For mommy Belle, breastfeeding is a unique bonding experience between her and baby Revan. She says that in addition to providing her baby with vital nutrition, it also offers invaluable moments of skin-to-skin contact, which has consistently soothed baby Revan. Skin-to-skin contact can be good as well for mommies, making it a great bonding strategy that benefits both baby and mommy. Breastfeeding enhanced her ability to recognize baby Revan’s signals, thereby allowing her to better comprehend and cater to his needs, strengthening their bond.
Mommy Belle’s breastfeeding journey was not all rainbows and butterflies. There were challenges that pushed them both physically and emotionally. One challenge is that Mommy Belle would experience sore nipples that made it difficult to breastfeed. However tips and tricks from fellow moms and the internet helped her overcome this. Busy with working as a doctor and training to be an Infectious Disease Specialist, mommy Belle struggled with maintaining an adequate supply of milk when she first returned to work. This proved to be emotionally draining for mommy Belle, as she worries about whether baby Revan is getting enough nourishment. To help with this, she tried various techniques to help such as lactation supplements, increasing her hydration, and adopting a healthier diet. The unending support from her husband, pediatrician, family and close friends played a crucial role in helping her through these challenging times.
As a working mother, balancing breastfeeding and her career can be challenging. It takes immense effort and commitment to be present for both. “I had to set aside specific times either for pumping breast milk at the workplace or taking breaks to go home and breastfeed my baby”, mommy Belle recounts. Having a supportive workplace can help significantly, especially if they can provide facilities that mothers can express and store breastmilk in.
With all her experience as a new mom and as a doctor, Mommy Belle advises that
“Patience truly is a virtue in this process. It is essential to exercise patience not only with yourself but also with your baby, as breastfeeding is a learning experience for the both of you. The key lies in ensuring proper baby positioning, achieving a correct latch, and creating a comfortable environment during breastfeeding. It is also important to nurse on demand and regularly express breast milk either by hand or with a pump to prevent issues like breast engorgement and mastitis. Staying adequately hydrated is crucial for maintaining a consistent milk supply. Do not hesitate to seek support and guidance. You can reach out to your fellow moms for advice or even consider consulting a lactation specialist if you encounter challenges with breastfeeding. Lastly, always keep in mind that you are not alone, you are more than capable, and you possess an inner strength to become the best mother you can be for your little one.“
For Mommy Abbey, breastfeeding is an intimate journey that has brought her closer than ever to her newborn, Joey. While there may be challenges along the way, the benefits of breastfeeding are tremendous. She emphasizes, “[Breastfeeding] has given me a chance to get to know my baby’s cues and address her needs myself, which I think is a good foundation for trust and communication between mother and child.”
While still pregnant with baby Joey, Abbey dedicated ample time into understanding the different facets of motherhood, including breastfeeding, as she was expecting her first ever child. She learned the different styles of how to hold her baby, as well as what signs to look for to ensure proper latching and breastfeeding.
However, having a newborn may come with its fair share of trials that can’t be taught. While Abbey was fortunate in that Joey would latch properly onto her breasts, her difficulties came in the events that succeed breastfeeding ― the spit-up, or the stomach contents that flow out of the baby’s mouth. “Yes, I was worried because my baby would have a lot of spit up. This is common for the first few months and other moms and doctors tell me spit up will lessen as they get older. To help with the spit up, I make sure to keep my baby upright for a longer time, at least 20 minutes, after her feedings,” Abbey recalls.
When looking back at her first experiences with breastfeeding, Abbey shares how she would have eaten more nutritious food much earlier. Having breastfed Joey for over 3 months now, she realizes the impact that her nutrition has on her breastmilk and, consequently, on her child’s development. She also recounts instances where she would try to incorporate foods that she had before getting pregnant, and how these affected Joey’s behavior. Once, she had tried to add coffee back to her diet, only for Joey to be very fussy the whole day!
Of course, these experiences may be unique to Abbey’s breastfeeding journey; each mother has the power and freedom to discover what breastfeeding styles work for their own children. However different a mother's experience may be, no one should go through this alone. Family and friends can support breastfeeding mommies in simple ways, such as providing meals or caring for the baby in between breastfeeding periods. Abbey adds, "Whether [breastfeeding is] a difficult journey or an easy one, ask how you can help."
