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Four Lessons I Learned From My First Breastfeeding Experience

This February, it's the Milk Mama Diaries Festival, and this year's theme is "back to basics". Participants share advice - either the best breastfeeding advice they received and/or the best breastfeeding advice they can give to new moms. This post isn't an official entry into the festival, but it does contain some of my thoughts on breastfeeding and the things I learned from my first experience.

1. Use the time before the birth to learn all that you can about how to breastfeed.

With J, I attended just one seminar on breastfeeding. It was the one sponsored by L.A.T.C.H. at Medical City about breastfeeding basics, such as positioning, the correct latch, how to store milk and the basic signs that indicate whether your baby is feeding or not. As a session it was very informative, and you do learn a lot from it. In addition, I read several articles on the internet about breastfeeding, mostly about its benefits. That was a mistake, not because the session wasn't good. It just wasn't enough. I needed to learn more.

In preparation for my second time to breastfeed with C, the articles I read are no longer about the benefits of breastfeeding. Now, the articles are about how to increase milk supply and how to breastfeed the right way (latch, positioning, etc.). I also looked for videos that showed how to latch babies properly and I read blogs that detailed the experiences of other moms who breastfed their kids. I also started attending  more breastfeeding classes at the Medela House* as a refresher course, and I found an excellent support group of moms who get together once a month to share their experiences with breastfeeding. This support group is organized by La Leche League Manila* and the moms meet every last Saturday of the month at Mothercase BHS. I'm attending my second support meeting this Saturday and I'm really looking forward to it, because while I learn a lot from the classes, I find that what you learn is enriched by the stories of moms about the struggles they faced, especially in the early days, and the different ways they overcame these difficulties. It was also a very big relief for me to learn that I'm not the only one who had trouble. You know this in your head, but when you have a crying infant in your arms and absolutely no clue about what to do, you won't be thinking that this is hard for everyone. In my case, I felt very alone and I felt like a failure as a mother, so to know that mine was not an isolated experience is very reassuring.

Lastly, I also looked for breastfeeding counselors, who could help me when my time to breastfeed comes. While I feel that I'm using my time more wisely this time around by learning more about breastfeeding, I felt better knowing that if I do run into a monster roadblock like the way I did the last time, I'd have an expert to help me through it. Below are two links, from one of my favorite mommy sites by J of Chronicles of a Nursing Mom, who breastfed her firstborn and is now breastfeeding her second baby. (Breastfeeding moms should definitely check this one out since J is very detailed about her experiences with breastfeeding, along with the various mommy products she tries.) This link contains a list of IBCLCs or International Board Certified Lactation Consultants and a list of breastfeeding counselors in the Philippines.

IBCLCs

Breastfeeding Counselors

*Keep updated on the activities on Manila's breastfeeding moms through the following FB accounts: Medela Moms or La Leche League Manila

2. Breastfeeding, just like everything worth doing, is hard.

It didn't really take much to convince me to breastfeed. From the moment I found out I was pregnant, it was an automatic decision for me that I would breastfeed my baby. But silly me, I thought breastfeeding would be like the way they do it in the movies. You labor for hours and push the baby out, you put the baby to your boob and it starts nursing like a champ and you can finally get some rest. WRONG.

When I attended the breastfeeding class conducted by Abbie Yabot at the Medela House, she told us that although it seems like nursing from their moms is an automatic thing, it's actually a skill that babies have to practice. It will take them some time to get the hang of it, so we mommies should be patient and not get discouraged. Like I said, silly me expected that it would be easy. Now I know that it will not be, but that the rewards of breastfeeding my son will be worth all the difficulties.

Bearing in mind that I attended the class/session with the experience of someone who has tried to breastfeed and was largely unsuccessful, I wrote down in my notes, "Shoti will not know how to do it automatically. Be patient. Wait for him (and for you) to learn how to nurse properly." By writing these words down, I hope that seeing them again will give me the encouragement I know I will sorely need if things go roughly the second time around.

3. Your support system is key to your breastfeeding success.

During my first breastfeeding experience, apart from my husband, I had zero support from the others around me. My MIL was indifferent, and I'd have to say that helped a lot. My mom was another story. She's one of those typical Chinese grandmothers who insist that their grandchildren are perpetually hungry. Less than a day old, she insisted that my son's crying was due to the fact that my milk wasn't enough. My pedia and OB didn't help. (If you're still shopping around, try to find an OB or a pedia that encourages breastfeeding. I've found that younger doctors are generally more receptive and supportive of breastfeeding.)

Let me tell you, all the cliches/myths/wrong assumptions that people have about breastfeeding? I heard them all from my mom the day after my son was born. (i.e. "If you have milk, how come nothing is coming out?" or "If you have milk, then why does your son keep crying?" or "See? He fell asleep agad after the formula? Gutom na yan e. Ginutom mo kaya iyak ng iyak.") You can just imagine what that felt like for a first-time mom, who wanted nothing but to see her son happy and contented. That really messed with my resolve to exclusively breastfeed my son. Within two days of his birth, my son was on mixed feedings, and I now know that contributes to lessening your milk supply. Fortunately, I was stubborn enough to keep pumping milk for my son, and although my overall contribution was way less than his formula intake, I comforted myself with the knowledge that a little breastmilk is still better than none.

This time around, I'm marshalling my support system for my second attempt. Since my mom was my biggest detractor the first time, I'm planning to bring her to the classes and sessions I'm attending in preparation for C's birth, so that she can understand why I'm doing this, and also so we can find a way for her to still be involved. I do understand that my mom comes from a generation where everyone was formula-fed and I also realized that my insistence on breastfeeding pushed out the grandmother-and-baby-time that she was craving, so I'm hoping that by showing her how much her support means to me, and how much it can affect my success as a breastfeeding mom, I can get her on my side this time.

4. "The days are long, but the years are short."


This is another quote that I read from another article written by a fellow mommy. Breastfeeding my baby was incredibly tiring and it was hard, and sometimes it took all my strength just to get through each day, but for the short time that I was able to nurse my son, I loved knowing that we had this special time together, that there was this one thing that no one else in the world (or at least in the house) would be able to do for him. I especially liked being able to hold him in my arms and just stare at him to my heart's content, while he nursed from my breast and fell asleep. I'd count his little fingers and toes over and over again and I'd kiss his little cheeks or his forehead and just breathe in his little baby smell.

I take comfort in these memories and it makes me look forward to my second journey as a breastfeeding mom. Last night as I was falling asleep, and often in the past few weeks since J learned how to walk, I lamented the fact that my very active fifteen month old toddler no longer likes cuddling with Mama, since it gets in the way of his play and exploration time. Even the briefest of hugs and kisses seem to be such an annoyance for him. The days and months just flew by, and now my baby is becoming a little boy. Before I know it, he will be a school boy, then be a teenager, and he'll be embarrassed when I show him affection. I won't be able to get back the time that I had with J when he was a newborn, but I think knowing how fast time passes and how quickly our children grow up will remind me to treasure the very special time that I will spend nursing C at my breast. While he was at my breast, nothing existed but J and me, and I loved that, and I'm hoping for the same experience with C.

To end this post, I'd like to share a quote I read from another breastfeeding mom's entry to the Milk Mama Diaries Festival. It's a quote from Grantly Dick-Read, who is the father of the natural birth movement (I think!). He says: "A newborn baby only has three demands: warmth from the arms of its mother, food from her breasts and knowledge in the security of her presence." 


To read some of the other entries to the Milk Mama Diaries Festival, click here. The entries are at the bottom of J's post. 

1 comments:

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