Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Breastfeeding Month post 3: The yummy way to keep the milk going

The milk I produce is usually just enough for what Alon needs.  Since I am working and there are times I would need to go on field, I prefer to have a couple of days worth of extra milk. There are ways to ensure a steady supply of breastmilk.  Breastfeeding Basics and Kelly Mom give very good tips, some of which I tried.

The basic science, or probably more appropriately, basic economics of breastmilk production is "the higher the demand, the higher the supply."  Your body should produce how much your baby needs according to how he is nursing.  Sometimes I do wonder if this is true because I have some friends whose production can not seem to keep up with how much their babies want to drink.  I'm lucky enough to produce what Alon needs.

There was a time, however, when my milk production dropped dramatically from four ounces to three.  A one ounce difference is quite high for breastmilk.  This was after my trip to Kuala Lumpur when Alon was five months old.  The meeting I had there was quite packed so I was not able to pump milk regularly thus depleting my supply.

I increased my pumping routine from three times to four times to fool my body into thinking more milk is needed, but I also tried malunggay (moringa) capsules.  These helped bit but I was not satisfied with the progress I was making.  I decided to try lactation cookies which contain galactogogues like flaxseed, oatmeal and brewer's yeast which are supposed to help increase breastmilk supply.

During our lamaze classes with Rome Kanapi (again, I reiterate, worth the investment!), her former students Jon and Raquel Chua came to talk about their birthing experience as well as their Ge Lai (Chinese post-partum care) meals and lactation cookies business.  They also brought their wonderful baby boy, Sam, who just made such an impression on me because he was so happy and behaved while his parents were giving their talk.  Raquel gave samples to all the mommies to try.  When I tried mine, it was so gooood! 

I saw Raquel and Sam again when Alon was two months old during a seminar in Medela Moms.  That time we had a chance to chat.  She was so warm and friendly that it felt like she was an old friend instead of a new one. So I thought about her during that moment of "emergency".

I ordered from her facebook page Ginquelrus Pastries/MamaChows.  I got a one month supply of oatmeal lactation cookies.  The minimum recommended amount to be taken were three cookies a day.  It was tough keeping to that since they were so good.  What I was most happy about though was my milk supply went back to four ounces after a few days of taking the cookies.  Not only were they yummy, they were effective!

From then on, I regularly ordered her cookies.  Sometimes I'd go to Mommy Treats who also makes delicious brownies but most of the time I prefer ordering from Mama Chows. There was a time I stopped taking the cookies since I thought my supply was already secure.  I noticed my milk supply dip again.  Not as dramatic as an ounce but it would surely be less than usual.  I went back to having the cookies again.

What I like best about Raquel is her personal relationship with her clients.  She'd throw in a few extra cookies or a head band for the girls.  She would send samples of her baking experiments to get feedback from her clients.  I, for one, am looking forward for the perfection of those promising red velvet lactation cookies.  She even gave Alon free mini-cheese cupcake cookies on his first birthday. :)

So whenever I have friends who had problems with their milk supply, apart from the usual Kellymom tips, I'd point their way to Raquel so they can try for themselves.  I'm proud to say that I have referred three friends who are now regular clients like me. :)

* * * * *
If you are interested, you can check out the Ginquelrus Pastries FB page for the different kinds of lactation cookies you can order.  She also bakes non-lactation goods.  Her cheese cupcakes are awesome! I haven't tried her other goodies but I want to order her Pistachio Sans Rival someday.

Another tidbit, the husband and wife tandem cooked for Steven Tyler during their concert in the Philippines. San ka pa?! :P

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Breastfeeding Month post 2: Milk sharing

It's almost 14 months that I have been breastfeeding Alon.  Like I previously posted, it was not an easy start nor was it easy to continue.

