Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? We’d love to hear more about what you’re passionate about. Heard that currently are living in the shadow of an active volcano, Etna. That sounds like an intense environment! How has this affected your day-to-day with a newborn?
My name is Sharon Pan and I guess you can say Iâ€™m from all over. During my childhood, I grew up in California, Taiwan, and New Jersey. After college, I lived and worked in NYC for 7 years so thatâ€™s usually my answer when Iâ€™m asked where Iâ€™m from. Food and travel always fascinated me since I was a kid and Iâ€™m lucky to have the opportunity to explore my passions and be immersed in new cultures thanks to my husbandâ€™s career as a U.S Naval officer. Weâ€™re currently stationed in Sicily with Mount Etna as our backdrop. The volcano is active but, according to the locals, the risk of a large eruption is small due to the constant activity which prevents the pressure from building up. Aside from the volcano, Sicily is a very beautiful island and has a very relaxed atmosphere. People here are friendly and very family-oriented so itâ€™s been great strolling around town with my newborn.
What do you do for work? What do you love most about your job? Do you have any stories from working with moms and babies that have resonated with you over the years?
Iâ€™m currently a full-time housewife, but prior to moving to Sicily, I worked in finance in NYC for a large global bank for 7 years. After I got married, I moved to Baltimore with my husband for his first duty station and decided to explore my interests for the year that we were there. During that time I launched my own Etsy shop selling a variety of homemade chocolate truffles, did dog walking/dog sitting on the side, as well as online financial services consulting. I also briefly worked on my friendâ€™s startup as the CFO(Chief Financial Officer)/COO (Chief Operating Officer). After a year in Baltimore, we moved to Okinawa, Japan where I was a financial analyst for the Marine Corps. Since moving to Sicily 2 years ago, Iâ€™ve been a full-time housewife and I have to admit that I really love it. Before having my baby (and pre-pandemic), my husband and I were able to do a lot of traveling across Europe and doing short weekend trips. And when we werenâ€™t traveling, I was able to use the extra time to really enjoy my day, explore the local markets, go for long walks around town and along the sea, exercise, and meet up with friends for an aperitvo or an impromptu beach day. Now with the little one, Iâ€™m so grateful for the opportunity to really bond and spend time with him. Taking care of a newborn is an adventure in itself and itâ€™s been fascinating to see all the changes and growth heâ€™s undergoing each week.
Tell us about your first impressions or pre-conceived notions you may have had about breastfeeding and pumping? How did the real thing compare to the picture you had created in your mind?
I didnâ€™t have much of an idea of the challenges of breastfeeding and pumping until my friends started having kids and sharing their own journeys and struggles with me. I figured that latching would be one of the biggest hurdles Iâ€™d have to face so I did a lot of research online and watched youtube videos on different methods and tips for getting your baby to latch properly. I didnâ€™t do much research on pumping because I figured that was fairly straightforward. Despite all my research on breastfeeding, I still faced latching issues mainly because my baby was born 6 weeks early. Because he couldnâ€™t latch, he had to be bottle fed formula for the first week in the hospital because my milk hadnâ€™t come in. Then he had to stay in the NICU an extra week and I was only allowed to see him for 20 minutes a day so I could only pump and drop off bags of expressed milk since I wasnâ€™t allowed to hold him while he was in the NICU. It was a difficult period especially since I wasnâ€™t producing enough milk at the time and the flange I got was too big so it was painful to pump. Also, since my baby was a preemie, he was having issues staying awake for feedings and gaining weight. It was a real struggle and I was getting frustrated with my body for not producing enough milk and also experienced a little anxiety thinking about how to ensure that my baby would be properly fed once we brought him home from the hospital.
Talk to us about breastfeeding and pumping during COVID. It’s been an emotional ride and it would help lots of moms to hear your story of how you got through this already challenging experience during a pandemic.
COVID has been a difficult time for everybody and it certainly threw a wrench into our expectations and plans. Originally I was supposed to give birth at the US Naval hospital, but because my baby came 6 weeks early, I had to give birth in a local Sicilian hospital. Due to COVID, only patients were allowed to be admitted to the hospital, therefore, when my baby got admitted to the NICU I was only allowed one 20-minute visit a day and I could only touch him through the windows of his incubator. As a result, when I pumped at home, I couldnâ€™t produce enough milk because he wasnâ€™t nearby. Also, my flange was too big so it was causing trauma around the base of my nipple and it was very painful to pump. I wanted to buy a smaller flange and was desperate to get it quick because at the time it was taking about a month to receive mail from the States. I was so grateful to speak to an Ameda representative who was so helpful and connected me to a contact in Europe that expedited a flange reducing insert for me so I pump more comfortably.
What’s the most unusual piece of advice you’ve received about motherhood?
I donâ€™t know if Iâ€™ve received any unusual advice but one piece of advice that has resonated with me is from my mother. She said, no matter how busy you are, sometimes you need to drop what youâ€™re doing and just enjoy time with your little one. She mentioned that she didnâ€™t have that chance when raising me and now as a grandmother, she realizes how important it is to cherish those moments.
Name some nursing/feeding items that you can’t live without.
I definitely cannot live without my Ameda Mya pump! I like that itâ€™s portable and quiet so I can pump at night without waking up my husband or baby. Also nursing bras, burp cloths, and nipple cream are my must-haves!
Can you tell us about your first experience with Ameda and how it led you to become a long-time Ameda user?
My first experience with Ameda was when I was looking to buy a smaller flange. As I mentioned previously, I was desperate to get it ASAP and didnâ€™t want to wait a month for it to arrive. Unfortunately, the flange for the Ameda Mya could only be shipped via UPS which is not available on overseas U.S bases. The Ameda representative was so great and put me in touch with the European representative who was equally amazing. He found a resolution for me and put together a package that included flange-reducing inserts for flanges that would work with the Ameda Mya. I received it within 2 weeks and it was a lifesaver!
What’s one piece of advice you wish you would had known beforehand and would like to share with other moms?
Taking care of a newborn for the first time is daunting and challenging and you donâ€™t need to go through it all alone. Donâ€™t be scared to reach out for help when you need it. And remember to take time for yourself and to take care of your own well-being. Your baby will thank you for it.