Thursday, August 1, 2013

August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month

Because August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, I would like to share with you my breastfeeding journey.

I grew up from a traditional Filipino-Chinese family where breastfeeding is not the norm. Before I entered into the married life and maternity stage, my only impression all the while is that canned milk would be the main source of food for babies. I thought that a little intake of breast milk would suffice and would give baby the needed antibodies and health benefits. I got that belief when I saw my aunts and sister fed their babies with formula or at least mixed fed formula with breast milk. With that in mind, my husband who is keen with finance, immediately projected our would-be monthly expenses when baby arrives. And the big chunk of the expense goes to the formula milk.

I wanted to be mentally and emotionally prepared for the coming of baby that's why I've attended workshops here and there, from child birth classes to breastfeeding seminars. And the first formal breastfeeding class that I've attended was from Medela House. The seminar is divided into three sessions: Breastfeeding Class 101 (Beginning Breastfeeding), 102 (Sustaining Breastfeeding) and 103 (Breastfeeding & Beyond), presented by Ms. Abigail "Abbie" Yabot.

For me, the first session gave me the most take-home knowledge about breastfeeding. What struck me most was the long list of benefits that breastfeeding could give to my baby and one of which is protection from all diseases up to 12 years old. Wow how good is that! The more you extend, the more protection you will get. That day opened my awareness to the world of breastfeeding. Then and there, I told myself that I want and I will breastfeed my baby.

I went home with these five important lessons which I've always kept in mind:
1. Breastfeeding follows the law of demand and supply. In simple terms, you need to let baby continuously suck to stimulate and signal your breast to produce milk. If you signal your brain that there's a need which is the suckling of baby (demand), milk will surely come out (supply). More suckling, more milk supply.
2. Let baby latch/suck right after birth and strictly have her roomed-in. Room-in meaning bring baby with you when you transfer to the normal hospital room for easy access to breastfeeding. Baby A stayed beside me the whole time we were in the hospital.
3. Milk in first 3 days is called colostrum. Baby's stomach is still full from placenta during these first three days so don't worry if you can't see any visible milk coming out. Just continue latching baby to get the colostrum as it is rich in antibodies. My mature (visible) milk came in on the 3rd day and my breasts got engorged.
4. Breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months. Exclusive meaning no water, no formula, no anything except purely breast milk for the first six months of life to maximize the benefits. Breastmilk is 90% water.
5. No pumping during the first 6 weeks. This means you need to feed baby directly from the breast for the first six weeks as it helps to stabilize your milk supply. No hassle yet of washing and sterilizing of bottles and breast pump parts at this time.

And because I want to succeed, I have strictly followed all these reminders and were able to apply them. As of now, I have been breastfeeding my almost 8 months old baby and I plan to breastfeed Baby A until two years and beyond. I would like to thank my husband for attending the seminar with me. During my 1.5 days stay in the hospital, I was pressured by my mom, mother-in-law, and sister to buy formula milk as they don't believe that breastfeeding is enough to sustain and nurture baby. I was surprised that hubby backed me up by saying baby is still not hungry so we don't need to worry. I intentionally didn't buy any canned milk during my preparation, or even have the thought of preparing a back-up in case I don't have milk because I want to force myself to breastfeed and succeed. I have instilled in my mind that breastfeeding is the only option. My husband strongly supports me on my decision as it would mean cutting hugely on our monthly expenses.

I underwent a bumpy road especially during the first month. My morning is no different with evening because every time I would close my eyes to sleep, rest or nap, baby would be crying again in no time. Imagine the awkward feeling of being woke up when you are about to fall into deep sleep. It was really easy for me to get impatient and give up but I never showed any signs of anger because I don't want to transfer my negative vibes to baby and the people around me. My hubby was almost blown away with anger for interrupting his sleep because I need him to assist me during nappy changing, burping, singing her to sleep. I just kept calm because I know baby is my responsibility and my milk is her only source of food that's why I need to be ready to feed her anytime. We have an all-around slash yaya that time who assisted us only in the morning and let her sleep at night. And because me and hubby were full time caregivers at night, I dreaded night time so much. I would always hope that it's morning already maybe around 6am but sadly it didn't happen. Even if we went to bed early around 10pm, I would still be waking up every hour or at least have 4-5 times of interrupted sleep before the sun would be up. I could see every hour pass by. I was not used to side-lying position before so I would need to get up, sit on my chair, and hold baby in a cradle or cross-cradle position to feed baby. It really ached my back despite the pillows propped behind me. I did this position for more than 2 months.

