(KPL)Recalling my first dreading weeks worrying about having enough breastmilk, the indecision between breastmilk and formula, the inexperienced mom nursing her daughter in a toilet or the confident careless mom nursing her daughter on the floor of nowhere, the working mom foregoing travels and a permanent work in exchange for the most magical moment and bond between mom and daughter during the breastfeed.

All these flashbacks were of my own experience and all this was, is, and should be a personal choice.  It was my choice. No labels should be attached to a mom choosing to give her child breastmilk or formula.

To mark this year’s World Breastfeeding Week and as a breastfeeding mom into her fifth year, I’m writing this piece to share my experience, debunk some of the beliefs about breastfeeding I’ve heard, and the factors that contributed to my successful breastfeeding journey.

Immediately when I learned about my pregnancy, I already knew I would breastfeed my child because my mom breastfed me. But I wanted to do better and go over the 2-years that my mom’s achieved. Yet, this goal dwindled the very first few weeks which I felt were the most difficult and longest weeks.

A nurse who came in with a basket of infant formula with the instruction of feeding the baby enough to avoid newborn jaundice (a yellowing of baby’s skin and eyes). Another nurse who came in with a breast pump, and the instruction to pump every two hours and having baby suck often. Now, these two already conflict.

A baby formula-fed would be too full to want to suck her mom’s breast, having a knock-on effect on her mom’s milk supply.  Hence, the meagre milk coming out from the pump with the pressure of keeping her baby fed and well, would be enough reason to discourage a new mom. Yet, I thought back to my goal, thought of the zillion benefits of breastmilk such as the incomparable antibodies and all the needed nutrients for a healthy development and lifetime of good health, and with good support from my mom and family, I fought on to 5 years now.

For a mom, she’ll constantly face with such conflicting beliefs, ideas, and suggestions about breastfeeding. Some of the beliefs I faced called for many trials and errors, personal will and research, and lots and lots of support from family and friends. To ‘empower parents, enable breastfeeding’, the following are some beliefs (misbeliefs) I’d like to point you – readers, moms, dads—to. While others have their own personal journeys and would need to consult their doctors, these are some lessons I learned from my own experience. 

Belief 1 – the little milk is not enough for my baby. Newborns are born with a stomach the size of a cherry, holding only 0.10.2 oz of milk then gradually increasing to 1.5-2 oz  (apricot size) on day 7 and up to 2.5 to 5oz (large size egg) in the first month. So, why worry about feeding 2 oz of formula every two hours. I was one of them.

Fortunately, with lots of reading, support from mom, and doctor consultation I overcame this. I learned first-hand to stop formula and replace it with lots of sucking and pumping. The more the baby sucks, the more milk will be produced.

Belief 2 – the nutrition in breastmilk winds down after six months. I had a surprised and half terrified doctor-friend questioning me as to why I was still breastfeeding my back then 3-year old daughter when all this should have been shut down earlier because breastmilk was of no use after six months. This belief did not only come from one person I encountered, but from many people from all walks of life. There are research out there that indicates breastmilk is produced with nutrition that is adapted for the children’s age, event at age 1 or 10.

Belief 3 – breastfeeding is a mom’s sacrifice. A mom’s will and sacrifice alone to breastfeed is not enough. It calls for the understanding and help from all family members. In Lao culture, new moms go through ‘yuu kam’, a process believed to heal and keep moms healthy and is still commonly practiced. ‘Yuu kam’ already keeps family members busy. But to help moms boost her milk supply by giving her the emotional support and comfort, helping with the baby to allow the mom to rest worry-free, and preparing the appropriate food as opposed to the common belief of restricting to some food only—all are important. I was lucky to have a strong support from my family.

Belief 4 – Breastfed babies are too attached to moms, cannot fully sleep at night, and can’t self-sooth. All these depend on numerous factors and cannot be attributed to breastfeeding alone. Plus, I wouldn’t forego breastfeeding for the natural fact that babies are attached to their moms, wake up to nurse here and then at night, and need the breast to sooth them from all the new and exciting things they face coming out from their mom’s wombs. Through breastfeeding, I’ve had no horrors on long plane rides; got all the needed rest while sleeping and breastfeeding; and no regrets of the special bonds I share with my daughter thus far. Again, breastfeeding is a personal choice. It’s a different call for each and every mom.

Belief 5 – moms nursing in public spaces have no shame in the world. Moms are human, but more than that, she needs to feed her crying baby here and now. So, why would such a natural thing as nursing moms need to feed her baby in the toilet (which houses so many germs and bacteria) and feel shameful, while smoking areas are allocated for smokers? I was lucky to have strong support network—from family, friends, colleagues to employer—and relying on my own cemented face. Yet, this should be a food for thoughts for people, employers, policymakers, and society. Some countries are already ahead in promoting enabling policies for breastfeeding in the public and at work.

Choosing to breastfeed or not is a personal choice. Yet, we can all create an enabling environment and empower moms to breastfeed their child. Hospitals and related sectors can give the correct information on breastfeeding, its many benefits, and the right ways and tools. Family members can provide their full support. Society, be understanding. Enabling policies and measures can empower women to breastfeed in public spaces, at work, and progress in their career. All of us have a role to ‘Enable parents, enable breastfeeding’. 

written by Souridahak Sakonhninhom.

KPL