What I Learned from my Struggles as a Breastfeeding Mom

I have always thought of breastfeeding as the norm across all ages, countries, and cultures. I remember when we were asked to compose a jingle about breastfeeding one nutrition month back in high school, I’d question why we had to sing about something I considered then as common knowledge. When Zephy was born, I finally understood why.

Although not all breastfeeding journeys are the same, mine was something I would describe as analogous to a Ninja Warrior course – it was that challenging but so much worth the effort, pain, and struggles once the hardest stage has been passed. I have to say I would not have been as content as I am now if I didn’t carry on with it during the first few weeks of our journey. However, as much as I could say I have learned everything there is about breastfeeding, at 9 months, I am still learning.

My experience has taught me a few things that are definitely reminder-worthy when baby number 2 arrives.

Your partner and everyone in the household have to be aware of and must fully support your intention to breastfeed.

Aside from all the positive effects of breastfeeding, let’s be honest, some would associate it with sleepless nights (and days on my part) and physical and emotional pain especially during the first few weeks when both mommy and baby are still getting the hang of the new experience. It only makes sense that the more people you can make aware of and educate about your intention to breastfeed, the higher the chance that you will get past the difficult phase and onto the more relaxed stage.

In my case, there were only just me, my partner, his sister, and our helper who were regulars at home when Zephy was born. I expressed my want to breastfeed to my partner but I didn’t emphasize the need to breastfeed as I lacked the information to justify why it’s needed. The result was the slight emotional and physical setback I experienced because most of the time I felt unsupported and misunderstood (hello, hormones). They thought I was just being too pushy and controlling. Frizuel even thought I’d gone mad whenever I’d cry every time Zephy wouldn’t latch on and this lasted for about 3 weeks. There was even a time when we came to a consensus to stop direct breastfeeding altogether and just turn to exclusive pumping supplemented by formula. I remember getting so emotional when we were buying formula milk from the supermarket because I knew that what he was proposing would definitely affect my supply, hence compromise our breastfeeding journey. These are the reasons why it must be known to all the world what you intend to do.

Do not discount the value of breastfeeding seminars.

Before Zephy was born, my colleague, Miss Anje, who breastfed her first born then, advised me to attend breastfeeding seminars which I considered then but didn’t really have the time to do. I wish I had put it down on the priority list of things to do before I had Zephy because it could have reduced, if not eliminated, the time I spent cramming loads of information in my post-partum brain. Latch Philippines regularly holds breastfeeding seminars for a very minimal fee.

Watch videos over and over again until you really know how latching is done.

Breastfeeding is natural, but so are walking and talking. This means both us moms and babies have to learn how to do it correctly so don’t worry if you encounter setbacks because these are part of the learning curve. KellyMom provides bountiful information on the subject but be patient because this website is thorough but really helpful. Latching videos by Global Health Media Project on YouTube helped me out a lot, too. I have to admit though, I didn’t really take the time to understand how latching was supposed to be done when I was watching the videos when I was still pregnant so I had to revisit the videos numerous times before I finally got the hang of it.

Breastfeeding peers and counselors are heaven-sent.

Theory is way different from practice when it comes to breastfeeding. It’s super easy to read things on the Internet but it can be quite difficult to apply it in practice. In my case, I had to bombard a lot of people with videos featuring my nipple (yes, wala nang hiya hiya ‘non) and my baby latched on because it hurt more than labor did. Labor was 100% painful, yes, but at least it was just the latter part of my 7-hour labor that I had to endure and breastfeeding hurt a lot more because baby was feeding every 2 hours then and the anticipation that she would feed again made it even worse.

With someone to guide you on what to do and manoeuvres to master (yes just like a car, we breastfeeding mamas have to be skillful when positioning our babies to latch), you can do away with the pain associated with poor latch. Then you’d have one less problem to think of.

When babies don’t feed, that probably means they can’t.

When we discovered baby had tongue and lip ties due to super painful latch, we immediately took her to a pediatric dentist. Based on comments that I read, babies usually have no problems latching on after the operation. So on her 11th day we went there with a hopeful heart that we will finally have stress-free bf sessions. But she didn’t feed immediately after the surgery, in fact, she didn’t feed directly for another 2 weeks. I almost accepted our fate that breastfeeding wasn’t for us until she latched on out of the blue on her 3rd week. I realized that I had been forcing her to feed when she was uncomfortable from her healing wound. She couldn’t feed even if she wanted to.

There are more reasons why babies can’t feed and it is a matter of knowing such reasons and addressing them one by one.

Support from online groups is valuable and is available 24/7.

Online support groups make lives easier especially when you are breaking down because you are emotionally and physically tired as you cradle a crying child who won’t feed. Not only did I get motivational messages to remind me to keep going but I also found consolation in the fact that my situation was very relatable. Obviously I don’t want to rejoice upon the tragedies of others but it just feels reassuring that I was not alone in my struggles. As for moms who where there to answer my questions, I don’t know how they do it but they seem to offer tremendous help anytime, any day. However, moms must also have a discerning skill to sieve through online communities that are actually beneficial as some commenters tend to only make things worse by replying condescending comments.

I had my fair share of breakdowns when Zephy and I were still mastering the art of breastfeeding. But as they say, “everything will get better”, and so it did. Here’s to hoping next time will be a breeze.

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