Friday, June 14, 2013

The Force Behind My Breastfeeding Success #BestStartswithDad

My siblings and I grew up drinking formula. In fact - I remember drinking powdered milk well into my teenage years; I drank powdered milk every single day until the day I graduated from high school. My youngest brother drank (a different brand of) powdered milk well into his college years. One of the questions strangers would ask us at the grocery check out counter was "who's drinking all that milk?" - after seeing the cartload of milk and four fully grown children with my mom. Needless to say - none of us were breastfed. I probably never tasted a single drop of breastmilk until I had my own.

Fast forward to almost two decades after high school - married for over two years, pregnant with a singleton. I've had a few friends who's had kids of their own - and I saw them successfully breastfeed their kids. I also knew of people who were not successful. If you asked me what the success rate was for breastfeeding (at that time) - I would have said 50%. I personally knew that breastfeeding was going to be good for my baby - but I did not have (in my brain) a single fact to even start explaining why I wanted to breastfeed. 

I started reading about it - the hows, the whats, the whys and the why nots. I went to social media and followed people who freely and openly talked about breastfeeding on Twitter. It helped that - a year before I gave birth - my sister in law had herself given birth to her third child, and I saw her own struggles. I saw her lactation consultations. I saw how hard it was to teach a baby to latch. I saw how precious each drop of liquid gold was. I also saw how she fed her baby with donated breastmilk whenever she ran out of her own. It was a theoretical and a practical lesson all rolled into one.

When I finally gave birth in the summer of 2009 - K was overdue (almost 41 weeks) and I gave birth via C-Section. 24 hours from delivery, K still had not peed - and my husband and I had to consent to letting her have some formula (thinking it was the best option at that time). As a first time mom, the task was daunting. I had no idea whether I could produce any milk at all (I could not see it), and it was not exactly a walk in the park to have a baby try to latch on. Still, I was determined to breastfeed her. She took only 1 serving of formula and never had taste of it again, until she turned 1.

Looking back - despite all the physical effort coming from me - it would have been mentally and psychologically impossible if my husband did not share the same determination to breastfeed our children as I did. As with any marriage issue/concern, the husband and wife has to have a united stand.
He cheered me on. I refused to buy an expensive breastpump until I could prove that I could produce milk. On my first month, I used an Avent handpump (thanks to my sister in law) and pumped around the clock. It was not an easy task - but having my husband around to celebrate each precious squirt sure helped reduce the pain of the aching wrist tendon.

He talked about it. There was no shame in talking about it to family, friends and even strangers. It was the sharing of a good thing that mattered. He picked up the facts that I had fed him (I would often repeat the benefits of breastfeeding to him - as he's not a reader) - and relayed them to other soon to be parents. He would ask me for more information and tips whenever he needed to share with his friends.

He scheduled (and paid!) for the lactation therapist. We contacted Lita Nery to help me - with how to get the baby to latch on, how to treat lumps and blocked ducts.... He asked Ate Lita so many questions that I think Ate Lita probably remembers him more than she does me.

He never looked away.  It honestly feels more embarrassing for me to feed/pump when my companion is embarrassed. If my companion were comfortable, I personally had no qualms about it. Over the combined 40++ months that I've nursed my 2 girls, I've had to feed/pump in the oddest of places - from restaurants to train platforms to bleachers to amusement parks. He never looked away.

He lost precious sleep time and comfort. If you know my husband, you will know that sleep is of utmost importance to him. In order for me to nurse my girls round the clock - we chose to co-sleep, which meant he had to give up precious bedspace for the girls. There were also nights when he would get disturbed by fussy, hungry babies. If it weren't the fussy, hungry babies - it would be the sound of my Medela pump, whooshing and swooshing the night away.
Fathers play a very important role in the breastfeeding success of families. That single voice makes a difference - against all the many potential questions that will come your way as you start your breastfeeding battle. It could be the one single tipping point - whether the breastfeeding relationship will last for one month or one year. It definitely made a difference in mine.

To my husband, and all fathers out there - Happy Fathers Day - and may you always stand for what is best for your family!

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