August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month! Truthfully, I was not able to breastfeed for very long. I breastfed the Princess for four months, and then the Baby Ball until he was a little over a year old. And certainly for me, I broke down more times than I kept track of. But, you know those “mom” moments? Those very special and powerful moments, those moments when you feel your heart just bursting with love when you realize you would do anything and everything in your power to keep your child safe? I got a lot of those when I looked down at my nursing baby.
So, because I am very grateful for those moments, and because of everything we now know about the benefits of breastfeeding (Burn up to 500 calories a day! San ka pa!!), allow me to share some (hopefully) useful lessons for expectant and nursing moms which I picked up on my breastfeeding journeys:
Lesson #1: You must be mentally, physically, and emotionally ready to take on breastfeeding.
What do you do when you are preparing to run a marathon, or join a competition, perform on stage, or do a big trek or climb? You train. You practice. You eat well. You sleep well. You even have a medical check-up to know what else you need to do to get you in tip-top physical shape. Then, you also prepare yourself for what obstacles you may face. You psych yourself into that place where you feel determined to keep on pushing no matter what. Now, that breastfeeding journey is not something that will just instantly and automatically happen when you give birth. Realize that you will have to plan, prepare for, and decide to pursue it.
Lesson #2: As you prepare yourself, prepare your support system as well.
The women in my family did not breastfeed. My mom, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law did not breastfeed, or at least did not keep at it for very long. They had their reasons, but I consider it very lucky that there is already a general awareness now of the benefits of breastfeeding for both mom and baby, and that this is supported by so many groups and organizations. So, as you prepare yourself to breastfeed, prepare your partner, your family and close friends, even your other children as well. Tell them of your decision, your reasons, and what it will mean for you and your child. Explain to them that it may not be easy, but that you would please need their support, help, prayers, and encouragement because this is something you would really want to do.
Lesson #3: Read, ask questions, listen, ask for help. But ultimately, decide what feels right for you.
There is no shortage of material on the benefits of breastfeeding, on the products a nursing mom can use, on breastfeeding seminars, on breastfeeding advocates and lactation consultants. Seek it out and soak it up. Listen to their stories. And then, decide on what to use and when and how to use them. For example, not everyone will want, need, or believe in the use of malunggay tablets. Not all nursing working moms will opt for automatic breast pumps. You will know what is right for you based on what works..for you.
Lesson #4: Realize that the journey is no commercial.
Oh I remember all those commercials where the mom, peaceful in her rocking chair, lovingly looks down and smiles at her nursing baby… and all those first few weeks after I started nursing I was thinking: When will that scene ever come for me?! WHEN? Where is that scene?! Ang sakit, ‘no!!! I’m telling it as it was for me: I literally bled, bruised, cringed, and cried my way through those first few weeks, both times. It was not a commercial for me. So realize this: your breastfeeding rhythm may not be something that will just come naturally, to you or your baby. It’s a dance, a give and take, and you’ll both need to work on establishing that rhythm first. Try out what works and what doesn’t. I really pray that you don’t give up after your first (or second, or third, or fourth, etc.) failed attempt. Like most skills, you and your baby will get better with practice. And like most endeavors, realize that there are people who can and are willing to help you achieve your goals.
Lesson #5: Breastfeeding is an accomplishment, but not being able to breastfeed is not a failure.
Finally, if you did keep at it, and you did everything in your power for it… and then, for whatever reason you find that you really cannot or can no longer breastfeed, do not be too hard on yourself. Don’t see it as a failure. You are a mother, and breastfeeding does not define you as a mom. We all want the best for our children, and we all do the best we can. That, for me, will always be the most important thing.
So. In tribute to all breastfeeding families, I’ll be posting a series of what I call my “BFF’s”: Breastfeeding Finds, where I’ll feature some of my favorite products or finds that helped me out in breastfeeding which for me are worth sharing. I have lined up posts on:
- Breastpumps (post here)
- Breastmilk storage bags (post here)
- Lactation Treats (post here)
- Nursing Bras (post here)
- Nursing Pads (post here)
- Nursing Wear (post here)
- Nipple Relief (post here)
- Nursing Pillows (post here)
- Nursing Stations (part1 here and part2 here)
I’ll update this post with the links as soon as they’re up. (Update: I’ll schedule to post my new BFF’s on all Mondays and Thursdays of August!) But again, when reading my BFF’s, please refer to my Lesson No. 3 above, alright?
Happy Breastfeeding, Mommies! But more importantly, congratulations on your new baby blessing!