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.