*MOTHERHOOD, Gathered Thoughts

My Breastfeeding Journey (and Essentials!)

This month, I achieved my goal of exclusively breastfeeding my baby for AT LEAST six months as he also celebrated his half birthday (and will soon start solids/complementary feeding). So now, the goal is to continue breastfeeding him until he turns one year old and even beyond! To God be the glory!

I’m celebrating this because I remember how my breastfeeding journey started… I honestly thought I couldn’t do it! From the moment I gave birth, the doctors immediately put Rafa (my baby’s nickname) on my left breast to latch. As a first-time mother, I was so clueless at the start on how serious breastfeeding is! I mean, at first, I thought it was just bringing the baby to the breast and everything would just magically fall into place. But no! Breastfeeding is something to be learned (and if you’re a new momma, maternal instincts will kick in so you’ll eventually know what you’re doing — so don’t worry!). There are even different breastfeeding positions… and yes, I tried ’em all (my favorites are the cross-cradle hold and side-lying). With learning, though, comes pain, tears, sweat, and yes, occasional blood! 😛

I remember on Rafa‘s fourth day, two days after we came home from the hospital, he suddenly couldn’t latch properly after latching well for the past four days. I was sooo sleep deprived, I was crying due to postpartum blues and my painful breasts/nipples. Eventually, I contacted one of my sisters who’s a pediatrician. After examining Rafa, it was decided that he had poor activity so he had to be re-admitted to the hospital at five days old. We found out that he had to be treated for sepsis, so we spent another week, including his first Christmas, at the place where I gave birth to him (thank God he recovered; more details on my previous blog entry here). That was also the reason why at five days postpartum, I started my pumping journey. I don’t really religiously pump because Rafa still latches directly to me whenever I’m at home; I just pump when there’s a need like maybe once a day or twice when I’m at work.

Normally, new mothers are advised to pump after six weeks postpartum. But then again, it’s always a case-to-case basis so always consult your doctor. Since I developed gestational hypertension that continued to my fourth trimester, I was advised to express my breast milk so I could catch up on sleep. Sure, I could hand express but it was just too time consuming; using an electric breast pump and a manual silicone pump/milk catcher was a personal decision (with doctor’s advice, of course). Add to that what happened to Rafa when he was just five days old… I wouldn’t be able to recover properly if it weren’t for my early pumping. You see, I’m blessed to have a husband who was willing to sacrifice some shut-eye during the early days of Rafa. Whenever Rafa would cry in the wee hours of the morning, my husband would be the one to feed him from a bottle with my expressed breast milk, which in return helped me recover from my postpartum hypertension and other complications. (So thank you, Ish! Rafa and I love you!)

Anyway, I know that each mother has a unique breastfeeding (or non-breastfeeding) journey. I’m just sharing my own story, and I’ll be glad if you get a thing or two out of it. 🙂

To be honest, my major concern back then was how to give Rafa my breast milk when I return to work. I wanted to build a freezer stash but didn’t know how to start. Eventually, I was able to build enough supply (mostly with the help of a manual milk catcher!), and Rafa was able to drink purely my breast milk during his first six months. I was even able to donate some! So I’m really grateful to God for everything.

❤ ❤ ❤

To pay it forward, I’d like to share the things (my so-called essentials) in alphabetical order that helped me successfully breastfeed Rafa, especially during the fourth trimester when I was still establishing my milk supply:

Baby feeding bottles – In order for my husband to feed Rafa so I could rest, we needed baby feeding bottles. We took the risk of introducing the bottle to Rafa at a very early stage (again, at five days old — always consult your doctor!), and I’m just glad he didn’t really struggle with nipple confusion. Sure, he became “picky” at around four months, but he still takes the bottle from time to time especially when I have to go to work. For me, it was a trial and error process in finding the brand that Rafa liked best — FYI, it’s Hegen. When we observed him, Hegen was the bottle with the best “slow flow” teat that’s compatible with Rafa‘s “feeding pace” so we never looked back since. The other brands I tried at the beginning were Comotomo, Medela, Philips Avent, and Tommee Tippee.

Breast milk storage bags – Obviously, I used this to store my expressed breast milk in the freezer. The brands I tried are Dr. Dudu, Orange & Peach, UK Baby (the most affordable!), and Uni-Love.

Breast pumps (electric and manual)

Electric pump – My sisters gifted me Medela‘s Swing Maxi Flex, and I use it as my main breast pump. Hands down, I love it! It really empties my breasts — which is actually the number one key in establishing breast milk supply. The breasts need to be emptied, so the brain will get the signal that the body still needs to produce more breast milk. 😉

Anyway, the only other electric breast pump I tried was an unbranded and China-made handsfree pump. It was okay for “relieving” but not really for “emptying” so I don’t really recommend it for establishing milk supply. I’m actually willing to give it away if any momma out there needs it, so just let me know! Haha!

Manual silicone pump / milk catchers and savers – Ahhh! The key to my freezer stash! Mommas know this, but during the fourth trimester when breast milk supply is at its peak, let-downs happen ALL THE TIME on the other breast when the baby is feeding on the other. It would be such a waste if we just let our “liquid gold” go to our clothes, hence the need for silicone milk catchers! Most people call this a “Haakaa” because it’s the brand that invented it, but of course, other brands are available in the market. The brands I tried are Dula, Haakaa, Orange & Peach, Naturebond (the best for me ’cause the suction is not as painful as the Haakaa!), etc. I own six milk catchers, so I already have one available at each feeding session when the others are still at the cleaning/sterilizing queue! 😀 Seriously, I love it! I even love gifting it to my new momma friends. Although after the first three months, when I already have a steady freezer stash and got comfortable with the side-lying breastfeeding position, I got tired of using it. LOL! No worries, though, because silicone pumps and parts usually have a lifespan of only three months; they eventually need to be replaced especially if used often (which I did, literally every day for the first three months postpartum!).

