Did you know that at birth, your baby’s stomach is only as small as a cherry (or in Philippine reference, a calamansi)? This is why our body does not produce a lot of milk on our first few days post birth, because our babies can’t handle it yet! It’s amazing how nature works.
I haven’t been a mother for a long time, but I have talked to a lot of women about breastfeeding, and I realized that many women actually wanted to breastfeed. They tried, and then ended it sooner than they would have liked.
With the help of my friend NORMI HERRERA (one who saved me when my breasts were already dying of pain!), this blogpost is a collection of the common things I hear on why women end breastfeeding earlier than planned. Normi is a Breastfeeding Pinays (BFP) Certified Breastfeeding Counselor. When my breasts were already wounded and had too many plugged ducts, she came to the rescue by providing me more information, figuring out what my specific challenge was, and then massaging my breasts to help release the plugged ducts. She was heaven sent that day because I was having a fever already due to my breast situation, and believe it or not, my fever was gone after she released my plugged ducts.
So, if you are planning to breastfeed or are already breastfeeding and somehow losing hope, I hope this blogpost helps you out! As my doula told me, “This is the way to thrive in motherhood. You need your tribe!” So true. Without the help of my breastfeeding cheerleaders, I would have given up so soon.
Here we go!
COMMON REASON # 1: Wala akong milk, eh. (I don’t have milk!)
Normi: The moment you get pregnant, your breasts are preparing itself to produce milk for your baby. DON’T EXPECT GUSHING (WHITE) MILK, THOUGH. After you give birth, you really start with a yellowish substance called colostrum. That is the most nutritious milk your newborn will ever have! Usually, the mommy feels the fullness in the breast on the 2nd or 3rd day postpartum, because the mature milk is starting to build up. If your baby doesn’t seem to get milk at all (no or minimum pee or poo output), and always fussy before putting him to the breast, the first thing you need to do is check if you’re doing a correct latch and position in breastfeeding. Babies more effectively drink and suck out your milk when they are properly latched on your breast, and the position is correct and comfortable for you and the baby. If you are finding it difficult to know if you’re doing it properly, it is best to have a well-trained breastfeeding consultant (not all hospitals have this) attend to you and guide you in the basics of breastfeeding.
Paula: I’d like to share my experience. I already knew the Newborn Stomach Size Guide (the graphic I made above) before I gave birth. I knew my son’s stomach was just as small as a cherry/calamansi and then a walnut/sininguelas for a few days after birth. I knew this BUT I did not see my milk at all whenever he was latched. Had the lactation counselors in the hospital not told me I had too much milk (WHAT?!?), I would have thought I had none. SERIOUSLY. Normi is so right in saying don’t expect gushing milk! So I apparently had too much milk, that’s what they (my breastfeeding consultant friends) all said. But you know what, I did not feel the “fullness of breasts” until months later (not on day 2 or 3). So, I totally get it when women say they don’t have milk, because it certainly feels that way. This is when I realized the importance of having a breastfeeding consultant/ counselor/ guide with you after birth. What you’ll pay them is beyond valuable, and much cheaper in the long run (because formula is so expensive)! By the way, I just want to share – a few days ago, my friend gave birth and she was asking for breastmilk donation because she had no milk. I messaged her privately and cheered her to just latch and latch the baby because that would be the best way to stimulate her body for milk production (law of supply and demand), and also told her not to expect a lot of milk yet because again, the baby’s stomach is so small. After three days, she posted a photo of her expressed colostrum, and WOAH, it was A LOT! She thanked her lactation consultants for helping her, and I was so happy to see that post, because it is proof that we have milk (even if we think we don’t)!
FUN FACT: Colostrum has more antibodies than mature breastmilk, hence it is considered as one of your very first immunizations, a safe and 100% natural vaccine! Also, there are no fats in colostrum, which makes the work of the digestive apparatus easier, so that baby can pass on his/her first kind of stool – meconium (from the book Understanding the Human Being by Dr. Silvana Montanaro).
Latching your baby as frequent as possible is the best way to stimulate your body for milk production. It’s simply the law of supply and demand. However, I do understand that many moms today are working full time and do not have the liberty to do this during work hours. There are different things you can take to help keep your milk supply up:
Malunggay/ Moringa (the vegetable itself) – I was eating meals with Malunggay three times a week before I gave birth. When I was told I had too much milk in the hospital, they told me to stop eating it first. I did. P’s three months now, I have not eaten it since I gave birth, and my supply is still going strong. But you can try this. Try it with Monggo, in your soup dishes (Sinigang/ Tinola/ Miso), in your sauteed vegetables, etc. The recommendations HERE are worth reading! Malunggay pills are also worth looking at. You can check THIS out. It has a high concentration of Malunggay + Vitamin C for better absorption. Or a Malunggay Tea drink from HERE.
