Fed is Best

We went to the pediatrician’s this afternoon for Cortez’s monthly check-up, and I expected to be in and out after the routine length and weight check and vaccination. To my surprise, I was stopped at the hospital entrance and asked to surrender the milk bottles I had with me.

Apparently, the #OurLadyOfLourdesHospital (#OLLH), where my kids’ pedia holds clinic, has been accredited by the #DepartmentOfHealth (#DOH) as a mother-baby friendly hospital and as such, cannot have milk bottles brought inside its buildings.

I explained that my 5-month-old son was due a feeding in about 30 minutes and asked if there was a waiver that I could sign. The answer was no.

I was told that I was, of course, free to come to the lobby to retrieve my child’s food at any time and feed him outside the hospital.

I began to seethe.

Now I purposely waited several hours before writing about what I feel about this unreasonable, illogical, stupid and discriminatory directive, in the hopes that my rage somehow dims. It hasn’t.

This mother-baby friendly hospital only welcomes mothers who directly breastfeed their babies.

No, it doesn’t count if you express milk and have your child drink it from a bottle. And God forbid that I actually feed my child formula. Without a doubt, I must be the worst kind of mother there is! I should be grateful they let me in at all!

Don’t get me wrong, I am not here to question the pros of breastfeeding. I am all for it and have great respect for mothers who breastfeed. I would do it if I could, but unfortunately, my breasts refused to cooperate.

Hardcore breastfeeding advocates can argue until next year about how anybody can produce milk if they only try hard enough, and they may even be right, but the fact remains that one can hardly will one’s empty breasts to produce milk on demand.

I would like to believe that each mother does the best she can for her child, and at the top of the list is making sure her child does not starve.

Yes, direct breastfeeding is ideal, but guess what, ideal is not always doable for everyone.

Ideal is not always doable for mothers who work, and the next best thing may be expressing milk and having their babies drink it from a bottle. 

Ideal is not always doable for mothers who, like me, have little to no milk at all and so must supplement with formula which their babies drink from a bottle.

Ideal is not always doable for mothers who, for reasons known only to them and we must respect, choose to feed their babies formula from a bottle.

Ideal is not always doable for mothers who have had double mastectomy, OFW mothers who have no choice but leave their infants, and fathers whose wives died in childbirth.

I can go on and on, but I guess mother-baby friendly hospitals would rather babies starve rather than have them feed from milk bottles.

They wanted me to feed my child outside, like it was something dirty, lest I taint their mother-baby friendly image with my evil milk bottles.

Milk bottles aren’t the enemy here, it’s small minds who think up these blanket discriminatory rules and laws that pass judgment on people.

UPDATE: Apparently, and somebody correct me if I misunderstood, this law under the Milk Code is an old one and it is in accordance to the #WorldHealthOrganization (#WHO) policy under the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes wherein the Philippines was one of the signatories. [Please read: http://www.wpro.who.int/nutrition/documents/docs/wpro_breastfeeding_obstacles.pdf ]

I don’t think anybody is disputing the fact that breast milk is best. It is. But it is also a fact that it is not always doable to breastfeed, directly or indirectly.

I think we can all agree that DOH’s interpretation is extreme. What they should do is strengthen their campaign so mothers can make informed choices, not force everyone to comply regardless of circumstances.

supply and demand

photo 2

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.

articles like this help: http://thestir.cafemom.com/baby/136438/stop_feeling_guilty_about_not