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!!! 🙂