Baker extraordinaire and mama-of-one Syaira (also the mamapreneur behind Fluff Bakery!) shares more on her son’s adoption and her successful induced breastfeeding journey
Nursyazanna Syaira is the mama behind Fluff Bakery, a local halal bakery in the Kampong Glam district famous for its innovative cupcake flavours, delicious cakes, and delectable donuts. What you may not know is that Syaira and her husband Ashraf (who co-founded Fluff Bakery along with her) have adopted a child in the most unique way – the adoption went through practically overnight! Syaira also shares why it was important for her to induce lactation in order to breastfeed her son Noah, and the steps she took to make it a success. Keep reading for her incredible story, plus valuable insights and perspectives on motherhood and self-care.
Read on for a fun interview and gorgeous photos as always, courtesy of Irina Nilsson Photography!
Your adoption story is truly remarkable. Can you share what it was like leading up to the time you picked your son Noah up from the hospital?
That was really quite an emotional rollercoaster! We were called into the office of the adoption agency to have a chat about our application. A few minutes into the interview, we were told that there was a baby being discharged from the hospital and were then asked if we would like to adopt this baby boy. At that point my heart was just bursting with happiness – and we hadn’t even seen a single picture of him yet! When we were finally shown a photo of him, I knew that he was going to be my son. We then had about two hours to head to Mothercare and shop for everything. And I mean, EVERYTHING. Because when we woke up that morning, we didn’t know we were going to have a baby at home with us in the evening! From diapers, to bottles, wipes, formula, and pacifiers, you name it, we bought it. On the first night, we didn’t even have a cot or a bathtub for him. We just had to make do! I remember sitting in the car on the way to the hospital, in disbelief, and asking my husband, “Is this really it?” Was our backseat really full of baby items? Were we really on our way to pick up our son? We held hands and smiled all the way to the hospital.
Can you tell us more about your induced lactation journey?
My lactation journey was really so miraculous. For those who are unfamiliar with this practice, it was important for me to lactate and feed Noah my breastmilk because it would make our family relations easier. In Islam, when a boy or girl reaches puberty, they would then have to watch their relations with the opposite gender. This is why Muslim women and men should not show parts of their body to those with whom they are not married or don’t have a blood relation with. It’s quite complicated to try and explain this without delving into a whole essay… But in short, why this was important to me was that by giving Noah my breastmilk for a certain number of feeds and while he was still below two years of age, he would then be considered to have blood relations with me and my husband for life, and thus, with our extended family like our parents, siblings and so forth. To put it simply, it would be as if he was our very own flesh and blood.
This would simplify things when he comes of age, meaning he would still be able to give hugs to his grandmothers and aunts and so forth, also without them having to cover up with scarves and all in front of him, which is what they would have to do in front of non-family members or spouses. I already knew of this process way before we adopted Noah, so I initially had plans to get that sorted and freeze some milk so I would be ready when the baby finally came. But since Noah came to us quite unexpectedly, I rushed to see the doctor the very day after we came home with him.
I went to Dr. Mary Rauff at National University Hospital and was also guided by a lactation nurse there. I went home with hormone pills as well as some other medication to kickstart the process. I was advised to keep pumping and latching as much as I could to get the milk to kick in. The milk came in after about over a week! It was miraculous to see actual milk coming out of my breasts! However, I was a low supply mom, and had to pump and squeeze every single drop of milk (literally with a syringe!) and freeze it gradually to be able to give him the full feeds needed to fulfill the religious part of this practice. That was my aim – I didn’t place any pressure on myself to continue once I achieved it because of the time commitment and hassle of pumping. Imagine pumping for over an hour just to get about 20ml of milk per breast! I was just happy to be able to lactate and experience latching and breastfeeding at all.
What advice do you have for couples looking to adopt in Singapore?
Get your life in order before you apply. The application is rigorous and very intrusive. You should sort out your finances and make sure you are stable enough to care for a child financially. Really have a deep conversation with your spouse about the emotional side of adoption. Uncover the “why’s” and the fears. Everything will be asked in the home study before you adopt, including how you were parented and if you would parent in the same way. They will assess your mental health and psyche, your marriage, your principles and beliefs on child raising. Don’t bother to try and hide anything from your past or present, including the past of your immediate family members! There are cases where applicants didn’t pass their home study because they hid things from the social worker and their stories didn’t ‘add up’.
You should get started by going for a pre-adoption briefing (ours was with Touch services), which can be booked online via the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) website. There are other MSF-approved agencies that hold these briefings and all are listed on the MSF adoption website. We then went through APKIM, who usually handles the adoption of Muslim babies in Singapore. Be prepared to wait though, as Singapore has a low birth rate, which in turn means a very low number of babies being put up for adoption.
Can you talk us through your career pre- and post-baby?
Career wise, I already took a step back from the day-to-day runnings of the bakery as we found very capable staff to take over. We actually opened another bakery in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia but closed it and came back to Singapore before the adoption happened. I think it was all fated for us to come back home and give all our attention to Noah. I was able to focus my energy and mental space to adjusting to having a newborn and raising him without worrying about going ‘back to work’, and for that I am very very grateful.
How did you get back into the swing of things after having your son?
At first the adrenaline and novelty pushed me through. Everything was exciting and new and amazing and miraculous, but after things settled down, I found myself being just… exhausted! I needed to be myself again, without taking any part of being a mom away from my identity.
So I started to take up boxing and spinning classes, and took time to just have coffee with my friends without Noah. Those few hours were so precious for me to recharge. Just simply taking a long bus ride with music playing in my earphones made me feel like myself again! Of course I was checking my phone every few minutes to see if my husband could handle things at home but after a while I didn’t feel guilty because he is equally a parent as I am, and I trust him. Fathers are parents. They’re not ‘helpers’ that should be applauded for watching the child for a couple of hours or changing a few diapers!
