Being in the earthquake belt and typhoon path, the Philippines regularly experiences these natural calamities. In 2009 alone, a range of 7-34 earthquakes has been recorded every month, in various locations in the Philippines and in varying intensities. In the past 59 years, there has been an average of 19-20 tropical cyclones which has visited the Philippine Area of Responsibility. As of July 2009, the Philippines has been visited by 9 tropical storms. Evacuation centers are regularly set up to respond to the destruction wrought by these typhoons. Considering that only 34% of Filipino babies below 6 months are breastfed (2008 National Health and Demographic Survey), solid breastfeeding information should not only be established but be widely disseminated, particularly to the C-D-E classes.
Breast is best. This mantra is heard over and over again by pregnant and new moms – and most, if not all of them WANT to breastfeed. However, most moms are ill-prepared for the challenges that breastfeeding may bring. Instead of preparing for breastfeeding and new life with the baby, most moms are more concerned with getting ready for the actual birth – packing a hospital bag, preparing a birth plan and researching which hospital to give birth at. Moms tend to forget that giving birth is just one day but the baby’s very existence changes your life forever – and one of these major changes that moms need to prepare for is breastfeeding.
Pregnant moms are usually bombarded with horror stories about breastfeeding. Along with these stories comes the pressure to give your baby the liquid gold. Often, even before moms give birth, they already prime themselves that they will fail at breastfeeding based on their own moms’ or friends’ experience. Thus, preparation is crucial and is a key to a successful breastfeeding relationship with your baby.
Find and join a group
One of the best ways to prepare for breastfeeding is to join a breastfeeding support group. Good support is essential for successful breastfeeding and this support can be given not only by your family, but by knowledgeable counselors and consultants as well. There are several breastfeeding support groups in the Philippines focused on different advocacies.
A unique group is L.A.T.C.H. (Lactation, Attachment, Training, Counseling, Help), a hospital-based group of trained peer counselors who conduct breastfeeding workshops, breastfeeding support and hospital/home visits, among others. This group is based in The Medical City, Pasig City and holds monthly classes for pregnant couples in preparation for breastfeeding. Class topics include Breastfeeding Benefits, What to Expect in the First Week, Positioning and Latching, Back to Work and Busting Breastfeeding Myths.
Since L.A.T.C.H. is run by breastfeeding moms who are still breastfeeding or recently weaned their own babies, the counselors can better relate to the concerns of the new moms. Mec Arevalo, breastfeeding mom of 20-month old Yakee, attended two L.A.T.C.H. breastfeeding lectures and shares that “breastfeeding success had a face in the L.A.T.C.H. moms, so when they [nurses] gave her Yakee at the hospital, she was really prepared for the journey.” More information about L.A.T.C.H. is available on their website: www.theperfectlatch.com
Research and read, read, read
Breastfeeding relationships never start or are often cut short by the wrong information. Well-meaning relatives and friends share outdated (and false) information on why breastfeeding will not work or why moms are better off with formula milk. Joy, mom of 9-month old Brian, shares that her mom told her that she didn’t have enough milk and it wasn’t good to put then newborn Brian to the breast every time he started crying. Her mom also told her that since she wasn’t eating well, Brian won’t be getting any nutrition from her. She eventually stopped breastfeeding Brian when he was about 3 months old. Since Joy didn’t know any better, she just listened and followed what her mom told her about breastfeeding.
There is a multitude of breastfeeding information available in books and the Internet. Even while pregnant, moms can start reading up on breastfeeding and begin busting those breastfeeding myths. However, obtaining accurate and up-to-date information is equally important.
A top resource visited by moms and lactation consultants alike is Kellymom (www.kellymom.com). This site is run by Kelly Bonyata (a summa cum laude graduate of mathematics and physics) who is also an international board certified lactation consultant. Her website is a plethora of breastfeeding information, compiling relevant and authoritative references. Meanwhile, if you’re a visual mom (who prefers watching movies over reading books), check out the website of Dr. Jack Newman’s Newman Breastfeeding Clinic and Institute (http://www.nbcionline.org), which compiles various instructional videos on how to obtain the proper latch; cup feeding, good drinking, using lactation aids, and tongue tie. Dr. Newman is a pediatrician who founded the first hospital based breastfeeding clinic in Canada in 1984 and has been a consultant for UNICEF for the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.
For instructional books, make sure you choose books which are truly directed toward breastfeeding mothers. A lot of books which have chapters on breastfeeding actually give the wrong information. Some good books to choose from include: La Leche League’s The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, Kathleen Huggins’ The Nursing Mother’s Companion, Martha Sear’s The Breastfeeding Book and Dr. Jack Newman’s The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers. There are a lot of other materials such as baby books, articles, booklets, pamphlets or brochures which also talk about breastfeeding. Note that materials which are sponsored by a formula company or bottle manufacturing company might give vague, inaccurate info about breastfeeding. So be an “informed reader” and check the source or author before considering these materials.
