Breastfeeding Series Part 2 – The first 3 months

The first 3 months postpartum were the most crucial and the most insane for me. Even though I had prepared myself for the breastfeeding part, I was not prepared for the lack of sleep part. It led to me getting cranky and doubting everything I was doing by the third day. I was actually at the point of requesting for formula in the middle of the night because I wanted my baby to sleep longer and thus let me sleep as well, but thankfully the nurses reminded me that it’s normal for breastfed babies to nurse so frequently because their tummies were still very small, like it can only hold about 1 to 1.4 teaspoon of milk. Imagine that! Once I was able to remember the things I’ve learned about breastfeeding, it was much easier to stay on this path even if getting more sleep was so tempting.

So what does one need to know about breastfeeding in the so-called fourth trimester?

  1. In the first 24 hours after delivering your baby, your breasts will produce only colostrum, which is a thick golden liquid full of antibodies. This is the reason why it is advised to have your baby latch on as soon as possible after birth, so that they can get the colostrum to increase their immunity.
  2. Baby’s tummy is going to be very small. They don’t need much milk yet to feel full, but that also means that once the milk is digested, they’ll be feeling hungry again soon.

    babies stomach size
    This is a visual representation of how big a newborn baby’s stomach is, and how much it can hold. (Photo credits to the owner)
  3. Babies breastfeed every 30 minutes to 2 hours. And sometimes, breastfeeding sessions can last for more than 30 minutes.
  4. Breastmilk is also digested much faster than formula, which is why your baby might feel hungry again even right after a breastfeeding session.
  5. Milk starts coming out around 2-3 days after baby’s birth. This is the time when the breasts start feeling full and hard, but milk will not necessarily be overflowing yet. At this point, most new mothers already expect a lot of milk to come out. That expectation, plus a baby crying for milk every 30 minutes, can make some new mothers very anxious and start thinking that they don’t have enough milk for their baby so they resort to formula. This was what I probably would have done if the nurses weren’t there to remind me of item number 1. Remember, less than 1 oz of milk is enough for your days old baby.
  6. Babies cry for many reasons, not just hunger. Again, some mothers think that they don’t have enough milk because their babies are always crying. Mine did too. And then I would cry because I wanted to sleep and didn’t know how to handle a lot of things. Babies cry because they also don’t know how to handle a lot of the new things in this strange new land. They might be feeling cold or gassy or itchy or just want to be held close and tight to feel the same comfort they had while they were in your tummy. Try some skin-to-skin contact with your little one everyday.
  7. There might be some nipple pain. While you are learning to breastfeed, your baby is also still learning how to latch. Sucking comes very naturally to the babies but proper latching is a learned art for many. Incorrect latching can lead to very painful and sore nipples so it’s important to teach your baby how to do this properly. It can also cause the baby to not get enough milk and so lower your milk supply. When in doubt, you can ask your breastfeeding-supportive pediatrician to check on latch, or find a lactation consultant or breastfeeding peer counselor to help you out in the first few days. If nipples do become sore, just apply some breastmilk to it and let it air dry. Once your baby gets the hang of latching, the pain should go away in a week or so.
  8. It won’t hurt to also check your baby for a lip tie or tongue tie. This limits their mouth’s movement and may result in an incorrect latch. I’ve always noticed that my daughter’s lips weren’t flanged wide enough and no matter what I did, she was limited to a certain angle. I checked and she didn’t have a tongue tie, but I wasn’t aware of a lip tie back then. I only read about it and noticed she had a lip tie when she was past her 6 month mark. No wonder she would latch so often just to get enough milk.
  9. The best way to tell if your baby is having enough milk in the first few days is to check the diapers. Babies should pass the meconium (a dark, tarry stool) within 24-48 hours, and have regular dirty or wet diapers after that. Your baby’s doctor will also require a wellness check around a week after birth to check if the baby is thriving. It’s expected for the babies to lose up to 10% of their weight within the first few days, but should be able to regain that weight and get back to their birth weight at around 2 weeks after birth. If your baby is gaining enough weight, then they are getting enough milk.
  10. It takes 6 weeks to stabilize supply. It’s recommended to have your baby do unli-latching in the first 6 weeks so that your body will know how much milk needs to be produced. Your body adjusts its milk supply depending on how much your baby is getting. This is why if a baby is getting some formula, it lessens his demand for the breast and the breast adjusts by producing less milk. It’s also not recommended to pump on top of doing unli-latching within this time frame because you might end up overproducing milk which can also lead to engorgement and mastitis. If you want to store extra milk at this point, you can use milk catchers such as breast shells or a Haakaa “breast pump”.
  11. Nipple confusion is when the baby starts preferring the bottle instead of the breast. This usually happens if bottles are introduced early and often because bottles have faster flow and doesn’t require much sucking effort for milk to come out. Personally, I would introduce the bottle to my baby right after the 6 week mark – 1 bottle per day just to get her used to it. I introduced the bottle to Amelie when she was already 3 months old and I think that was a bit too late. She refused the bottle for more than a week and I was concerned that she wouldn’t be able to take any milk when I returned to work. Thankfully, she did start taking the bottle just a few days before my first day back at work and would still latch on when I was back home.
  12. Even if your milk supply dips, you can still do something to increase it again. Your options are unli-latch, power pumping and galactagogues such as malunggay (capsules, tea, whatever), oatmeal or even lactation cookies.

