“Having support is a big thing.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Going back to work is one of the reasons cited by mothers for stopping breastfeeding their babies.
A 2013 National Nutrition Survey revealed that only 28 percent of Filipino infants are exclusively breastfed up to six months. The average duration of breastfeeding in the Philippines is only 24 days, according to a 2003 study by Unicef.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to six months of age and continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary food up to two years of age or beyond.
Bulatlat.com asked five mothers to share how they have been successful in breastfeeding their babies beyond six months.
Twenty-six-year-old Joanna Almodal, mother to a two-year-old son, underscored the importance of knowledge about breastfeeding. She said this is critical to avoid turning to formula milk.
Joanna is one of the few women who have insufficient glandular tissue (IGT). Glandular tissue is the milk-making tissue in the breast. Her obstetrician-gynecologist advised her to feed her son infant formula. It was an easy option but Joanna, having read several studies about the benefits of breastfeeding to children, was determined to nurse her son Jiyuu.
Joanna, a web programmer and environmentalist, went back to work two months after she gave birth. She would express milk every three hours and could only bring home three to four ounces of milk per day.
“With such low supply of milk and I being a working mom? Oh God. But our knowledge about breastfeeding made us stand firmer that we would do everything just so we won’t give Jiyuu any kind of milk besides breastmilk,” Joanna told Bulatlat.com.
She and her husband Kiko searched for breastmilk donors, which is not easy because Jiyuu was not sick or premature. Joanna became a member of Breastfeeding Pinays Facebook group and eventually, she found three nursing mothers who became their regular donors.
“Who wants a tiring trip to different places in Metro Manila several times a week just to pick up breastmilk? It’s difficult. But that’s the sacrifice we had to do, and we wanted to do because we know it’s what’s best for Jiyuu,” Joanna said.
Joanna said if a mother is well-informed about the benefits of breastfeeding, she would not easily give up even if she had sore, dry or cracked nipples, or even if she had to contend with social pressures.
Joanna said there was a time when everybody was telling them to buy formula milk but they stood their ground. “It only takes six months of exclusive breastfeeding to gain lifetime benefits for our child,” she said.
Deejay Acierto, 34, said breastfeeding mothers need all the support they can get, especially from family members.
Deejay, a first-time mom to six-month-old Jose Maria, advised would-be-mothers to inform their partner and other family members of their decision to continue breastfeeding.
Deejay, a human rights advocate, went back to work two and a half months after she gave birth.
“Having support is a big thing,” Deejay said. “If your partner and other caregivers are convinced that breastmilk is best for your baby, they would help you by preparing food that aids milk production, or help in the household chores so you can express milk, among others.”
She said it is a challenge to build enough supply of breastmilk. “Pump or express while baby is latched on the other breast. Maximize lactation breaks. Express in between nursing. Express while the baby is asleep. Express before going to work. All these would help you store enough milk.”
Carmi Espineda, a staff volunteer at a women’s rights research institute, shared the same tip on expressing milk.
Carmi, 33, breastfed her eldest daughter Ada, now six years old, for three years. She is breastfeeding her youngest daughter, Siri, for more than six months now.
It’s been my routine to express milk to ensure enough milk supply for my daughter,” Carmi told Bulatlat.com in an online interview. When her eldest Ada was ten months old, Carmi had to leave for a training abroad. For one week, her husband fed Ada with breastmilk through cup feeding and with indigenous food such as red rice, squash and sweet potato.
Carmi also advised mothers not to be ashamed in breastfeeding their babies.
Claiming your rights
For Alaysa Escandor, mother to two-year-old Aninaw, making sure that the workplace is breastfeeding-friendly is crucial.
The 28-year-old journalist said she and fellow nursing mothers at GMA-7 had to fight for their right to have a breastfeeding station and facilities for milk storage.
Under the Republic Act 10028 or Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act, establishments and institutions should have lactation stations. The law also states that nursing employees are entitled to break intervals in addition to the regular time-off for meals to breastfeed or express milk.
The implementing rules and regulations of the Milk Code explicitly states that lactation stations shall not be located in the toilet and must be clean, well ventilated, comfortable and free from contaminants and other hazardous substances. Lactation breaks, meanwhile, shall not be less than 40 minutes for every eight-hour working period.
Other practical tips
Amihan Euza Cornista, a volunteer for Breastfeeding Philippines and a peasant advocate, advised mothers to bring their babies to the workplace if possible to facilitate direct feeding.
Amihan has been breastfeeding her two-year-old Layana.
“When your baby is more than three months, it is safe to bring her to the workplace from time to time; but you still have to consider the environment, since different people who may have viral infections are in the area. Wear your baby if you need to bring her to work. This will give her warmth and security so there are less chances of her crying. It will also help you breastfeed easily.
For those who are away from their babies, she advised them to stay hydrated and eat more fruits and vegetables.
Amihan said studies have shown that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables increase milk production. “Eat more food/dishes with malunggay, or make boiled malunggay your water,” she said.
To ease breast pain due to clogged ducts, Amihan advised nursing mothers to do a lactation massage or apply warm compress. She said breast pumps do not cover/stimulate the areola well unlike direct latching so most moms who express milk using breast pumps experience clogged ducts, which are very painful.
She advised mothers to invest in comfortable and easy access nursing bras. “Never mind the nursing covers or ponchos because you can just use your old bandana/shawl for cover. Nursing wear/blouses is also not necessary since you can use any of your comfortable blouses or dresses with buttons. But without a nursing bra, you will really feel inconvenient pulling your underwear at all sides instead of just clicking a snap. There are affordable but quality nursing bras sold by fellow breastfeeding mothers online.”