If you have not given birth yet, you might want to look up placenta encapsulation.
Mother Nurture Choco Mix and/or Coffee Mix from here
Motherlove Milk (organic and vegan) from here
Lactation Cookies (calories are counted for this brand) from here
I have only tried my encapsulated placenta, and the lactation cookies (but before I gave birth, haha). Many mommies swear by those brands, though. It might be worth trying if you’re really keen on increasing your supply. Oh and mommy, please hydrate. Drink lots and lots of water! Looking at your general diet might be a good idea, too. I think my vegetarian meals (including red rice) plays a big role in my milk production.
COMMON REASON #2: Allergic si baby sa milk ko! (My baby is allergic to my milk)!
Normi: Two things: 1) Babies can never be allergic to your breastmilk, and 2) There are babies who are more sensitive to food reactions than others. That said, if your baby have shown allergic reactions after feeding (i.e. your baby breaks out in eczema-like rash, have bloody or mucousy poop, coughing and/or vomiting all together), then you may need to check the last food you ate, because your baby may be allergic to that. However, do not limit your diet just yet. Food allergies in babies are so hard to diagnose until they have really started eating solids. So, if you yourself are highly sensitive to certain foods or those that are commonly allergens, it is best to avoid that or eat them in moderation (this is because we want you to still eat nutritiously). Observe your baby well. If he seems gassy or shows allergic reactions after breastfeeding, check back on your last meal–I am quite sure it was something in the food you ate. But ultimately, nothing is “bawal kainin” for the breastfeeding mom.
Paula: I have a friend who was about to give birth to her third child a few months back. When she saw my post on the benefits of breastfeeding, she messaged me and asked more about it. Then she told me she was not able to breastfeed her two children because they were allergic to her milk. But she expressed her desire to try breastfeeding this time. I knew it was not her milk her children were allergic to, but highly likely some of the things she ate when she would feed them, but I am not a breastfeeding counselor/consultant, so I referred her to several consultants. I’m glad to report that her third child is breastfed since birth, and she is already turning 6 months in a few days! In my case, P did have fussy-after-feeding moments, and after recalling my food intake, we’ve come to the conclusion that chocolate is not really sitting well with him. He doesn’t get allergy, but he seems to get gassy, and then fussy.
FUN FACT: Cow’s milk products are the most common problem foods and the only foods conclusively linked by research to fussiness/gassiness in babies!
COMMON REASON #3: Masakit, eh. Mahirap. (It’s painful and hard!)
Normi: When breastfeeding has become too painful or difficult, you need to consult with a well-trained breastfeeding counselor/lactation consultant. Because sometimes, even if you’re following proper latch and breastfeeding positions, it can still cause toe-curling pain. A breastfeeding counselor/lactation consultant can help check what is still causing the pain or difficulty. One thing we look for is if the baby has a tongue or lip tie (most of the time it is a combination), because these ties can definitely hamper a breezy breastfeeding journey for you and may even cause oral complications in the future (like speech deficiencies) for your baby. If we suspect a tie after physically checking it, we recommend the mom to go to a medical professional who does Frenectomy (like an EENT doctor or a pediatric dentist with this expertise) to release the tongue and/or lip tie. Once done, you should immediately feel a difference in baby’s latch or it may take some days until your baby has gotten used to his new tongue “freedom”.
Paula: Normi (and my other lactation consultant Nurse Joyce) were the ones who suggested to have P checked for tongue tie. And guess what? He had both tongue and lip tie. No wonder I was, as Normi said, already having toe-curling pains. Whenever P would cry because he was hungry, I would cry next, the moment he was latched. But I knew the benefits of breastfeeding, that’s why I soldiered on. On his third week, we went to Dra. Axel of Gerochi Dental, where we had his ties released. The day after that, he couldn’t latch properly (like he was not used to his new tongue), so I went back to Dra. Axel. It’s a good thing she’s a breastfeeding advocate, so she told me not to worry and introduced me to Nanay Rich (the one who trained Normi) and Tin Cervantes, who sat down with us and watched me do all breastfeeding positions to help me correct them and give more valuable tips. The result? Well…P was 6.1 lbs at birth. On his second month, he was 12.5 lbs. And just yesterday, on his third month, I weighed him, he is 17.5 lbs! He’s growing quickly, and he’s no longer the vigorous sucker he once was. PS: P used to have what we described as swollen lips. The inner part of his upper lip was whiter and it looked swollen. When we asked our pedia about it, she just said it’s because P was a vigorous sucker, and he was, she’s right! But apparently, his being a vigorous sucker was because of his tongue tie. It’s a good thing our lactation friends really suggested us to have it checked, because P is eating much better now, and my breasts are much happier, too! With the pain I was having for three weeks, IF I did not have his ties released, I’d probably be on formula now. The PHP 4000/tie we paid (so PHP 8000 total) Dra. Axel may be a bit steep, BUT, that’s just a month or two of formula! We still saved a lot. PPS: There are other causes of pain in breastfeeding like thrush, mastitis, etc. Check THIS POST to learn more.
