by Pia S. Cayetano
My Breastfeeding Story
Did I know that I would be up at 2am, 3am and 4am every day nursing my baby in pain, wondering where in the world was the milk coming from as she has been sucking almost continuously for 3 hours?
Similarly, no one told me, it would be one of the best decisions I ever made.
This is not just my breastfeeding story, this is the story of the formative months of the lives of each of my children, Maxine, Nadine and Gabriel.
My first memory of doing anything that had to do with breastfeeding, is shopping in the US with my cousin Mashi who nonchalantly picks up an electric breast pump and tosses it in our cart. I said “What’s that?” and she just said, “You’ll need that.” Next thing I know we are buying a nursing bra, with a size C cup! She promised me that my breast would get that big. Hmm, that would be interesting.
Fast forward to my last few months of pregnancy. I read all the chapters of my pregnancy and baby care books and felt prepared to breastfeed my baby. I had actually made the decision to breastfeed soon after becoming pregnant. I felt that with my working hours, I would not be spending as much time during weekdays at home as I would want to, so breastfeeding would be a bonding activity between me and my baby. And it would be something my baby and I could share –something, her yaya, her grandmother or anyone else could not do for her. I wanted this to be our special time together.
So here I was, thinking I was all prepared. I just had to give birth and I would embark on the noble journey called motherhood.
My 6 lb, 2 oz baby girl was born just before midnight on January 4, 1995 after 22 hours of labor. She screamed loud enough for my mom to hear her outside the delivery room.
The first 2 days were non-eventful. I managed to get enough sleep despite the discomfort of the episiotomy. I knew my baby, who at that time (first 2 days) still had no name, was getting the colostrum she needed. She was a fairly easy baby, not so ravenously hungry when she sucked.
So, here I was thinking, “This isn’t too bad, I’m doing a pretty good job.” Then, my milk came in and man, did I get the shock of my life! It was close to daybreak, I was sleeping peacefully, and all of a sudden I was awakened by a very heavy feeling on my chest and liquid dripping down from it. I can only liken it to a van that decided to park on top of me…That is nature’s way of telling you, FEED YOUR BABY NOW! Your breasts are so full and hard, that you just need to release the pressure.
Looking back, my first two weeks were quite difficult. My episiotomy hurt and made it extremely uncomfortable to move around, turn around, walk around… really, anything that involved moving the lower half of my body. My breasts hurt. They would get engorged early in the morning, which would mark the beginning of another never-ending day of breastfeeding Maxine. Yes, she did finally get a name after we left the hospital.
Maxie was really a nice baby. She did not intend to torture her mother by being constantly hungry. That was just her nature, being a baby. There really isn’t much to tell during the first two weeks, maybe even the first month. All I really did was feed my baby and in between try to get some sleep. Oh, I also ate an inordinate amount of chocolate cake. My way of coping with pain and difficulties in my life… Normally, that would be running and eating chocolate cake. But running was just not going to happen given the pain I was experiencing the first two weeks. So I relied on chocolate cake and ignored the weighing scale.
Worth telling though is my story on breast pumps. After I realized that engorged breast would be a normal occurrence, I remembered the breast pump I bought with my cousin. I took it out that fateful night, my hands practically shaking from excitement because finally there would be a way to relieve the pain in my breast…Well, what do you know? We stuck the pump into a 220 outlet when it was only a 110! Needless to say, I cried.
The next day, my ever supportive mom went on a breast pump shopping spree. She bought like, five different pumps! Really! She is the best mom talaga! Anyway, after trying so many different kinds, it was really the simplest, cheapest kind that worked for me while breastfeeding Maxie. But more on that later because the breast pump really played a crucial role when I started breastfeeding at work.
Since, I had also planned on exclusively breastfeeding for as long as I could, I followed the advice in one of the many books I read on breastfeeding and did not buy any bottles, bottle feeding paraphernalia, including formula milk, so that I would not be tempted to use it.
Back to Running
Around two weeks after Maxie was born, I was dying to resume my running. I had run (more like a very slow jog) till I was 8 months pregnant and really missed running. I also needed to run in order to get rid of all the fat one naturally acquires while pregnant. I had to time this all very carefully because I had a baby who was nursing every 2 hours, give or take one hour. What I would do is squeeze in a late afternoon run in between feeding sessions. I had to be sure she was asleep because if she was awake the danger of her getting hungry in 30 minutes while I was out jogging was all too real. So, I had to wait till I had a sleeping baby to hand to my mom or her yaya. I would already be in my running outfit so all I had to do was head out the door.
