By Carmella Mae Laserna
Why do I breastfeed? I always ask myself this question, especially in the wee hours when I have to get up and express milk for Joaquin. You see, my son, who is four months and exclusively breastfed, consumes 20 ounces of milk from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and I can only produce 12 ounces of milk in the office while I am away. The additional eight ounces of milk that he needs I have to express at home between 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.
I have always believed that one of God’s gifts to us women is breastfeeding—our capacity to nurture our children naturally. That our breasts are made for the purpose of giving. Aside from this, of course, breastmilk is baby’s best food, has the perfect amount of protein, and when baby grows, our breastmilk component also changes to meet his caloric, protein, and other needs. Also, breastmilk is easier to digest and with anti-bodies to boot. It is wallet-friendly, except for your investment in breastfeeding paraphernalia.
Armed with this belief, I knew even before I was pregnant that I would breastfeed my child, as I’ve seen my friends and family benefit from it.
I read and researched about breastfeeding while I was pregnant to equip myself. I thought it would be a breeze. The reality set in when I first latched my baby and realized that it entailed a lot of hard work. I have to deal with sore and painful nipples and a fussy baby. Though breastfeeding is natural, it needs to be learned and practiced. I have to learn the proper way to position the baby when feeding and make sure that baby is latched correctly.
After overcoming the initial stage of breastfeeding, I also faced the fact that I would be returning to work after my maternity leave. If I want to sustain my breastfeeding, I would have to prepare myself and learn the ropes of pumping and storing milk. Preparation and learning means reading and researching again on ways to express milk at work. I read through blogs of other breastfeeding mommies at work and talked to a few friends who successfully breastfeed while working.
In my research, the following are some key points I discovered—the support of my husband and the entire family is a must. I need my husband to understand that I will need time at home to express milk. That means he has to take on other household chores to relieve me. Also, I need the support of our entire household, particularly our helper, so she can feed Joaquin with my expressed milk while I am at work. Our helper has to learn the proper way of thawing milk and the concept of first in, first out.
Our family has to understand that my milk stash will take over our fridge and freezer, so we have to give up the space for ice cream for the time being. Also, I have to get the support of my direct supervisor and colleagues to allow me to take breaks from work to pump milk. Luckily, I have received their full support.
Fast forward to today, I express milk three times while at work between 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Working as an events coordinator, most of my time is spent attending meetings, doing site inspections, and overseeing events. In between all of these, I have to excuse myself to express milk or time my meetings so I could follow my pumping schedule. Though my boss and colleagues understand, it does not hide the fact that I am away from my desk or from my normal working hours for at least 45 minutes every day.
I compensate for this by going to work early, working efficiently, and minimizing down times. I also started bringing food for lunch to cut short my lunchbreaks so I could express longer during my lunch period.
When I think about it, something as natural as breastfeeding still entails plenty of hard work, perseverance, positive mind set, and commitment. There are times I begin to doubt myself if I could produce enough milk for my baby. I have to work doubly hard during weekends to express milk so I could have extra in case I have to stay longer at the office during weekdays. This also means less time to spend with my eldest son who also yearns for my time and affection. It can also get very tiring because, aside from latching the baby while I am at home, I have to give up rest and sleep to continue to express milk.
Why do I breastfeed? I ask myself this question over and over again while pumping milk today at 3 a.m. while my husband and two sons are snoring in lala land.
I breastfeed for the simple reason that this, to me, is my love and commitment to my family expressed in action. A commitment to my son that I will provide for him only the best milk there is—the most natural and nutritious milk.
Though tired and sleep-deprived, whenever I nurse my son and he looks at me in the eye, all my troubles seem to vanish. My heart melts just by simply looking at him fall asleep while nursing. I know Joaquin and I have developed a special relationship, a special bond between us brought by the warmth and physical closeness breastfeeding brings. It is the same bond that I now enjoy with my eldest son, Migo, whom I have also breastfed for almost four years.
By breastfeeding, I also benefit, as it provides me with a measure of protection against certain cancers. Travelling or going out is easier, as we do not have to bring so many things. Breastmilk is convenient and available anytime.
For me, breastfeeding pros outweigh the cons. As a whole, the results are immeasurable. I am willing to let go of my sleep and rest, I put up with sore nipples and all to see my baby thrive and grow healthy. I will take comfort in the fact that I have given him a heads-up and a headstart in life—my love and commitment measured by ounces of milk.