Reclaiming our power to nourish: From the bottle to the breast
Nona D. Andaya-Castillo, IBCLC
Almost 3 decades ago, in preparation for motherhood, I read books on natural birthing and breastfeeding. Having gone through so many illnesses and hospitalizations since I was a child, I was really determined to breastfeed my baby knowing its health benefits.
When I gave birth, I was separated from my baby and she was given artificial formula milk. I bottle-fed my baby for the next 15 days and with the changing hormones and not breastfeeding, post-partum blues easily crept in. Many times, I found myself crying, feeling awful for not being able to breastfeed.
Fortunately, a phone call gave me the determination to go back to breastfeeding. My journey from 100% bottle-feeding to 100% breastfeeding on the 16th day of my newborn daughter inspired me to embark on a profession that empowers mothers to give birth the natural way and breastfeed their children. I passed the accreditation exam in 2004 for International Board Certified Lactation Consultants but I have started counseling mothers in 1997.
The World Health Organization issued the Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding in 2002 calling for government to support mothers by providing access to skilled support to:
1. Initiate and sustain exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months
2. Ensure the timely introduction of adequate and safe complementary foods
3. Continue breastfeeding up to two years or BEYOND. In the Philippines, our role model for extended breastfeeding is the former Supreme Court Chief Justice and Philippine Ambassador to the United Nations Hilario Davide. His mother breastfed him for FOUR YEARS!
The golden window of opportunity to go back to breastfeeding is within 45 days after you stopped doing so. But it is possible to bring back an older child to the breast. My own daughter, instead of using a pacifier when I was away from home, breastfed from my mother-in-law for a year! The oldest child that I brought back to the breast was two years old. The boy continued to breastfeed until he was four years old together with his sister!
Breastmilk continues to be a huge part of the child's food until about 2 and a half years old when 50% of his nutritional needs should come from breastmilk. According to anthropological studies, mammals like us breastfeed from 2-7 years! From 5-6 months onwards, a child consumes about 750 ml of breast milk. Breastmilk helps prevent malnutrition among young children.
However, the role of breastfeeding at this time is not only nutritional and emotional bonding but also immunological as well. Breastmilk contains three million germ-killing cells per teaspoon! For example, at the age of five, if a breastfeeding child can get only five teaspoons of breastmilk a day, then that means, he gets 15 million germ-killing cells. A woman practically has a medicine cabinet inside her breast!
There are more inspiring relactation and adoptive breastfeeding stories that I came across while attending conferences as a lactation consultant. One of them was an Australian mother who adopted a three-year old Chinese girl and nursed her.
Here are the things a mother with the help of her support group should do to be able to go back to breastfeeding:
Reconnect. Keep your baby close. There should be no other carers. Give plenty of skin-to-skin contact at all times, not just at feeding times. Sleep with your baby and ask other people to help in other ways. Please subscribe to my You Tube Channel and watch the playlist on Breastfeeding: www.youtube.com/c/NanayNona
Relax. Now is the time to relax. You can do deep breathing, put warm compress on the shoulders, shoulder blades, lower back and your breasts. Ask someone to massage these body parts afterwards. You can also try a rebirthing bath by soaking on a pool or a tub using warm water with your baby. The baby will crawl to the breast and initiate breastfeeding.
Stimulate. Learn the art of hand expression. Express breastmilk every two hours or more frequently. If you can’t preserve the breastmilk on some occasion e.g. if you are lying-down, rub the breastmilk on your nipples to toughen it. Learn better breastfeeding techniques including latch and positioning.
Help. During skin-to-skin contact, your baby will bob his head and crawl towards your breast. Position him so that he can attach easily to the breast. Avoid pressing the back of his head or shaking your breast. You can try expressing breastmilk into his mouth.
Offer. Offer your breast whenever your baby is willing to suckle
- When sleepy, or after a cup feed
- In different positions
- When your feel your ejection reflex working
Cup-feed. Cup-feeding is the recommended method of feeding an infant ONLY when the mother is away but because you are relactating it is best to cup-feed the baby even by yourself. There are many advantages of cup-feeding. Among them:
- The baby can stop feeding when he had enough so there is no danger of over-feeding,
- There is less exposure to harmful chemicals which may be present in bottles, artificial nipples and pacifiers.
- The baby is assured of human contact throughout the day especially if he is left with a caregiver.
- There is no need to train the baby to drink from a cup when he is older.
- Cups are easier to clean. There is not need to sterilize them. Instead, just use soap and water to clean them.
- There is no danger of additional contact to harmful germs like bottles and artificial nipples.
- There is no danger of the milk spilling unto the baby's ears.
- Cups are readily available and are much cheaper than bottles. Parents to buy a clear jigger or shot glass with no designs. Unlike plastic cups, this type of glass does not have a sharp or uneven rim. See the next picture.
Eat. Now is the time to eat more fruit and vegetable intake. Health experts recommend the consumption of 10-12 servings a day (80 grams per serving). Avoid drinking soups with meat and food additives. Avoid food that are high in cholesterol like eggs, meat and dairy products.
(Read Nutritional Guidelines, Indigenous Food and Recipes)
Drink . A woman needs 2.5 liters of water! Add more water, smoothies and vegetable soups for breastmilk production especially during summer. Please read my article on how to prepare healthy and hearty soups using indigenous vegetables. If your baby is above 6 months, you can prepare these for him (without salt!) instead of giving him formula.
Monitor. To avoid dehydration, please monitor your baby's output using a cloth diaper (recommended) or a disposable diaper with a white lining (not recommended for health and environmental reasons). Restarting breastfeeding, may be tedious but it is possible. Seek help if you want to relactate but the best way is to seek help BEFORE you even stop.
Support. Get support from your family to restart breastfeeding. Show them the warning labels on the front and back labels of all formula cans so that they will understand why you want to go back to breastfeeding. Ask them to read the White Lies Report so they can be aware of the hazards of dairy consumption. http://www.whitelies.org.uk/resources/white-lies-report-2014 Invite them to like Iwas Gatas Pilipinas Ngayon on Facebook!
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