Jen’s Breastfeeding Story

By Jennifer Joy Ong

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As a new parent, everyone wants to give the best for their baby. During my pregnancy, I was bombarded with information that “breast was best”. Thus, even before N, I was dead set on breastfeeding her. She came on 5 December 2007 after a fairly easy pitocin-induced delivery with epidural anesthesia. Within an hour after her birth, she had latched on and drinking up what little colostrum I was producing. During her first 24 hours, she had pooped out so much meconium that my husband Stan was converted into a diaper-changing machine.

Since I was normal delivery, we were discharged on the 3rd day and the next 2 weeks were filled with frenetic breastfeeding days. On discharge day, N weighed 5 pounds and 10 ounces. However, as a breastfed baby, we were informed that was normal and she should regain her birth weight on her second week check-up. We went to our pediatrician on 19 December 2007 for her second week check-up. N weighed 6 pounds and 9 ounces which was 4 ounces more than her birth weight. We were very happy! However, we were eventually dismayed to find out that she was jaundiced and even more so when we were informed that it was breast milk jaundice!! (For more information on breast milk jaundice, please read this handout from Dr. Jack Newman. He explains that breast milk jaundice is normal and does not require treatment or supplementation as long as the baby is gaining weight well and having lots of bowel movements. As always you should consult your doctor for medical advice.)

The pediatrician recommended that she be given 1-2oz of formula after nursing. By then, Stan and I were so paranoid that we decided that I exclusively pump so we could measure how much she was getting. This was the beginning of my endless pumping and worries of “will i have enough milk”? With the stress and sleepless nights, I wasn’t pumping enough and we had to supplement with formula. Also, as first-time parents, we didn’t know that there was an art to bottle-feeding the breastfed infant. So to force N to drink milk, Stan would pull on the bottle every time she stops sucking == end result?! Nipple confusion. Every time N would latch on to me, she would stay only for 5 minutes or less because she wanted faster flow and she was pulling on my breasts like it was a bottle nipple — resulting to my sore nipples and breasts. It was a vicious cycle. At this point, I was exclusively pumping and didn’t know long I would last. I even rented a hospital-grade pump and bought a double pump.

I was really determined to continue breastfeeding. When N was about 7 weeks, I felt that my supply had increased so I again decided to go back to direct breastfeeding. I had been told that direct breastfeeding extends the breastfeeding relationship – as compared to exclusive pumping. Again, I was plagued with sore and cracked nipples. At this point, I was ready to throw in the towel. I kept thinking, I was a formula-fed baby, hubby was FF, my siblings and everyone else I knew were FFed and we were doing great!

Maybe those die-hard breastfeeding advocates really got to me – I decided to continue giving N breast milk and go back to exclusive pumping. I guess I was also a masochist because after 2 days, when my nipples had healed, I again tried to do direct breastfeeding. And suddenly, everything became easier. Her latch had improved. There was still some pain on my right breast but it was tolerable. And I started thinking that I could do this! I continued direct breastfeeding for 2 weeks, not giving her any bottle for fear of a nipple confusion relapse. This meant I couldn’t go out without her and I couldn’t go out often since my mom wouldn’t let me take the baby out.

Then plugged ducts hit! I had been pumping and freezing breast milk when we had to go to Cebu. In Cebu, I didn’t bring my pump and failed to do my regular 3 pumps a day (in addition to nursing) — resulting in engorgement! Plus, the fact that we were staying in hotels and had to fulfill some familial duties probably added to my stress ending in plugged ducts! So upon going back to Manila, I went to see an ob-gyne who was a lactation consultant and had her prick my nipple to free up the plugged duct! Boy did it hurt and for 2 succeeding days, it hurt every time N fed on my right breast! I was determined not to quit and my right nipple did heal.

N went on to breastfeeding until past 3 years. Her breastfeeding gradually stopped and I asked her to completely stop when I was pregnant with our second baby, E. However, when E was born on 21 December 2011, whenever she had a chance, N would still ask to breastfeed. I guess it was due to the changes brought about by the new baby. N completely stopped when she was almost 4 and a half years old.

Given my experience with N plus considering that I had taken a breastfeeding counselor training and run the blog Chronicles of a Nursing Mom, you would think that I had it easy this time around? Well, not exactly. I knew how to make my milk plentiful and supply was not an issue. However, despite my research and training and knowing that I had the position and latch correct, I still ended up with sore (and bleeding) nipples! So what was the reason for it? I think it was the learning curve – that E had to “learn” how to breastfeed even if it was natural and instinctive. E’s mouth was also small that he could not help but latch just on the nipple. He was also quite stubborn. I position him and we get the correct latch initially then he would reposition himself to his preferred but incorrect latch! I just kept at it and kept repositioning him to teach him the correct latch. The soreness subsided at around day 7 and by day 10, E was nursing like a champ!