Wow, I didn’t realize there are a lot of things to digest (forgive the pun) in the first few months alone. No wonder new parenthood can be so overwhelming, and to think these are only in relation to breastfeeding! Good luck new parents, and hang in there!

For my next post in this series, I’ll be writing about getting ready to go back to work and how you can continue your breastfeeding journey even when working full time.

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Breastfeeding Series Part 1 – Preparing for Breastfeeding

Today is a significant day for me as a mom because today, I celebrate exactly 18 months of breastfeeding Amelie. This is a feat considering that I faced several issues in the early run, and I never imagined myself being able to carry on this long. I was just going with the flow and setting myself 6-month goals, and now I’m targeting to keep breastfeeding her until she turns 2!

To celebrate this milestone, I am writing several posts on how I prepared myself to breastfeed and the experiences I had gone through during the first crucial months of learning the ropes. I’m also adding a few of the lessons I have learned, things I had not done in the past but would definitely do the next time we decide to have a baby. 

Sometimes, being OC has its perks. I took down a lot of notes in the past 18 months and here I am now, happy to be sharing my notes with a lot of other moms and soon-to-be-moms to spare them the confusion and the anxiety and the stress. Becoming a new parent should be filled with happy moments bonding with their newborn, not stressing out about low milk supply or people nagging us about our parenting decisions. I definitely hope other mothers will find this useful and be inspired to breastfeed their babies for as long as they possibly can. 

Without further ado, here’s part 1 of the series. Before the baby comes, here’s a list of things that you can do to prepare.

