“Breastfeeding is best for babies up to two years of age” That’s what we always hear at the end of every milk commercial on TV. Personally, I would like to have these commercials restricted from the public. The way they portray gifted children- it’s as if formula milk is the answer for rearing talented and smarter kids. But I am not shaming mothers who use formula milk because I understand that there are those who are forced to be away from their little ones for work and other important matters. It just makes me sad to the core that they are not experiencing the beauty of breastfeeding. It creates a bond so strong between a mother and child that is priceless and irreplaceable.
As a healthcare professional, I have attended various lactation seminars and have given educational campaigns to mothers solely for this topic alone. The theories and ten steps to successful breastfeeding were nailed deeply to me that it was invariably easy to repeat it to others over and over again. I really did not know what I was saying until I became a mother myself.
The benefits of breastfeeding are numerous and well resonated that I do not deem it necessary to point out each one. Instead, I would like to talk about the struggles of breastfeeding as a first time mom.
The first few weeks were hard. I did not know if I was giving her enough milk because my nipples were sore and painful all the time. Believe me, it gets better. I learned that this was normal for most first timers and that it was probably due to incorrect positioning. That is why it is important to be part of a local breastfeeding support group like the Modern Nanays of Mindanao so that you can connect with mothers going through similar problems. They also have peer counselors to guide you as you embark on your journey.
Another dilemma is breastfeeding in public. There has been quite a struggle in normalizing breastfeeding again. It seems that the breasts have been sexualized to a point that it is offensive and distasteful to some people to see a mother breastfeeding her child in public areas. I, for instance, always have to bring a nursing cover whenever I go outside so that I would not be exposed to leery eyes. But then there are tops and dresses (e.g. Elin) designed for nursing that make breastfeeding easier and covenient. It does not expose the breast out in the open. You can find many online shops that make these special types of apparel. However, if you need a place to feed and calm your fussy baby, it’s a good thing most establishments and malls have a breastfeeding room. It’s free of use, quiet and gives you the liberty of not having to cover your breasts. What a relief that is!
One piece of advice I would give to the moms to be is to invest in their nursing paraphernalias such as a reliable nursing pump and storage bags. I use a Haakaa silicon pump to catch milk letdown while nursing on the other breast and a Medela electric pump to produce output faster. There are two types of pump- manual and electric. Since most pumps come at a costly price, it is recommended to compare both pumps first to fit your needs and use. But if you are on a tight budget at home, you can always do hand expression. If I had known how to do this earlier, I would have not bought an electric pump. You can ask a peer counselor to demonstrate this or you can resort to youtube if all else fails. After all, everything is in the worldwide web.
The greatest struggle that I have had in my breastfeeding journey so far is low milk supply. I secretly get jealous of moms who have a lot of stash at home and are still able to donate some in the hospital. It’s truly a God given gift to be able to make milk. And even though I am not able to produce abundantly, I count myself blessed to provide milk enough for my baby’s needs. For this, I am thankful. If you ask me what the secret is for an abundant milk supply- it’s not the lactation goodies nor the malunggay capsules. It’s just unlilatch as they as. To put it simply, it’s just the law of supply and demand- the more you give latch time to your baby, the more milk your body produces.
Amidst these daily struggles, I am determined to see this through. I still have many months ahead of me. And I earnestly pray that I will be able to sustain. As for other lactating mothers like me, happy breastfeeding!