Friday, 22 August 2014

Milk Mama Diaries: Breastfeeding and Beyond

Welcome to the Milk Mama Diaries Carnival (August). For this month, we write about the World Breastfeeding Week 2014 - Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal for Life and share how breastfeeding can help the Philippines achieve the 8 Millennium Development Goals developed by the government and the United Nations. Participants will share their thoughts, experiences, hopes and suggestions on the topic. Please scroll down to the end of the post to see the list of carnival entries.

For the record, this is my sixth revision. I wasn't, and I still am not, sure if I could even properly express my thoughts on some of the topics that came up for this year's blog carnival. But I thought I'd give it a try anyway these three are actually significant to my own journey.

I was not breastfed. My mother had me via C-section and had to be kept in the maternity hospital for a full month due to infections. There I received formula: a cow's milk-based one that caused angry red rashes wherever it touched my skin. But I can tell you with a straight face that this had absolutely nothing to do with my decision to breastfeed.

The truth is, I'm unsure of how I developed the idea that breastfeeding is the most natural thing for mothers to do. Like breathing. Like blinking. Breastfeeding and formula feeding both always seemed completely normal to me, but eventually, I decided that formulas are the back up plan. Breastfeeding is the ideal plan.

Now that I'm a mom I realise that the ability to breastfeed an infant is quite possibly the most important life hack nature provided.

My closest friends know that my idea of being a wife and mother is heavily based on the whole 50s concept of perfection. Modernized, of course, to include my having a career besides being a wife and mother. And this is where I began.

I could have stressed myself out over the amount of information I suddenly felt I had to consider. Bottles, pumps, bags, was a lot to take in. I will always unabashedly credit Jenny Ong of Chronicles of a Nursing Mom for easing me through all the bits and pieces of new knowledge, but my son (and any future children) has his Auntie Tatiana to thank for giving me the most unusually encouraging words I heard prior to giving birth:

"Don't sweat it if you aren't able to breastfeed your baby. It will not make you any less of a mom or a woman."

Those most matter-of-fact, absolutely honest, and completely pressure-free words made me feel completely reassured that failing at this motherhood goal I set for myself would not result in a cataclysmic world's end. It reminded me to relax and just take that first journey step. Consequently, I have been successfully breastfeeding my son for 20 months.

It is a very empowering feeling, succeeding in a goal I set for myself. Even more powerful than this check mark on my list is that I've witnessed how well the milk I am providing has shielded my son from a wide variety of viral attacks my family has gone through in the past year and a half. In fact, when my son finally succumbed to a bout with the cold virus, he recovered in two days--after which, he transferred the virus to my mom who had to suffer through the viral attack for two weeks. I have to say that seeing this happen has made me feel like a superhero.

Self-image improved? Definitely a yes! I may not be too proud of the state of my physical fitness--I've lost and regained the 20 odd pounds I put on during pregnancy--but it is a matter of pride for me that I am able to do this for my baby. And yes, despite the prudery involved in seeing a naked breast, this sense of accomplishment has since led me to unabashedly nurse my son with or without a cover anytime, anywhere.

This has also led me to consider myself among the lucky ones who did not have to go through the horrors of searching for the perfect combination of formula, bottle, and nipple. Oh the horror stories friends who formula-fed shared with me!

See, economy isn't just about money spent, in my opinion. It's also about the time spent doing what needs to be done. Before giving birth, here's how I imagined formula feeding my baby would be like:

1. Buy cans of formula enough for approximately a month and a half's worth of feeding. Just in case the grocery runs out or I am unable to immediately restock.
2. Buy bottles and test run countless types of nipples and nipple brushes to make sure my baby is comfortable with his feeding bottle and the teats are durable and won't give him gas.
3. Prepare sterlized water every single day and make sure all feeding bottles are thoroughly cleaned and sterilized, ready for use.
4. Measure out formula per feeding.
5. Mix formula every feeding time.
6. Buy a gargantuan diaper bag that will fit a day's worth of diapers plus a day's worth of bottles. And carry it around every time we go out, which is quite often since my husband and I are involved in real estate.
7. Make sure I have spare nipples just in case the bottle is dropped on the ground somewhere.
8. Have a minor panic attack if in case we run out of clean bottles or formula powder and we're on the road.
9. Figure out where we can settle down so I can mix formula comfortably while baby is distracted by something and will not wail and whine for me to hurry up.
10. At night, make sure all items are easily accessible and ready for night feedings.