FUN FACT: Days will get better, no matter how hard it seems now. As your baby learns to latch better (and your breasts used to a baby sucking), it will feel very normal. BUT a good latch from the start can save you from pains like the one I experienced. THIS VIDEO helped me a lot, which I unfortunately only watched when it was already painful. HAHA. But seriously, I love sharing this video!
COMMON REASON #4: Ayaw na niyang bumalik sakin nung nag-mix/bottle ako. (My baby doesn’t want to latch on me anymore after I did mixed/bottle feeding).
Normi: It happens all too often, but it can be reversed. When babies are fed with milk (whether formula or breastmilk) through a bottle, they lose the ability to properly stimulate your milk in the breasts through sucking. This is due to being nipple confused (a breast’s nipple and areola are entirely different from bottle teats–in taste, warmth and texture–no matter how hard they try to mimic it). If you are mix-feeding, we highly recommend that you feed the baby through a small cup instead of a bottle with a teat (for some they give through spoon or syringe) because it doesn’t alter the suckling motion babies do when directly nursing. Cupfeeding is already a World Health Organization (WHO) protocol, especially for preterm babies, done in many hospitals here (if your hospital is not doing it, indicate it in your birth plan that you want to cupfeed if there is an instance that supplementing may be needed). However, if you are truly determined to bring your baby back to your breast, it is possible. You will need to seek guidance and assistance from a well-trained breastfeeding counselor/lactation consultant to help you with relactating or going back to exclusively breastfeeding. We strongly advice against doing this on your own because of the risk of dehydration to your baby. There are proper steps to follow which need to be closely monitored by an experience breastfeeding counselor.
Paula: What I love about the cup is that it’s small, easy to clean, and introduces P to proper drinking when he gets older. I also love that he gets to control his pace and amount of milk depending on his need – it is such a respectful way to treat a baby. After all, babies are much better at us in being babies! They know their basic needs more than we do. With cupfeeding, they can easily stop when they are full, even way before they learn to hold a glass. All they have to do is stop licking. Regarding the latch, nipple confusion/preference does not happen to each and every baby, but it does not guarantee that just because it didn’t happen to your friend, it won’t happen to you.
FUN FACT: Breastfed babies gets to sample food you eat through your milk. Unlike formula, which is sweet and only has one taste, your breastmilk’s flavor changes depending on your food. This is why usually, breastfed babies are not picky eaters. They get to taste your food long before you actually introduce it.
COMMON REASON #5: Hindi tumataba si baby, eh! (My baby’s not getting “fat”/ gaining enough weight).
Normi: Contrary to popular notion that breastfed babies are chubby, it depends on the genetic make up of your child. You can’t expect a chubby baby when you and/or your husband are naturally petite, or having a small frame that runs in the family. It is also dependent on the fat content each mom has in their breastmilk–some moms have higher calories while others have average–hence some breastfed babies look chubbier than other breastfed babies. Also a chubby baby doesn’t automatically mean a healthy baby. Formula-fed babies evidently bloat faster or become fatter because of the sugar content in the formula milk. This can actually be more risky for your baby’s health and welfare in the long run.
Paula: Yes to everything Normi said, most especially the fact that formula has so much sugar, which is the main reason why formula-fed babies are “fat”. Drinking milk while pregnant is also one of the major causes of rapid weight gain in pregnant women. Breastfed babies also grow up to be lean but packed, just the kind of body they need for their developmental milestones. The extra weight in formula-fed infants is thought to be due to excess water retention and a different composition of body fat (from THIS article).
FUN FACT: Various studies have shown that breastfed infants consume fewer calories and a lower volume of milk than formula-fed infants. This doesn’t mean their mothers aren’t producing enough milk; rather, an indication that breastfed infants have an amazing ability to self-regulate their calorie intake according to their individual needs. This ability to determine for themselves how much they eat is probably one of the reasons infants who are breastfed are less likely to have problems with obesity later in childhood (info from Dr Sears).
COMMON REASON #6: Ayaw ni baby mag-latch eh. (My baby doesn’t want to latch).