    1. Join online breastfeeding support groups. They are chock-full of information and if you ever have any questions, other mommies are always there to help you. The moderators are also very vigilant in ensuring that you get the most helpful and correct answers to your dilemma. It might seem weird at first to join the groups even before you’ve started breastfeeding, but this is how you get a dose of reality fast.
    2. Inform your partner/family/friends that you are planning to breastfeed. In the first few days after giving birth, you will be grappling with a million different things inside your head and around you: the beautiful new being you just brought out into this world, the breastfeeding, the lack of sleep, the constipation, the blood gushing out for days, the breastfeeding, the bathing of the baby, the bathing of your self, going home, the breastfeeding… and so on.
      You will need all the support you can get from the people around you. They will need to be your anchor when the time comes that you think you are losing your mind. They will need to be strong for you, and remind you of your choices and why you chose what you did. They will need to be your cheerleader every step of the way. There is nothing worse than if people around you questioned your every move instead of supported you. If possible, invite them to the online support groups as well, and let them understand what’s to be expected.
    3. Attend Birth Preparation classes. There are a lot of these events you can find posted on the Facebook groups I mentioned in number 1. New parenthood doesn’t have to be so shocking if you make yourself aware beforehand of what to expect aside from the breastfeeding.
    4. Find an Ob-gyne and Pediatrician who are breastfeeding advocates. There is nothing more disheartening than if your own doctor or Pediatrician tells you off the bat that you should feed your baby formula (this is actually against the Milk Code or Executive Order 51). Talk to them about your plans to breastfeed and what kind of support they can give you. For me, I was not able to meet my Pedia before I gave birth because I had not seen any reason to (but now I know better), but thankfully, she was very big on breastfeeding. She made sure the baby was roomed in with me immediately after cleanup and clothing. I even heard the nurses asking why the baby was to be roomed in with me immediately, and when they saw the Pediatrician’s name, they said “Oh, no wonder. It’s Dr. XXX.” Amelie’s doctor also checked on her latch everyday.
      Now I’m not saying that formula should be avoided at all costs. There will be times when, unfortunately, some women have certain biological conditions that makes them unable to breastfeed or to produce only little milk, and the Pedia will recommend to supplement with formula if needed. But this is not very common and women without any known conditions should be able to produce enough breastmilk for their babies.
    5. Know your legal rights as a breastfeeding mom. The Philippines is one of the countries in Asia with the best laws to support breastfeeding. Unfortunately, like all other laws, it is not properly followed 100%. It would be best to arm yourself with knowledge on your legal rights when the times comes for you to breastfeed. Here is a post that summarizes the Milk Code, RA 7600 and RA 10028. https://women4breastfeeding.wordpress.com/2017/11/28/ra-7600-ra-10028-and-the-philippine-milk-code/
    6. Check if your office has a lactation room. Most women who go back to work after giving birth immediately opt to switch to formula, perhaps because they aren’t aware that they can pump their breastmilk at the office to take home to their babies. All companies are now required to have lactation rooms, and should allow up to 40 minutes of lactation break per 8 hours of work according to RA 10028 so if yours does not have one yet, talk to your HR about this law so they can comply with it before you return to work. 
    7. Know that you are not expected to produce milk before giving birth. I’ve seen several moms-to-be post on the FB groups that they’re nearing their due date and they’re still not producing any milk, which ends up discouraging them and making them think that they’ll never be able to breastfeed their baby. Milk production is stimulated only after the baby’s born and the placenta’s detached.
    8. Read the rest of my posts on this series. Of course, the knowledge doesn’t stop here. There’s more to know about breastfeeding especially in the first few months of your baby’s birth. Read up more so you can be prepared. See you in the next posts!

 

 

 

How I managed to breastfeed for 18 months

I was nursing my little girl earlier today and savoring her sleepy snuggles when it dawned on me that in a couple weeks’ time, I will be reaching the milestone of breastfeeding her for 18 whole months!
I can’t help but feel emotional in many ways at once because I would never have thought that I’d actually make it this far what with all the setbacks I had experienced.
Now, I just want to cry and jump for joy and give myself a huge hug and a pat on the back and shout to the world, “You did it, mama!”

Breastfeeding wasn’t really something that had been in my thoughts even when I was nearing my 3rd trimester of pregnancy. In fact, how to feed my baby was the last thing on my mind at the time. I was too engrossed in the call of Nesting and was more focused on getting clothes and blankets and beds that I, uhm, forgot the most basic thing. Thankfully, a mom friend was level-headed enough to ask me if I planned on breastfeeding my baby. When I said I hadn’t really thought about it, she invited me to join a breastfeeding support group on Facebook. After a few days of relentlessly reading information after information, my eyes were opened to the wonderful world of breastfeeding and I had been unwavering in my decision ever since.

But what did prompt me to decide to breastfeed? And exclusively breastfeed at that? Based on the Facebook group discussions and real talk from other mom friends and relatives, I’ve garnered that each mom has her own reason for going down this path. Most of them boil down to these three, which I have ordered according to my priority.

  1. It’s healthy and natural. There are a lot of studies out there now showing how breastmilk contains a lot of microbes that help boost babies’ immune systems and fight off infection. This is the number one thing that can’t be found in formula. There are also a lot of health benefits in exclusively giving the baby only breastmilk in the first 6 months of life.
  2. It’s easy to prepare. Or so I was told by a mom who formula-fed her first and breastfed her second, the reason being that you don’t have to worry about looking for clean water, or bring a lot of bottles, water, and powdered formula with you whenever you go out. All mama needs to do is whip out her boobies and baby is happy! Well, yes, breastmilk may take no effort to prepare, but I’ve also learned the hard way that breastfeeding is not an easy task at all.
  3. Breastmilk is free! Well, that’s what a lot of people are saying and at first I believed that, but let me tell you now that that is far from true for many. If you take into account the mother’s time and effort, the cost of pumps and bottles to be able to pump at work, the time needed to carefully store and transport the milk and meticulously wash those pumps and bottles, the nursing bras, the nursing clothes, and all the nursing paraphernalia to make the life of a breastfeeding mom more comfortable, then no, breastmilk is not free at all. Personally, I think it’s even more expensive than formula. I guess that’s why they call it liquid gold.

