Thursday, April 24, 2014

Breastfeeding: The First Months

I wasn't successful at breastfeeding Ella and we all suffered the consequences. First, she is very sickly. Second, it took a long time for me to fully recover from my CS operation. And last but definitely not the least, we had to cope with a budget of P1000 a week for formula. Because of this, I made sure that I would be successful at breastfeeding Serene. Let me share with you my breastfeeding journey

The Preparation

1. I read a lot about breastfeeding. How it works; the benefits; the problems; the truths vs. the myths, etc. It pays to be in the know when it comes to these things because that way I was able to...
2. ...Make it clear to EVERYONE that I have decided that my baby takes nothing less than my milk. I sat down with my husband and other people in the family who will have an influence on me when it comes to child-rearing.I encouraged them to understand more about breastfeeding so that they could stand the same ground as I am when facing breastfeeding challenges. The least a mother wants to have are people who are negative about breastfeeding around her. Breastfeeding is most likely to be successful with a support system, especially during those times after birth when you cannot be in control of certain things. Included in the support system are your medical team. That's why...
2. ...I chose a hospital with a breastfeeding advocacy. I originally planned to have a birth plan signed but was hesitant because birth plans are not popular in the Philippines. Good thing I didn't have to because VRPMC (Victor R. Potenciano Medical Center aka Polymedic) is pro-breastfeeding. Apparently, DOH and WHO are already working towards making the Philippines a breastfeeding country. Good job DOH and WHO for RA10028!
3. I bought breastfeeding compatible bottles for when I go to work and my little one would be left with breastmilk from the refrigerator.
4. I drank Nu-Mom, a supplement for nursing mothers, by my 36th week of pregnancy. I wanted to make sure that I am confident that my boobs would have colostrum by the time I gave birth.
5. I manually and mechanically tried to express colostrum by my 37th week of pregnancy just to check if something would come out. When colostrum did come out, I became more confident in my success at breastfeeding.

Things I Really Needed and Used

1. An efficient breastpump; especially because I intend to continue breastfeeding after going back to work. I was given a Fisher Price electric breastpump as a gift and it helped me during the first few weeks but since it was a single pump, very noisy and did not pump on it's own (It just continuously sucked like vacuum and there's button you have to constantly press to let go of the boobie nipple - technically making it a glorified manual pump!) I had to get the Spectra Cimilre M1 from BabyMama.Ph. It was so efficient and quiet and I'm really happy with that purchase. It helped me build a breastmilk stash (more than enough that I was able to donate some before returning to work and troubleshoot some breastfeeding challenges such as under and over supply. I still keep my Fisher Price pump as a back-up though.
2. A nursing bra. Not only did it give easy access to boob for the little one but it also helped me pump hands-free! Just click here to see how it's done.
3. A nursing pillow. In my experience, the nursing pillow totally made the first few weeks easier, when baby seemed to fragile and I was still recovering from my CS operation. It's short-lived though because as soon as little one had stronger bones and muscles, I found myself needing the nursing pillow a lot less. So, it's better to get a cheap, or even a hand-me-down but reliable one.
4. A nursing cover. My family and I love to go out and despite breastfeeding advocates' stand that breastfeeding is a natural thing and need not be hidden, I still choose to nurse discreetly. 
5. Breastmilk storage bags and bottles. I bought my breastmilk storage bags from here and got the Looney Tunes set of 4 breastmilk storage bottles at SM Megamall Department Store. They're the most affordable choices as far I was able to search. I use my storage bags to build my stash in the freezer and the storage bottles to routinely arrive with freshly expressed milk from work. 
6. An insulated bag with gel-type ice packs. Aside from it going to be used to keep my expressed milk fresh upon returning home from work, it also came in handy when I had to host a wedding ceremony wherein the whole family was invited but couldn't directly feed the little one.

Things I Thought I Needed But Didn't

1. Breastfeeding compatible bottles. The Internet is very helpful, but it can also be harmful at times. I was haunted by the thought that my daughter will not take the bottle by the time I return to work so we ended up buying different kinds of bottles that claim to be "breastfeeding compatible" and trained her with them. It stressed both of us out when we didn't have success during training only to find out that my daughter will take any bottle as soon as I was out of the house. 
2. The milkband. I won't say it wasn't helpful because it did remind me of the time and the side I last nursed my baby during the first few weeks. However, I learned that I should breastfeed on demand and the fullness I felt on my boobs eventually became my reminder on which side LO last fed on. 

The Challenges

1. Difficulty achieving the correct latch. It took a lot of patience, practice and support from other people. For some, it may take a few days... For me, weeks. My nipple was even at one point too sore that it bled. But when I was about to give up, I just had to remember "This too shall pass..." and it did.
2. Timing feedings and observing cues. A hungry baby is a fussy, noisy, baby and it didn't help alleviate my post-partum blues. 
3. Oversupply. A lot of people I talked to think that oversupply is great, but it's not. If you have ever experienced expressing breastmilk or at least have seen someone doing it, you'll know that milk comes out of not just one but several holes. Sometimes, the ejection of the milk can be too strong for the baby, causing them to gag or choke, stop nursing, cry and be fussy. To remedy this, I'd have to pump everytime before little one is about to nurse. It's a hassle because one I can't predict the time "before" the feeding cues show up causing little one to end up having to take the strong milk ejection because I wasn't able to pump; And two, because I have more pumping-washing-sterilizing to do. 
4. Bottle feeding. - Only if you go back to work or go somewhere without your little one which are both something I intend to do. I eventually learned to not make a big deal out of it because my daughter feeds just fine on a bottle when I was not around.
5. Boob-side preference. Because of the oversupply problem, each feeding had to be done on only one side so that LO can get the right amounts of the foremilk and hindmilk from that boob. Recently, I am finding that there's no fuss feeding LO on my left, but a hurdle to feed her on my right.  

My Takeaways

1. Breastfeeding is difficult. I never thought that something so natural would require a lot of time, effort, hardwork and support from other people. If I didn't have all 4, I probably ditched the entire breastfeeding thing.
2. Articles on the Internet are informative but MAY do more harm than good. Yes, the Internet taught me a lot but it pays to hear experiences from real people who have already gone through the breastfeeding journey. Good thing friends invited me to a group in Facebook called Breastfeeding Pinays
3. Forewarned is Forearmed. The fact that I already knew a lot about breastfeeding helped me defend my stand to exclusively breastfeed my daughter despite what other people say or do. For anyone who may read this blog, one very important foundation information that I learned about breastfeeding is that a newborn's tummy is just about the size of a cherry so the tiny bit of colostrum that comes out of my breasts when I give birth is enough. It helped me stay confident about not having to concede to formula pressure.

The Rewards

1. A happy, healthy baby.
2. Faster CS operation recovery.
3. Faster pre-pregnancy weight achievement.
4. Around P4000 monthly savings for not feeding with formula.

So there! It's been two months that I have exclusively been breastfeeding my daughter, Serene and we're very happy and excited to experience what else is in store for us in the next few months. 

your every woman,


  1. Thank you for sharing your breastfeeding experience, Bianca! I remember my own experience when I had my two little girls. It was hard at first, but I get the hang of it later on. And yes, the rewards are definitely worth the difficulty. If I may add, my OB advised me to continue drinking milk and eat healthy food for pregnant and lactating women

  2. Thank you for sharing this helpful blog post.