My Breastfeeding Journey + 10 Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms
Published on August 26, 2016
Apparently, August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month that’s why I decided to dedicate a spot on my blog to document my breastfeeding journey. My Little Kolokoy is currently nine months old. I know mothers who have been in this journey longer so I am definitely not an expert on this. But this is my blog so I have the right to write anything I wish. Haha! Just kidding. But seriously, there might be a clueless, neophyte mother out there who is probably feeling desperate and needs a boost to make her continue with her journey. I hope you will learn a thing or two from my post.
Every journey is different. Here is mine...
I promised myself that I would be breastfeeding all my kids. Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Aside from the fact that this condition made us wait for almost four years to conceive a child, I was also preparing myself for another struggle that I was about to face. Women diagnosed with PCOS usually suffer from inadequate milk supply. This is why I chose to be proactive. The moment my pregnancy was confirmed, I started incorporating malunggay and soups in my daily diet. I am asthmatic so I was trained at a young age to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. Keeping myself hydrated has never been a struggle for me.
I’m glad that I gave birth in St. Luke’s Global. All their medical practitioners helped me during my first few days of breastfeeding Zayne. Zayne was immediately put on my chest for the UNANG YAKAP and for her first latch. I looked at my tiny newborn baby, looking so peaceful while feeding. I told myself, “So this is how to breastfeed a baby. It’s so easy! How hard can it get?!”
I spoke too soon!
We were wheeled in our room around midnight. A few hours later, I wanted to apologize to the Breastfeeding Goddess for my blasphemous remark about breastfeeding. It’s not freakin’ easy!!! Zayne was crying non-stop! I was doing everything by the book. I was applying everything I learned from years of reading other mommy blogs and breastfeeding forums. I was doing whatever the nurses, doctors and lactation consultants told me to do. But Zayne was still crying. It didn’t help that I gave birth via CS so my entire body was sore. I was sleepless and groggy. And this tiny monster on my arms just would not stop crying!
I wanted to give up, but I am glad that I didn’t. One of the lactation consultants gave me more tips. She said that Zayne is a natural with her good latch and sucking movements. She said that Zayne was just getting frustrated because milk was probably not coming out. She told me that I just needed to be patient and continue to offer my breast. After all, a newborn baby wants a mother’s breast not just for her milk but also for comfort. But I started to doubt my milk supply. Sabi ko, “Shet! Wala nga yata talaga akong gatas!”
Things became harder the following days. There was this one time when three pediatricians had to help me restrain Zayne while feeding her. I was about to cry out of disappointment, frustration and shame. Oo, shame. Hiyang hiya ako sa mga doktor sa pag-eeskandalo ng anak ko. Haha! But seriously, I felt like a failure. I felt like I was not giving what my baby needed. I felt like a
Milk finally started flowing the next few days. My newborn baby was latched to me almost every single minute. I was sleep-deprived, exhausted and in so much pain. But if I were given the chance to do it all over again, I gladly would. That awesome feeling of looking at your baby sleeping soundly so close to your body is something I would never ever trade for anything. I finally had milk. I was finally giving what my baby needed. I told myself that everything is just hard at the beginning. I thought that things would start to get easier.
Again, I spoke too soon.
Strike 2 na ako with the Breastfeeding Goddess! Hahaha!
Other moms had issues with inadequate supply. It was something I prepared for given the fact that it is known to come with women with PCOS. My PCOS “side effect” was something I didn’t even see coming. I didn’t even know that there is such thing. Instead of inadequate milk supply, I had OVERSUPPLY! I found out later on that 1 out of 3 women with PCOS suffer from oversupply of breastmilk. So you might say it’s not a problem. Well, you’re dead wrong!
First, I wasn’t prepared for it. I didn’t even have milk storage at that time. I was collecting milk in a mason jar! I would keep it in the refrigerator and put it in Zayne's water for bathing to cure her infant acne. My friend, Joie, gave me a three-piece Looney Tunes storage bottle. But it only took me 2 days to fill them. I really thought that it was the normal kind of milk supply. I only realized that I was having an oversupply when my best friend saw our freezer. She kept on telling me that I didn’t need milk bags. “Storage bottles lang, Tol! Sayang ang milk bags. Itatapon mo lang agad.” I showed her our freezer. “Ay antokwa! Dati ako isang kahig, isang tuka ang gatas. Milk bags nga kailangan mo, Tol!”
