“There is no food most natural in the world and proven safest for human babies than breastmilk, and no choice most natural and proven safest than breastfeeding.” Breastmilk is the perfect, irreplaceable gift a mother can give to her baby. It is the best start a baby can have in life. “I am a breastfeeding advocate, not simply because I have read about the benefits of breastfeeding but because I breastfed all my three children, my two girls for a year each, even while I was working full time. I also breastfed my son Gabriel, who had a cleft lip and palate and could not suck for other reasons, such that I had to express my milk, bring it to the hospital where he was staying, to have it fed to him through a tube in his mouth that led to his stomach.” Senator Pia S. Cayetano – a full time working mother of three, a staunch advocate of exclusive breastfeeding, and the principal author of the Expanded Breastfeeding Act (RA10028) which was passed into law, had captured the hearts of many nursing mothers. She inspired and encouraged them to do the same with her testimonial. Exclusive breastfeeding is giving a baby only breastmilk and no other liquids or solids, not even water in the first six months of life.
Nursing mothers I interviewed agreed with the senator’s stand to pursue the time-honoured breastfeeding practice. Despite the difficulties of motherhood especially with first born children, they say breastfeeding was the best decision they ever made. It is an unselfish love of a mother to give to their babies the gift that God provided them, the colostrum from their breastmilk. Colostrum is the breastmilk that women produce in the first few days after delivery. It is thick and yellowish or clear in color, contains more protein, helps prevent bacterial infections since new born babies are prone to infections, and it provides the first immunization against many diseases that a baby may get infected to.
Jovely Sigcop, a working mother never had a second thought about breastfeeding her first child Krystelle. Krsytelle is now five years old, she grew up a healthy happy little girl, hardly ever sick. “I breastfed Krystelle until she was three-years and six months old, and I am doing the same with my son Emmanuel who is now two months old,” she said.
Asked what made her decide to practice exclusive breastfeeding, “Ti maysa nga ina, kayat na ket ti best para ti anak na,” (A mother only wants the best for her child) was her answer. Also, exclusive breastfeeding for her is economical. Being a nursing mother is not an easy responsibility, but just by holding her two-month old son and seeing him growing healthy makes her content and happy.
When she was pregnant with her first child, her mother always reminded her to practice exclusive breastfeeding. “Mayat a talaga nu agsikog ken umanak ta ket adda ti ina a mangisuro iti ikasta. Idi masikogak iti first child ko ket kanayun nga ibaga ni mama a pasusuek ti anak ko,” (Having your mother to teach you what to do when you are pregnant and when giving birth is a blessing. When I was pregnant with my first child, my mother always told me to practice breastfeeding) she recalled. The word “breastfeeding” always plays in her mind because aside from her mother who tells her to breastfeed, health workers in the barangay clinic, Rural Health Unit (RHU), and at the hospital say the same every time she visited for pre-natal check-ups and when she gave birth.
Now, she is doing the same with her second child. Jovelyn narrated that she breastfeeds her son Emmanuel every morning, when they wake up and before she starts doing the household chores. Before she goes to work at 8:00 in the morning, she again breastfeeds Emmanuel. “Nu panagmimiryenda iti alas-dies iti agsapa ken alas- tres iti malem ditoy office, ti ikastak alaek jay miryendak ta iyawid ko. Ag-merienda ak habang pasusuek ti anak ko,” (I usually bring home with me my snacks when we had our merienda at 10:00 in the morning and 3:00 in the afternoon at the office. I have my snacks while I breastfed my son) she continued. When she goes home for lunch, she breastfeeds her son and again before she goes back to work. It is a relief for Jovelyn to be home and nurse her son, despite her working for eight hours.
Laire Ligligen, an employee at the Provincial Government of Mountain Province proudly shares how she practices exclusive breastfeeding to her two children.
Laire underwent caesarean operation for her first child Khalixe Dwhayne in 2011. For three days, her son was breastfed thru wet nursing or “lang-ay system” because she was under the effect of anaesthesia. She may be young when she delivered Khalixe, but she was already prepared. “Idi first time a mangpadede-ak ken Khalixe, nagsakit ti breasts ko,” (My breasts hurt when I breastfed Khalixe the first time) she reminisced. Wanting her son get the colostrum he needed, she continued to breastfeed Khalixe until she never felt the pain.
