I have been breastfeeding for a cumulative of 32 months – 1 month for my 1st, 13 months for my 2nd and 18 months for my 3rd (and still going). There were many struggles and obstacles along the way and they weren’t easy to overcome. But more than those troubles is all the sacrifice I had to make for my LO. Sacrifice entails a giving of oneself… much like LOVE and thus, I could name this entry the ‘Love of a Nursing Mother’ because breastfeeding is pure LOVE.
The number ONE sacrifice I had to make was going out. I’m a girl and I love shopping – plain and simple. In the first 2 months of my baby’s life, I refrained from going out not because I was recuperating (that’s the least of my concern at that point) but because I felt it was unsafe for baby’s health. I live in the Philippines where there is people everywhere – the malls are packed even on a simple weekday – and I just didn’t want exposing my LO to all the germs around (germophobe in me typing).
TWO, close to number one, I had to give up going to the movies… frequently. It was and still is such a struggle for me to find time for movies because a) I’m a working mom and spend 9 hours at work, 3 hours commuting and 8 hours sleeping (not without waking, I must say) which leaves me with only 4 hours to spend a day for my 3 children; and b) weekends are for errands like grocery shopping, gift shopping for all the birthday parties we are invited to, actually attending those birthday parties, hearing mass and seeing relatives ; and c) I’m dead tired when I have the time to be tired so I would just like to be alone. So this is more like a sacrifice of having a family but here is the breastfeeding part…Going to the movies entails expressing milk before and after the movie which means bringing my pump bag and cooler all around the mall. I am not the kind of mother who expresses a lot or much at all so I would rather directly nurse my baby than pump.
THREE is giving up the convenience of medicines or the euphoria of caffeine. I put this two together because they are both drugs. Yes, caffeine is a DRUG and must be taken in moderation. Speaking of moderation, a lot of sites would say that Coffee is SAFE for the breastfeeding mom and baby when taken in moderation which means, 1 standard cup a day is fine. Yet, I am not taking any chances, considering that I am asthmatic and I have a maintenance medicine of salbutamol already – that’s 1 drug regularly in my system, that I need to LIVE. Other drugs for cough or colds, I tend to avoid as well.
I believe anything we put into our mouths or our bodies finds its way to our bloodstream and into baby’s breastmilk. The effects may not manifest in the amount of milk we produce or immediately in baby’s behavior. Even if they are ‘approved’ by our doctors, most often than not it only means that ‘there is inconclusive studies/results or no studies at all were made on the effects on baby for lactating women’. Some of these drugs, though BFDA approved, are new and the effects on babies whose mothers breastfed them may only be documented in the last 5 years or so. What if there are long-term effects that will manifest when child is already 10 years old, 15 or 25? Yes, i am paranoid but weighing my child’s health & safety vs. my convenience, I choose my child.
Having said all these, my life may look dull, lifeless, difficult and you may think ‘breastfeeding is drag‘, but on the contrary, breastfeeding has taught me a lot about the more important things in life – things that this fast-paced world has ignored and set aside just to keep moving with the tide.
It has taught me to prioritize and organize my life around things that matter – God, Health, Family, Self and lastly, work or money. I take care of myself before family because if I am sick, no one will take of my children. They need me to be at my tip-top shape in order for me to be their MOTHER. I take my vitamins, eat healthy and avoid fastfoods and junk food (I said, ‘avoid’ not remove… take note. Its good to enjoy comforts once in awhile ). I spend and devote the time I have at home for my children – playing ‘zombie hunter’ with them even while I pump my breastmilk, reading books to them and even to my 18th month old who just likes flipping through the pages and using my finger to point and waiting for me to identify the object (beats any V-tech toy!) and just cuddling in the morning when everyone is just bleary-eyed and fresh from a good night’s rest
It makes my life simpler. Breastfed babies under 1 year old don’t need water, don’t need vitamins and don’t need much food. They just need mother’s milk to sustain them for the first year of life and complement solid foods after that . They just need to cuddle when they are hurt or nursing an ‘ouchie’ . They just need to be nursed to sleep and given the boobie when waking up a night – no fuss, no mess. Thus, I’ve realized that I, too, don’t need new shoes every month or new nail polish for the season or the latest Apple gadget to complete my day. Less wants, less needs, less fuss, less ado about nothing.
It has taught me to FOCUS – be it at work, while pumping or reviewing my older child. I need to finish my work on time so I can leave on time and be with my kids. I need to leave office concerns at my desk while I pump milk – I even used to imagine my child during pumping sessions to trigger the milk ejection reflex. And when I study with my older child, I can’t be thinking about something else.
But even with all this focus, I also learned to multi-task and plan ahead. I love crocheting and it keeps me stable and sane - I do this on the commute from and to work. I pump in the car when I am too busy at work. I think about the kids’ snack and lunch while I am walking, eating lunch or using the bathroom!
Having a baby is a life-changing event and this goes for all those new parents, second-time parents, third- time parents – its different with each one – breastfeeding or not. Please don’t expect that it all goes back to ‘normal’ – whatever that is – when the child learns to feed, talk, walk, poop, wash itself. It doesn’t. It’s a lifelong trek of adjustment and of course, LOVE.
Sure, going out on movie dates is fun but grocery-shopping dates are ‘fun-er’ – it combines shopping and exercise in one activity – nothing beats that for a woman!