Wednesday, 31 August 2011

My Breastfeeding Success Story

On this breastfeeding month of August, I decided to sit down and write these 5 salient points that made my breastfeeding a success. 


Belief that breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world.

I personally believe that if the woman’s reproductive system can conceive and give birth, so can breasts produce milk.  It is the most natural thing in the world. It makes total sense too.  Nature provides mother’s milk for the baby to survive earthbound.  This is how man survived thousands and thousands of years.

As early as fourth month into pregnancy, colostrum is already produced.  From the start and all throughout gestation, breasts will enlarge, areolas darken and nipples become more erect to prepare for breastfeeding.  It will start to produce milk when hormonal changes signal the onset of labor, birth and delivery of placenta.  In fact, these internal signals are so well coordinated that if the baby is born prematurely, the mother produces milk with higher fat content to meet the baby’s special nutritional needs.  A mother’s body is indeed designed for breastfeeding.


Knowing more is succeeding more.

Knowing what to expect is key.  My milk only came out steadily on the 4th day but I did not panic.  I knew that for the first few days, only colostrum will come out but this is ok since babies are actually born with enough nutrients to sustain themselves for a few days and that they need the rest more from the trauma of birth.  Milk will slowly build up as the baby continues to suck and stimulate the production.  I expected to experience painful engorged breasts somewhere on the 4th day or so and knew that swollenness will be abated with cold cabbage and by massaging, latching and pumping.  I would have no idea how much milk the baby is getting so I counted her pee output – at least 4-6 wet diapers on the baby’s fourth day after birth and so on.  The more you know, the more you trust yourself.

I did miss out on one very important information, however, and it makes a rather funny story to share.  On our first night with baby Ava, the nurse kept waking us up every 2-3 hours to make sure the baby latched on.  I exclaimed indignantly to my husband, “Why does she keep on pestering us?!  Didn’t she know that we gave birth just a few hours ago and that we need our rest?!”.  To my great surprise and chagrin, I never knew that I had to breastfeed the baby every 2-3 hours nonstop - for months! 


Commitment or “can-do” attitude.

Knowledge on breastfeeding is apparently not enough.  I read an article sometime ago about qualities that company bosses are looking for when hiring a prospective employee.  Extensive knowledge and experience of course are essential but what sets someone apart is the “can-do” disposition.   It spells a huge difference when pressure and stress set in.  It means pursuing and excelling when the going gets tough.

In breastfeeding, two main challenges moms usually face are -  not getting enough rest and being so busy and stressed at work.  This results to lower milk output and has been the scapegoat for moms’ decision to stop breastfeeding.  I would know.  As an architect, most meetings happen outside the office and even at construction sites!  This means lugging my heavy dual pump, 8-pack battery adaptor and ice cooler bag with me.  In the middle of a meeting or site inspection, I find myself leaking and have to search for an extra room, most likely a storage room (I refuse to express in the toilet!) and would pump as fast as I could (turning the knob at high speed and strength – poor breasts I know!) while shoving a bread down my throat as I would be starving at the same time.

You get the picture.  It takes commitment.  There were plenty of times I would pump for a good 15 minutes and only 2oz. came out.  But I never got discouraged.  It only meant baby Ava needed to latch more and I needed to pump longer.  Of course, drinking more water and sipping more soup helped, too.


Support of husband and family makes all the difference.

Ask any breastfeeding mom and she will tell you that she could have not done it without the support of her husband or family. My sister breastfed her first for three years and still breastfeeding her second one for three years and running.   Through her, my husband and I got very well acquainted with the tremendous benefits breastfeeding offers as well as the challenges it poses. Also, I remember my sister-in-law who hand-carried my heavy breast pump all the way from US to Philippines and finally to Singapore when they came to visit. We are indeed lucky to have both families’ support.

A husband who believes that breast is best is most beneficial as there could be moments fatigue gets the better of you.  For me, I am very grateful that Alfred would take two night feedings (using my expressed milk) so I could sleep longer.   He also made sure I get to have my “me” time by spending plenty of bonding time with baby Ava.  The fact that he is also proud we exclusive breastfed our baby (stopped after 13 months, doctor’s advice after I got pregnant with our second) is an added inspiration that kept me going.


Natural birth = Alert Baby = Early Latch

I initially thought that my easy success with breastfeeding was all because of my knowledge, preparation and commitment.  Unbeknownst to me, I later realized that the effortlessness of it was also because of my decision to give drug-free natural birth.

Judith Lothian, a childbirth educator in Brooklyn, New York, and a member of Lamaze International Board of Directors believes that:

 Normal, natural birth sets the stage for problem-free breastfeeding—what nature intended—while a complicated, intervention-intensive labor and birth set the stage for problems”.

This rang true to what I have experienced.  Since both Ava and me were very alert when she came out, she was able to latch successfully from the moment she came out.  Probably high from endorphins and oxytocin, I also had all the energy to carry and keep her close to me.  Indeed, I was walking by myself to the loo after giving birth!  It reminded me of Scarlett O’Hara from the novel “Gone with the Wind” when she said something like “I could give birth in the morning and go out for a tea in the afternoon”.

I strongly feel that when you do things as natural as it can be (sounds like Taoism), it is just as less complicated. No rocket science there.   







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