“Kanayun ibaga ti midwife and doctor ti importansya ti breastfeeding iti baby,” (The midwife and the doctor always remind me of the importance of breastfeeding to baby) she continued. She is thankful for the support and advice given her by her parents and her in-laws. They advised what food she needs to eat, for her to produce enough milk for her baby. Laire was a full –time mother to her son and a wife to her husband, thus, her first experience of motherhood was not difficult, specilly with the support of her parents and in-laws.
When she had Aizelle Vallen four months ago, there were adjustments that she needed to take and get used too. She was excited to go back to work after a one-month maternity leave. But her first day at work was terrible. She could not stay in the office from 8:00 until lunch break straight. After two hours, her breasts would start to feel heavy and hard. She should not let it take over three hours, because the harder it becomes, the more painful it is when she breastfeeds.
Like Jovelyn, Laire has to go home during the snack break in the morning and afternoon to breastfeed her daughter. “Haan kon a kasapulan pay a kitan ti oras. Ta nu agpasuso ta, maririkna metlaeng ti dumagsenan ken tumangkenan ti suso. Oras tapno padede-en ti baby,” (I did not even have to watch the clock. I can feel when my breasts are so full and hard, I should feed my baby) Laire continued.
Jovelyn and Laire both struggled, because it was not easy to be working and experiencing hard-as-a-rock breasts, which is painful and may even give them a fever.
It was a relief to both of these mothers as it eventually got easier for them to breastfeed their babies as days, weeks, and months passed. Breastfeeding just became a part of their routine. Jovelyn and Laire happily told this writer that the sleepless nights, the pain, the frustrations in the early days, the difficulty adjusting at work was worth it.
Laire and Jovelyn are also grateful to their officemates who understand their situation.
When asked if they will breastfeed again, they both answered with a YES! For them, breastfeeding bonds them to their babies. It will be a memory their babies and them could share, a special time together.
Meanwhile, Health Education Promotions Officer (HEPO) II Prima Donna L. Te-elan of the Provincial Health Office identified a wide range of benefits of breastfeeding aside from it is cost less than artificial breastfeeding.
- Breast milk provides all of the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals an infant needs for growth for the first six months, and no other liquids or food are needed.
- Breast milk carries antibodies from the mother that help combat disease.
- The act of breastfeeding stimulates proper growth of the mouth and jaw, and secretion of hormones for digestion and satiety.
- Breastfeeding creates a special bond between mother and baby and has positive outcomes in terms of stimulation, behavior, speech, sense of wellbeing, and security and how the child relates to other people.
- Breastfeeding lowers the risk of chronic conditions as the child grows, such as obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, childhood asthma, and childhood leukemia.
For Nursing Mothers
- Breastfeeding helps the body return to its pre-pregnant state more quickly. Many women also find they lose excess weight while breastfeeding.
- Women who have not breastfed their babies have an increased risk of cancer of the breast and ovaries, heart disease and osteoporosis.
- Breastfeeding’s contraceptive effect can delay the return of fertility in many women, who exclusively breastfeed their babies of less than six months of age, and have not recommenced their menstrual cycle. This is known as the Lactational Amenorrhea Method.
In Mountain Province, record from the Provincial Health Office (PHO) shows that out of the 769 post-partum mothers, 523 are practicing exclusive breastfeeding for the first quarter covering January to March 2015. For the 2nd quarter covering the months of April to June 2015, out of the 600 post-partum mothers, 574 initiated breastfeed.
The theme for the World Breastfeeding Week, which is celebrated every August 1-7 of every year, is “Breastfeeding and Work Let’s Make It Work!” It calls for the concerted global action to support women to combine breastfeeding and work. Whether a woman is working in the formal, non-formal or home setting, it is necessary that she is empowered in claiming her and her baby’s right to breastfeed.
In the Philippines, August of every year is the National Breastfeeding Awareness Month which aims to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding as the normal, natural, and preferred methods of feeding infants and young children. This is also in accordance to Republic Act 10028 or the Expanded Breastfeeding Act of 2009 that obliges the state to promote and encourage breastfeeding through specific measures that present opportunities for mothers to continue expressing their milk for their children.// By Alpine L. Killa
Other References: www. gov.ph, www.diamondacre.com.