Note: This would be quite a long post with lots of blabbering. Honest-to-goodness, as raw as it gets. Also, I don’t mean to offend anyone, especially non-breastfeeding moms. I know that moms would always give the best to our children, under our own circumstances. These are all just based on my thoughts and feelings as a breastfeeding mom myself. 🙂
Over the last few weeks, I have been into a major decluttering frenzy at home. One day last week, I decided to keep my trusty pump in the box. I haven’t pumped in months, except for one day last month when my son’s gastro-pedia wanted to check my milk supply so she asked me to pump again for a day. As I stored my pump at the top cabinet, I suddenly got so emotional and nostalgic over the fact that our breastfeeding journey is about to near its end. And so, I decided to write this piece.
Even before I gave birth to Tino, I already made a promise to myself that we would breastfeed (BF) for as long as possible. I didn’t come cold as I read blogs and books on breastfeeding and armed myself with proper knowledge. I joined a breastfeeding group on FB that strongly and passionately advocates breastfeeding. For me, being able to breastfeed my son was one of my greatest feat as a mom. Up to this day, I am proud that we were able to last this long. But of course, it wasn’t a breeze. I had concluded that nobody really gets lucky with breastfeeding (unlike what most people think when they say, “swerte ka, malakas gatas mo” (you’re lucky you have good milk supply). You work for it and you commit to it. And it’s not just all about your milk. Along the way, you’ll also encounter tests that may bring you to ask, “was it really worth it?”.
They say it all starts with the perfect latch. I took this rule to heart. I remember at the hospital while undergoing the early signs of labor, I took a mental photo of how to properly assist my baby to get the first latch perfect. I have read that most breastfeeding problems are simply caused by incorrect latch. But thank God, this was never really a problem for us. Tino was a pro from the start. It actually took a few days for my milk supply to flow out and I knew my son’s perfect latch contributed to it.
Our first major BF bump happened around the second month when I had an allergy attack. Regular antihistamines were not enough so I had to take steroids for 3-5 days. That meant my son cannot latch nor take my milk while I’m on medication. No latch equals dwindling supply. The only way to keep it up is to pump as regular as possible every 2-3 hours. So imagine the exhaustion between changing diapers, preparing milk in bottles, burping in between feedings, pumping, no sleep, and the emotional pangs (hey, post-natal hormones!) of not being able to nurse my son. I almost gave up then. Was it worth continuing? Before I even got to answer it, I was off the steroids and back on track.
So it was all steady until I needed to go back to work around the 3rd month. By this time, I was already so much into breastfeeding, I was firm there was no other option for us but this. I was ready with my pump, cooler, ice packs, storage bags and bottles. My office was even so considerate with my pumping schedule. Then came one of the most dreaded problem…nipple confusion! At some point, my 3-month old son started to refuse the breast and preferred the bottle instead. I remember coming home after work looking forward to that quiet, fulfilling nursing time with my baby, but in the end getting frustrated and ending up crying because we weren’t in sync anymore like before. It was more emotional for me at the time because I wasn’t ready to give up breastfeeding and all the unexplainable emotional connection with my baby that it gives me. I started to blame other things and other people – accusing my husband of not understanding what I’m going through (even though I know in my heart he was doing all his best), my son’s caregivers for not willing to learn cup feeding or spoon feeding or even syringe feeding, even that breastfeeding group for brainwashing me that breastfeeding and direct latch are the ONLY way! Yes, I was that irrational then! I don’t remember how we got over it but we eventually did. Commitment really does wonders on everything. And sometimes, so does stubbornness.
And then came plugged ducts and mastitis. These are pretty common, you say, but when you got them, you would almost wish for your body to stop building supply (which of course, you wouldn’t really want to happen because that would be the end of it). How many times had I called in sick and took a leave from work because of aching boobies. It is this time that you would realize the importance of the right flange size and a reliable, efficient pump. Investing in a good pump may cost you a little too much but if you’re in it for the long haul, a good pump will be your wingman and bestfriend!
Then there are those little discomforts (or sometimes perks!) that made me wonder for a sec what if I didn’t do this. Like bringing a pump bag and a cooler filled with ice packs everywhere I went. And dropping everything I’m doing at all cost because I’m due for my next pump session. Or having to cap off a good nightout with my girlfriends or officemates at 9:00 PM (“what, we only just started!”, they would say) because my liquid gold should be refrigerated in 30 minutes time or it won’t be good to store anymore. Most of the time I simply begged off from any social activity. Or having to change most of my wardrobe for BF-friendly wear and thinking that nursing covers and infinity scarves are the best accessories ever. Was it really worth it? Yeah, I eventually learned to live with all of it.
The biggest question for me came just recently when we were already breastfeeding for a full year. For months now, we have been struggling with my son’s weight and height (I have mentioned about it in my previous post.) Nothing is probably more painful than hearing people, including family and those close to you, mention that your baby seems smaller for his age and somehow implying that your milk is the culprit. In my most doubtful times, heaven would sometimes send a stranger or two who would assure me that it’s normal for breastfed babies to look smaller than formula-fed babies. Still, it brought me to do the comparison myself and ask “was it really my fault that I decided to extend breastfeeding and now my baby is lagging behind in the scales?”. I only wanted to give the best for him! Maybe I have given too much. Maybe I should have stopped at 6 months. Was it really worth it after all??
Over these last few months I have considered this question without a firm answer, especially after each visit to his pedia. Until that day I decided to keep my pump in the box. Looking at the flanges, the tubes and all its parts brought me back to the day I first bought it. I remember the conviction I had that day to only give my liquid gold to my 3-month old baby and nothing else. I remember every pumping session I spent in our office pantry, in an empty conference room, in malls’ pay lounges and breastfeeding rooms, and sometimes even in restaurants while having a social or business meal (!) and the satisfaction I felt each time. I remember the chubby, healthy, happy baby I held in my arms for over 9 months when my milk was all that sustained him. I remember every nursing session with him and feeling each time like it was the most magical, most amazing, most blessed moment I have ever had. I remember every prayer of gratitude that I would whisper each and every time I feel my milk’s let-down, knowing that God blessed me with a capacity to nurture and nourish my son like no one else can, in the most natural way that God designed it.
And then I looked at my son, happily playing in the corner of our disorganized room, jumping and throwing things around with a strength you wouldn’t imagine little children had, so full of life and vigor. I look at how he’s grown over the past 15 months, how he’s become so healthy (it’s true, he rarely gets sick!) and smarter for his age and loving. I thought of how much of me have I poured out into this little walking miracle and how much more I could still give him. At that moment I knew the answer to my question. I knew that we’ll get over this phase soon and I’m doing the best I can to complement his feeding.
So, was it really worth it? Yes, definitely. With all that I’ve lost and gained over this whole journey. Breastfeeding was worth it. My son was all worth it. I would do it all over again.
And that’s why my trusty pump is still sitting in the top cabinet for future use.