This may or may not be true for everyone and frankly, I could very well have missed an item here and there. But the very thought of having to go through this every single day terrified and horrified me. I imagined myself breastfeeding, however, the image felt so easy and picture perfect:

1. Baby cries.
2. Bring out breast, allow baby to suckle.
3. Proceed with regularly scheduled program.
4. At night, bring out breast, allow baby to suckle, go back to sleep.

I am not dismissing the health benefits here, mind. I have always been aware of the health benefits of breastfeeding. This second consideration was all about economy and lifestyle. I wanted a calm and relaxed way to go about the daily feeding routine despite constantly being on the road.

The final point of consideration is one that occurred to me only after I began breastfeeding. It seems to me such a strange and solemn way to end this thought train but ultimately, it's the one that I feel has the greatest impact of all.

A trip to the grocery store says it all: boxes and cans of various sizes filled with foil-packed formula. But I'm not really thinking of the damage producing such packaging does to the environment.

That formula that very likely started out in a test tube in some laboratory after being extracted from a nursing mother, one with four legs, and heated, given additives, refined, and very likely, tested on another four-legged animal, maybe a rat. Taking just one sample, at least two other lives that were disrupted just so we can have better formulas to feed human children.

I am fully aware that not all mothers are as fortunate as I am that I am able to breastfeed my child. But there was once a time when human milk was given to human children (in ancient tribes, mothers who could not produce their own milk were kindly helped out by mothers who could) and animal milk stayed within same species circles. How strange that we have this concept of a "global community" when we've lost such a basic sense of a what a community started out as: a group of people helping and supporting each other?

I've seen this happen in the breastfeeding community I am part of online. Mothers having trouble with their supply have reached out to other mothers for help and it was quickly given. In a way, beyond the idea that breastfeeding is a zero-waste source of food, I've since learned that breastfeeding might eventually become a way for us to reconnect with each other as people.


Here are many thoughts and reasons why we should all advocate for mothers to breastfeed for the first 1,000 days of life #BF1st1000days

Jenny shares experiencing the One Asia Breastfeeding Forum

Mec insists to do the Math and breastfeed!

Ams, The Passionate Mom says Breastfeed for a Better Future

Pat says breastfeeding saves money and the planet

Cheryl, the Multi-Tasking Mama, tackles maternal health as addressed by breastfeeding

2011 CNN Hero Ibu Robin highlights gentle births and breasfeeding, even in disaster zones

Felyn stresses that Healthy Moms = Healthy Babies

Monique reminds us that there are second chances in breastfeeding

Normi relates how breastfeeding gave her strength and purpose

Nats thanks Dr. Jack Newman for showing how breastfeeding can be a win-win situation

Em believes breastfeeding is a solution to societal problems

Marge shares what breastfeeding has taught them

Kaity was empowered financially and as a woman through breastfeeding

Madel relates her breastfeeding saga

Jen of Next9 reminds us to do our research and share what we know

Celerhina Aubrey vows to work on one mother at a time

Grace wants to put an end to stories of toasted coffee and similar stuff over breast milk

Diane shares how she prevailed when things did not go according to plan

Hazel appreciates mommy support groups

Roan combines two passions, breastfeeding and architecture

Queenie tackled breastfeeding as the best choice for the environment as well and breastfeeding myths and poverty

Rosa shares how the picture she thought of was realized

Sally believes breastfeeding benefits mankind and our planet Earth

Floraine reminds us that breastfeeding helps combat diseases

Crislyn was happy to realize that she improved her own health by breastfeeding

Armi reminds us how breastfeeding during emergencies is crucial

Arvi tells us how breastfeeding made her look at her body a different way

Clarice elaborates on how breastfeeding saves lives and the planet

Giane reminds us that women empowerment can begin by seeing breastfeeding as more than a feeding issue

Liza thought she was only breastfeeding for her child

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Mommy Brain

Here's how it works:

I am focused so completely on my son that I think of nothing else.