These three reasons are what got me started on breastfeeding, but the first reason is the only one that’s carrying me through this journey despite all the difficulties I encountered along the way. It’s awesome to see my little grow up healthy and happy and smart (although I don’t know if we can attribute this to the breastmilk).

Well, okay, there’s a second reason why I’m breastfeeding for nearly 18 months now. At some point, I actually wanted to stop breastfeeding already because it was getting too heavy for me to keep bringing the pump and bottles to work everyday on top of my laptop and baon. We tried giving Amelie fresh milk and powdered milk after she turned one year old (my initial goal for exclusively breastfeeding), but she would barely drink it. So it’s all her fault, really. But it’s also thanks to her that I have the will to push on until we reach 24 months of breastfeeding.

All in all, I am amazed and empowered at what my body has been able to do so far. I am absolutely thankful for this experience and if we decide to have another baby, I would still do the same. But when they turn 2 years old, me and my titties are definitely calling it quits.

Building Teams at Valentin Farm Resort

One of my favorite perks at my current company is that we get to have a teambuilding activity every quarter. Most often, the whole team just opts to spend the budget on eat-all-you-can lunches plus maybe a Frappe or doughnuts if the budget permits, which is still awesome to me.

This quarter, since it was summer, we decided to do something out of the ordinary and go on an overnight trip for some serious bonding. Unfortunately, our first several options were already fully booked for our available dates. We probably wouldn’t have pushed through with an overnight trip anymore until someone mentioned Valentin Farm Resort, and that was how I serendipitously discovered one of my favorite new places in Cebu.

Here are some of my favorite features of the place:

The space is huge! We could probably have played hide and seek throughout the night and never had to use the same hiding place twice. They also have a huge infinity pool with a great view of the mountains.

Infinity Pool
Photo by Alfon Arnejo
Gazebo
Photo by Alfon Arnejo

Only one group can stay per day/overnight. Yes, the whole place is exclusive for each group that books it. You can choose among several room options with either fan or aircon. Our group of 14 booked their fan room with 6 double bunk beds plus two extra bed foam on the floor. The room also had two showers and two toilets so there was no fighting over it.

Photo by Alfon Arnejo. Mess on table courtesy of my team.

Valentin is quite strict on the headcount though. They’ll need to know the exact number of people so that they can provide the correct number of towels, toiletries, plates and utensils.

No phone signal most of the time. This allowed the group to really interact and talk with each other instead of scrolling through our phones most of the time. This makes Valentin Farm Resort great for teambuilding or just to detach from technology for a while.

Huge kitchen with complete cookware and dining ware. The kitchen had everything you’d need to prepare a sumptuous meal for your group – a big refrigerator (which was also a huge plus to a pumping mom like me because I could store my milk and ice blocks overnight!), a gas stove with an oven, an electric kettle, knives, chopping board, rice cooker, serving dishes, plates, mugs, glasses and utensils. (The plates, mugs, glasses and utensils are prepared according to the number of people in your group). There is also a grilling station just a few steps away from the kitchen.

Huge kitchen!
Grilling area
Complete cookware and dining ware

If cooking is not your kind of thing, you can opt to order food from them or bring cooked meals. They also provide a water dispenser and water and ice for an additional fee.

Kids’ playground. This makes it perfect for families or big groups with kids. Every time I walked through the grounds of the resort, all I could think of was how I wanted to bring my family there someday.

It was a breath of fresh air. Literally and figuratively. I mean, did you see the green everywhere?

What I didn’t particularly like about the place

No phone signal most of the time, and no internet. Yeah, this was also a con for me during that particular time because it was only my second time to be away from my baby overnight and I was having a bit of separation anxiety. I did not know ahead of time that phone signal was so rare so I had not mentally prepared for it. I did manage to get a call through at some point and let my family know I was doing very well, so I was able to enjoy the rest of my stay there.

