Our Breastfeeding Journey

Parenting

“Breastfeeding is best for babies up to two years.”

You, too, have heard or seen this before – as a reminder after milk ads on TV or printed on the can of formula alongside a photo of a happy nursing mom. Perhaps, this is why you thought breastfeeding comes naturally to all mothers, and perhaps, this is why you worry that you may not be producing enough milk for your baby.

Yes, breastfeeding has unmatched benefits for babies and moms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, breastfed infants have reduced risks of obesity, asthma, Type 1 diabetes, severe lower respiratory disease, ear infections, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), diarrhea or vomiting, and for preterm infants, necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). In moms, breastfeeding can lower the risk of high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer. Breastfeeding advocates call it the “gold standard” in infant feeding and nutrition, but giving infant formula to your does not mean you are not a good mom. What will make you a bad mom is not feeding your child.

When Sprout was a newborn, I was adamant against infant formula – partly because I was vaccinated against COVID-19 and hoped to transfer the antibodies to my baby, mainly because I mistakenly thought breastfeeding is the gauge of a mother’s love – that I refused to accept that I had inadequate milk supply. Her nanny and my mom would tell me that the 15 ounces I pumped the previous day was not enough, as my baby was always already hungry by three o’clock. I would insist otherwise since science says babies only need 1 to 1.5 ounces per hour. On my baby’s checkups, the pediatrician would say Sprout’s weight was still below average, but I would convince myself that nothing was wrong because she is hitting her milestones and every baby is different.

Now, I was not wrong: Sprout is hitting her milestones and every baby is different. She never got sick (except once in January, which I suspected was COVID). The main problem though is that I did not enjoy her newborn phase at all. I pumped four times every day at my 8 to 5 to produce a measly ten ounces and four times again through the night to produce another five ounces. That was the maximum I can pump regardless of the model of the breast pump (I have four different models) and size of the flange insert. I did almost everything: drink electrolytes, take galactagogues, try different inserts, and change my diet but my milk supply did not improve. (We do not have lactation consultants or lactation massage services in our province.) I lacked sleep and was constantly stressed – exactly the factors that affect milk production – and my mental health was going down the drain. I even held and inhaled my child’s used clothes whenever I pumped because this supposedly triggered letdown, but maybe I am just not like other moms. I felt like all I did was pump.

Before her tenth month, I decided to finally supplement. She had started solids at six months and I was able to pump less and less milk. It was heartbreaking, watching her enjoy the formula, but at the same time, I heaved a sigh of relief. I am not under constant stress, worrying if she is getting enough. She still nurses at night, but I am getting more sleep. She is eating. She is thriving. And despite that it is not purely my milk anymore, she still loves me.

This is how I understood that giving formula to my child does not take motherhood away from me. Every mom, every postpartum, every circumstance is unique. Whatever your reason is for how you feed your child is valid. Regardless of how you feed your child – whether you are exclusively breastfeeding, exclusively formula feeding, exclusively pumping, or combination feeding – as long as your baby is well-fed, you are a good parent.


Thanks to Nyana Stoica @nyanastoica for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/ikGJw9SYUuM

Grateful

Personal
  1. I got accepted for my first part-time job! The pay is small, but the job is something I already enjoy doing and can manage while taking care of Sprout. I start on Wednesday.
  2. Francis and I have decided to finally build our home. It is going to be a tiny house – just 30 square meters to be exact – with a bedroom, a bathroom, a small living, and a loft for when Sprout is bigger. Construction starts on September 6.
  3. Sprout turns one this month. She already knows so many words. She already can walk with some help. And she is such a happy kid. How fast time flies.
  4. This wet season in the Philippines is my favorite. I have always loved dark skies and cold air. Also, it’s nearly Christmas.
  5. I am getting better recognized at work. My supervisor is finally entrusting me with more substantial work.
  6. My clothes are loosening and I can feel myself getting lighter. I am not weighing myself, but I am so thankful that I decided to get a new smart watch. It is just a Huawei Honor Band 6, but it does the job of reminding me to move.
  7. I am glad that my brother trusts me to handle his wedding next year. He is our only Castillo, so I am praying I can plan the most beautiful and magical wedding for him and his lovely fiancée.

I am so grateful for all these wonderful opportunities coming my way.

Thank you, Lord. Thank you, universe.


Thanks to Dylan Ferreira @dylanferreira for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/SCwDA7kegqo

9 Ways a Kid CAN Change Your Life

Parenting, Personal

Suddenly, it’s August and it’s our little Sprout’s birth month! I remember around this time last year. We knew she was coming anytime and I was just so exhausted and so excited to finally be not pregnant. No one told me pregnancy was the easy part!

As life changing and challenging the first twelve months of being a mom is, I will neither regret nor exchange any of it. Honestly, being this little girl’s mom is the best thing that happened to my life. This is not to say all women and all mothers could, should, or would feel the same – no. For me and only me, this is my favorite role so far.