Second, it pained me as a mother to see Zayne suffering from oversupply. Someone told me, “Ang sarap kaya ng problema mo. Ang dami mong gatas e.” Well, that person never saw my baby repeatedly choking from my own milk! She would cry endlessly after each letdown. Ikaw ba naman palunukin ng rumaragasang gatas! And she was just a couple of weeks old!
With the help of Google, I started to make things a bit more bearable for both of us. I would feed her in a laid back position. My husband was always on the lookout during feeding time. I would hand express milk before making Zayne latch, and I would pass her back to Boyet in case she starts to choke so I could hand express the milk again. I had to delay using an electric pump thinking that it would make my oversupply problem even worse. That routine made me a master of hand expressing milk. Haha!
The struggle became harder when I had to come back to work after my maternity leave. It was so hard for me to develop a pattern in expressing milk. Even if I had to pump every 2-3 hours, I still kept on leaking. Imagine niyo ha. Kakabalik ko lang ng work. Naghahabol ako sa mga na-miss ko, tapos sisirit ang gatas ko in the middle of a meeting kahit kakatapos ko lang mag-pump! Nyahaha!
But I managed to embrace my oversupply issue. I figured that it was God’s way of compensating me for having dysfunctional ovaries. I donated my excess breastmilk. I first gave a few bags to Boyet's officemate who gave birth to a premature baby. I also donated to a local hospital. I was also a “surrogate” mom to Enchang, Aubrey’s niece. Enchang’s mom also has PCOS. I also gave bags of milk to my long-time friend and mommy batchmate, Dianne. Her daughter, Padi, was born just three weeks after I gave birth to Zayne. Hirap na hirap man ako magka-baby dati, biglang dami naman ng “babies” ko because of my milk. =)
I still don't use a pump so I am hand expressing my "excess" milk because Zayne gets bothered with the forceful letdown of milk. In less than a month, I think I was able to store more than 100 ounces of milk just by hand expressing. I'm not sure if I'm just lucky or my body probably thinks that it needs to feed two babies. Every time Zayne cries because of her "milk showers", I can't help but remember her twin who we lost. So when my husband told me that he has an officemate who gave birth to a premature baby in need of breastmilk, I was more than willing to share my stash. So yeah, these should have been for you, our little angel. But I get comfort in knowing that these will help another baby. I hope our little angel is smiling down on us. 😘
I started hand expressing breastmilk for Zayne when she was around two weeks old. This is how our freezer looks like now that she's two months old. Each bag contains two to three ounces of milk. Again, these are all hand expressed. I was initially worried with my milk supply because of my polycystic ovaries that's why I'm grateful that it didn't become a problem when Zayne arrived. I thank God for giving me the ability to feed my child. And as a matter of fact, I was able to donate around 30 bags of milk to Boyet's officemate who gave birth to a premature baby. My ovaries may be dysfunctional, but my mammary glands are in excellent condition! Hahaha!!! 😂😂😂
Zayne will be starting on solids in less than a month, but my milk supply is still the same. I have been helping a fellow mommy who has problems with her milk supply, but since her baby is also starting on solids soon, I decided to give away some of my stash to a local public hospital. Zayne is now a big sister to so many babies! 😊
My milk supply has now stabilized. I already stopped donating milk because I am now producing enough for Zayne’s needs. I still have some frozen breastmilk, but those are being used to compensate my “bad days” of milk production. On good days, I can take home around 16oz milk for Zayne. I express milk in the office using an electric pump twice a day. On better days, I can hand express 6oz of milk just from my right boob alone. Hahaha. Yes, hand express. Pake niyo ba e overachiever si right e. :p
I have been exclusively breastfeeding Zayne for nine months. I plan to do so as long as I can. I know (and I admire) a lot of mothers who have been in this journey longer than I have been. I don’t consider myself as an “expert”, but in case you’re currently lost and clueless, like I was not so long ago, here are some tips:
1. Commit to it.
I believe that commitment is one of the major contributors in being successful in your breastfeeding journey. You commit that you'll continue breastfeeding your child despite the hardships. Know that there will be days when your nipples will get sore, your baby will bite, you’ll be too tired and too sleep-deprived, but sticking to your commitment is the first step to your success.
