Breastfeeding: Good for All
Emelijane V. Holgado,MD, DPPS
Being a passionate advocate of breastfeeding, I am no stranger to the frustration of hearing the mothers of my patients asking me which brand of milk formula I could recommend for their child. Despite all the efforts of educating them that breast milk is perhaps the ONLY food for their baby, many mothers would easily shift to feeding their infant formula milk when certain challenges arise, like lack of sleep, milk supply insufficiency, nipple biting, breast shape changes, to name a few. May these mothers be well educated or uneducated, affluent or deprived, they give up breastfeeding without regard.
There is no need to establish the status of breast milk and breastfeeding. I could rattle off in one breath their countless benefits for both mother and infant. And I am not just talking about health benefits. Even psychological and economic reasons for preferring breastfeeding over formula milk feeding do not dissuade some mothers from discontinuing, and sometimes even not attempting, breastfeeding.
I am even more saddened when I get these sentiments from mothers whose family is struggling financially just to get by. Even if breastfeeding would save them from added financial burden, they would rather give the child formula milk. Thinking perhaps that they are providing their child the best care by doing so when in fact they are simply impoverishing the child’s health and well-being.
And so, breastfeeding fails.
But the problem is not breast milk, nor is it breastfeeding. It is the people involved in the whole process. Their lack of information and their negative attitudes are hindrances to successful breastfeeding.
The most common pitfall in breastfeeding is the problem of milk supply. Even mothers who are all gung ho on breastfeeding abandon it when they face the dreaded milk supply dilemma. Despite all the good intentions of these mothers, their world collapses when they feel that their milk supply is not adequate to meet the baby’s needs. And when no one can offer any sensible explanation for this insufficiency, they turn to formula milk for salvation. Little do they know that there is no single explanation for the milk supply dilemma. It is usually a combination of factors that bring about the situation. Fortunately, many of these factors can be controlled to produce the ideal conditions for breastfeeding to thrive.
So the key to successful breastfeeding is establishing the ideal conditions for it to succeed. These would involve the following:
A DEDICATED MOTHER
This is perhaps the most crucial factor of all. A mother who decides to breastfeed long before she gives birth to her child must prepare herself, mind, body, and spirit. This means that she fully understands all the sacrifices that breastfeeding will entail and yet she chooses to go through with it because it is the best for her child.
Many times breastfeeding fails because the mother herself is not committed to it. It takes six weeks to stabilize a mother’s milk supply, but instead of focusing her energy in establishing the milk supply by doing proper techniques to ensure proper feeding, she is more concerned with how soon she can return to work, or how she can regain her figure prior to pregnancy. All these concerns simply bring her needless stress which affects her milk production.
It is a great blessing that the government has passed Senate Bill 1305, or the “Expanded Maternity Leave Law of 2017.” This law raised the maternity leave to 120 days with pay with an option to extend another 30 days without pay. This is more than enough time to make all the conditions right for successful breastfeeding, all that is needed is a mother’s sincere commitment.
A SUPPORTIVE PARTNER
Successful breastfeeding does not solely rely on the mother of the child. The partner plays an important role. Since the physical, emotional, and psychological demands of breastfeeding can be overwhelming to the mother, it is the duty of the partner to share the challenges in all ways possible. The husband can take the responsibility to burp the baby after every breastfeeding, he can also bathe the baby while the mother rests and he can offer her wife a back massage to relieve her stress or prepare her a hearty meal to satisfy her and restore her energy.
A NURTURING HOUSEHOLD
The need for support for the mother further expands to the rest of the members of the immediate household. Family members and close relatives should be careful with what they say and do around the mother and her child or it might cause undue pressure or stress on the mother which would inadvertently affect her milk production.
In a culture like ours, where the opinion and wishes of the elder members of the family matter significantly and sometimes followed blindly, there is a need for them to exercise self-restraint and prudence, keeping in mind that the health of the baby is at stake. A classic example is when the “lola”, would tactlessly say, “Ay, mahina siguro ang gatas mo. Kakabagan ang anak mo kakaiyak. Bigyan mo na si baby ng gatas sa bote.” This comment maybe said out of sincere concern; however, it has serious repercussions. Such words sow a seed of doubt in the mind of the mother about her capacity to nourish her child with her milk. This self-doubt consequently affects her capacity to produce milk. No mother would want her child go hungry, so like a self-fulfilling prophecy, the milk supply will become insufficient and then the family would resort to introducing formula milk to supplement.
