It was May 2018 when my then-boyfriend, now husband, and I discovered that we were pregnant. Obviously, it wasn’t planned, that’s why I was quite hesitant to tell my parents at that time. “Why would you be worried?” he asked. “We’re grown-ups and I’m very excited to tell them the good news!”. This is non-verbatim, but you get the point — I married a good man.
We decided to announce it first to my brother while we were washing the dishes after dinner. It was a few hours away from Mother’s Day when we officially announced it to my parents – my father first. Then we got to tell it to my mother, who just got up from her nap, still quite comprehending what she just heard. Like other parents, sure they were disappointed at first. But they knew that happiness is on the way.
Now, that one worry got solved. Still, there were so many questions inside my head. Am I ready? Will I be a good mother? Will I be a breastfeeding mom or not?
One colleague of mine started to tell me stories about when she got pregnant. She was the one who introduced me and encouraged me to breastfeed. She told me the benefits of it, from being able to save more compared to giving formula milk, to stating the health benefits of the so-called “liquid gold.” She told me to join a Facebook group of breastfeeding mothers, and there I could find and read about almost any question that I could think of about breastfeeding. I started browsing and searched for topics about proper storing of milk, common myths about breastfeeding, baby massages, and so much more!
Weeks before I gave birth to my son, which was in January 2019, I already asked and scheduled for a lactation consultant to come to the hospital after my delivery. I’d like her to teach me how to massage the breasts and how to properly breastfeed a newborn. Why? Because after all the breastfeeding tips that I’ve read, I’m still worried that I won’t produce milk because my mother didn’t. Aside from massaging my breasts, she also rubbed my back, which helped me relax and resulted in producing milk. It was my first time seeing my own liquid gold! Latching my baby to suckle was the hardest part, though. I thought it was a natural thing that babies can do right away. But no, it wasn’t easy at all.
Let’s just say that I am one of the many moms who got frustrated because their milk supply wasn’t that much. I wasn’t gifted to be one of the “milking cows” that other moms get jealous of. During the first few days of my son, I was having a hard time collecting milk because there’s no milk to be collected at all.
“As long as your baby is peeing and pooping, that means he/she is getting something from you.”
“A newborn baby’s tummy is as small as a calamansi fruit during the first few days, so there’s no need to feed them that much.”
“There are many other factors why your baby is crying. It doesn’t necessarily mean that he/she is hungry.”
That’s what they said in the group, and so I followed.
“Why is your baby still crying after breastfeeding?”
“Maybe he’s still hungry. Give him formula milk.”
“Your milk supply is not enough.”
They were all too familiar. I’ve read it all before. I was bombarded by these statements, but even though I know they were wrong, I also know that my parents only meant well. So I gave in. And with a heavy heart, I gave my son formula milk. For 2 weeks, I was feeding him an alternative, even if I know that I could give him more.
Then one morning, I just decided not to give him the FM and gave BM instead. And like magic, it seemed he’s not complaining at all. He didn’t cry like before and was peeing and pooping loads!
After this small success, I still heard comments from other relatives like, “You should train him as early as now to drink from a bottle. It would be difficult to feed him when you get back to work.” Or, “Why do you always carry your baby? You’ll spoil him, you know.” The frustration was so intense I had to stay upstairs most of the time so that they won’t see me rolling my eyes at them.
After 2 months of maternity leave, the thought of going back to work was not my favorite. I would have to leave my son for almost 10hrs per day, 5 days a week, while I keep up with my pumping schedule. I’m lucky enough that my employer has a decent lactation area. I also belong to a department that won’t restrict me from my pumping schedule. I pump every 2-3hrs. That’s a lot of being away from your desk. The worst part of it all is that I am an Events Staff. We go out of town for provincial events, which means I have to find decent lactation areas, and we all know they are not that common. I have experienced pumping inside a parked car (with air-condition turned on of course), moving car, pantries, even in a restroom (desperate times call for drastic measures). Not to mention the anxiety it caused me whether my ice packs will last the day and that my pumped milk won’t spoil.
On the other hand, because I was THAT dedicated to creating a breastmilk stash for my son, I didn’t give him formula milk, not until he was mixed fed when he was about 7 months old. Including work-related stress, that was also the time that my milk supply went down. At first, I got really disappointed with myself for letting my son drink formula milk again. I started not to visit the BF moms group that I joined to lessen my worry and to keep my mental health in check. Soon enough, I slowly accepted that “fed is best” instead of “breast is best.”
This resulted in me being lazy and decided to stop pumping milk in the process. When my son turned 1 year old, I started to feel irritated whenever he latches. It was this annoying, skin-crawling feeling that I just couldn’t bear. I just want him off of me. However, I shrugged it off and just let him be. This is what I wanted in the beginning, right?
But the irritating feeling escalated even more when the community quarantine started. Because I am with my son all day and night, he would naturally prefer suckling whenever he wants to. I would then intentionally remove him from his latch, and he would cry endlessly. There were even nights that he wouldn’t sleep without breastfeeding. I would get agitated to the point where I would rock him to sleep so hard and get guilty of it afterward. Why did I get to this point where something I loved doing before became what I hated now?
I tried to look for some answers if what I’m feeling or going through is reasonable or am I being a bad mom. I Googled, “I hate it when my son latches.” And the first article that I saw was from kellymom.com entitled Breastfeeding/Nursing Aversion and Agitation (BAA). I thought to myself, “So I’m not a bad mom, right?”. I started checking this phenomenon with the BF mom groups that I joined. There were so many moms that have gone through it as well. But because it was a breastfeeding group, they still encouraged breastfeeding even though it’s already hard on the mom. The suggestions didn’t really help me, so I kept on reading the article from kellymom.
Apparently, there were still not enough study on this phenomenon. And because of this, many moms who experienced this are forced to wean from breastfeeding. Other causes of BAA may be because of:
- Breastfeeding Dynamic
- Sleep deprivation and self-care
I also tried to find support groups of moms who are experiencing BAA. There I have read that diverting your attention by playing games, texting, or watching something from your phone could help you keep sane. Taking magnesium supplements could also help as magnesium helps in relaxation and sleep.
So, after all of this information, was I able to stop my son from latching? The answer is a big NO. He still wants the boob every now and then. And I give it to him too but not like before. To avoid him from latching (and hopefully, this would make him wean naturally), I stick to his schedule every day.
- Wake up
- Eat breakfast
- Take a bath
- Give him his 1st FM for the day
- Give him his 2nd FM for the day
- Take a night bath
- Give him his 3rd and last FM milk for the day
Sometimes he’s just thirsty for water, so I don’t give him a 4th bottle.
By doing this, he won’t even notice the boob the whole day!
Even if it was difficult most of the time, I loved breastfeeding and the many benefits that it gave my son and me. I am very thankful to my husband, who is very supportive of this breastfeeding journey. Having experienced BAA has helped me to let go of the things that my body can no longer take and to not think of the societal pressures that comes with breastfeeding. It is not the breasts and the milk that I produce that makes my son secure but realizing that my mental health is as important for him to have his mom whole, sane, and happy.
Written by: Erika Aguirre-Ped