2. Talk to your spouse and make sure you get his 100% support.
I made sure that my husband was engaged in this journey from Day 1. I tell him about everything I read online. I actually feel sad when I read stories of moms who get disheartened because they feel that their spouses are not supportive of their choice to breastfeed. Although it’s true that the final decision always falls in the hands of the mother, it will still be better if both parents are in sync. Involving my husband was the best step I took. When I was still too groggy and grumpy to answer back those who were questioning me, my husband was there to defend our choice.
Oldie: Anong gatas ni Zayne?
Boyet: Kay Je lang. Hindi yan mag formula hanggang kaya ni Je.
Oldie: Kulang ‘yan.
Boyet: Hindi ‘yan kulang. Maliit lang ang bituka ng bagong panganak. Hindi niya kailangan ng maraming gatas.
Me: Tatay, nabasa ko sa isang group. Kumakain daw siya sa foodcourt tapos pinaalis siya ng guard kasi nagpadede siya.
Boyet: Anong ginawa nung nanay?
Me: Inaway niya ‘yung guard.
Boyet: Kapag nangyari sa atin, huwag mong aawayin… ako ang aaway sa guard!
My husband is also making my life easier. He volunteered to make Zayne burp after every feeding session so I could at least nap or brush my teeth or go to the bathroom. We would take turns in changing the diapers. When Zayne was having growth spurts and refused to unlatch, Boyet took it upon himself to prepare healthy meals for me. Up until today, he’s actively helping me with the household chores. He throws the trash and washes the dishes while I put Zayne to sleep.
TANDAAN: Talo ang breastfeeding nanay ng breasfeeding nanay at tatay. ^_^
3. Look for a hospital and medical practitioners who will help you on your breastfeeding journey.
Hospitals should be strictly following the milk code. Unfortunately, may mga nakakalimot pa rin. This is why it’s vital to look for a breastfeeding-friendly hospital. I’m lucky that I gave birth in St. Luke’s Global. Their doctors, nurses and lactation consultants were very helpful. Despite feeling that I already knew everything and thinking that my mother’s instinct would just kick in, I was wrong to think that I no longer need help. Fortunately, all the medical practitioners of St. Luke’s assisted me and Boyet – from proper way of carrying a baby up to techniques in latching and burping.
4. Be patient.
Yes, it’s hard. No matter how well-read and well-prepared you are, you’ll definitely come across breastfeeding issues - milk supply, latching, making sure that you don’t break your baby’s bones (haha, but this is true), timing, biting, pulling, cracked nipples and a lot more. It does not help that you’re tired, sore and sleep-deprived ALL THE FREAKIN' TIME! But believe me, it gets better in time. You’ll get used to it. In my experience, it was hard the first three months. By the fourth month, sisiw na lang. Taas ng shirt, salpak ng dede kay Zayne, tapos.
5. Research, research, research.
Know the facts. I spent a lot of time reading online materials (make sure your sources are credible) about breastfeeding. I was surprised that a lot of things I used to know were just myths. Hindi pala bawal magpadede ng pagod. Sabi kasi ng mga tanders madedede daw ang pagod at stress. Haha, pucha! Kainis!
Knowing the facts will help you decide what’s best for you and your child. Plus, your knowledge in breastfeeding is the best way to counterattack those who will try to question your decision.
Troll: Huwag ka na magpadede. Isang taon na anak mo, wala ng sustansiya ang gatas mo.