Aside from issues with the latch, I also had issues with jaundice. Since I had learned from my experience with N, I asked the pediatrician to keep a close watch on E and his yellow color. During our first doctor’s visit on day 6, E’s bilirubin levels were checked and it was at a high 18.7. The pediatrician asked us to come back the next day to do another test. At day 7, the levels were at 18.4. According to the pediatrician, the levels were still high but since it didn’t go higher, it was possible that the highest level had been reached and the bilirubin levels were tapering off. She said to continue observing E and when we return for his 2-week check-up, she will decide whether another bilirubin test would be needed.

E’s 2-week check-up was scheduled on January 5. The pediatrician noted that his color was better and she didn’t see the need for the test that day. She said that since E was on pure breastmilk, it was normal for his jaundice to be prolonged. Plus, I think the fact that E gained almost 2 lbs since hospital discharge also helped! When he was discharged, he weighed 6lbs, 5oz. At day 15, he weighed 8lbs and 2.6oz. The pediatrician informed us that the jaundice resulted in cosmetic issues (E’s yellow color) and that if we were still worried when E turned 1 month, we can bring him for another bilirubin level test. She said that the only way to eliminate jaundice would be to stop giving E breastmilk (which I definitely won’t do) at this point.

Compared to my breastfeeding experience with N, this time with E, I was more informed and more confident about my capacity to produce sufficient milk for my child. During E’s birth day, I constantly put him on my breast and did breast compressions. By the 3rd day, my transitional milk had come in. I also knew tricks such as breast compression to hasten milk flow and taking lecithin to avoid plugged ducts (since my milk was quite viscous).

To end, I really do encourage first time moms to persevere and get help when the breastfeeding challenges seem insurmountable. Breastfeeding each baby is a different experience but knowing how to face the challenges is a huge step in breastfeeding success. As you can read from my experiences with N and E, I experienced similar challenges whether or not I was a first time nursing mom or an experienced nursing mom. Thus, I can only tell moms the same advice that was given to me – that breastfeeding does get easier each day and to take it a day at a time.

**Jen blogs at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom

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Karen’s Breastfeeding Story

by Karen Mae G. Sarinas-Baydo

I knew I will breastfeed the moment I got pregnant. I was highly aware of the benefits and advantages of breastmilk, superior to all other milk formula. My sister was a very active milking mommy to her two boys (direct feeding them for 2 years!) so this boosted my belief that I would also have abundant milk. My immediate boss Atty. Deegee was also a breastfeeding mom to her two kids so I knew it was possible to pump and store while working. My principal, Sen. Pia Cayetano, was a very strong advocate of breastfeeding. In fact, she is the sponsor and principal author of the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act  which extended more support for breastfeeding mothers in the workplace. I knew I would get more than enough support from her of all people. And most importantly, my husband Benedict committed to help me give the best nourishment for our baby.

Sadly, not everyone has this much awareness and support. I heard stories of mommies who didn’t know any better and fed their babies formula milk on the first cry. I heard negative reactions from mommies who thought breastfeeding would distort their bodies. I heard from those who wanted to breastfeed but gave up because they thought they had insufficient milk supply and their poor babies would go hungry. I also heard a lot more reasons why they would not feed their baby with their own precious milk.

I am not here to judge these mothers. I know that a good mother would want the best for her baby, based from what she knows and the information given to her, and what is within her means to give. I am sad that they had missed out on one of the best experiences one could have as a mother.

Breastfeeding is hard work, full commitment and pure love. That should be on the mind of a mother who would want to breastfeed. It is not easy. But with determination and belief in yourself that you can do it for your baby, the challenges that come with it can be overcome.

I gave birth on May 1, 2011 to Yñigo Zion at 11:33 in the evening. I was literally on labor that Labor Day and after 13 hours, out came Yñigo after five pushes. I had milk on the second day and every 3 hours thereafter, the nurse in the huggery would call me to feed my baby. At first there were 5 of us there, breastfeeding our newborns. Then there were 3 and then 2 of us there. By the time I was about to leave, I was the only one breastfeeding. Even though our hospital was very strict on breastfeeding and would only allow you to go after you’ve breastfed your baby, I heard some mothers asking the nurses to feed their baby with formula milk. The nurse would only allow giving formula through a cup so that the baby will not be encouraged to drink milk through a bottle.

