MANILA, Philippines – One of the most misguided assumptions is that since breastfeeding is natural, it comes easy.
Many first-time mothers realize quickly that this is false. They end up frustrated at themselves and at the situation; they feel helpless.
Experts say that preparation is the beginning of empowerment. If you are lucky, you are reading this in time (pre-childbirth), so you are able to arm yourself with sufficient knowledge before you meet your baby.
If not, don’t worry. Successful breastfeeding is a continuous effort. You can catch up, with a few practical tips.
1. Get ready with the basic necessities
“Milking boobies and a suckling child — gosh, that’s all you really need at first!” exclaims Denise Gonzales-Bernardo, a new mom for the second time.
Denise is also a breastfeeding peer counselor at L.A.T.C.H. (Lactation, Attachment, Training, Counseling, Help) and co-owner of Indigobaby, a one-stop shop of products that supports attachment parenting.
It’s both Denise’s business and advocacy to encourage breastfeeding among Filipino moms.
“You must have a comfortable nursing bra, for comfort and easy access when you are out. [You also need] a good nursing cover to nurse any time, anywhere, and nursing clothes or transition tubes for easy access,” she says.
“When nursing is made easy and comfortable, moms will continue doing it.”
First-time mom Cat Juan Ledesma agrees. “If you really need to get down to personal basics, all you need is yourself, a cover for when you’re out and lots of time. No equipment necessary,” says Cat. “Just make sure to get enough rest, drink a prenatal supplement, eat right and take lots of water throughout the day.”
2. Actively seek out information
“Information. I cannot stress how important this is. Be informed and inform your support system about breastfeeding as well,” says Jen CC Tan, also a peer counselor at L.A.T.C.H.
Jen encourages expectant moms and dads to attend breastfeeding workshops. L.A.T.C.H. is one of several breastfeeding groups that provide helpful and practical breastfeeding information via seminars, events and peer-to-peer support.
Jen also recommends Arugaan, another group that provides breastfeeding support. You can also ask your obstetrician or your hospital for references (some hospitals actually host breastfeeding seminars). If your hospital has a lactation center, like The Medical City and St. Luke’s Hospital, chances are there are available resources for you to tap.
If you’re eyeing a childbirth class, it’s possible that it will touch on breastfeeding tips, but probably won’t go as deep into the subject matter.
“Read a lot and talk to other breastfeeding advocates to get you encouraged and well-informed,” Denise suggests.
Online, there are various trusted references. Kellymom has been a longtime resource for breastfeeding, offering a diverse range of information on the topic. Locally, breastfeeding advocates who blog share their experience and research willingly.
Just be sure that your blogger of choice has her facts backed up, like Chronicles of a Nursing Mom.
3. Build your support system
Know that your breastfeeding endeavor is not up to you alone.
Line up your spouse, household help, nanny and family members who play crucial roles in making this task a success. They may not be the one feeding your baby directly, but having them understand and proactively support what you need to be a healthy provider of your baby’s nutrition will help.
At the very least, you need “someone to help with housework and cooking so you can focus on being the yummy nursing mama that you are!” says Denise.
Jen suggests that you get “an extra pair of hands, especially if there is an older child.”
Here’s a video on how to get started with breastfeeding:
4. Don’t be embarrassed when it doesn’t go smoothly
After everything — all the preparation and pep talk — it may still not be easy.
Talk it out. “I personally feel that you also need a strong support team, a friend or two who can help encourage you and offer guidance when you come across any obstacles,” Cat shares. If you want to vent or share with others on a similar path as yours, an online support group like Breastfeeding Pinays can help.
Or go pro. Talk to a licensed consultant or counselor. Some moms feel that this one-on-one approach is really helpful. “I’d also highly suggest an appointment with a lactation consultant,” shares Cat, “to get you started on the right road.”
One popular lactation counselor is Lita Nery, whom Denise recommends. “She is part of I.M.A. (Infant Mother Advocacy). [She] teaches proper latching and positioning, as well as lactation massage to clear clogged ducts!”
5. Trust yourself and your body
You may want to help yourself with a few extra things, like a breastfeeding pillow to support your body. Ultimately, Denise says, what you need most are “patience, trust, determination and the belief that breast is best, and that your body will produce all the milk you need for your baby.”
Perseverance will come in handy, especially when it gets difficult. When you’re feeling discouraged, trust your instincts, talk to the right people and try harder.
“Don’t give up just [because] your [milk] supply is initially low,” Cat insists. “During my son’s first two weeks, my milk supply wasn’t enough and I had to supplement with formula. Many women have told me that having low supply is what discouraged them from keeping on.
“At the end of the day, even a little breast milk is better than having none. I slowly but surely built up my supply and removed the formula once I got the go signal from our pediatrician. There is nothing wrong with using formula to help you out if necessary.”
Every mom-and-baby duo goes through life differently. Do what works for you.
Cat adds, “Don’t ever feel guilty about your choices. I’ve heard of people who are very passionate about breastfeeding and, for the most part, that is a good thing. But if those aren’t your beliefs, don’t feel pressured into following theirs.”
Denise agrees. “For unsolicited advice, let it go in one ear and out the other. People may mean well, but you know what’s best for you and your baby.” – Rappler.com
Baby and mom photo from Shutterstock