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.


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