Breastfeeding was painful and I was crying whenever my baby would suck. Nobody told me it was going to be this hard! The nurse tried teaching me the proper way but my baby would not latch properly. I had cracks in my nipples and I would cringe every time he would feed because I knew I would be in so much pain. And on the first week he would feed almost every hour! While nursing, I would scour the net using my mobile phone on the proper way to hold my baby and my breast as well as the proper posture because my back problems were also getting worse. I had just given birth and my heart was so full of joy but at the same time I was also in pain and confused. To say that I had mixed emotions was an understatement.

What got me through were the people who supported me and stood by my decision to breastfeed. My parents and family members would bring food and regale me with their own breastfeeding and birth stories. My ate who lives in the US would give me information that I needed to know on nursing, pumping, storing etc. My husband took his 3-week vacation leave for the year and spent it with me at home, taking care of me and our baby. Atty Deegee and Sen. Pia would send me text messages and check up on me and my breastfeeding. One particular text message of Sen. Pia really gave me the strength to continue on with my breastfeeding. She said that there will be a time when it would be hard and I would want to give up, but I should believe her that this will only be for a month or so. To give a timeline to one’s hardship was a very big deal to somebody who thought that her life will be this difficult from here onward. I held on to that belief that after a month my body would be used to this new function and my mind will be filled once again with happy and positive thoughts.

True enough, barely before a month, Yñigo perfected his latch, I learned the different positions with which to hold him while nursing and I was able to successfully pump and store milk so I can have a me-time. Me-time consisted of him missing one direct-feeding session just so I can nap while he drinks my milk from the bottle. Soon enough, we were able to go to the mall then to Tagaytay and I was already feeling gloriously alive and maternal like what I have envisioned while still pregnant! I felt the world opened up to me again and I can only see sunshine from then on. There was no more pain but a stronger bond between me and my baby. We fell in love with each other at first sight but our love grew stronger during that challenging phase and we emerged victorious and more appreciative of each other. Yes, I’m still talking about Yñigo.

Going back to work is a different challenge altogether. I would lug a huge bag which consisted of my pump and its paraphernalia plus a cooler bag with an ice pack and I would pump every 3-4 hours. I have pumped during Senate sessions and hearings, while attending conferences and fora, excusing myself from meetings and discussions even while in the zone when doing research. I would stop my stream of thought, go to a private space, lock the door and pump. There were places where I had nowhere to pump and I would have to be resourceful, talking to utility people to help me out, asking for extension cords or looking for sockets. I would endure the stares and sometimes snide remarks of people who don’t understand what I am doing. I would encounter helpful people who have been there and knew exactly what I was going through. It was a learning experience about people but I knew I was doing a noble thing. I was making the best food for my baby and for other babies as well. With my abundant milk supply, I was able to give weekly supply to four other kids who were sick and even to victims of Typhoon Sendong in Cagayan de Oro.

Now that I am on the process of weaning my baby and he would just feed from me at night, I look back at my breastfeeding story with pride and joy. It’s a journey that I would never trade for anything in this world. I learned more about myself in my 1 year and 3 months of breastfeeding than at any other time in my life. I affirmed that I married a good man who was a real partner to me. I think if he could also breastfeed he would do it himself! I know Yñigo will be a healthy and smart and happy boy because I gave him the best headstart in life. Praise God for breastmilk.

Patricia’s Breastfeeding Story

by Patricia Manzano-Chupungco

The moment I found out I was pregnant, breastfeeding was never a question. When my eldest child was born, it was then that I realized that breastfeeding was not as easy as it seemed. In spite of the challenges, we persisted and succeeded.

When my second child, Janina was born, she was diagnosed with Apert Syndrome, our immediate concern lay on her chances of survival since very few doctors knew about the Syndrome. Janina had breathing and cardio issues and had to be kept in the high-risk NICU. Later on, when the doctors assured us that children with Apert Syndrome could live normal and healthy lives, we were able to get our bearings and focus on the long road ahead of us.

Janina was born with a high-arch palate the doctors expected her to have difficulty breastfeeding. The first time the nurses tried to feed her from a bottle, milk would spill everywhere. Whatever little milk I could express, my husband would immediately bring over to the NICU. As Janina gained strength and the tubes about her were slowly removed, I was allowed to breastfeed directly. It’s hard to describe the overwhelming feeling of having a frail baby nursing in my arms. My best comfort was that every drop of breastmilk would definitely help her become strong enough for us to bring her home ASAP.