Breast shells – These saved me from leaks and sore nipples when I returned to work! Instead of breast pads, I put these in my bra, so that my leaking breast milk would be caught. It also helps my nipples not touch my bra or clothes, so it lessens the sting (breastfeeding mommas know this feeling!). The brands I tried are Dula, Orange & Peach, Philips Avent, etc.

Breastfeeding/nursing pillow – I actually have two, both were given to me as gifts. The first one is shaped like a small rectangle wherein I can slip my arm and Rafa can rest his head on the pillow while on a cradle hold position. The other one was included in my hospital package when I gave birth, and it’s the more common U-shaped one. I like the latter because it’s so versatile, Rafa‘s also able to use it during tummy time and as a seat support.

Galactagogues – This might sound foreign to some, but that’s what nursing mommas call foods that help increase our milk supply (provided that we continue “emptying” our breasts). The ones I tried and tested are:

Almonds – From whole almonds as snacks to almond butter to almond milk, I instantly became a fan! (Because honestly, pre-pregnancy, I wasn’t really into almonds! Haha!)

Lactation drinks – I usually have one every breakfast (or every after meal depending on my mood). The brands I tried are Nestle’s Milo (oh yes!), Daily Herbs’ malunggay choco and coffee, Mother Nurture’s malunggay choco and coffee (my faves!), and Naturearth’s M2 malunggay tea drink.

Lactation treats – The fun part about breastfeeding! Enjoying sweet treats without the guilt (just continue to do it in moderation and always check your sugar!). The brands I tried are Ava’s Kitchen (I prefer their savory and cream cheese-based lactation spreads), Galacto Bombs, Hustina Bakes, Milking Bombs by ABC (hands down, the best and my favorite!), and Mommy Treats.

Oatmeal – Apart from the ingredients used for the lactation treats I consume and my occasional oatmeal milk drink, the only brand I tried is good ‘ol Quaker Oats. I usually have it plain (no sugar or milk) with chia seeds for breakfast, paired with a lactation drink. Yum!

Lactation massager – I was skeptical at first but when I tried it, it really worked wonders! My milk output was better during pumping sessions when I used a lactation massager. It also helps unclog milk ducts. 🙂 The only brand I tried is Lavie.

Lactation supplements – a.k.a. malunggay capsules! I started taking ’em during my third trimester of pregnancy. The brands I tried are Buds & Blooms, Eu Natural, Life Oil (the best for me, although a bit pricey — also the one recommended by my OB-GYN), and Mega Malunggay.

Nipple balm – During the first few weeks of breastfeeding, the breasts and nipples of new mommas need some time to “adjust” to the painful different sensation of a baby’s latch. I actually started using one when I was still pregnant to somehow “prep” my breasts, but no amount of “prepping” would be enough to the actual experience! Haha! But yes, nipple balms help soothe and moisturize — just make sure you use one that’s baby safe and made of food-grade/natural ingredients. The brands I tried are Mustela and Orange & Peach.

Nipple wash – Bath time for me is never complete without this! The only one I tried is Cradle‘s Cradle Mama Natural Breast and Nipple Wash.

Nursing/pumping bras and clothes – There’s a difference between a nursing bra and a pumping bra! Haha! The former has easy access for baby to latch, and the latter has holes wherein you put a breast pump’s flange so you can pump handsfree. I have Medela‘s Easy Expression Bustier but since it’s pricey, the rest of my “nursing/pumping” apparel consists of China-made and local finds from Shopee! If you need recos, let me know! Wahahahaha!

Steam sterilizer – From baby feeding bottles to breast pump parts, we sterilize everything at least once a day. The only one I’m using now is Philips Avent’s 3-in-1 electric steam sterilizer. It’s so convenient when the “queue” is piling up! 😀

Support group – Ah yes, mommas need to help fellow mommas! Aside from my sisters, husband, and household help, I’m blessed to have mommy friends from all walks of life who are in the same season as I am! I even found a light group (LG) from The Feast exclusive for young mothers like me, and we meet online once a month (and talk via our group chat any day)! So shout-out to all of you, fellow mommas! Thanks for being with me in this journey. ❤

Water – Breast milk is composed of around 80% water. Since I started breastfeeding, I’ve been drinking AT LEAST two liters of water per day. During the fourth trimester, I always have a tumbler beside me because I’d drink water before and after each feeding session, even if that’s in the wee hours of the morning. I seldom use a water glass anymore because I drink straight from one-liter tumblers — it’s just easier to track my water intake that way. On a good day, I get to drink four liters of water. To be honest, I’ll continue this habit even if I’m not breastfeeding in the future because it’s just really good for my health overall.

Whew! Looks a lot, no? Sure, some may perceive these as “extras” but like I said, I’m speaking from my own experience. The aforementioned “essentials” allowed me to exclusively breastfeed Rafa without the need to resign from my work, get my much needed “me time” from time to time, and stay sane (trust me, new mommas can relate), so I don’t regret investing in these!

Obviously, my breastfeeding journey is mostly trial and error (as is motherhood in general) and I know I still have a long way to go. And whether or not you breastfeed, I salute you fellow momma! We all have the same goal of giving the best to our babies, and no one can do a better job at being our babies’ mothers than us!!! 🙂


TO GOD BE THE GLORY ALWAYS AND FOREVER!

“While he was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.'”
-Luke 11:27

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