I started pumping on the 6th week to work on building my milk stash. I started worrying how I will go back to work because of a number of obstacles that I could foresee.

1. Concern with Time. With the three-hour long total travel time, I was hesitant to leave baby with the caregiver alone at home from 7am to 7pm. Aside from not fully entrusting baby to the caregiver, I was also afraid that baby might not recognize me anymore when I'm out for a long period. I can't accept that if it happens!
2. No Refrigerator. My workplace doesn't have a refrigerator to cool my pumped milk therefore I would need to bring a spacious cooler to contain maybe 4-6 bottles for the whole day. I don't have a cooler or ice pack that would guarantee to stay cool until I get home. I was worried on how will I lug around so much things via commute.
3. No Privacy. My workplace doesn't have a pantry, cubicles and access to clean washroom so how will I dare to pump when there are guys inside our common office room.
4. Guilt and Insecurity. I would feel guilty if I spend a few minutes of my work hours pumping instead of working on my deadlines. Colleagues might think that I'm not working.

Even if I was not yet confident with my stash of milk, I went back to work as soon as my maternity leave ended to give it a try for just even a day. All the while in the office, I was thinking about baby and keep on checking with the caregiver if her milk supply would be enough or how many stored milk bottles were left in the refrigerator. And as I expected, I was so tired when I arrived home due to pollution and traffic which lowered my energy level left for baby and knowing that I still have a long night ahead of me. I took a leave the next three days to catch up with my stored milk supply as it would not last for the next day. I resumed to work on the 5th day and went on with my pumping despite those obstacles I mentioned above. I bought a bigger cooler bag (Mountain Lock&Lock), more ice packs, rechargeable batteries (Eneloop) for emergency use, PumpEase handsfree bra so I can multi-task, nursing cover and reusable nursing pads for leaks. If there's a will, there's a way.

We were only able to get a purely yaya role when baby was about 3 months old. We tried to let her sleep on the floor inside our room to help tend to baby at night hoping to catch up for more sleep. Yaya would just bottle-feed her my expressed milk stored in the refrigerator. But that scenario wasn't that effective because we were still disrupted by baby's frequent crying. On top of that, I still need to wake up to pump or else my breasts would be full, leaky, get engorged and might affect my milk supply. It went on for almost a month and I could feel that there's something wrong with this set-up. It came to a point that baby preferred to feed from the bottle over my breasts. That was the start of my struggle with nipple confusion.

I missed those times when baby only feeds directly from me during those first six weeks without complaint. It really broke my heart to battle with baby, forcing her to latch while she cried and pushed me away. The situation worsened when my hubby would tell me to feed her from the bottle already because baby looked pitiful with her crying. I have joined breastfeeding forums since I gave birth thus I have read about nipple confusion many times and sadly it happened to my baby. It would be difficult to sustain breastfeeding upto two years if baby could not latch directly from me so I posted my concern in the Facebook support group named Breastfeeding Pinays to ask for help. I was advised to do a skin-to-skin with baby, to latch her when she's not that hungry, and to try it when she's sleepy. From then on, I decided to let yaya sleep in their own room already and that I would be back to direct feeding baby throughout the night just like the first two months and all the months and years to come. I heeded their advise coupled with strong determination, patience and urge to succeed, slowly I could see some improvement. It took almost 2 months to get baby back to direct feeding and to resolve her nipple confusion.

To further work on my breastfeeding situation, I have decided to quit on my job which was a very hard decision for me because I don't want to rely all the expenses to hubby alone. But because God answered my prayers, I smoothly transitioned to a work-at-home mom. I got to watch over my baby all the time or at least watch over the caregivers who assist me when I'm busy working on my computer. From this, I discovered that I have a passion in blogging. :)