Several cases of Aperts children having difficulty in breastfeeding. However, Janina proved to be resilient and determined to take nothing but breastmilk.

When she had her first cranial vault at 10 months, one of the first questions I asked her doctors was if the head surgery would allow me to continue breastfeeding her and I was told that I could.

Janina had to be kept in the neurosurgery ICU immediately after her surgery and was not allowed to take in anything. So in between bits of sleep and watching over her, I would pump milk and store it. Soon, she was allowed to take in liquids, except that we could still not carry her – so we had no choice but to give her expressed milk. Perhaps it was because of her high arch pallet or maybe because the bandages and tubes made her uncomfortable, drinking milk from the bottle was somewhat difficult for her and a lot of the milk would spill from her mouth. I couldn’t wait till it was okay for us to carry her so she could feed directly. True to her form, as soon as she was able to feed directly, there were no more spills and she fed heartily.

We were able to bring our little girl home in five days. Two days later the doctors removed the staples from her head. While she has yet to undergo several more surgeries, we are confident that she will be able to weather these with ease.

Many would think that special care is required for children with special needs. I wouldn’t say that my daughter is a special needs child because she’s just about as normal as any other child save for some physical differences. I believe every child has special needs – the most important of which is all the love, care and attention that their families can give them. I breastfeed my children because it’s the best way I know of caring for them and ensuring their health.

Janina remained exclusively breastfed until she was 16 months and was on mixed feedings until only recently when we weaned her. She is now 2 years and 8 months old and is an active and intelligent child.

**This story was originally featured in the April 2011 newsletter of the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action.

Deegee’s Breastfeeding Story

Q: How did you prepare yourself for breastfeeding?
A: I am fortunate to be working in the office of Senator Companera Pia S. Cayetano, who is a breastfeeding advocate. Even before I got married, I was already exposed to the fact of breastfeeding, having to meet with breastfeeding advocates and read and research on materials about breastfeeding. That is why when I got pregnant right after getting married, I had already conditioned myself and my mind to breastfeed. I was also forced to breastfeed out of pressure from my boss, who is so supportive of my intention to breastfeed. J In all honesty, if I had not been informed of the advantages and benefits of breastfeeding versus formula milk, not knowing any better, the first question I would have asked my doctor is “what formula milk should I give my baby right after birth?”

I believe that breastfeeding does not only start the minute the baby is born. Even in the first stages of my pregnancy, it helped that I was already aware of: the proper way to start breastfeeding (since this is the most difficult part); the fact that it will be painful, especially for first time mothers; the need to drink a lot of liquids, not only because this is important for a pregnant mother, but because it will also help in breastfeeding (I also drank malunggay soup every night); the need to inform your husband and the rest of the family of your intention to breastfeed to gain their support (which is very essential for successful breastfeeding); and the need to inform your ob-gyn of your intention to breastfeed. It also helped that we inquired from asian hospital (where I gave birth), before my delivery, what is the procedure to be followed if I want to exclusively breastfeed. As such, we were able to give specific instructions to the attending team attending to my delivery and the nurses in the huggery not to give my baby anything upon birth and to call me whenever he is hungry so I can breastfeed.

Q: How was your first try at breastfeeding? Did you encounter any difficulty?
A: Fortunately (or maybe it was because I had already conditioned myself to breastfeed), I did not encounter any difficulty initiating breastfeeding. Even before I gave birth, I was already informed that the timing of the baby latching to the mother’s breast after birth is crucial for a successful breastfeeding (the sooner the baby latches after birth, the better the chances for successful breastfeeding). Armed with the information, the first thing I had Earl, my baby do right after coming out [except, of course, for some poses for pictures :)] is to latch to my breast. The good thing about Earl is that he immediately latched and learned how to suck (I was told that this comes naturally to a baby, although I don’t know if it’s just in my baby’s genes to be a healthy eater :).

My milk did not come out until the 3rd day. However, during the first 2 days, I was not worried since aside from the information I got beforehand that a baby can last for 3-5 days from birth without milk, as long as they keep on sucking your breasts, both my ob-gyn and pediatrician also assured me that this won’t harm my baby (this is where the support of the doctors are essential). During the first two days that I did not have milk, the nurses in the huggery were under specific instructions not to give Earl anything, not even water (since exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months means nothing but breastmilk, not even water) and for them to call me every time my baby was awake. I guess the fact that my baby kept on sucking every 2-3 hours helped hasten the release of my breastmilk.

