"With breastfeeding, I’m giving my child a part of myself each time. It’s something I can only give him.”
Mommy Valerie Cuyegkeng-Go opens up about her breastfeeding journey with her 7-month old baby, Quino – sharing their bonding experience, how to overcome difficulties, and how to deal with society’s misconceptions on top of her duties as a wife and working in PGH. As an advocate for breastfeeding and breastmilk, Mommy Val shares her thoughts on her journey.
She has been breast feeding her baby since birth despite being on-duty at the hospital. She shares that “...with breastfeeding, I’m giving my child a part of myself each time. It’s something I can only give him.” Coming from a medical background, Mommy Val knows what to give baby Quino during this critical time in his development. She shares that this has deepened their relationship and adds that “he knows his mama when he smells me and my milk, even if I’m always on duty!”
However, despite having a stronger bond between mother and child, Mommy Val has also experienced a lot of difficulties during her breastfeeding journey. She mentioned that, “everything about breastfeeding was difficult for me – from initiating the first latch and building milk supply, to getting engorged and mastitis when I went back to work, and to just being exhausted from it all.” But, she was able to push through all of that because of her child and the support from the people around her – “what helped me through it all, and is still helping me through it, is knowing that I’m giving my child the best form of nutrition and having a support group of breastfeeding mommies to share my woes and successes with.”
When asked if she would have done anything differently, Mommy Val said that “I would have wanted to stay at home longer, to really be able to directly latch my baby for the first two months – but it isn’t always an option for most working moms, especially those who are in medical school like me.” Even though, Mommy Val made an effort to manually express her breastmilk for use at home whenever she’s not around, “I had to bottle feed my child at 6 weeks when I went back to work and he got nipple confusion early on. He no longer latched on to me after that, but he’s still on a 100% breastmilk diet thanks to technology and breast pumps. He’s 7 months now and I’m still producing a lot of milk.” Because of her effort to manually express her breastmilk regularly, she has a large supply of breastmilk that she donates to moms in need.
Being able to be a part of Milk Matters, advocating exclusive breastfeeding, and working at PGH was not enough preparation for what breastfeeding would bring to her. “I realized that breastfeeding is not easy at all. It requires so much commitment, time, and effort. I never understood how hard it was until I was doing it myself,” Mommy Val shares.
For the 7 months Mommy Val has had on her breastfeeding journey, there are four things she would want to share to breastfeeding moms, to soon-to-be moms, and to society in general. “First, it should be clear that breastfeeding and breastmilk is really the best nutrition you can give your child.” As a medical doctor, she sees the importance and how critical it is to a child’s growth and development. She advocates giving breastmilk in all its forms – may it be from the direct latch or manually expressed.
“Second, there should be no judgment placed on any mom if she decides not to breastfeed. Like I said, it’s hard and everyone’s circumstance is different.” Being exposed to different cases at the hospital and encountering moms from different backgrounds, Mommy Val understands that each mom’s experience would vary and it should not be a reason for a negative stigma.
“Third, it’s difficult but doable, if you really want to breastfeed your child then you just have to persevere and keep trying. Lastly, happy Mommy is best for baby – and that trumps it all!” Despite all the difficutly she had, Mommy Val still advocates for breastfeeding and breastmilk. She understands that it will always require commitment, time, and effort but it is doable especially with the inspiration from her baby and with the support of the people around her.
In line with our objective to empower Filipino mothers to breastfeed, Milk Matters presents Express Yourself, an online movement that sheds light on the breastfeeding experiences of Filipino mothers, families, doctors, nurses, and other members of society. Our vision is to inspire other mothers to continue breastfeeding through these stories.