“Welcome to the Milk Mama Diaries Carnival (August). For this month, we write about the World Breastfeeding Week 2014 – Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal for Life and share how breastfeeding can help the Philippines achieve the 8 Millennium Development Goals developed by the government and the United Nations. Participants will share their thoughts, experiences, hopes and suggestions on the topic. Please scroll down to the end of the post to see the list of carnival entries.”
I wish I could say that my son has been purely breastfed since birth, that he has a virgin gut, that I have never let him taste formula milk but I can’t. My son was born S.G.A (small for gestational age) and was admitted to the N.I.C.U (neonatal intensive care unit) to be treated for hypoglycemia and hypothermia. We had incompatible blood and he developed jaundice. Looking back, I should have stepped in, but that was a year ago. After four long labor days at home and a painful natural birth, my son was shivering and I cannot produce milk (or so I thought) and feeling like a failure, our neonatologist explained why we have to give our son formula milk while I wept ( I have planned on breastfeeding before I even planned on getting married or having children) and my husband was trying to talk the doctor out of giving our baby formula milk (which was never in the birth plan) but we were told that newborns are expected to lose weight the first two weeks of life and my too small son has no other choice but to feed on formula because I had no milk.
Now that I can think coherently, I traced most of the things went wrong started after I gave birth. The delivery room was awfully cold that I was shivering after I gave birth. My son was wrapped in a warm blanket before being given to me for him to latch on/to do kangaroo care or what is known in the Philippines as “Unang Yakap” (read more on Unang Yakap here: http://unangyakap.doh.gov.ph/enc.html ). I tried to feed him but nothing prepared me for that first moment of nursing. I was exhausted and I couldn’t see my son’s mouth nor did anyone said anything whether he is latched on or if what I was doing was right. I wish I had someone knowledgeable and not sleep deprived for four days who can let me know what I’m doing wrong and what I can do right (I am not pointing fingers here. It’s just that it would have been better if a lactation consultant was with me at the time).
My tiny son was constantly being taken from me and put on the warmer to be measured, taken vital signs every 3- 5 minutes,etc. I should have spent more time holding him. I should have asked that they turn off the aircon because it was not only I, an adult,who was shivering but also my little boy who was so brand new to this world who needed warmth and his mommy. I could have given him the warmth he needed, he would not have had hypothermia, he would not have had chills and cause his blood sugar to drop. I could have started breastfeeding earlier, I could have tried more. I should have..I could have…
Despite the circumstances, I still pushed for breastfeeding. I almost never left the NICU. I would feed my son for almost an hour (I did not see any milk and proceeded to think that I did not have any milk, not even colostrum which is absurd but logical to my crazy mind at the time), then let the nurse or my husband or my mom give him the formula. Yes my nipples hurt, my episiotomy hurts even worse (even more so when I walk several halls from my room to the NICU every two hours) but I was determined to breastfeed. Because he was small, it was important that we keep on a schedule: feed every two hours without fail. By then, I had the help of several lactation consultants. I learned that I really wouldn’t have a lot of milk but that whatever I might have, had already been sucked by my baby. I was doubtful of course. I should have believed them. Breastmilk does not overflow, drip from your boobs and spurt everywhere to be enough. The body produces only what my baby needs. It’s one of the things that make it special. In my case, my transition milk came by Monday night. We were home by then(I never fed my son formula since we left the hospital by Sunday).
Are you still there? Please keep on reading. We’re going to the good part!
My son never lost weight and although he has never been a chubby baby and his weight gain is slow, he is very strong and healthy. He reaches all his milestones on time. Some even ahead of time. He is the love of our lives. If I love him so much, why would I give him less than what’s best? Here are my reasons for being so keen on breastfeeding and why, a year later, I am still breastfeeding:
- The bond it creates. When motherhood comes to my mind, even when I was little (I was mixed fed), I would think of a mother holding or nursing her baby. A bottle was just never in the picture when I imagined it. The feeling of being able to provide food, love, comfort and the feeling of security to our child through something which God has so generously and wonderfully designed only for us, mothers, to do–that alone is priceless.
- Our body produces oxytocin when we breastfeed which most of us know is the happy hormone! It makes us happy! Obviously, it decreases the possibility of post partum depression. And the bonus part: this hormone also helps the uterus return back to its normal size (who doesn’t want a normal sized uterus after having it stretched for 9 months and having a seemingly indisposable pregnancy pouch?). Not bad,eh?
- Studies have shown that mothers who breastfeed have lower risk of having breast and ovarian cancer. They also decrease their chances of cardiovascular diseases like high blood pressure and even high cholesterol! Baby is healthy, mom has lower risk in so many diseases! Win-win!!
- Studies have proven that breastfed babies are less likely to have diarrhea and pneumonia. Unlike formula, breastmilk does not need bottles and water which can be easily contaminated. In fact, breastmilk is complete nutrition for our little ones. No need to give water because 88% of breastmilk is water. In formula feeding, one wrong move or accidental contamination and the baby gets sick. I remember my college professor who was a breastfeeding advocate, would ask during health teachings, “How old are you? In your ___years of existence, nakakita ka na ba ng utong na nilalangaw o nahulog sa lupa?” I think that pretty much makes the entire point.
- Nursing mothers need extra 500 calories per day because the food we eat, the baby also eats! In fact, we need to eat more than pregnant mothers do (Pregnant: plus 300 calories unless otherwise advised by doctor) . Who does not love eating more? The best part? It is SO easy to lose weight! In fact, I have lost my pregnancy weight in less than two months just breastfeeding (I am not a fan of exercise and diet to be honest). I fit into my pre-pregnancy bikinis four months after giving birth. If that is not enough motivation for vain moms(not that I am. Lol!), I don’t know what is.
