Way before I got married, I knew I was going to breastfeed my baby. I feel lucky and blessed to have been able to make the choice to become a fulltime mom from the time my husband and I learned about my pregnancy. My single-minded determination to breastfeed was not a struggle with time and opportunity so my focus was how to make breastfeeding a pleasant and relaxing experience for me and my baby. My experience for eighteen months makes me a stronger advocate for breastfeeding.
I have to admit that I got the nerves on the first night I tried to feed my son. Anxiety may have overwhelmed me for I wasn’t able to produce milk on time for my baby so my son just had to cry and cry on the first night I held him in my arms. It wasn’t much because he was hungry. It was because he sensed my anxiety. I am a believer that a baby can sense his mom’s anxiety so he gets fretful at the same time. From a lot of readings, I know that all women (even with inverted nipples) can produce milk. It’s just a matter of psyching one’s self for the task.
The second day was better. I started producing milk and I was overflowing with it. There was no stopping mother and son from then on. On several occasions during the first two months I stayed in the Philippines, I had to insist that my breast milk should be used more than the formula milk in hand for emergency (when I can’t pump milk on times I needed to go on some errands). I had to break away from the “sayang” mentality of formula milk being thrown away because it had expired already. I could and I will throw a can of formula milk without batting an eyelash. Not even the most expensive formula milk can compare with the nutrients of my milk.
I love it best when I breastfeed in my own sanctuary with wonderful music playing. That’s why I was just too happy to fly to Seoul with my husband and son after the holidays in 2006. Our home was waiting for us in Mapo, Seoul. I spent wonderful feeding moments with my son. I subscribed to feeding on demand as compared to timed feeding so I was a happy “slave” whenever my son calls out for his milk. There were times when I had to feed my son formula milk. These were times when we go out on weekends and I wasn’t able to store milk for him. Luckily for us though, the establishments here in Seoul provide nursing stations so I could give my son his milk when he demands for it.
Our first vacation in the Philippines proved to be a little tough for my son when it came to feeding. He resisted the use of feeding bottles even when I was out. Good thing he was already on solids.
I consciously fed him formula milk during playtime when he turned eleven months. This was the start of our gradual weaning during daytime feeding. After our Tokyo trip to celebrate my son’s first birthday, I cut off daytime feeding completely. It was tough during nap time. My son was crying and fussy for three days. I just had to hold him, carry him around the house and constantly whisper how much I love him. Even if he cannot understand what I was talking about, I keep on telling him that I am not abandoning him simply because I am not feeding him anymore. On the third day, when he cried out for milk again, I asked him, “Would you like to drink milk?” He nodded and pointed to his glass (I was using straw since he was ten months old). I knew it then that he got the idea already. I followed Nanny 911’s principle on Consistency to the letter. Parents just need to be consistent when they want to drive a message through. Children will understand the message or the point best when parents stick to the rule.
My pediatrician in Iloilo advised me that babies will wean out on their own so I shouldn’t stop my son when he wants to feed during the night. Heeding that advice, I resolved to let my son lead the way when it comes to weaning. I’ll take the signals from him until he turns two years old (my own timeline for breastfeeding).
Starting February this year, on his fifteenth month, my son stopped feeding during sleeping time. He still used to associate night time sleeping with feeding. I was happy to observe that for several days, he just dozes off to sleep the way he does during his naps. There was no turning back from then on. When at times, he wanted to feed from me we just had to bear the crying and gently but firmly stand our ground of not going back to feeding.
Since February, our feeding was limited to the unholy hours of night time sleep and early morning. My readings told me that early morning or waking up feeding habit is the last to go for babies. So, I had to wake up to feed my son even in the middle of my dreams. Good thing, my husband and I agree that we do not need a crib. We love sleeping with our son. Our son’s room remains his playroom to this day.
On the last weekend of April, my husband and I agreed that it was time to seriously train our son to sleep on his own. What better way to start? We moved his bed to our room and placed it alongside ours. Our son gleefully helped. That night (April 27), we keep on asking him, “Where is your bed?” He would proudly cross over and stand on his bed.
Our intention to train our son to sleep on his own paved the way for his total weaning. Exactly two days before he turned eighteen months, he didn’t ask for milk. I had been waiting for this night. I had been waiting for this signal. The next night confirmed his readiness for total weaning.
Since then, we were having feeding-free glorious nights. When my son wakes up around six in the morning and cries a little, I just had to ask him if he wants milk. His drowsy reply makes us get up and prepare his milk (he insists to be with me when I prepare his milk, even if sleepiness is still on his face). After drinking, he would want to sleep again and tells me so. I would also sleep with him, happily.
When (not if) our second boy (I hope) comes along, I would just be so happy to do breastfeeding again. It’s a lifetime gift I could give that no one else can.