The lessons I have learned from 15 years of breastfeeding and beyond
Five kids, three generations apart with different breastfeeding scenarios, have taught me that breastfeeding is possible in every situation.
Breastfeeding is best for babies from two years old and beyond.
Five kids, three generations apart with different breastfeeding scenarios, have taught me that breastfeeding is possible in every situation. This, coupled with over a decade of giving support to thousands of mums, personally, over the phone, through video calls or text messages, and much more strengthened my advocacy in breastfeeding.
The kids: 24, 22, 14, 11 & 2.
My first was born in 1993 when no milk code was in place yet. It was standard for babies to receive glucose water from the bottle for the first few days. In fact, the advice then was to continue it at home every two to three feeds using hotcake syrup.
The 15 Important Lessons I have Learned from Being an Extended Breastfeeding Mum
Lesson 1: Only breastmilk for baby’s first 6 months
Oh if only I could turn back time… Barely twenty years old, I needed to go back to university in three weeks. I pumped every two to three hours sometimes with my classmates as audience (everybody was so amazed by it! ) and gave it to my baby the next day.
What I didn’t know back then was that I could keep breastmilk much much longer (up to seven days in the ref and two months in the freezer) so when my milk slowed down, I didn’t know any better but to start mixing, and this led to that inevitable spiral of losing my supply.
Lesson 2: You can continue breastfeeding even if you return to work full time
In 1995 when I gave birth, the milk code had just been implemented. So my baby was immediately roomed in and bottles were banned. Being a second-time mum, I thought I knew better (with wrong information on glucose water thinking milk only came in on the third day).
Lesson 3: Mums have milk from birth. There was no breastfeeding support, just a few posters in the hospital
We had to keep the temperature in the room warm to keep baby warm. (Oh this could have been addressed by attachment parenting and frequent nursing). Sometime during his third month, rashes started developing all over his body and was diagnosed as an allergy.
I continued to breastfeed trying to eliminate the foods I was allergic to (the usual dairy, seafood, nuts, etc.) but alas, even if I physically took them off of my plate, we still got a reaction.
Lesson 4: It is better to continue breastfeeding (with caution to what baby is allergic to) so their chances of contracting the same allergies are much less
What I missed then was that when you cook a dish with the allergen, even if you take it out before eating, it had already been infused in the dish, hence the allergies.
I should have just been more wary of what ingredients went into my food during the cooking process.
This was my shortest breastfeeding experience among all my kids, and it is not surprising to note he is the only one whom my asthma (I was very sickly and asthmatic in my growing up years) was passed on to.
Nine years fast forward to a much more mature me, I attended not only childbirth preparation classes but also breastfeeding support groups during my pregnancy.
Lesson 5: Attend breastfeeding classes and surround yourself with successful breastfeeding mums
When my baby came, I was extra determined to breastfeed EXCLUSIVELY. Being my usual competitive self, I knew that if other mums could do it, I could do it too.
So I continuously attended support group meetings and learned from other mums. After a while, I was getting more and more confident in sharing my own experiences as an extended breastfeeding mum as well, which was helping other mums too.
Lesson 6: Breastfeeding boosts your parental esteem. And this new confidence has awoken a passion to make helping mums my life purpose
I started helping facilitate the meetings. Eventually, I became a support group leader and I even attended classes to become a Certified Lactation Counselor. I had short-term goals to make it realistic, to get through first two weeks (where there is the most discomfort), to six weeks when my milk stabilises, to the second month when I went back to work.
Lesson 7: You can live without bottles
My first day at work didn’t go smoothly. And so after lunch, I rushed home to a crying baby who refused to take milk from a bottle.
I had heard of cup feeding in a support group so I gave it a try. The next day went by without a hitch, and we never gave a bottle. From small medicine cups, we shifted to sippy cups on his fourth month then to regular cups on his ninth month which eliminated my problem with bottle weaning.
Lesson 8: Breastfeeding saves a lot of money, not only on bottles, but also on trips to the doctor, medicine, formula and bottle feeding costs, etc. etc.…
This baby was four years old when he decided to wean off from breastmilk. But when he was over two, we received happy news of another pregnancy.
Doctor advised us to wean our baby, and I really tried, maybe only half-heartedly, and was unsuccessful. So began my search for a new doctor. Because yes…
Lesson 9: You can continue breastfeeding all throughout pregnancy
I had a small glitch on my 32nd week when I bled a little. So I brought myself to the hospital and strapped on an NST where we saw it was not the breastfeeding that was causing my big contractions but moving around.
I had a one day break when my unica hija was born. And the next day, when my son visited, he tandem fed with his baby sister.
Lesson 10: Tandem feeding helps toddlers adjust better to their newborn siblings
…and these two kids, now aged 11 & 14, have always been best friends.
I started homeschooling shortly after and because the whole world is their classroom, we started travelling locally and internationally. Breastfeeding made it so much easier for us.
Lesson 11: We can go anywhere hassle-free. We don’t need to pack the ‘entire house’ when we leave
We also don’t worry about traveling discomforts because when they are uncomfortable, they just breastfeed, and all is well. This further boosted our confidence, reducing fears that most babies would cry on long trips or during take off and landing of a plane. Mine were both always quiet.
They rarely get sick and if they did at all, the illness would not cause them much discomfort. She continued to breastfeed until she was six. Baby 3 and 4 has never gotten sick over three days, and they have never taken any vitamins or over-the-counter drugs.
Lesson 12: The longer you breastfeed, the better your baby’s immune system is. I can say their bodies are working very perfectly
They eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. They are not too slim nor too fat and I know that their eating habits are also an effect of a good start in nutrition since they were newborns.
Thinking it would be the last pregnancy, I focused on helping mums by doing classes, attending short courses, creating support groups and even teaching playgroups for babies and toddlers.
Lesson 13: Helping mums (and dads) has become my life purpose
And just when I thought I had graduated from the happy chaos of newborn parenting, we found out we were again expecting during one of our couple’s holidays.
Oh yes, Lesson 14: We have guilt-free couples-only getaways
Of course we miss the kids terribly. But knowing we’ve given them our full effort in breastfeeding and attachment parenting, we both know we only function as good parents if we are happy with each other too.
And yes, baby 5, definitely the last this time, came to our lives another nine years after. Still strongly breastfeeding now at 33 months, she loves playing with babies and breastfeeding them herself.
Lesson 15: Breastfeeding is the norm
It has also taught my kids to be nurturing and to follow their body cues. And all these siblings, from 24 to two years old, look out for each other and love each other despite their differences.
And life and parenting for me continues. There is really no easier or harder stage in being a parent. But it is a challenge each step of the way.
Breastfeeding has given me and my family a good headstart, and I pass on these lessons to my kids, my family and all the mums I meet.
This article was written by Abigail V. Yabot, who is a multi-generation mum, Certified Lactation Counselor, Parenting Educator, Life Coach, homeschooler and Attachment Parenting Advocate. She is currently finishing four more parenting courses that she will be teaching and practicing soon. With another mum, she set up Parenting University PH which aims to give support and classes on all areas of parenting.
Republished with permission from: theAsianParent Philippines