Talk to your doctors
Medical providers play an important role in the breastfeeding relationship. You can start by looking for an ob-gyne who supports breastfeeding. In this fast- paced world, more and more women are scheduling their births through caesarian operation. In preparing for your baby’s birth, talk to your ob-gyne, tell her that you would like to breastfeed and request that she/the doctors resort to caesarian operation only when all options for normal delivery have been exhausted. It is certainly more challenging to position and latch a baby born through a caesarian operation as compared to one born through natural delivery. Aside from finding the proper position, the nursing mom has to deal with her caesarian operation wound.
However, it is not impossible to breastfeed even if you underwent caesarian operation as long as the mom is willing and works with her doctor. Charyl Haw-Martin, who underwent caesarian deliveries for Liam (breastfed until 13 months) and Simone (2 months and currently breastfeeding), shares that she was able to successfully breastfeed both her babies despite her caesarian deliveries because she had commitment, determination and knowledge. She stayed focused, never thinking of quitting or giving in to the convenience of formula milk because she knew that the nourishment her children will get from mother’s milk is the best gift she could give them.
Finding a breastfeeding friendly pediatrician is likewise very crucial, especially in the first few days of your baby’s life. These days are tough for a new mom – who has to deal not only with changes in her body but also with a new person who entirely relies on her and for whom she has to be responsible for. A pediatrician who pays lip service to breastfeeding and does not really believe in its benefits may eventually become a hindrance to the breastfeeding relationship by recommending that formula is necessary for the newborn baby to thrive since the mother’s milk has not come or is not enough. Hence, it is important to be prepared and not leave the choice of pediatrician at the last minute. Even while pregnant, moms-to-be can already start looking for pediatricians who are supportive of their desire to breastfeed by asking for referrals from friends or by talking or interviewing the pediatricians themselves.
Organize your life and utilize your resources
Talking to your family and friends about your plans to breastfeed your baby will also contribute to your breastfeeding success. Your own mom, mother-in-law or husband could unintentionally prevent you from continuing on with breastfeeding by making unhelpful remarks. One good advice I learned and share with nursing moms’ husbands or relatives is that if they don’t have anything supportive to say, then don’t say anything at all. If your husband or other relatives tell you that they want to participate in taking care of the baby, ask them to help in other activities like changing diapers, burping the baby, or singing and playing with the baby.
Filipino moms are lucky to be able to get help from a yaya or nanny. If resources permit, hire a yaya a month before you give birth and start teaching her how to help you in taking care of your baby. Do not try to do everything! During the time that she had to exclusively pump breastmilk, Claire (mom of 18-month old Clarisse who is still nursing) trained her yaya how to assemble her breastpump, wash her breastpump horns and store her breastmilk. This allowed her to spend more time with her daughter instead of worrying about setting-up and cleaning the breastpump.
Your own circle of friends is also a great place to find breastfeeding information and support. More and more moms are breastfeeding their babies and by asking them to talk about their experiences will help you learn from their mistakes and avoid repeating them. Find a friend who is a successful breastfeeding mom and who would be willing to respond to your texts, answer your calls and emails whenever you have questions or problems. This friend will be a good source of comfort and support especially during the early days of your breastfeeding journey.
Moms need to realize that breastfeeding is not as daunting as it appears. Preparation is the key to breastfeeding success and this should start even during your pregnancy, way before the baby is born. The best way to overcome your difficulties is to get help early on. Breastfeeding IS a mind game. Psyche yourself to overcome the challenges and be prepared.
Having strong and solid emotional support is also crucial. Remember that you don’t have to go through this alone. No sugar-coating – it is not always easy and if you’re having difficulties know that you’re not the only one. Be proactive – be ready to ask for help and utilize your resources. It is just a matter of asking and looking for the right help, which is readily available. You’ll soon realize that your fears were unfounded and you’ll be on your way to a fruitful breastfeeding experience.
Check out the posts of the other contributing bloggers:
HoboMama’s Prepared for Life: Breastfeeding in local and global crises
Zen Mommy’s How Breastfeeding has shaped my toddler’s view of breasts
Pure Mother’s Marketing Away “Real Milk”
Cave Mother’s Three Moments That Made Me Thankful I Breastfeed
Motherwear Blog’s The World Breastfeeding Week Carnival of Breastfeeding – Prepared for Life
Blacktating’s August Carnival of Breastfeeding: Prepared for Life
Breastfeeding 123’s Breastfeeding as a Lifesaver in Emergencies