Now that the world is celebrating the Breastfeeding Month, my heart feels it is necessary to share my story so far. This is to express my gratitude for getting the moral support I desperately needed and, I hope, serve as encouragement to other parents who will embark on the same journey.
As a first-time mother (and typically worrywart at that), I knew there will be more downs than ups and longer sobs than happy tears. But everyone’s telling me to “relax” and “think positive” like a broken record, so I decided to take heed.
I was due to give birth in July 8th, but I started lactating as early as May 18th. When my ob-gyne informed me there’s a small percentage of expectant mothers who experience this, I felt my optimism about my breastfeeding journey skyrocket. I thought getting reliable breast pads was the only hindrance to the walk in the park that lies ahead.
I had unmet expectations when I gave birth. My husband was not allowed to accompany
and camwhore with me in the operating room, plus I was in deep slumber during our unang yakap. I felt so deprived of that once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch my baby breast crawl and hold her in tearful admiration after (yeeeeah, I watch too much TV). Since I regained my consciousness before being ushered out of the operating room, I was anxious for that reunion with my baby girl. In fact, the nurse in the recovery room was astonished that I was already awake when I arrived there. According to this breastfeeding class I attended, the baby must be fed within an hour after childbirth and no force on earth can doze me off again. Finally, a nurse came in and made Brielle latch on me. To my relief, she did. And I felt so accomplished that I was able to provide her first immunization through colostrum. This happiness proved to be short-lived as I learned they fed her glucose water in the nursery and she had to be brought back for more tests. She’ll be roomed-in later in the afternoon.
I followed what I learned during the abovementioned breastfeeding class: feed the baby every 2.5-3 hours, monitor her poop and urine and the likes. This went on until we arrived home the following day. By nighttime in Day 2, the baby’s incessant cries alarmed me and the rest of the household. My mother and sister-in-law detected she’s very hungry and she was not getting any milk from me all along. I argued the 4 instances of meconium on Day 1 should prove she was getting fed but they clarified those discharges were composed of the food she’s consumed while she’s still inside my womb. Then everything was a back-to-back flashback: how she concluded each feeding crying (but she’s probably experiencing other discomfort!) and how my milk flow suddenly stopped about a week before giving birth (but my ob-gyne assured me it happens and milk supply will make a comeback after birth!).
When my husband Waldo can’t drink any milk when he suckled on my nipples, I finally believed them that my milk duct was clogged. Suddenly, my mother is urging me to bring the baby to the ER so the doctors can prescribe formula milk! Of course I gave her a resounding no. Then they chorused “Kaya mo bang tiising nagugutom ang anak mo?” It was too much for me to hear. Even though I know we’re not supposed to offer exclusively-breastfed infants water until 6 months, I gave in. I had no idea when will my milk supply be established. It pained me to see her gobble it up and panicked at the potential nipple confusion. Up until the wee hours, I was watching my baby for hunger cues and I would instantly offer my breast. Again, she would latch yet end up shedding tears.
Good thing my mother recalled that my college friend Ira is still breastfeeding her then 8-month-old baby. To my delight, she agreed to wet nurse my baby at 6 am! I held back my tears when I witnessed how she hungrily suckled on Ira’s breast. It was just too painful! Knowing how troubled I was for the past hours, Ira made me get some shuteye and, when I was out of earshot, even lectured my mother about her erroneous wala-kang-gatas conclusion.
They woke me up hours later for my massage (for my clogged milk duct) and I learned that Ira fed my baby twice and even promised to come back in the afternoon to pump milk. The massage and intakes of sinuom (pinakuluang malunggay and ginger) were no instant remedy, but I slowly felt better in Ira’s company. She expressed milk that we used for drip-dropping to stimulate my own supply.
It was no easy feat and, at one point, Waldo expressed frustration and accused me for excluding him in such an important decision. It was true I didn’t consult him about breastfeeding our baby, but I invited him to join me in the breastfeeding class and I simply assumed he’d agree because he grew up in the province himself. So, I refused to temporarily feed her formula milk while we’re waiting for my milk supply. And no means HELL, NO!
I know I can’t rely on Ira’s generosity forever. In Day 4, Ira and her family will be off somewhere after hearing the Mass. She offered to wet nurse Brielle before the 7am Mass (bless her heart!) but we declined since we don’t want the baby exposed to too many people yet. Even though we’re not supposed to pump milk within the first 6 weeks, I had no choice but to produce my own. It took me the entire afternoon to produce an ounce! So we used that for the 7pm feeding, but we don’t have any more for the 10pm feeding! Again, Ira to the rescue!
In Day 5, I still persevered. After feeding her spoonfuls of Ira’s milk, I made her latch on my breast. I wasn’t expecting anything. To my shock, it lasted for about 20 minutes! One look at my baby’s gaping mouth and I know that my supply has finally arrived! I even pressed my nipples to be sure. Confiiiiirmed! Thank God for giving me the patience to unli-latch, for a supportive mother who cooks malunggay meals, halaan soups and other lactogenic food! (Note: Actually, after my milk supply got established, I didn’t purchase another batch of malunggay capsules anymore. I let the unli-latch and unli-positive thinking do the work for me. I suggest you read this post.)
Ever since this whole ordeal took place, Ira mentioned we can seek help from lactation consultants and other breastfeeding advocates. As a member of the group Breastfeeding Pinays, Ira was able to locate a lactation peer counsellor here in the South to help me address the next issue: getting the right latch. Although Ira said Brielle had the perfect latch, I can’t ignore the clicking sounds and the baby’s tendency to latch-unlatch-cry-latch. In Day 6, I got a visit from Nina who happens to be founder of South PiNanays (SPiN) as well. She assured me that I had milk since Day 1 (colostrum is really thick and it’s not that visible compared to mature milk), she confirmed that baby’s got the perfect latch and she taught me how to position Brielle to make her comfortable during feeding, among others. It was so comforting to feel that there are angels out there when we need guidance.
In conclusion (wait, I’m not saying the bumpy ride ends here), I would like to thank the big-hearted women who helped me in this rocky beginning of my breastfeeding journey. There’s Mec (L.A.T.C.H. counsellor and Breastfeeding Pinays admin) who tirelessly answered all my questions about breastfeeding and listened to all my worries since I discovered about my pregnancy until now, Ira for her willingness to share her stash, wisdom and time, Nina for her expertise and for still checking on my journey and my own mother for being supportive in my decision to give my baby the best nutrition possible. I couldn’t make it this far without your loving assistance. Please don’t give up on me.
Also, I would like to thank my husband for being patient with me. I pray that I continue to be patient with him in this journey.
Are you about to take the same path that I did? Never allow yourself to feel alone. Seek help and you will obtain it. All is well!