Not an easy place to navigate. In fact, one of our groups got lost on their way home because there was no internet and no Google Maps to help them.

Next time we go there, I will be preparing my Google Maps and music for offline availability.

Valentin Farm Resort is located in Consolacion, Cebu but is accessible from either Pit-os or Consolacion. You can either drive going there, or take a habal-habal from the endpoint of the Pit-os jeepney or SM Consolacion. They can be contacted for inquiries at 0917 324 6022.

Feeling Yellow

It’s fun to discover how you begin to see things differently depending on where you are in life.

I used to dislike the color yellow, but something about it jumped out at me while I was looking for a theme for my blog. Now, I’m beginning to see yellow as a symbol of joy and positivity and hope for good things to come. It’s a happy color, and I like it.

The last several months have been quite tough on us. I was in a dark place and in a very bad state of mental health because of my difficulty in accepting the many life changes plus the post-partum hormones plus the lack of sleep. First-time parenthood really is a lifechanger. It can be, as a friend put it accurately, traumatic, and it seemed to have brought out the worst in me.

Thankfully, with time and some help, I was able to adjust and, I think, become a better person in that I have learned to be more patient, and my need to control everything has lessened a bit. I actually had a fun chat with my OB-GYN several days ago. She said that parenting actually helps us become less of control freaks because kids help us realize that, hey, we really can’t. control. everything!

There were a lot of things I tried to do to help me adjust and cope with this new life. So far, these were what truly helped me:

journaling

I’ve always been the type to write down my feelings. I’ve been keeping diaries since I was in my teens but I seem to have forgotten to do this lately. Writing down my emotions is like putting it all into a big ball of words and throwing it all away.

goal-setting

In one of our discussions with a company director, he mentioned that he practices keeping a vision board in his room for his life goals. It’s basically a list of short-term goals he plans to achieve within a few years. I thought it was a good idea and created my own vision board for my goals just for this year.

So far it’s been great at reeling me back in whenever my overachieving imagination flies so far ahead into the future.

talking it out

It’s great to just vent out frustrations every once in a while, and maybe receive some sage advice in return. Although listening is far from being one of my husband’s greatest skills at present, he does give some good advice and is exceptional at problem analysis.

I’m still planning on going to a professional psychiatrist one of these days. I’m glad mental health is getting more attention and acceptance in recent months, although this type of healthcare is still quite expensive. I did receive some good news that our HMO, Maxicare, now offers a mental health care program and covers psychiatrist consultations at its Primary Care Centers. Will inquire about this soon!

webinars

Our company offers a lot of health and wellness programs throughout the year through webinars. I was able to join at least one of them, and it was about depression. One good thing that came from that lecture was that I learned that I’m not really depressed, just in a very bad state of mental health due to stress and other pressures. Hopefully it’s something that’s easier to bounce back from.

quotes

May is considered Mental Health Awareness Month, and apparently this has been observed in the United States for 70 years already! I guess it’s just that in the Philippines, there’s been a lot of stigma around Mental Health issues so it was only recently that people began to openly acknowledge their problems in this area.

To celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, I went on Pinterest and searched for some uplifting quotes and tried to post daily on Facebook. It didn’t last long but the quotes really helped me in accepting and embracing my current situation. The most important thing I learned in the past month was developing a sense of gratitude. I learned to be more grateful for everything that I already had, and learned to focus on the abundance instead of the lack.

reading

Reading has always been one of my hobbies. It was something I developed from age 4, probably. I remember reading Disney’s Wonderful World of Knowledge (it was a set of books like children’s encyclopedia) everyday even before I started grade school, and then I moved on to Sweet Valley Kids and Nancy Drew and onwards to different types of books.

I hadn’t been able to read much lately because I didn’t have time and kind of forgot about it. Last March, I finally decided to make some time for reading and it was like I became a stress-free kid again. I was getting transported to different worlds and learning something new and I felt giddy and excited for the first time in a long time.

Reading is probably not for everyone, but the point here is to do a hobby you enjoy, especially something you used to enjoy a lot as a kid. It does wonders for the mood, honestly.

decluttering

There’s something extremely uplifting about removing the excess “garbage” from your home and your life. It also freed up some space in my mind and I was more able to see things clearly and to be more grateful for having the things and people I truly need in my life.