You: My breastmilk has fats, calcium, protein and more than enough vitamins for my baby. Plus, it has antibodies, something that formula milk can’t give to my child. O eto bente pesos, mag Google ka. Sa panahon ngayon, bawal na ang free data. (Char! Pero parang mas ok 'yung, eto bente pesos, humanap ka ng kausap mo. Haha!)
6. Join online support groups.
Members of such groups are real mothers with real breastfeeding problems. Joining support groups will help you at least have a glimpse of what other breastfeeding moms go through. But this tip should go hand in hand with the next one…
7. Filter the noise.
There’s sometimes too much noise in social media – unsolicited advice and worse, mommy wars. Although a lot of these groups really do help new moms, some may bring unnecessary stress to a hormonal breastfeeding momma. Some of the “tips” can make a mother feel guilty, disheartened and inadequate. Sorry to say, pero ang daming perpektong nanay sa social media! O e di kayo na. This is where filtering the noise comes in. Join online groups and fill your knowledge tank, but make sure that you are surrounded with your close and trusted mommy friends. They will be the ones who’ll tell you that it’s okay to bend the “rules” once in a while. They’ll be the ones to give you the assurance that you’re not a bad mother if you sway away from what the purists insist. They’ll remind you that there is no perfect formula in motherhood. Kapag pinakinggan mo kasi lahat ng mamaru mode sa social media, masisiraan ka ng bait!
8. Know what works for you.
Babies have varying needs, and so are mothers. Know what these needs are, and know how to address them. I initially used a nursing cover because Zayne allowed me to do so. Some babies are bothered with a nursing cover, but my baby wasn’t. Tuwa pa nga siya kasi akala nya peek-a-boo ang drama namin. Hahaha. As long as you are not putting your baby’s life in danger, then feel free to experiment to know the things that’ll suit your needs.
9. Get the right tools.
If you’re a working mom, invest in a good breast pump. It does not have to be expensive. Just make sure that whatever you’re getting will suit your work schedule (Are you always in a hurry at work?), your lifestyle (Do you commute? Are you traveling a lot?) and your budget. Also get yourself comfortable nursing bras. Again, it does not have to be expensive. Mine cost around PHP250-350 each. May nabili pa ako na SALE for PHP199! If you have an issue with oversupply, get breast pads. If you have the time and luxury to buy a book or go to breastfeeding workshops, do so. (Because your brain is also a tool! *wink wink*)
10. Don’t forget to take care of yourself.
I’ve seen a lot of mothers who are failing at taking care of themselves. Yes, mothers are supposed to be selfless. But I also believe that in order for our little ones to receive the utmost care, mothers really need to pay attention in taking care of themselves. Get the right nutrition. Hydrate well. Try to get enough sleep. (I can’t remember the last time I had an uninterrupted sleep, but I make sure that I nap instead of doing unnecessary stuff like Facebooking. Hahaha.) Seek help from friends and relatives. (I ask my mom to carry Zayne so I can finally shower. Hindi ako superwoman. Kung superwoman ka, e di bahala ka sa buhay mo, huwag mo akong idamay. Haha.) Find time to do what you love doing. (I may not blog as often as I used to before, but I still strive to find time to do it. Outlet ko ang blogging e.) And more importantly, don’t be too hard on yourself. Motherhood can get really stressful, but don’t forget that you need happy hormones to produce enough milk for your baby.
I don’t think any scientific study has ever proven that formula milk is better than breastmilk. I strongly believe that breastfeeding should be a mother’s primary choice. (Teh, huwag naman sana 'yung buntis ka pa lang ayaw mo na agad subukan magpadede. Bakit? Feeling mo para lang sa mga walang pera ang breastfeeding? Ayaw mong masira ang katawan mo? Ayaw mo kasi masakit? Huwag ganun!) But I’ve also seen mothers who struggled with breastfeeding. So I do hope that other moms will stop treating formula milk like a poison. If you think that your little one is no longer getting the kind of mother that he deserves mainly because you’re already too stressed out in producing milk that your body can’t produce, then don’t be too hard on yourself. And if you decide to switch because you’ve already exhausted all means of producing milk, no need to explain your decision to the world. Not everyone will understand it anyway. :)