Normi: This breastfeeding challenge can be easily overcome. If baby doesn’t want to latch, check the position because it might be uncomfortable for the baby. If you immediately correct your position, you might find that it’s easily fixed. Again, you can also have your baby checked for any possible ties. It may also be due to your nipple (i.e. inverted or flat). If this is the case, seek assistance from a breastfeeding counselor/lactation consultant before giving up on breastfeeding. We can guide you how you can do proper latch and follow optimum breastfeeding position for your baby. We also can suggest exercises for you to help your nipple to pop out. Some lactation consultants offer using a nipple shield, but I personally do not recommend using it because this will only defeat the purpose of having the baby latch onto your nipple in the first place. But you can, of course, follow what works for you. Just don’t be fully dependent on the nipple shield (should you follow this advice) and immediately wean your baby when he has gotten a better grasp of his sucking reflex. Once your baby has found his groove, breastfeeding him/her will be much easier.
Paula: Yes, you can breastfeed even if you have inverted or flat nipples. My personal experience? When I gave birth, a hospital lactation consultant told me I had flat nipples. I apparently don’t. But anyway, even when I thought I had flat nipples, I still breastfed my son. And yes also to checking the position (or even which side of the breast). There are times when P would keep unlatching, and when I change to the other breast, he would feed straight. I was told by another consultant that this could be a hind/foremilk preference at certain times of the day. Hindmilk tends to be thicker/fuller (think of it as eating RICE), so she told me, “It’s not like you want to eat rice all the time, right?”. I think this applies most especially when my son is just comfort feeding and not really hungry. And yes, we both prefer some positions over others. We personally love the sidelying position, and the most popular cradle position is our least favorite, actually.
FUN FACT: Inverted nipples usually become (un)inverted or atleast less inverted as the baby starts to latch on, as the days go on, but also within a single feeding. The baby’s suckling will help the nipple to protrude. (from the book Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding)
COMMON REASON #7: Nagkasakit kasi ako, eh. (I got sick).
Normi: This is a breastfeeding myth that has continuously been passed on, and probably the most devastating advice any breastfeeding mom will ever receive from even the well-meaning people. If you fall sick, all the more you should breastfeed because your breastmilk creates antibodies that fight the virus/infection, which your baby needs to avoid getting the same sickness. If you feel too weak to sit up, then you can breastfeeding using the side-lying or laid-back position. You can ask your husband or someone else with you, to bring the baby to you and take them after feeding. Tell your doctor that you are a lactating mom and check if the medication he prescribes is breastfeeding-safe–although most medicines are–just to be sure, always refer to the enclosed packet or check through LactMed (you can check THIS out and type the medicine you’re taking, or download the LactMed app on your phone). Breastmilk naturally dries up if you don’t feed as often as you should. This is why, whether sick or not, mothers should continually breastfeed directly at the breast to keep the milk supply up.
Paula: Yes, yes, and yes! I’ve had my own share of cough, cold, and fever while breastfeeding. 3 months now and he has not gotten any cough, cold, or fever. He has also been out and about since he turned one month old (I swear we’ve been to more malls in a span of a short time than I had when I didn’t have a baby!) and not once has he gotten sick. That’s how amazing our breastmilk is. My personal favorite is whenever he has some bright red rash on the face, it literally disappears after our nursing session.
FUN FACT: Moms may pass some immunity from any diseases they had even from childhood. (from the book The Vaccine Book by Dr. Robert W. Sears)
PERSONAL TIP: If you’re really worried about feeding your baby when you’re sick (say your medicine is not breastfeeding-friendly), you can also express milk while you’re not sick as emergency stash. Use that to feed your baby when you’re sick, but keep expressing even when you’re sick just to stabilize your supply.
So there, I hope I covered your concerns, and if not, do send me a message and maybe I can ask for Normi’s thoughts about it. I understand how challenging breastfeeding can be. It’s a journey that may not be easy for many of us, but I hope, through this post, I was able to help you with your concerns should you want to continue or go back to breastfeeding. As mentioned above, relactation is possible even if you’ve completely stopped breastfeeding. Just contact the right people who can help you out. Again, as my doula said, you need your tribe to thrive! 🙂
If you want to get in touch with Normi, here are her contact details:
FACEBOOK: Normi Herrera
CELLPHONE NUMBER: +63923-6192967 (just text her first, please)
Counseling has no charge, but transportation costs must be shouldered by the client. Lactation massage starts at PHP 500, but it really depends on your needs. For reference, she gave me a full massage last time and with transportation costs, I paid her PHP 1200. That’s just a few days’ worth of formula, you can look at it that way!