Breastfeeding is hard work for a mother, especially a working mom like me.  Once I got back to work, my main concern was whether I would be able to express enough milk for Alon to consume while I was away.  I did not and still do not produce a lot of milk during milk expression.  At the beginning, I was only able to produce two ounces of milk per pumping session.  By the time he was seven months, my milk production plateaued at four ounces per pumping session. I've seen other mothers produce six to ten ounces in one go.  And I have to admit, I was jealous.  I, however, had to respect my body's capacity. 

I was fortunate enough to have stored enough milk for Alon before going back to work since I was pumping as soon as Alon was born.  There was a time that the freezer was just all breastmilk that I decided to donate the milk to Makati Medical Center so as not to waste them.  I would have preferred to donate it to the PGH milk bank but we it was logistically more difficult.  When a colleague found out that I was donating breastmilk, she pointed out Human Milk 4 Human Babies on Facebook.  Through the page, I was able to share with three mothers whose babies had medical condition.

There was a time that I also received breastmilk for Alon.  I came from a three day trip to Kuala Lumpur for work bringing home 40 ounces of milk.  It turned out that it spoiled because my storage cooler could only keep the milk cool for three hours.  My entire trip took ten hours!  Whoever said "no use crying over spilled milk" definitely did not breastfeed.  It hurt to throw away 40 ounces since it took so much effort producing it.  It was fortunate that a friend's child weaned from frozen breastmilk, so Alon was able to partake of it.  We did not need to supplement with formula.

Thankfully, supply and demand have normalized about a month after the big milk spill.  I'm once again producing enough for Alon to use and even a few more extra to tide him over if I go on field work. I hope we do not come to the point that I will need breastmilk from others again.  I would rather share mine in this aspect. :P

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Breastfeeding Month Post 1: Informed but rocky start

When I was still pregnant, I thought two things: 1) Breastfeeding would be easy and 2) Formula milk is part of a baby's nutrition.

Reasons for thought #1: You have a baby, you have a breast. Puppies and kitties and other mammals do it all the time.  They seem to not have much trouble doing it.

Reason for thought #2: Working mothers will not be able to be with their baby all the time, so how will the baby get milk? And all those Promil child geniuses!  Who would not want their child to be one? There must be something in fortified powdered milk!

It was such a blessing that Jan and I decided to take Child Preparation Classes with Rome Kanapi.  We took the Discovery Weekend philosophy "If you can spend so much on your wedding, you should invest on your marriage."  So for our parenthood journey, we decided to invest on knowledge on having a safe delivery and caring for our precious child.

In one of our last sessions with Rome (there were six), she discussed breastfeeding to our group.  The gist was "why use cow's milk for human babies?"  That simple logic totally made sense to me.  She also discussed the infant's stomach capacity for milk (see illustration below, photo taken from here).  Therefore, we mommies should not worry if there seems to be hardly any milk coming out during the first few days after birth.  Babies will only need a little milk at a time and will feed more frequently.

That was definitely valuable information for me because I thought my milk would flow just like that the moment I give birth.  Without knowing that from Rome, I would have thought myself incapable of milk production.

Another valuable information we got was about pumping breastmilk.  I heard about manual pumping and that it takes so much time and effort to do so.  We even discussed hand expression.  Thankfully, I became a mom when double electric pumps are easily available.  This was important to me, because as much as I want to be a stay-at-home/work-at-home Mom (SAHM/WAHM), I am an employee and will need to return to work after my maternity leave.  So I was glad to know that it is possible to keep my baby exclusively breastfed (EBF) even if I am working.  I was also very lucky that my good friend, R, lent her pump to me so this saved us from needing to purchase a new one.

I was totally decided to breastfeed bu then.  Breastmilk is free.  Breastmilk is natural.  Breastmilk will allow me to bond more with my child.  Easy-peasy.

It was not as easy as I thought.

Our first challenge was Alon's jaundice.  While this was normal for most babies, his bilirubin levels were alarmingly high according to his neonatologist.  At first, a resident asked me to sign a waiver allowing him to be fed formula.  I refused to sign.  I told her I wanted my son breastfed, that my pedia sister and my pedia told me that it would still be possible to breastfeed a jaundiced baby.  I asked her to explain why I should formula feed my son.  She did not seem to know what to answer so the resident left the room looking defeated.  Alon's specialist came later to explain that breastfeeding Alon would further increase his bilirubin levels.  Tearfully, I signed the waiver.  She advised that I pump regularly to keep the supply going.