For those you want to have a child, here are eleven great ways being a first-time parent changed my life:

1. I wake up and see beauty.

Someone told us we will only get a good night’s sleep after six years, but despite being almost sleepless for the last eleven months, I still love opening my eyes in the morning and seeing my daughter. Just watching her sleep and more so if she is awake and smiling are enough to perk me up.

2. I witness myself improving as a parent.

I entered parenthood knowing absolutely nothing and as each day passes, I know that I am learning and improving. I become more confident as a mom. I am more in tune with my instincts. I am getting better at managing time (I am a working mom) and our finances.

3. I love my husband more.

My husband has always been the kindest and the most loving person I have met. Now having him as my husband and my daughter’s father makes me appreciate him more. Marriage is hard indeed, especially with an infant, but so far I can see I can count on him.

4. My job has a purpose.

The value of work was never inculcated in me, to be honest. For me this job is just a means to have money. But being a working mom made me appreciate having a job that is stable, has good benefits, and allows me to be with my child on a fixed schedule.

5. I have an excuse not to socialize.

Now, I am an introvert. You can also call me anti-social. Being around other people outside of my family and really close friends has always been taxing. But now, I can skip just any sort of invitation, be it someone’s wedding or a business trip. Sorry, the baby.

6. I have an excuse for not being online all the time.

Seriously, parenthood is so hard and the child needs so much attention, especially now that she is starting to walk. This can be a justification for more frequent “digital detoxes”.

7. I now have an ambition.

Ever since I started working, I never really cared about promotions or increases. But now that I have a child, I am starting to think I want to have a better career, something that my daughter will be proud of. Someday, I want her to think that the work that kept me away from her during her early years is worth it.

8. I am humbled.

Being a mother exposed my weaknesses and shortcomings. From not surviving labor pains to not producing enough milk to my inability to shrink to my pre-pregnancy size even after eleven months, I have realized that I cannot control my body… and that it is not my fault. I was so proud of what I thought I knew, until I had a child and realized either I do not know much or what I knew were wrong. From being this woman who fears nothing and no one outside of crocodiles (not the politicians), I have started to fear and pray. I am weak.

9. Also, I am strong.

I have always known I am quite strong physically, but carrying another human being for nine months AND THEN BARELY SLEEPING while feeding the child with my own milk for the next eleven months are some things I never thought I could do. How am I still alive, you ask? Look around you: there are so many strong moms that survived more than this.

Being a parent is hard and there are so many valid reasons not to have a child. But if you want a child, I can assure you that based on my very limited experience, it’s going to be worth it.

Wishing you the best,

Patti

5 Mistakes that Ruined My Milk Supply

Parenting

Today, I’m sharing some of the wrong things I made as a first-time breastfeeding mom that probably affected my milk supply.

I exclusively breastfed for nine months. I’ve always struggled with my milk supply and just recently accepted that we have to mix feed because my baby still isn’t gaining enough weight for her age.

If you’re a first-time mom and planning to breastfeed, or currently breastfeeding and struggling, I hope my experiences can help you with your journey.

Without further ado, let’s go.

Mistake 1: Going in Unprepared

To be honest, I’m a pessimist and I feared that something wrong will happen when I give birth. I didn’t want to prepare because I was thinking, what if one or both of us died, what’s the use of preparing to breastfeed? I did read a bit when I was pregnant, but I didn’t want to go deep. So, when baby and I both came out of the operating room alive, I had no clue what I was up for.

I didn’t know that breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally for some moms. Because our baby latched on perfectly the first time, I thought, okay, we’re good. But then the engorgement came. I had no breast pump, I didn’t know about hand expression, I didn’t even know I had to wake her up to nurse because she was sleeping so much and not really crying a lot. I didn’t know that my baby was still getting colostrum even if I couldn’t see it, so I immediately resorted to formula because I was scared she wasn’t getting fed.

I get that with so much information online and in real life, it can be overwhelming. But knowing at least the basics would’ve saved my milk supply in those first few days. All of the mistakes I made happened because I came in unprepared for breastfeeding.

Mistake 2: Buying Multiple Breast Pumps


I started pumping on the fourth or fifth day, using a Horigen pump I borrowed from my sister. I was expecting that I’d be pumping like at least 10 ounces in 10 minutes, because my sister used to. But no. I was pumping half an ounce to 2 ounces per breast pumping for half an hour. I thought that it’s the pump’s issue so I bought a Wondermom, which produced the same or less amount. After that, I started searching for the pump that would work for me. I didn’t think that constantly changing pumps could have an effect on my milk supply. Apparently, in breast pumping, there’s this thing called “learning curve” like your breasts and pump are getting to know each other. I think so, because when I finally gave up my search and settled on Spectra S1, my milk supply started to increase.

