Winning with breastfeeding
Editor's Note: There is a whole debate on breastfeeding, given the experience of some mothers who are unsuccessful despite their efforts to do so. Pieces published should not be misconstrued as judgment of these mothers. We are sharing various experiences – happy and otherwise – about breastfeeding. The piece below is written by a mother who has successfully breastfed her baby.
I consider breastfeeding my daughter, Everest, one of my life's achievements. At 20 months, Everest still nurses from me and is showing no signs of weaning.
Everest was exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life. We followed the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO) to give no water, no formula and no solid food to babies below 6 months, only breastmilk. This means that all her growth and development can be purely attributed to my milk and our care.
During the first few months of uncertainty as a new mom, I could always count on breastfeeding to help ease any of Everest’s discomforts by holding her close and cuddling her at my breast. Through her nursings, she would let me know that I am doing the right thing and that I am the only one she loves and needs. I could not imagine a more powerful way of bonding with my newborn than breastfeeding.
Over the next months, breastfeeding became so ingrained in our lives, that a lot of my daughter’s milestones were related to it.
For sign language, the first one she probably learned was the sign for "milk." Her first sentence was "Mama, dodo." Then it became, "Mama, dodo, please." In terms of musical memory, I first observed that Everest recognized a song I usually played during nursing time, and upon recognizing it, she would request to be nursed. That's communication!
Now, when Everest sees a picture of a glass of milk or a person drinking milk, she would turn to me as if to indicate that the only milk she knows is from Mommy.
Throughout her 20 months, I can truly say that we have seen the rewards of breastfeeding. Studies show that breastfed babies have a more developed immune system and the immunological benefits of breastfeeding actually increase during the second and third years of nursing.
With Everest, I can count on only one hand the times she had coughs or colds; and she hasn't experienced any serious illnesses. During those few times that she was under the weather, the main thing I did was nurse, nurse and nurse. It amazed us how she would bounce back the next day, proving the healing power of breastmilk.
We have also heard numerous times how everyone – starting from our families, and even strangers – affirms what studies say about how breastfeeding nurtures the child’s holistic growth.
They would praise how my daughter could easily communicate her needs, "Kaya matalino ang anak mo, kasi breastfed." (That's why your child is smart!)
Or they observed her good behavior and sweetness toward me, "Ang mga breastfed baby, mababait at close sa magulang. (Breastfed babies are usually polite and close to their parents.)” They also point out her healthy physique, "Maliksi ang anak mo, matibay sya tingnan kahit hindi mataba." (Your child looks fit even if she's not fat.)
The list of compliments goes on and on. Each time I hear these words, my heart is filled with joy and fulfillment.
Still, there are naysayers, but my conviction to breastfeed my child far outweighs any negative comments that come my way. Some ask if my milk still benefits my child who is now nearing two years old. Some question why we are so inseparable and insinuate that I am limiting my child’s potential to be independent. (READ: What's keeping the Philippines from exclusive breastfeeding?)
It is absolutely helpful that I have armed myself with knowledge and surrounded myself with support even before I gave birth. Because of this, I know which comments or observations are worth listening to. I also take these opportunities to share my knowledge and quash any myths that need to be debunked.
Time and again, studies have shown that breastfed toddlers who also follow a healthy diet have higher intellectual and cognitive aptitude, smoother skin, better hearing, clearer vision, have less risk of obesity, and are less likely to be fussy and picky eaters. The unbreakable bond created in breastfeeding is actually the foundation for independence. The security children derive from mothers nursing gives them the strength and courage to try things on their own because they know that their mothers are always there should they need help.
One of my personal motivations in this journey is my belief that every child has a right to be breastfed. It is because all aspects of a child’s survival, development and protection are addressed by breastfeeding. I take pride in the belief that breastfeeding promotes gender equality by empowering women to play the roles they are biologically destined to take on; improves maternal health by facilitating birth spacing and reducing the risks of many cancers in women; reduces child mortality and eradicates extreme hunger and poverty because breastfeeding is safe and absolutely free; and ensures environmental sustainability because it is zero-waste.
Breastfeeding has also put us in touch with a large community of mothers. I’ve seen firsthand how families feel instant connection when talking about successes and challenges of raising a breastfed child, especially in a formula-fed environment.
In the online group of families called Breastfeeding Pinays, I get to interact with fellow moms, lactation experts and doctors, on just about any topic about infant feeding. I get to cheer a mom who has just given birth and has refused infant formula from misinformed birth attendants, and get inspired by moms who are nursing multiples or toddlers ages three and beyond. (READ: The real cost of infant milk formula)
Many ask me when I plan to wean Everest from the breast. Well, I don't. It would be my dream to nurse her as long as she wants. Our breastfeeding journey is far from over. My next goal in this journey is to be able to be an inspiration for others to succeed in breastfeeding, in little and big ways.
I may be misconstrued as pushy or a BF-addict, but truly, I am just a mom who wants to share the same beautiful journey I am having with my daughter to all the families who are willing to listen. – Rappler.com
Rosana Padua-Macachor is a breastfeeding mother of one and a children's rights advocate who formerly worked with Save the Children in the Philippines and UNICEF.
What are your thoughts on breastfeeding and the Milk Code? Let us know your own experiences. Send your stories and ideas to email@example.com. Be part of the #HungerProject.