So while Alon was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) undergoing photoplasty and drinking formula, I was at the breastfeeding station of the nursery pumping every three hours.  The first pumping session was disheartening.  I barely got anything out.  I asked the nurse attending if that was too little.  She said that it was indeed too little.  How discouraging she was!!!  Still I continued to still pump every three hours.  By the next day, my supply was up to 0.5 oz.  I asked the nurse taking care of Alon if that was okay.  She was more encouraging.  "Just keep pumping, ma'am, and your supply will increase."  True enough, when Alon was allowed to breastfeed again, I was at 0.75 oz.

Given the go signal to finally breastfeed Alon again. Nanay is very happy!
The instruction we got from my pedia that is to mix feed if it seems Alon was not getting enough milk from me.  During the first days, I really thought that was the case.  After a feed, he would still cry.  So I'd ask Jan to prepare formula for him.  I was getting worried that he seemed to be unsatisfied after every feed but I was still keen on breastfeeding.  I read Dr. Sears "The Baby Book." His book is very assuring.  He reiterates the amount of milk a newborn needs, he explains the other reasons why a baby may be crying.

After that I decided to stop feeding him formula and try addressing other issues that may be making Alon cry.  I checked his urine and poop output to make sure he is still getting enough.  It was fine.  I figured it was colic, so we would massage his stomach regularly.  After a week or so, we got our breastfeeding rhythm and he did not cry as much after nursing.

Alon sleeping soundly after feeding.  Nanay is sleepy but happy.
Our start was very rocky.  I think I got post-partum blues after his bout of jaundice but despite that I was just glad that I was well-informed on breastfeeding and I had the resources to get more information how to keep going or else I would have probably just resorted to formula.  The hubby was also supportive all the way, supporting my choice to breastfeed and assisting in other ways he can.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Last Sunday, I was finally able to watch Katy at Meralco Theater by my lonesome.  I've been wanting to for years already but never really had the opportunity or time to do so.

It was awesome! The cast received a standing ovation at the end.  And from what I heard along the corridors, they were receiving standing ovations every night during their CCP run.  It was a good ensemble with Isay Alvarez leading the cast.

I would say that I was most moved by Tirso Cruz III's performance.  He played the role of Katy's strict but loving father.  His comic timing was on point, not something you would think would come easily to a known dramatic actor.  But his dramatic skill was also used well during Tatay's final scene with Tale, his pet name for Katy.  After he told Tale something like, "Hay naku, Tale, kahit gaano ka pa ka-gaga (?) tandaan mo na mahal na mahal kita." I laughed and then started getting teary-eyed.  I could feel Tatay's love for Tale.  The sudden softness of his usually-scolding voice, the gentle embrace of a despairing Tale.  The scene got blurry as my tears started to fall.  Beautiful, beautiful performance by Tirso. :)

There were a lot of other enjoyable scenes in the play.  What stuck with me the most though was the theater at the time of Japanese occupation.  There they were trying their best to fight a revolution on stage.  It was something I was always fascinated with, the theater as battle ground for ideology and conviction.   I was wondering if this was the inspiration for PETA (Philippine Educational Theater Association) during Martial Law. 

Based on this review from the run last January, the set was uninspired.  However, they may have done much improvement since then since the set felt more "organic" than what was being described in the review.  There were still some lull in some scenes but overall, it actually felt quite grand.

I also absolutely LOVED the live orchestra.  It has been a while since I've watched a play with live orchestra.  I don't even remember if Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah used live or canned music.  Rock of Ages definitely had canned music.  It was awesome to see the musicians in the background, somethings part of the scene, sometimes a musical shadow.

Every Filipino musical lover should make it a point to see Katy at least once. :)