Last August 1 and 2, I had the honor of being one of the panelists at the 5th Breastfeeding Congress, held at the Manila Hotel.
I gave my testimonial as a breastfeeding mom who overcame initial challenges and continued to breastfeed successfully. My fellow breastfeeding advocate panelists were Dr. Marini Tabon-Esguerra, a pediatrician and lactation consultant, and Jolina Magdangal-Escueta, a television host and actress.
I shared our breastfeeding journey, from our initial setbacks, to the intervention we sought, and finally to our current success. I was proud to proclaim that from being underweight, Wolf became well within normal range, 8.3 kg at 7 months. It was so heartwarming to hear the attendees clap in appreciation of our accomplishment.
Aside from sharing my personal story, I shared why I think more women should nurse without a cover, as I am doing now. I also cited the benefits I myself got from being a breastfed baby–I have a strong immune system, an adventurous palate, and no weight problems. In Wolf’s case, the benefits I cited were the convenience when going out with him, the many chances for bonding, and his well-behaved nature grounded in how breastfeeding is a great source of comfort.
Casey and Wolf were also on the stage with me. Casey shared how proud he was of me, especially when he saw how difficult it was in the beginning. He also expressed his support of me nursing without a cover, saying that he realized how eating while covered by cloth must not be comfortable at all for babies. Wolf was very well behaved, even if he were sleepy. Toward the end of the session, he was fast asleep in Casey’s arms.
The other two panelists also shared their initial struggles breastfeeding. It was comforting to feel that I was not alone. Imagine, even a pediatrician mom encountered difficulties breastfeeding! That’s why I think it is so important to be more vocal about the topic, so that people become aware that with proper information and guidance, breastfeeding is absolutely worth it for both mom and baby. I am happy to have been able to share my experience with a room full of physicians and med students. Hopefully, the testimonials of me and my fellow panelists inspired these medical practitioners to offer more guidance to new mothers just beginning their breastfeeding journey.
Last week was World Breastfeeding Week! I joined a celebratory promo hosted by my favorite maternity clothing brand, Elin. I posted a photo of my favorite items from Elin and captioned it with a description of how Elin has made my motherhood journey easier.
Here’s the photo:
This was the caption: Back when I was still pregnant, at first, shopping for new clothes was a nightmare. I scoured various maternity sections yet always left empty-handed. I wondered why maternity clothes were so expensive yet so horribly designed that they made you want, not to buy them, but to burn them. 😅 Then I stumbled upon Elin, and the search was finally over for classic, flattering pieces that I could wear during and after pregnancy. My wardrobe is full of Elin clothes now, and pictured above are my two favorite items–my red New Sydney Tee for casual dates with my two boys, and my black Patrice Nursing Dress for elegant formal affairs. Breastfeeding in public is a breeze as long as I’m wearing Elin. Whether I’m running errands at the mall or attending a wedding, Elin has got me covered (pun intended). 😉 Every day is an Elin day! Thanks, Elin, for making us mommies look and feel fabulous! ❤️ #elineveryday #elinph #worldbreastfeedingweek
I was delighted to find out a few days ago that my photo was chosen as one of the winners! The prize was P2000 credit to spend on more Elin clothes. Oh yeeeaah! As soon as I woke up this morning, I went shopping! Elin is an online store, so it’s super easy for moms to purchase clothes.
I have several tops and dresses from Elin, and on the whole I’m very satisfied. The styles are timeless and elegant. No garish prints or tacky designs here! The fabric is also very soft and cool on the skin, suitable for our humid climate. However, because for some items, the fabric is on the thin side, it is better to hand wash or use gentle washing machine cycles on the clothes, as they are quite delicate. I learned this the hard way, when two of my dresses got worn down in the wash. Another downside of the fabric’s thinness is that for some items, the hemmed openings for nursing access cause visible creases in the top layer that covers the openings. Although I think this is no longer an issue for their most recent arrivals.
Minor issues aside, Elin is the best option for moms who want to look good and feel good. Mommies, especially those who are pregnant and nursing, no longer have to make do with unflattering wardrobe choices.
You know how people can throw offhand comments about how women during or after pregnancy “let themselves go?” Especially in our country, I hear a lot of comments like “Mommyng mommy na talaga siya” (She really looks like a mom already). When people say this, they are often implying that the woman wasn’t able to shed the baby weight or that the woman looks haggard or run-down compared to their former state of youthful bloom. People are so quick to make such insensitive comments. Now that I myself am a mom, I know that I would hate to be on the receiving end of such statements. So next time you think of hurling that veiled insult, I suggest that you compliment the mom for doing a great job raising her child. Baby pounds are really difficult to lose, and a mom has more important things to prioritize when caring for a newborn! Also, a mom who looks careworn is most probably a mom who was up in the wee hours soothing an upset baby. So share love, not scorn.
