Got Milk? It's World Breastfeeding Week!

First Friday of the month:  (Baby) Food/Drink

Breastfeeding is one of the most fulfilling experiences that motherhood has brought me. Breastfeeding is serious business as it can bring much joy and deep depression at the same time. Mothers each have unique experiences on nursing, and I thought I'd share mine today, plus a few personal thoughts, serious and otherwise, on this week's advocacy.

"organic baby: breastfed" printed on my girl's tee -- love it!

Breast milk is baby's first food.  I learned that babies can live on breast milk alone during their first 6 months, which can provide all the nutrients they need.  I've always believed that breastfeeding is a choice and it should be a wonderful experience shared by mother and child.

By definition, Breastfeeding is the feeding of an infant or young child with breast milk directly from human breasts rather than from a baby bottle or other container. (from Wikipedia)  

Cannot breastfeed? Then by all means bottle-feed.
Express milk (by pumping) if baby cannot latch or mommy is not physically/emotionally capable of nursing the baby directly. Yes, we all know by now the super benefits of breastfeeding. But for me, the important thing is that baby gets to drink breast milk.

Sadly, not all mothers are "built" the same way.
While others can supply milk for two infants at a time, others may fall short and desperately try to provide a sufficient amount just to fill one serving. Mixed feeding is the next best thing for me (mixed, meaning alternate breast milk and formula, not combined in a bottle). Make an informed choice. If all else fails, then I say go for formula. To each her own. Let's not judge.

More questions like 'How long?', 'How much milk?'
It is inevitable among new moms to compare notes about their nursing experiences. To quote Ms. Daphe Osena-Paez, "it's not a competition...".  No thanks to those who can be so judgmental and belittling, making other moms feel less able.  Believe me, I was so clueless on nursing my first baby that the frustration really got to me. On top of that, I was a shocked and unprepared emergency C-section patient! I was still thankful that I was "loaded" with milk to feed my child, though I failed to breastfeed the first time.

I was one of those who cannot nurse in open public. I'm shy :-)
I was not comfortable nursing in front of other people outside my immediate family members.
Not comfy = can't breastfeed. That's just me. The most public I've done was in the car, and in the (clean and air-conditioned) rest rooms of malls and restaurants.  That's why our choices of places to dine and unwind were very limited for like 12 months! I really admire mothers who can breastfeed anywhere.

                                  Bottle-fed baby boy                   Breastfed baby girl                   

Look at how different my nursing experiences were with the boy and the girl:

The Boy
Me lactating as early as 5 months.
Boy cannot latch. Me and baby frustrated to the max.
Engorged boobs bordering on mastitis.
Pumped all the way for 2 months.
Bottle-feed all the way. Over supply of breast milk.
Mixed feeding from the start = breast milk by day, formula by night.

The Girl
Me lactating at 7 months.
Girl instantly latch. Me and baby happy to the max.
Sore nips for days.
Breastfed all the way for 18 months.
Pumped excess milk in between feedings. Over supply of breast milk.
Exclusive breast milk for 12 months. 
Mixed feeding after 1st year = breast milk, formula, fresh milk.

On hindsight, I now realized that the term "breastfeeding" has been misused (or loosely used) many times over. Technically, the term 'breastfeeding' is not the same as 'feeding breast milk'.  I breastfed, and I bottle-fed as well with breast milk (and formula). To illustrate, look at these contradicting, albeit funny, lines from actual conversations and interactions I've encountered:

Mom 1:  Been breastfeeding for # months now...
Mom 2:  Wow! So you don't use bottles?
Mom 1:  I've always breastfed, but not direct. I just pump.
Mom 2:  (Huh?) ?!?!?!

Mom 1:  I'm still breastfeeding, but I also give formula.
Mom 2:  How long have you been breastfeeding?
Mom 1:  # months already, but he can't latch, only on the first month.
Mom 2:  (Huh?) ?!?!?!

Confusing, right? :-)  Heehee.
Breastfeeding = Directly nursing.  If it's not direct, it's not breastfeeding. If one can't breastfeed, then pump and bottle-feed. Nothing wrong with that.  After a wonderful breastfeeding experience with my second, I have been more confident in encouraging other moms to try and breastfeed, or pump, for as long as they can, drop by drop, ounce by ounce. And don't count the days or months.

While awareness on the importance and benefits of breast milk and breastfeeding is at an all-time high, this has also put undue pressure especially on moms who “can’t” -- can't breastfeed, can't express enough breast milk, can't latch.  Although I unexpectedly produced a lot, I can still relate to the frustration and pain that goes with trying to breastfeed, especially with a baby that can't latch.  Extra challenge for me then was being a working mom too.  So for me, as long as mothers are willing to try, successful or not, direct or pump, that is more than enough effort already.  No shame in that mommies!

Bottom line:  parents should simply be thankful for being blessed with a happy and healthy baby, breastfed or not, that’s all that matters in the end anyway. :)

Thanks to Manilamommy for inspiring me on this post.  Stay tuned for my regular Foodie Friday entry later. ;)

More tips from my previous post on breastfeeding: To (Breast) Feed Or Not To (Breast) Feed?

Read about my c-section stories with The Boy, and The Girl.
What's next after breastfeeding?  Click here for babies' first foods.

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