Breastfeeding is no simple task and requires giving a lot of attention to your baby. As exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first 6 months of life, mothers will need a lot of support in caring for their baby. As daunting as this may sound, this act of love creates closer bonds with the baby and helps in their overall development.
Abbey leaves breastfeeding mommies with 2 simple pieces of advice: "My number 1 advice is to learn to make your baby latch properly. Number 2 is, if you need validation, consult a lactation coach, they are your breast friends."
My breastfeeding journey with my first child was difficult. I wasn’t able to keep her full with my breast milk and I knew my daughter felt how sad I was. Because I wasn’t able to give enough breast milk, we had to mix feed our firstborn. I was in denial at that time so it was a tough hurdle which I had to face and let go. My breastfeeding journey with my second child now is very different. I have so much milk! Breastfeeding has helped me through my postpartum. It’s been tough and very tiring, but I feel more love and joy this time. I am grateful to be able to feed him enough and that we finish milk sessions so quickly. I’ve been kinder to myself and just loving myself more.
I am now in my fifth month of breastfeeding and I’m so thankful that I even get to share my breast milk to others. I’ve been trying to pump more than four to five times a day to strengthen my output. If there was something I wish I did when I started breastfeeding my first child, it would be to be more informed and to join communities through Facebook because that helped a lot for my second child. For my firstborn, I pumped in between sessions because I knew that I needed to prepare breast milk for her when I would return to work. However, the people around me, who did not breastfeed, told me to stop, just sleep, and “lalakas din yan”. I stopped pumping and my milk production for my first child never got stronger. I felt so sad during those moments. I cried over it and had so many sleepless nights because I knew my firstborn would wake up every hour because she wasn’t full. Despite this, I planned on being more informed, and this allowed me to prepare for my second child more than ever.
When it comes to donating breast milk, I was so worried at first. With my first child, I was able to donate for a month but I had to stop because I noticed my milk production wasn’t getting “strong” and I thought that by pumping more, I was losing more. I had not realized that being able to donate and pumping more milk made would actually be the key to increasing my milk output. I am always grateful for every drop I get to donate. Donating is very rewarding too! It made me more confident and appreciate myself more. I could not thank God more for this beautiful gift that I could share with others. It’s so important to help those in need, especially babies in hospitals who have either lost their moms or moms who do not have milk at all.
Breastfeeding is a journey for you and your baby. Breastfeeding is so beautiful! I hope that us moms can freely breastfeed our children anywhere and that people become more respectful with our choice to exclusively breastfeed our children in public. I hope that society gives the much needed respect to moms breastfeeding their children. For us moms, may we give ourselves the much needed kindness to understand that every baby grows differently with breastmilk, and what’s important is focusing on our baby's needs; not to compare with one another, but rather to and enjoy this wonderful journey.
To all the new mommies reading this, we don’t know yet how your breastfeeding journey will be. Be patient and be kind with yourself. Be informed and be accepting. Focus on yourself and on how you can make the most out of this lovely journey with you and your child. And once you’re comfortable with sharing your supply, if you’re thinking of donating your breastmilk, enjoy the process and put your heart into it. Donating is fun and rewarding. Last but not least, hydrate! Hydrate! And hydrate! Take it from me; take it easy and don’t stress out. Give what you can give!
I began my breastfeeding journey right at the start of the pandemic. I had been working as a resident doctor, so I am away most of the day. Breastfeeding is the way my baby and I bond whenever I’m at home. The physical intimacy, and the emotional and psychological relationship formed during breastfeeding, have created a priceless bonding experience between me and my son. It’s an instant boost of happiness and calmness, especially during a busy day.
Throughout these months of breastfeeding, I realized how amazing the human body is for being able to produce breast milk. Mothers’ breast milk is perfect for human babies because it’s a species-specific whole milk packed with the nutrients necessary for proper growth and development.
