Even prior to my giving birth, I’ve always told myself that I WILL BREASTFEED MY BABY. I used to wonder why some moms don’t, when the benefits of breastfeeding are practically staring every mom in the face–from TV commercials to print ads to NGO’s promoting breastfeeding to doctors…everyone is raving about the pros of breastfeeding (the most important ones for me include raising my child’s IQ and the tipid factor). Two of the most common reasons I hear from moms who don’t breastfeed include “Wala kasi akong gatas” or “Inverted kasi ang nipples ko.” When I heard these reasons when I was young, I used to believe them—that indeed, there were women who don’t or can’t produce sufficient milk. But when I started listening to breastfeeding advocates and reading about breastfeeding, I learned that these reasons were bull. I learned that a woman’s breast follows the Law of Supply and Demand: the more your baby consumes, the more your breast will produce milk. So I always wondered what was REALLY keeping women from breastfeeding their babies, but I still swore to myself that I will breastfeed my baby.
And then came Raviv. When Raviv was born, my breasts were still empty yet the midwives at the Asian Hospital insisted that I still breastfeed my baby every four hours. Our attending pedia said that the baby has to be latched for 5-10 minutes to each breast, longer than that would be bad because milk supply would have been gone and would cause a mom’s nipples to crack. The first time Raviv tried to latch was when he was brought to our room about eight hours after he was born. It was very frustrating, because he wasn’t latching properly. He would latch, then would unlatch just after a few seconds, and he would try again but wouldn’t be able to for a long time. Then it was time for him to return to the Huggery. I felt like a failure, because I know he didn’t get a single drop of milk from me.
Then after about six hours, the phone in our room rang—it was the Huggery summoning me. A midwife was asking me to go to the Huggery to feed my baby. My husband pushed my wheelchair to the elevator to the Huggery. Only moms
were allowed to enter, so hubby was left alone at the lobby. My baby was brought to me, and I tried breastfeeding him again. Again, I was feeling frustrated (the Huggery at the Asian Hospital by the way was really nice and comfy: it’s like a cozy and cool living room with TV. Each mom has her own La-Z-Boy and nursing pillows were strewn everywhere to make breastfeeding easier. There was also a bell we could ring if we need a midwife’s assistance). The midwife helped my baby latch at first, and it took us a long time. And all that work for almost nothing, for my son unlatched again after barely a minute. I called the midwife and told her about it, and I wanted to shout because she just looked calm and collected despite the fact that my son could be starving! I felt even more frustrated because there were other moms at the Huggery, and they seemed to have no problem with breastfeeding their babies (I learned later on that they weren’t first time moms like me). The make-baby-latch, latch, unlatch, make-baby-latch, latch, unlatch cycle went on for about an hour, until I got tired and left the room. It was really depressing and I started to realize that I may have judged non-breastfeeding moms too hastily. But the difficulties of breastfeeding did not end with mom and baby learning the art of latching: After a tiring day and approximately 24 hours after I’ve given birth, our phone room rang at around 1 a.m. on Dec. 27 (I gave birth on Dec. 26 at 12:10 a.m.). It was a midwife from the Huggery again, summoning me. My husband was the one who answered the phone, and when I discerned what I was supposed to do, I told him I didn’t want to go to the Huggery because I was doggone tired! He relayed the message on the phone, but the midwife insisted that I go breastfeed my baby. And at around 1 a.m., I was walking out of our room, riding the elevator down to go to the Huggery. At the Huggery, I was ashamed of myself because there were other moms there too, not seeming to mind (or should I say, had been expecting?) that they had to be roused from their sleep to feed their babies. More shame to me because I still do not have milk while the other moms seemed to have overflowing milk. I felt doomed and depressed that I could not nourish my son with my milk. But with the midwives’ insistence, our frustrating latching cycle began.
It was when I woke up at 7 a.m. that I was finally able to squeeze some milk from my breasts, and I was, of course, summoned again to the Huggery to breastfeed my baby just before we were discharged.
At home, my son was getting better at latching. And just when he was, I discovered a new problem: the latching hurt like hell! It was soooooo painful that even the skin on my back feels it. Worse, my son is such a voracious sucker! When I can no longer take the pain and try to unlatch him, he would press harder and it would hurt even more when I forcibly remove his tiny mouth from my nipple! And when my scheme (yes, I plotted schemes to get him to remove his mouth from my nipple–I cover his nose, I wait for him to relax and then “swoop in” to remove him, etc.) worked and I successfully unlatch him, he would start crying, and then I would have to latch him again to my other breast (which would take about ten minutes at that time). Add to that the fact that I didn’t have a nursing pillow, and that my arms really felt ngalay every time my li’l one breastfed.
On his first night at home, hubby and I had a literally almost sleepless night. Since we haven’t bought a crib/bassinet yet (long story why), baby slept between us on our queen size bed. It was very uncomfortable of course, because we scared to squish our tiny bundle. Then at around 2 a.m., he started crying. He only stopped whenever he latches. When I remove him, he would wail again. He would only stop whenever he was latched, and by 4 a.m. my nipples were very sore. I knew that he sucked the last drip of milk out of my breast, and it wasn’t enough, that’s why he was crying. Both hubby and I were so frustrated. I seriously considered buying formula for him.
To be continued.
Continued here: Breastfeeding Survival 101 Part 2