CARING MEDICAL SPECIALISTS
Of course last but not the least would be those whom the parents of the child entrust their guidance in caring for their child, the doctors.
Typically, when a woman gets pregnant, she immediately finds an obstetrician she could entrust her care and the baby she is carrying. Much of the preparation that the OB and the woman do is childbirth, and anything that concerns caring for the baby is only determined after childbirth and when the woman meets the attending pediatrician. In such a case, there was already a failure to prepare for breastfeeding. Bringing in a pediatrician earlier in the woman’s preparation for childbirth would have been sounder. While the OB cares for the woman during her pregnancy helping her prepare for childbirth, the pediatrician can then prepare the woman for childbirth focusing on the essential care that the soon-to-be born baby must receive.
Early consultation with a pediatrician will ensure that the conditions for breastfeeding are achieved upon delivery of the child. The mother must state clearly with her pediatrician that her child must not be separated from her upon delivery, so they can have uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact for 6 hours or at least until the first breastfeeding. Although this is part of the Early Intrapartum Newborn Care (EINC) procedure, not all hospitals follow all the steps strictly. In some hospitals, the infant is separated from the mother for weighing, foot printing, vaccination, etc. which can all be done after the skin-to-skin phase. It is much worse in most lying-in clinics where EINC is not observed at all.
Doctors are essential partners. It is therefore important that a mother chooses her doctors not just for their competence in their specialization but also for their compatibility with her goals, in this case breastfeeding successfully. They are the ones who would educate the family in the proper care of the child, dispelling all traditional practices that have no benefits at all or sometimes even harmful.
When all the above conditions are in place, successful breastfeeding is within reach. All the other barriers that prevent a successful breastfeeding could easily be dealt with since most of them are borne out of lack of information.
Breastfeeding is a wonderful gift, for a mother and her child. It is unfortunate that not all are able to realize that. Even formula milk companies acknowledge that. We see and hear it in their advertisements. It is THE BEST MILK for the baby. If it is the best, then there is no reason not to give what is best for a child. So I call on all the mothers out there, their partners, family members and doctors to do what they can for the best of their soon-to-be-born child. Let us promote, protect and implement breastfeeding in our homes, in the hospitals and other birthing clinics, in our workplace and in even in our places of leisure. Your child is counting on it.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
- Oxytocin secreted during breastfeeding.
Decreases postpartum blood loss, results in rapid uterine evolution, enhances bonding, attachment and maternal parenting behaviors and reduce vulnerability to stress.
- Early acquisition of prenatal weight.
- Decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes, ovarian and breast cancers.
- Breastfeeding plays a role in child spacing. It’s a natural family planning method.
- Breastfeeding decreases the risk of serious postpartum depression and maternally caused child abuse and neglect.
- Protection against communicable and non-communicable diseases.
- Breastfeeding decreases the risk of childhood obesity, type I and II diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
- Breastfeeding lowers the risk of allergic diseases: atopic dermatitis, rhinitis, reactive airway diseases and food allergies.
- Breastfeeding enhances a child’s brain development due close supportive relationship and increased opportunities for interaction between mother and her baby. These factors are important for an infant’s cognitive development.
- Breastfeeding saves money because there will be less expenses for medicines/hospitalization for a sick child.
- Less parental absence from work hence no lost in income.
- No spending on bottles, distilled water, sterilizer and lots of formula milk boxes/cans.
- Breastfeeding is an environment friendly “green” activity.
- Reduces the waste and pollution created by discarding the by-products of formula feeding.
- Economically, breastfeeding can be a major source of saving community funds.
- Globally, it limits population growth because of the natural infertility that accompanies optimal breastfeeding.
Emelijane V. Holgado,MD, DPPS is a practicing pediatrician in Biñan who is a true advocate of breastfeeding and believes that with proper nutrition and complete vaccination every child can be protected from severe illnesses. She is also a mother of 3 adorable kids who is still breastfeeding her 1 8/12 months old daughter, and loves spending time with her family through movie dates, storytelling and food trips.
Categorised in: News 2
This post was written by unihealthadmin