This all worked quite well, except for a few instances where I ended up running later in the evening because she just kept on eating. I did express my milk before feeding her again when I got back just because I read somewhere that there may be a build-up of lactic acid in the breastmilk.
My Night out
About a month or so after Maxie was born, I also started to miss my friends. One day I got a call from Deeda, a friend at work saying they were going out to dinner and the usual after dinner hanging-out. I decided if I was going to stick with breastfeeding, I might as well get back to my usual activities and learn to work the breastfeeding around everything. I fed Maxie just before leaving and met up with my friends. About 2 hours into our dinner, my breast started to feel heavy, and then painful and then they got really hard. It was difficult to have fun when your chest is burning. So, I went to my car and expressed some milk.
Back to Work
My maternity leave ended in 2 months. To prepare for my return to work, I practiced expressing my milk with my various pumps. I soon came to the conclusion that it was just so much easier to breastfeed Maxie directly than to pump.
In the beginning, I would be pumping for almost an hour and would only have 1 ounce of milk. I felt like crying! I learned later that we are all different, some mothers have so much milk even at the start, like my friend Mailet. Others, like me, need more time for the milk supply to establish itself.
I was excited to return to work. But the first day at work was terrible. I knew I had to express every few hours to keep my milk supply steady and to keep the pain of engorgement away… I did not even have to watch the clock. After two hours, my breast would start to feel heavy and hard. If I went over 3 hours, I would be in a lot of pain. By then I would be dying to express my milk, only to discover it is a bit more difficult to express milk when you breasts are rock hard.
I doubt if I expressed over 4 ounces of milk in the 8 hours or so that I was at work. I was probably overwhelmed with the task at hand. That night I got a fever. I was on the verge of panic. I knew I could not go on being in so much discomfort and that if this continued, I would not have enough milk to feed Maxie.
The next day, my mom, the angel, brought my baby to Makati so I could breastfeed her over lunch. Meanwhile, I labored on with my attempts to express my milk the next few days. I followed all the tips – I had a comfortable, private, well-ventilated room to express my milk. I took deep breaths to relax, I tried to block off work for a few minutes and think of my baby. As suggested by the books, I even had a picture of my baby on my table. It was a struggle at first because I was so not used to doing this and it was just so much easier to have a baby in your arms sucking at your breast.
It was a relief to go home every night and have my baby breastfeed directly. A baby is just more efficient at sucking than any breast pump. But more than that, seeing my baby contentedly nursing was all I needed to go on breastfeeding.
So my new life emerged. I expressed my milk around 6 am, just because there was so much of it and it was the easiest way to relieve myself of the pain of engorged breasts. Weeks past and I realized I struggled on not only because I really wanted my child to be breastfed but partly because the physical pain of weaning was so intense, I did not think I could deal with it. The memory of my first day at work, the hard-as-a-rock breasts and the pain and later the fever, were enough reasons to continue.
It did eventually get easier. I got used to my routine. At work, I expressed about three times before heading home, breastfed Maxie throughout the night and during weekends. I felt a deep sense of accomplishment that I was a working breastfeeding mom.
Before I knew it, Maxie was about 4 months and my milk supply had increased dramatically! All the pumping and breastfeeding in the middle of the night had paid off. From four months onward, Maxine at any given time had about a dozen bottles of frozen milk in the freezer. Everything was easier after that. Breastfeeding just became a part of my routine like everything else and I continued to breastfeed Maxie a little over a year.
Was it worth all the sleepless nights, the pain, the frustrations in the early days, the hours I put into it and the difficulty adjusting at work? Without a doubt, the answer is YES! Maxie was a healthy happy baby, hardly ever sick. She was alert, quick to learn new things and we achieved a mother-baby bonding probably not otherwise possible for working moms.Would I do it again? Yes, as I did with my two other children, Nadine and Gabriel,who each deserve their own story.
 Episiotomy – an incision made during childbirth to the perineum, the muscle between the vagina and rectum, to widen the vaginal opening for delivery.
Colostrum is the thick yellowish fluid that is secreted by the breast in the first few days after delivery, before mature milk is produced. Although only a small amount of colostrum is released from the breast, this liquid is loaded with calories and infection-fighting proteins. The baby should be allowed to nurse the colostrum to obtain these benefits.
is a chemical compound that plays a role in several biochemical processes. It is the acid that gives old milk its sour taste, and it accumulates in skeletal muscles during extensive anaerobic exercise, causing temporary muscle pain. Lactic acid is quickly removed from muscles when they resume aerobic metabolism. Delayed onset muscle soreness usually becomes apparent more than 24 hours after exercising and is not caused by lactic acid buildup. …