- Enteromammary pathway! According to La Leche League International, Whatever bacteria or viruses we have been exposed to or are already immune to, we develop antibodies for it that we transfer via breastmilk. Same goes with our babies. If my baby becomes exposed to a bacteria or virus, he will pass it on to me when he feeds. My immune system will create antibodies for it and will be in my milk so the next time my son feeds, he will have antibodies for it as well. Amazing? Oh yeah! No formula milk can do that! God designed breastmilk so perfectly that babies’ immature immune system will have the best fighting chance to survive and prevent various diseases! So yes, moms with cough and colds can breastfeed (although it is better if you wear a mask–which I do not do) because you have already exposed your baby to the bacteria or virus before your illness even presented itself. Your breastmilk can give the baby better fighting chance to not get sick than stopping breastfeeding which by now, you probably have learned, will be useless.
Now, of course there are times that your baby will get sick (mine did) but if he was not breastfed, it could be worse. Remember, breastmilk is a child’s first immunization. My son got cough and colds during flu season but unlike all the other babies who saw the doctor with the same problem, he did not have fever. He was also in a better disposition than the other babies and our (new) breastfeeding advocate pediatrician attributed this to the fact that he is breastfed.
- One of the great things I love about breastmilk is that it provides complete nutrition at zero cost. The nutritional content of breastmilk is so complete that it provides everything a growing baby could ever need and it changes its nutritional content over time depending on our babies’ nutritional needs! How cool is that?! God made it so perfect and the best part is–it’s free!!!
The only hindrances I have found are the availability of formula and the mentality that “it’s OKAY to give formula” because IT IS NOT. When they say formula is more convenient and complete, I hope the person saying that is just kidding. I was sent milk samples weeks prior to giving birth and at first I was glad I did not have to purchase formula IF I want to mix feed. Which I don’t. But. Oh. Hey, it’s available and for now, it’s free. Then I read the ingredients (as I always do before I eat something when I was pregnant) and I was appalled to see the top ingredients: sugar, corn syrup, vegetable oil! I could go on and on but this entry is long enough as it is. I mean, just imagine eating processed food everyday. I tried to taste formula milk just so I know the taste and I almost threw up! Now imagine a newborn stomach taking that in,depending on it for nutrition and growth. What a sad, sad thought.
Also, just because a person is a doctor or nurse that does not make him/her a breastfeeding expert. My take on this is that, all medical personnels must be given extra training and education on breastfeeding if we really want the medical field to be a RELIABLE source of support. Look at our former neonatologist, right? Let’s not go too far. I mean, just look at me, a non practicing registered nurse. I should have known better too!
Some may reason out, I do not have enough milk. That is just a misconception! I have been there. Send me a message so we can talk more about it. My advice? Do not supplement on formula. If I can make a do-over, I would not have had formula fed my son ever. Another advice is: Demand to be close to him. It is important that you try to feed him/make him latch on as soon as he is born. The earlier the better! He can stimulate milk production.
Some say, they are working moms and cannot breastfeed. Guess what?! You are on maternity leave so while you are on that leave, you have no excuse not to breastfeed. Talk to your human resources staff about breastfeeding law (read more here:http://www.lawphil.net/statutes/repacts/ra2010/ra_10028_2010.html). You should be able to pump at work. I can only imagine how hard it must be BUT there are so many moms who did it and are still doing it. It just takes a lot of will power and extra effort.
Some reason out, they delivered via Cesarean Section. That is not an excuse. I can only imagine how much it hurts but you can still do it. So many moms have been there and they did it! You can too! Others reason out, it’s too burdensome. Believe me, I’ve been there (and all other exclusively bf mommas too!). I was at a certain point when I was wondering why I was still alive after being sleepless for a few months and yet, I held on and survived. My son had colic and reflux and had to be fed upright for 5 1/2 months . Those 5 1/2 months, I fed every two hours and dozed off in a sitting position. Lying down is an almost forgotten experience for me which,if it ever occurred, never lasted more than 2 hours. But I kept on going because I know I am giving God’s best to my son.
The thought that God made me for this, that millions of women since the biblical times have been breastfeeding–the way God intended babies to be fed, kept me strong. It’s a blessing to have a supportive husband too (a strong support system is a must!). And with God’s grace, I was able to make it. A day at a time. It is hard but not impossible. Giving up on our babies for convenience should not be an option. We are parents for a reason. Part of being a parent is choosing what is best for our child. Breastmilk is the best. I am telling you–EVERYONE AND ANYONE CAN BREASTFEED. I did it. You can too! It entails only a mother’s commitment, not capability (your capability is a given fact! You are enough!).
If you have a treasure, wouldn’t you share it with your child? What if I tell you that your treasure right now is available, at no cost, just waiting to be given to your baby who cannot speak for himself what he truly needs? I implore you. Please. Please. Please. Give your liquid gold to the one it was created for–your baby.
I am Diane Tolentino, a mother of a small for gestational age baby with lip tie. I have been breastfeeding for 12 months and one week as of writing this. What seemed to be one of the hardest struggles of my life has turned out one of the most beautiful. It is worth it. My child is worth it. Your child is worth it.
For Filipina breastfeeding moms and moms-to-be, you do not have to go through this alone. I encourage you to join Breastfeeding Pinays on facebook. It’s free. You need all the support you can get. Trust me, an awesome support group can make all the difference.
Here are many thoughts and reasons why we should all advocate for mothers to breastfeed for the first 1,000 days of life #BF1st1000days