Mistake 3: Relying on Galactogogues

Lactation drinks, lactation cookies, lactation brownies, malt, fenugreek, moringa, you name it, I used it. Whatever was suggested on the Facebook breastfeeding groups I joined, I tried it. But I didn’t see a dramatic increase. Well, I used Herbilogy tea, and saw an increase but my baby started to get colicky so I stopped. But I was relying heavily on galactogogues that I thought even if I ate crap – like Oreos and chocolate drinks crap – I would have lots of breastmilk. It was too late when I discovered that the proof of the effectiveness of galactogogues are based on anecdotal evidences and would work on some moms and not in some. It turns out, we don’t need anything than the basics: enough water, enough calories from whole foods, rest, and emptying of the breasts are what really work in improving milk supply.

Mistake 4: Refusing to Nurse on Demand

The first time the nurse brought my child to our hospital room, she said if breastfeeding, I would feed my child every hour, and if using formula, every two hours. So, that’s what I did. I fed my baby on schedule. Even when we went home and her nanny said she’s hungry, I would say she wasn’t because it wasn’t time yet.

In addition, I decided to pump instead of nursing her on my breasts. Even if she was crying, I would finish the pump and feed her on the bottle.

I noticed then that my child then stopped demanding to nurse all the time. She seldom cried unless really hungry, and I wasn’t having letdowns as much as I wanted. As I was not emptying my breasts all the time, my body thought I didn’t have to make much.

Mistake 5: Joining Breastfeeding FB Groups

Now, this would make me sound so ungrateful because I got so much information from virtual mom communities. These are treasure troves for anything mom, anything breastfeeding. But I found that they could also be counterproductive.

Everyday, I would see pictures and videos of other moms’ freezer stashes and I would get jealous of them, and angry at my body’s inability to produce the same. As a pump and consume mom, I was already insecure, and then having to see comments like “True low milk supply is rare” or “Just add one more pump” made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough. Even though I was pumping 8 times a day and just getting 12-15 ounces per day, I was tired and I lacked sleep, I ate more than I should, these moms were saying I wasn’t doing enough. Having to see comments like “Look at pictures and videos of your child” or “Bring your child’s used clothes while pumping” and not seeing an increase, made me question myself, don’t I love my child enough?

It is absolutely not the fault of the moms in these groups. I know they only mean well, they just want to share, and I’m so thankful for all the information I got from them. This one’s on me. My insecurities and my competitiveness, fueled by constant exposure to other moms’ “successes” caused my body and mind to be stressed. And stress is the enemy of breastfeeding.

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So, knowing now about these mistakes, what would I do differently if I were a new breastfeeding mom? I would NOT overcomplicate breastfeeding. Drink enough (not too much), eat enough calories from nutritious foods, sleep as much as I can, empty my breasts by nursing often, and stop comparing myself to other moms. In addition, I wouldn’t be too hard on myself and my body. Whatever happens, even if the amount I can pump remains low, I wouldn’t feel bad about our breastfeeding journey.

There, I hope this blog helped you, even a bit. Thank you and see you again!

-End-


Thanks to Timothy Meinberg @timothymeinberg for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/NFH6LovuJso

Random Thoughts: Body Image

Parenting, Personal

To be honest, I thought I will bounce back easily, coming in skinny and hoping to breastfeeding. I also used to work out six days a week, four of which at high intensity, so I thought I would still have that drive and energy twelve weeks after giving birth. I ate healthy and balanced. I thought I had it figured out.

Things didn’t work out well for me, obviously. Eleven months and twenty pounds later, I grew from extra small to double XLs. Even walking 10,000 steps on a daily basis is a challenge; let alone doing HIITs with the new state of my joints and knees. I chose to ditch my healthy plant-based life to increase my breastmilk. (Unfortunately, my breastmilk did increase… and so did my body size.) With these, and sleeplessness and stress, I am, physically, a new person and I do not like her.

It isn’t that I do not like being a mom. I love my daughter possibly more than anything I have loved in my life and will never not want becoming her mother. It is that I hate myself. I hate my body for not shrinking back to size 2 immediately. I hate that I had diastasis recti. I hate that I am now too weak to lift a one-pound dumb bell, to lift my upper or lower half more than five times in succession, to even do simple jumping jacks. I compare myself to my office mates who had recently become moms, too, and bounced back effortlessly. Me? I look horrible.

I am not being overly dramatic. My work mates say so. My relatives say so. I am barely recognizable. I have aged. And I feel bad that I hate this version of me, because this new body resulted from having and looking after my child, and I love my child, possibly more than anything. I will never regret being her mom. More than anything, though, I am scared that my body image issues will affect my child growing up – that if I do not recover from this mentality, my child, a girl, will grow up feeling the same, thinking she is worth less if she is not skinny.

Thanks to Diana Polekhina @diana_pole for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/iUfusOthmgQ