If you’re a new mom who is just starting your breastfeeding journey, I encourage you to research, join support groups, talk to other moms, and ask questions! I became a new mom just when the pandemic broke out so it was very isolating. In addition to talking to the moms in my life, I joined Viber and Facebook communities to learn more about breastfeeding. My personal favorite is Dr. MILK, a support group for physician moms, where I got lots of advice about pumping and maintaining my milk supply despite the busy schedule of residency. Joining this support group also provided me with much needed reassurance and support.
If you’re not a mom, but know or see someone who is, know that the best thing you can do for them is support them. Support and protect breastfeeding and breastfeeding moms and their families, and do not neglect to also support and protect moms who choose to use formula for one reason or another. Fed is best! Happy and healthy moms mean happy and healthy babies.
Throughout my breastfeeding journey, I’ve realized that breastfeeding is not easy. It takes commitment and dedication to see it through. In the beginning, it was exhausting to feed 15-20x a day. I have never felt more exposed, and I really felt like my body was no longer my own. Now at 17 months of breastfeeding, while feeding is much less and no longer as painful, it takes the same amount of dedication and commitment to continue and keep my supply up. It is hard work from the day you start until the day you decide to stop.
Truly, breast milk is so powerful and special! I mean, what other drink (or food) can shift its components and adapt to exactly what the child needs? It's amazing how even just a few drops of colostrum is enough to nourish a newborn baby, or how milk with COVID-19 antibodies is enough to protect and keep a child free of COVID-19 despite exposure in the environment. Not many people realize this, but once they do, it is no surprise that they will try to keep breastfeeding for as long as possible.
Before becoming a mother, I thought breastfeeding was a simple task that moms can easily do for their babies. I thought that it was just an option for families who don’t want to include infant formula milk in their monthly expenses. It was very common for me to ask other parents, "Is your child breastfed?". As I became a parent myself to my firstborn, my perspective on breastfeeding changed.
Our breastfeeding journey began during my pregnancy. In my third trimester, my husband was very supportive. He knows better when it comes to breastfeeding essentials – from fixing up an electric pump to choosing the best breast milk storage bags and containers. He even bought all of those for me. But yes, I still felt the pressure was on me!
When I gave birth in September last year, my milk production didn’t kick in immediately. I felt sad as days passed, and still my milk supply was not coming in. I was about to lose hope, desperate to breastfeed our newborn, until one day I prayed and asked God to guide me and our baby in our breastfeeding journey. If He would allow, I asked Him to use me as an instrument to help the preemies in the NICU or the babies in the nursery. I made a promise that once I am able to build a stash, I would donate to public hospitals or NGOs. Day after day, I kept praying. Every time I pumped, I prayed for God's help. A month later, my husband and I decided to purely breastfeed our baby since we both thought that my supply was already enough to satisfy his hunger. It was on that day when I finally collected enough to build my very first stash!
I also realized that apart from the physical benefits, breastfeeding can also contribute to a child’s mental health as it helps moms communicate with their babies. Knowing that newborns are not yet used to the outside world, proper nursing can give them the warmth and cuddle they had when they were still in the womb.
My key takeaway from my experience is if I could do things differently before giving birth, I would definitely educate myself with enough knowledge in breastfeeding. If I just knew earlier that a mother’s breast milk supply is enough from day 1, then we would not have purchased the infant formula milk for my baby, and I would not have felt bad for thinking that I was not enough for my baby.
Yes, breastfeeding is indeed difficult as it requires patience and determination. Having someone who is heavily dependent on you 24/7 can be exhausting. While it may have caused a drastic change in my life – from eating habits to lifestyle, I always kept in mind that the challenges are outweighed by the physical and mental benefits breastfeeding has on my baby’s growing years. I am glad that up until now that he is 10 months old, our breastfeeding journey continues. I thank the Lord for giving me the opportunity to help in this special way. Salute to all moms and supportive dads that are on this journey!
As a first time mom, I did not have a hard time like I expected to. Despite giving birth earlier, my milk came just in time, so supply was not a problem. Alon also latched like a champ, although he was picky with breastfeeding positions. I had to experiment with what was comfortable and efficient for us both. I had to deal with nipple blisters, ensuring I had nipple balm on hand and that I would ice my breasts in between feedings. Luckily, pain was not much of an issue for me because I have a relatively high tolerance for it. What worried me the most was when I had a bad episode of diarrhea and my supply tanked for a few days. But after much rehydration and eating right, I was able to regain my supply.
