 packets of frozen breast milk from Singapore to their home in Kedah, Malaysia, for their 8-month-old baby daughter.
Sales executive Chen Wei Chow, 33, and his wife, Lau Chai Hoong, 32, who are Malaysians, go to great lengths daily to pump and freeze the milk.
The couple, who work here, had their daughter in early September last year.
Madam Lau gave birth in Malaysia but could breastfeed her daughter only till the end of her maternity leave, when she had to leave the baby with her husband's parents and return to Singapore.
"We thought of ways and means to breastfeed the baby from Singapore. I joined several groups on Facebook, and researched how other mums stored their breast milk before deciding on a specific way to transport and store it," said Madam Lau.
Her breast milk is pumped, sealed in special plastic bags and then frozen in the refrigerator in their four-room flat in Woodlands.
Each bag of milk is carefully marked with the amount it holds, and the date and time it was expressed.
The bags are then packed into a styrofoam box.
Once a month, Mr Chen and his wife take the box and fly to Penang. It takes an hour and a half.
His father meets the couple at the airport and drives them further up north, back to their home, in a village in Kodiang, Kedah. That takes another two hours. The box is then quickly unpacked and put in a freezer.
Mr Chen's mother, who looks after the baby, waits for the milk to melt completely before warming it in a bottle submerged in hot water.
She then feeds her granddaughter.
One bag contains an average of 180ml of milk and is just enough for one feed.
"The frozen milk can last for about 10 hours in its special package. It's enough time for us to take it back home (to Kedah)...we've to be very careful to get every step right," said Mr Chen, who stays in Kedah for about two days each time with his wife.
Madam Lau pumps breast milk six times a day.
"Each session takes an hour and it feels like a needle prick," she said.
"She sets alarms to breastfeed, be it in the middle of the night or at her workplace," said Mr Chen.
5 TRIPS SO FAR
The couple have made a total of five trips home with the breast milk.
Once, Mr Chen got his brother to take the milk to Malaysia, with dramatic results - the shipment got lost, and was then found. (See report on right.)
Madam Lau, who works in a shopping mall, is grateful to her company for allowing her time off work to pump milk.
"On top of that, my colleagues are also very supportive of my decision to breastfeed from afar," she said.
The couple persist in providing their baby with breast milk, even though its storage and transportation cost more than milk powder.
"It's not a matter of money.
"Although I cannot be at my daughter's side, I want her to know that mummy doesn't mind the trouble," said Madam Lau.
It's not a matter of money. Although I cannot be my daughter's side, I want her to know that mummy doesn't mind the trouble.
- Madam Lau Chai Hoong
BOX OF MILK DIDN'T GET INTO PLANE
The couple almost lost a 20kg box of frozen breast milk in February this year.
Mr Chen Wei Chow had asked his younger brother, who also works here, to take the box with him on his flight home during Chinese New Year.
But his brother was unable to find it when he landed at Penang International Airport.
Said Mr Chen: "His own luggage went on the flight but the milk didn't."
It turned out that the box was at the lost and found department at Changi Airport.
"I was frantic. I quickly cabbed to Changi Airport. Worried that the milk would go bad, I asked to bring it home to freeze it again," said Mr Chen.
"Luckily there was no problem after my baby drank the milk."
REFREEZING THAWED MILK NOT RECOMMENDED
Dr Liew Woei Kang, consultant paediatrician at the SBCC Baby & Child Clinic in Gleneagles Medical Centre, said the couple's effort to send frozen breast milk to their child is commendable.
But refreezing breast milk that has thawed could be risky.
Frozen breast milk can last six months.
"It is currently not recommended to refreeze thawed breast milk due to concerns of bacteria overgrowth," said Dr Liew.
He said frozen breast milk's anti-bacterial effect drops significantly after it is thawed for 24 hours.
While there are no problems drinking re-frozen breast milk if there is no bacterial contamination, "the latter can result in vomiting and diarrhoea in babies", said Dr Liew.
This article was first published on May 27, 2015.
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