I believe that when I’m happy and mentally stable, I’m able to be a better mother and wife. Self care, guys! You can’t give from an empty cup so do remember to fill your cup first! I also made it a point to go out with Noah often! We cafe-hopped and went out for meals and even just to read. We did all this while he was in the carrier, and this made me feel like life was still normal. We could still do all the things we did before, just with a baby strapped onto me. I think I would have lost it if I was cooped up at home all the time. On the upside, this gave me so much confidence to go out with Noah and handle him outside of the home, one outing at a time. He also got used to being outside (this means diaper changes anywhere and everywhere! Bench, table, wherever! We always asked for hot water to make his milk from the cafes we went to) and he wasn’t fussy most of the time. Thankful for that too!
How do you maintain an identity separate from your child?
I don’t think it’s possible to ‘peel off’ the mom from our identities. It’s forever part of us. I’ve not changed as a person. I just have a new role that’s added on to my already whole self! So I do things for myself without Noah. Like going to spin classes and baking classes, cycling around Singapore, hanging out with friends, and basically doing things that I was already doing without him. I continued exploring baking and cooking at home because I really love to do that. We can’t stop doing the things we love just because we are now mothers. But that also doesn’t mean I don’t want to be identified as a mom. I identify with being a mother and that is my identity, and it just happens to be the most important thing to me at this point in my life. I just have a life too besides being a mom.
How has having a child changed the way you define work?
I have learnt that being a mom is work too! That being productive not only looks like working at my job all day, but the day-to-day caring for a child. Planning a child’s menu and cooking for them – that’s work too. Planning their sensory play stuff? Work too! Caring for them when they’re sick? That’s damn hard work. I’ve learnt to give myself credit for doing a mama’s job, and not just the job of running a bakery.
How do you save time? What are your organisational tricks and tips?
To be honest, I’m the most disorganised person ever! Haha! I’m the ideas person, so it helps to have a spouse that does the organising for me. As for the things I do, I try to do it all when my child is asleep. All the cooking for meal prep – I cook several batches and freeze them. That’s meals for the next few days sorted. I cook meals that we can eat together as a family, so I don’t have to cook extra dishes specially for my child.
I wish I had more time for…
Doing nothing! I think all moms are busy all day long, whether it’s work and then making time for family or just running errands and sorting out the household. My me-time starts when my child goes to sleep for the night. But sometimes I’m just so exhausted. I wish I had more time to just sit on my couch and Netflix all night, or catch up on a nap or two… don’t we all need it?!
I always feel saner after….
I’ve had some me-time! Going for my spin classes or just a coffee hang-out with friends without my toddler or spouse – it gives me some time to just listen to music or rant to my girlfriends, you know. Like I said, you can’t give from an empty cup!
What part of Singapore do you live in? What are the top 3 things to do in your neighbourhood?
I live in Telok Blangah and it’s wonderful neighbourhood to be in! It’s a super short drive away from the hustle and bustle of town, a bus ride away from the beaches at Sentosa, with various hiking trails and the serenity of nature around Mount Faber or Hort Park. I get the view of the sea from my kitchen balcony, cable cars and Mount Faber as well as the CBD from my living room and that’s just amazing.
Favourite kid-friendly activity in Singapore?
Noah LOVES water play, so we go to the one at Gardens by the Bay a lot! Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden is amazing too! They have a pond with fishes and turtles and Noah loves that. I’m also quite a “whatever, as long as it’s safe” kinda mom so any random fountains or ponds work too. Shoes off and go for it kid! The fun stops when we run out of an extra outfit and diapers to change into after the messy dirty play – oops!
Favourite kid-friendly restaurants in Singapore?
I cafe-hop a lot and we’ve been doing that since Noah was a few weeks old. Our fav haunt is The Glasshouse at Chijmes. The staff there has seen him since he was a baby and so he kinda gets free reign there exploring and saying hello to random strangers. Once he even sat at another table, charmed the pants off them and they fed him their pastry (which he happily ate!).
Do you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
My husband’s main love language is quality time, so now that Noah goes to school, we get to spend mornings having a coffee or breakfast together! Mine is physical touch so I’m always holding hands or giving hugs. I think it’s important for my child to see his parents having a loving relationship as well!
Favourite date night restaurants?
As a mama I wish I were better at…
Regulating my own emotions when I’m overwhelmed. I have much to unlearn from my childhood and the way I was parented so it’s hard work consciously rewriting the way I react to Noah when he is ‘pushing back’ or ‘giving me a hard time’. Because he’s not giving me a hard time, he IS having a hard time. I always try to remind myself that I’m the adult with a mature brain and he is a child that’s still learning to regulate his emotions. So I should be the one to control myself and guide him through it. Not to give in to the instinctive “Stop that!” or “Stop it right now!” reflex. That’s tough.
What’s your favourite family ritual?
Meals are a big part of our family time so it’s really precious for me to have us all sit together for a meal. It lets us talk about our day and enjoy our food together.
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about….
If my child has enough school uniforms for the next day. Or if he has peed through his pyjamas. Ahh reality. Mostly I don’t wake up in the middle of the night because I’m exhausted!
My favourite moment of the day is…
The look on my child’s face as he runs into my arms with his arms outstretched for a big hug at school pick-ups! The best feeling in the world!
Thank you so much Syaira for your thoughtful and candid answers! Make sure you follow Syaira on Instagram @syarsyaira and check out Fluff Bakery when you’re in Kampong Glam. And as always, a massive thank you to Irina Nilsson Photography for the gorgeous-as-ever snaps of Syaira and Noah in their home!