As a summary, here are some things that worked for me and helped me in my breastfeeding journey:
1. Privacy at home. It's good we don't live with our in-laws or else I wouldn't have much privacy to breastfeed freely. And for sure they wouldn't allow or let baby cry out during those times when I'm working on the nipple confusion. No clashing of ideas. I can freely do my own way and because I'm the mom, I know what's best for my baby.
2. No hesitations. Be ready to expose your boobs all the time especially at night time. I'm used to sleeping with my stomach and back always exposed and sleeping sideways ready to feed baby in the middle of the night. I missed sleeping with my favorite position which is hugging my bolster pillow. I missed stretching my arms and legs because baby is sleeping beside me always (co-sleeping).
3. Let it be messy. Get used to leaking breasts where your nursing bra, shirt, bedsheet will all be wet when you get up. And also baby's shirt. It's not wet due to baby's pee but mommy's milk overflowed. This is especially evident during my first month. I just put a gauze lampin/diaper on my front as soaker and for easy access to breastfeeding. Get used to the sticky feeling and smell of spoiled milk. I am still like that until now.
4. Feed on demand. I feed on demand whether directly from breast or bottle feeding. Our pedia would always instruct me to schedule the feeding but I never listened. During bottle feeding, yaya just put out a stored milk bottle from the refrigerator, first in first out, and feed whatever the ounce of that bottle would be. As long as that bottle is consumed within four hours. If it is finished before four hours, yaya would get a new stored milk again. I always ask yaya to note down the ounce and time each time they get a stored milk from the refrigerator. I also always note down my pumping output in ounce for each side to know my progress and to easily detect problems. Don't forget to continuously pump every four hours during those early months.
5. Proper latching. Research on how a good latch and position looks like. Baby's ears, shoulder and body should be in one line. Baby's lips should look like a fish lips, widely open, cheeks are puffy. You should hear baby's swallowing noise and see ears moving. A portion of the areola should be inside baby's mouth and not only the nipple. If sucking hurts or you see a wrong latch, remove baby's mouth at once and latch again. Tickle baby's cheeks to open and latch. I experienced strained neck during those early months because I keep on looking down to check baby's latch. When baby has mastered latching and you know the feeling of a good latch, you don't need to look down anymore. It will be automatic.
6. Proper handling of breastmilk. Memorize the breastmilk storage guidelines by heart. Milk should be consumed within four hours to be sure. Keep the bottle away from sunlight or heat. Upon taking out the stored milk from the refrigerator, swirl the bottle gently, never shake to avoid disrupting the components. I always remind yaya about this.
7. Remember the hierarchy of breastmilk freshness: direct feed, freshly expressed milk in room temperature, cooled in refrigerator, and lastly frozen milk. That's why it's better to feed directly or feed refrigerated milk. I don't feed my baby frozen milk. Maybe I only tried it twice during the early months.
8. Donate excess breastmilk. I'm glad to say that my milk supply is enough for my baby. There were instances before when my storage bottles are filled up, I would transfer them into ziplock milkbags and store them in the freezer to prolong the shelf life then donate it to those who are in need. It feels good to share your blessings. You also gain friends along the way.
9. Sterilize tip. I asked yaya to sterilize the bottles and breast pump parts once a day. I just kept my pump parts inside a Lock n Lock container every usage and place it inside the refrigerator to prevent from spoiling for multiple usage within the day. We only use lampin to wipe dry the bottles and pump parts.
10. Do the side-lying. This position really helped a lot especially when baby was bigger and heavier. Imagine picking baby up and doing a cradle hold every feeding time, it consumes so much effort and contributes to muscle aches. I'm thankful for learning the side-lying position. The moment I feel baby's movement while in the middle of sleep, I would quickly offer my breast and she will latch on. This way, we both had a longer sleep at night. She's lucky to have a milk vendo machine on her bed, unlimited supply. Hehe. :)

Whew, that was a long list! I am willing to undergo these sacrifices and challenges of breastfeeding because I'm after the long-term benefit. I'm investing on my baby's health because health is wealth. Not only did I prove to my family that breastfeeding is enough to sustain and nurture my baby, I also made my hubby proud for saving on our monthly expenses. I'm glad to overcome the nipple confusion. Look, my baby wouldn't sleep and would wait for me to direct feed her before she sleeps at night. How sweet of you my Baby A!

I'm breastfeeding my baby all the way! How about you?

P.S. Did you know that exclusive breastfeeding also delays your monthly menstrual cycle? I still didn't have mine for more than a year already, since I got pregnant until now. Saved on menstrual napkin expenses too!

July 26, 2013 Breastfeeding at Arugaan during the BFP Friday Meet-up. Photo by Abie Co-Floreza.

Happy World Breastfeeding Week!

Mommy S


  1. Wow.. Those information above really gave me a relief. I'm planning to put some back-ups and starting to think which formula milk will I give to my baby when breast feeding don't work. But after I've read this blog, I've decided to have "strictly breast milk" for my baby. Also, never thought that no water for 6 months is best for babies. Thank you very much Sally for all tips you've shared. More power :)

    1. Thank you Belle for reading this particular post which I consider as one of the important parts of my blog. If you have any concerns about breastfeeding or any baby care, please feel free to message me. I will try my best to help. Wish you all the success in your motherhood journey. Congrats for giving birth to a cute baby girl! :)