A mom who has put on pounds from pregnancy or who is exhausted from taking care of a baby does not choose to experience the negative effects of those circumstances. But she can look and feel better in clothes that help her focus on her baby without compromising aesthetic appeal. As much as I myself don’t usually enjoy buying clothes, pregnancy and breastfeeding forced me to update my wardrobe. With Elin, one of the biggest advantages is they can be worn even when no longer pregnant or nursing, unlike other maternity clothes that should carry this warning: “Caution: Highly Unflattering! For Pregnant and Nursing Moms Only, to Make Them Look Even Worse than They Feel.” Don’t know what I’m talking about? Visit any department store’s maternity section. 😂 But if you’re a preggy mom in the Philippines, save yourself the wasted time and effort. Go straight to elin.ph. 😉
Breastfeeding is best for babies and mothers. It is how nature intended infants to be nourished. It is natural, and it used to be instinctive among communities where women breastfed in public without shame. However, with the advent of overt sexualization of breasts in media, breastfeeding became something that many women began to do discreetly. Women started to experience difficulty breastfeeding because they no longer saw it being done by fellow women. Breastfeeding shouldn’t have to be complicated, but it has sadly become so for many women because of society’s sexual objectification of the female body. Many mothers give up on breastfeeding because of lack of awareness and guidance. Many babies suffer because mothers are inadequately supported when learning to breastfeed. My own son was one such baby, and although we are breastfeeding well now, I look back on our rocky start with sadness and guilt.
I gave birth to my son in St. Luke’s Global, which is touted as one of the best (and most expensive) hospitals in the country. St. Luke’s strictly enforces the Milk Code. They do not allow bottle or formula feeding in the hospital, they follow Unang Yakap protocol (skin-to-skin contact of mom and baby right after birth), and they always room in baby with mom if the baby comes out healthy. On the surface, they appear to be highly supportive of breastfeeding. But they failed me and my son. They were not able to provide adequate breastfeeding guidance in the critical first days.
From day one, I followed the nurses’ instructions to breastfeed on demand. They would come in throughout the day to check on my baby’s latch, and they always said that he had a good latch. Despite that, my nipples were getting extremely sore (something that shouldn’t happen if the latch is correct). By the third day, the pain was so bad that I tried using a nipple shield. Before leaving St. Luke’s, my husband and I asked several hospital staff if it were okay to use a nipple shield. We asked two nurses, the lactation specialist who gave us a mini lecture on breastfeeding, and the pediatrician present at Wolf’s birth. They all said without hesitation that I can use it while breastfeeding.
We spent the first week in distress and pain as my nipples became cracked and bled even with constant use of the shield. Eventually, they healed, but by that time, Wolf had gotten used to the shield and did not know how to nurse without it. At his ninth day check-up in St. Luke’s, I asked the pediatrician if I could still continue nursing with the shield, because Wolf wouldn’t latch without it. She said it was not a problem. At that check-up, Wolf’s weight gain was satisfactory.
We switched pediatricians after that, transferring to a relative of Casey who held clinic in Asian Hospital. Continuing to track Wolf’s weight, she noted that he was slow to gain.
When Wolf was 1.5 months, I fell ill with a horrible dry cough that kept me awake all night for two weeks. I noticed at this time that Wolf became very fussy and would often suckle very lightly. I seldom heard him swallowing milk. I felt something was horribly amiss. At his two-month check-up, my fears were confirmed. His weight plummeted from 4.1 kg to 3.8 kg, placing him in the severely underweight bracket of the WHO weight chart. I suspected use of the shield coupled with my falling ill resulted in his weight loss. I tried weaning him from it but failed.
I sought help from my dad, an ENT surgeon at Philippine General Hospital. He referred me to a breastfeeding advocate pediatrician, Dr. Au Libadia, with whom I consulted over the phone. She recommended that I schedule a home visit with Ms. Lita Neri, a well-known lactation specialist. The first thing Ms. Lita said when she saw Wolf nursing was to take off the shield. She said that the shield interfered with milk flow and caused a shallow latch, resulting in Wolf’s slow weight gain. The shield was supposed to help with breastfeeding, but all it did, actually, was add more problems! She showed me how to wean him from the shield. The very next day, Wolf was successfully nursing without it. From then on, he began to gain weight more quickly. And on his fourth month, he was no longer underweight for his age.
It was such a relief to overcome all the initial obstacles I encountered, but while I was relieved, I was also frustrated at the lack of guidance I received from the medical practitioners I depended on when I was learning how to breastfeed. To think that I had access to care from one of the top hospitals! I shudder to think of how much worse the miseducation is in smaller health centers.
Going back to the beginning of this post, the root cause of many breastfeeding problems is that breastfeeding is, for the most part, hidden from plain sight. Women don’t know what a good latch is because they’ve never seen an infant latch. I would love to nurse Wolf in public without a cover, but I don’t know yet how I will react if others tell me to cover up. I don’t want to cause a scene, but at the same time, I know that nursing without a cover will definitely help normalize breastfeeding again. I hope one day I’ll be brave enough to do it. Though if we go to the beach, I’d do it without batting an eyelash, because I can always retort that there are many around me more scantily clad. Haha!
So consider this post as fair warning. If in the future, you run into me breastfeeding without a cover, you better not tell me off, because you’d be wasting your time. I do not want other new moms to have to experience the extreme anxiety and guilt that I experienced. I do not want other babies to go through the distress Wolf had to endure. If I muster up the courage to breastfeed without a nursing cover, I will be doing so not to be indecent, but to help new moms and babies breastfeed well. There is nothing sexual about that! Look away if you’re uncomfortable, but please don’t tell me to cover up. Let’s help normalize breastfeeding! ❤️