supply and demand

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i feed my kid formula.

there, i’ve said it. almost three months along and i can still feel the guilt start to stir.

one of the things i took for granted when i initially found out i was pregnant was that i would be breastfeeding. in fact, one of the first things alvin and i bought was a breast pump, for when i go back to work and can’t directly breastfeed. we happily forked over the extra money for a good one because we assumed i would be using it for at least a year.

while pregnant, i read up on breastfeeding basics, analyzed close-up photos of babies’ mouths latched onto their mothers’ nipples, and studied breast milk storage charts. i stocked up on nursing pads, prepared breastfeeding covers and gel packs, researched milk storage bag suppliers, and anticipated sore nipples and painful breasts filled with milk.

turned out, i didn’t need all that.

roque had a hard time latching. at the start, i would gently nudge my nipple towards his mouth and he would take it and make attempts at sucking. since he slept and didn’t cry, we assumed he was getting enough to eat. three days later, he was crying so loudly his entire body was bright red and alvin and i were wringing our hands in panic.

when we finally gave in and fed him formula from a bottle, he drank so much so fast and went to sleep right after. i think that was the first time he felt full in his short life.

i tried to make him latch in between formula feedings but it made him madder and madder each time. i guess it made no sense to him that i was forcing him to draw milk from an empty breast when he knew full well that a bottle filled with yummy formula existed somewhere near.

almost all the articles i read promised breast engorgement within a couple of weeks after giving birth, so i waited and waited for my milk to come. i started pumping to try to jump-start my milk production and had half an ounce to show for every thirty-minute session.

i took malunggay capsules. i munched on cookies with malunggay leaves. i drank bowl after bowl of clam soup. alvin put fresh malunggay leaves in various dishes which we rotated throughout the week: sautéed mung beans, stewed chicken, boiled pork ribs in clear broth, sautéed vegetables, etc.

at its height, i produced two and a half ounces of breast milk from the first thirty-minute pumping session of the day. sessions after that, i was lucky if i squeezed out a full ounce. by then, roque was drinking three ounces of milk every three hours and i felt like my breast milk was just a small drop in a big pond of formula.

i was racked with guilt everyday that i wasn’t feeding my child well.

as roque grew more demanding to care for, it became harder and harder for me to pump regularly, which caused my already small milk supply to start dwindling even more and my already ample guilt supply to start increasing.

a friend matter-of-factly reminded me that almost our entire generation was raised on formula and we turned out all right. alvin repeatedly assured me that the ability to produce breast milk is not the measure of my being a good mother. logically, i knew they were right. objectively, i knew they were right. still, every time the topic came up my guilt wouldn’t be far behind and i would be all weepy and defensive, convinced that there was something i did too much of or didn’t do enough of that made my milk-producing parts lazy.

we sold and shipped the breast pump the other day, and i sincerely hope that the new mother whom it’s for makes much, much better use of it than i did.

if you’re one of the people i inadvertently snapped at when you innocently asked if i breastfeed roque, i apologize. please know that while i haven’t fully come to terms with my inability to breastfeed, i *am* working on it.

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3 Comments on “supply and demand”

  1. Bogart Dee says:

    hey bis. it’s really okay. athalia didn’t like her mother’s milk and she didn’t want to be breastfed. so we gave her formula. the result? happy baby. hindi siya fussy, tulog pag gabi gising pag umaga, at halos hindi rin nagkakasakit. the important thing is that you tried and whatever antibodies and stuff that they are supposed to get from you eh nabigay mo na.

  2. Bogart Dee says:

    pero imagine mo ang guilt trip no? parang hello… pag hindi the best guilt. pag hindi nagbreastfeed guilt, pag lumbas ka magisa guilt. minsan iniisip ko na lang, ako nga chernobyl radiation milk ang binigay sa akin ng parents ko (birch tree) at hindi ako kinakausap ng tatay ko… hindi nga sila naguilty ahhahaha… pero minsan self defeating din kasi

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