Then I realise I need to take care of loads other things.

And then I go back to focusing on my son.

An entire year of this has driven me crazy. Not a particularly bad crazy but the kind of crazy that needs at least an hour of me time and a dose of primping every day. I kid you not.

I chose to be a SAHM (stay at home mom), make no mistake about that. I am not good at hiring the right people and judging someone based on a resume is just not enough. I do not have the confidence that I can hire the right person to care for my son when I have failed several times over to find the right person to clean our house and care for my cats and dogs. I can only thank the Lord that it has never happened that any harm came to us beyond theft of material possessions.

Clearly this disqualifies me from hiring a nanny at this point though I do realise and accept that we will need to hire one in the future when we decide to add to the brood.

I am so glad that now I can let my son run somewhat loose around the house. "Somewhat" because there are still places and things he is not allowed to handle. But we try to manage and adjust because my mommy brain is starting to short circuit.

I see so many things that need cleaning, fixing, and organizing. I see things worth salvaging for crafting and things that are in want of upcycling.

I see our sole helper moving at a glacial pace and need to get things done more efficiently because while I am grateful for her presence, I see things left not done or not done right. But she cooks and occasionally dotes on my four-footed kids. That is a definite gold star in my book. Two gold stars, even.

There is nothing wrong inherently with this mommy brain I whine about but it also seems to be hardwired to create an envoronment I failed to finish providing during my nesting phase. So we have an extension.

My mommy brain wants it all to be as clean and organised an environment for my kid(s) as it was for me.

And my mommy brain wants a little bit of time out.

So together, we seek out these little projects. We take breaks when the little one calls for milk and cuddles and play time. We keep trying to get things done and we do get them done some times. And at night, we get a good night's sleep knowing we completed another step going towards that goal: keeping mommy brain healthy.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Starting my birth month right

More and more mums are finally admitting that motherhood is not easy. At all.

We all know this and we all accept it but it never becomes as real as when you are actually there. In those shoes.

I am appalled that my last blog was in January when I swore I would blog often so my children can see their mother as a human being. Well, suppose the blog silence says it all.


Busier mums have accomplished what I have failed at. Regular blogging, that is. This time, in my 32nd year, I want to make that happen. This is my year of owning it, so to speak. And own it, I shall.

My goal this year 2014-2015 is to be fabulous. I want to be that fabulous mum. It doesn't have to be Tessa Prieto-Valdes fabulous, but I do want that.

My first step has been simple: look the part. While my style has a lot of room for improvement, I've been learning one easy way to make me feel great and that is, makeup. In fact, that has been the core of my Fab Friday blogs. My collection has grown and changed since my last makeup posts.

I realised though, via a series of rather strange circumstances that happened today, that there is one major step I missed. I have been so busy with my baby, I totally, utterly let myself go.

Mothers don't get holidays, it's true. Which is why we need to declare such things for ourselves. I need to love and pamper myself as much as I dote on my son. And part of that pampering is to love my new body as it is now.

I was never the skinny girl. I am curvy--always have been and always will be. There is nothing wrong with this. I was always insecure of the fact though. I valued skinny so much because I felt it was the most aesthetically balanced look. But getting a waistline that has grown from 27" to 32" and realising my bum has gained about 8" did something to me. I cracked. I looked at my clothes and just cracked.

I cannot dress like I used to and that was depressing.

But this year I am changing my mindset. I will get fit but on the road to the body I want, I will love myself and give myself more love than I always did.

I started today. I aim to keep at it until I get to that point where my health becomes the reason for my mad race to lose weight, rather than my aesthetic ideal.

To day one of owning fabulous!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

One year. Really?

I remember feeling the same way in August when I marvelled at the fact that my last blog entry was in July. Today I'm recognizing the fact it's been a year since I became a mom.

It has been a very difficult year. Growing as a couple is made doubly (at least!) hard with a child. Chances to discuss the day's events, plans, etc. are cut short constantly or put on hold indefinitely. Nearly everything revolves around the baby. We have been very fortunate to have friends who still have us over even when we have "extra baggage" in tow.


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