In addition, she realized that breastfeeding wasn’t really 100% free. It entailed a lot of effort on her part to express milk, clean and sterilize her pump, avoid mastitis, and take care of herself to be healthy enough to produce more milk. However, Mommy Chax remarks that all of these things made breastfeeding even more valuable than the money spent on formula feeding.
When asked about some of the things that she wished she would have done differently in her breastfeeding journey, Mommy Chax shared the she would have simply brushed off unsolicited advice that she received from people who had never breastfed—especially males. In addition, she wished to have cared less about feeding or pumping in public. Finally, she would have bought less “nursing” tops and just stuck to regular clothes that she could wear even after weaning.
Nevertheless, one’s breastfeeding journey will never be perfect. Mommy Chax even remarks that “challenges will always be there in every stage.” Thus, she advises moms to develop a strong support group, starting from the baby’s father, up until the mother’s colleagues and workmates. She then reminds mothers that they do not have to bear the burden of breastfeeding and motherhood all by themselves.
Finally, we asked Mommy Chax how breastfeeding has made an impact on her relationship with Baby Eli. To this, she replied: “It definitely made “a mother’s unconditional love” more tangible, as the journey to breastfeed wasn’t as easy as I expected.”
Mommy Chax goes even further by saying that as she saw how Eli was able to reach her leaps and milestones healthily, the decision to continue breastfeeding truly proved worth every plugged duct and bite mark.
Another significant challenge Mommy Margo encountered was finding out her younger daughter had food (and environmental) allergies. Her younger daughter, Maxine, has been exclusively breastfeed for 11 months. Being the primary source of her youngest daughter’s nutrition, Mommy Margo had to eliminate certain food in her diet, restricting herself to a limited range of food ingredients. She had to make sure the food she ate was safe for her daughter, a very tricky thing since the food items her daughter is allergic to are in almost every dish out there. Sadly, every rash that appeared on her daughter’s body would constantly make Mommy Margo blame herself for the meals she had the previous day. She knew there was no absolute way to pinpoint what could’ve caused the rash or discomfort, given that multiple factors could have caused it. She says, “I cannot personally say that we have overcome this difficulty yet, but through the help of her medical specialists, we at least were able to determine what food items she is allergic to as a guide for her diet as well as mine.” Thankfully, with the help of healthcare professionals and her personal determination to adjust her diet, Mommy Margo is now able to manage her daughters’ allergic reactions.
Lastly, we asked Mommy Margo what about breastfeeding would she want people to know. Her response was,
“What I want society to know about breastfeeding is that breastfeeding is one of the most natural yet magical expressions of love a mother can give to her baby. The wonders of breastmilk, even up to this day, is something science cannot fully explain. The magic of the mother’s body being able to change her breast milk composition based on her child’s health is just one of the many beauties of what breastmilk and a nursing mother can do. Breastfeeding isn’t easy. It takes a lot of dedication, patience and persistence to mold your own unique journey of breastfeeding your child.”
“I realized that breastfeeding is hard! It's painful, it’s messy, it's the most important thing your baby needs and it's a lot of pressure. But it's the labor of love, and it's rewards are beautiful.”
Mommy Anita says this fondly thinking of how nice it is to see Mav 'milk drunk' and fast asleep after a good feed.
Her journey as a first time mother simultaneously took place with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. At one point, Mommy Anita came down with a fever. Despite this, her doctor advised her to continue breastfeeding with taking proper precautions, such as wearing a mask.
“I want society to know that breastfeeding is so essential, especially now that there is a pandemic, our babies need the antibodies found in breastmilk to strengthen their immunity. And it doesn't cost a thing!”
Mommy Anita expresses this while advising new moms who are considering breastfeeding to stay healthy, don’t give up and enjoy it because it doesn’t last forever. And lastly, she encourages new moms to donate their extra milk to help fellow mothers and babies in need.
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.