Q: Did you room in your baby after birth for breastfeeding? Is rooming-in crucial for a successful breastfeeding?
A: No, I was not able to room-in Earl after birth because he had infection, so he had to stay in the huggery since he had to take anti-biotics. However, this did not stop me from pursuing my desire to breastfeed. I left specific instructions with the nurses in the huggery not to give him anything if he is hungry and to call me whenever he is awake, even in the middle of the night or early in the morning. On the first day that I gave birth, the nurses in the huggery brought my baby up to my room for me to breastfeed, since I had to rest. However, I informed them that I will just be the one to go down to the huggery since I did not want my baby to be exposed, especially since he had an infection. Even if I had a normal delivery (with episiotomy), it was still a sacrifice to have to get up and request someone to wheel me down to breastfeed…and I had to do this almost every 2-3 hours! In the middle of the night or early morning, whenever the nurses in the 10th floor, where I was confined, were busy, I had to wake up my husband Judd to wheel me down (this is where the support of the husband and the other family members come in). Eventually, I had to force myself to walk so as not to disturb my husband and my mom who were with me in the room.

Q: How were you able to breastfeed after going back to work?
A: Again, I am fortunate that my boss, Senator Pia, is a breastfeeding advocate so is very supportive of me. Having to go back to work after two months from birth was not easy. However for the first month, Senator Pia, the ever supportive boss, allowed me to come in later in the morning and to leave earlier in the afternoon for me to be able to keep up my supply of milk.

It also helped that she allowed me to use her room for some privacy while I was expressing milk using a breast pump. In fact, one time, when Senator Pia left our office after session, I thought that she was already going to go home. So I went inside her room to breastfeed, locked the doors and placed a note outside that I was inside expressing milk. It turned out that Senator Pia and Senator Manny Villar came back to our office with the intention to use Senator Pia’s room for their meeting. It was a good thing that both Senator Pia and Senator Manny understood the duties of a breastfeeding mom and went somewhere else for their meeting. 🙂

To maintain my milk supply, I had to express milk using a double-breast pump every 2-3 hours. Even when there was session and I was assisting Senator Pia in the session hall, I had to ask her permission for me to go up to our office and use her room to express milk. It also helped that my co-workers are so understanding, although they tease me that because I lock Senator Pia’s room (where the rest room of our office is also located), they will get urinary tract infection (uti) waiting for me to come out so they can use the rest room. 🙂

Everyday, I have to bring to the office my breast pump and a cooler where I can store the milk I expressed to bring home to my baby. At home, I have a refrigerator in our room, with a freezer exclusively only for storing breastmilk. The stored breastmilk is what my Earl’s yaya thaws to give to my baby while I am in the office. However, when I am at home, I make it a point to have Earl directly breastfeed to create the bonding that comes naturally with breastfeeding. In fact, now, at 13 months, Earl shows separation anxiety when I am the one leaving, but says bye-bye automatically whenever he sees his daddy leave. 🙂

Q: How many ounces of milk did you produce daily?
A: I was blessed with a steady supply of milk. In the first six to eight months of breastfeeding, I could express around 30 ounces of milk, not counting the milk that my baby directly sucks when I am at home. I had an oversupply of milk, but didn’t know how I could donate to a hospital. So what I did was give the excess milk to our pet dachshund, who grew really fat because of that. 🙂

After Earl started on solids, my milk supply declined to around 25 ounces of milk, excluding that which my baby directly sucks, although this may also be due to the fact that I increased my milk expression intervals to 4-5 hours.

Q: Is breastfeeding easy?
A: Breastfeeding is NOT easy. A mother encounters a lot of physical and emotional pains. Breastfeeding really entails a lot of sacrifice on the part of the mother…all for the love of our babies and their good health.

Having to wake up in the middle of the night to breastfeed, while your husband is snoring beside you, is no joke. Not being able to leave the house since that will mean Earl won’t have milk, is not encouraging also. However, it is my desire and my mindset to give nothing but the best for my baby that kept me going, despite all the obstacles.

Q: Will you recommend breastfeeding?
A: DEFINITELY YES!!! Breastfeeding is not only best for babies … but is also free! 🙂 Breastfeed exclusively for the first six months and then complement with solids until your baby is at least two years old.

This is me with my very supportive husband and my now 14-month old Earl (who is still breastfed), on his first birthday. The first year was not as difficult as some of my friends experienced it … mainly because Earl did not get sick (except for a few cold spells, which i did not even have to treat with medicine) … and i owe it all to breastfeeding. So, what are you all waiting for … breastfeed your babies!!! 🙂