Last July 4, this photo of my little preemie going home after his 111-day stay in Neonatal-ICU (NICU) appeared in my Facebook memory,
Memories of his journey home flashed back at me. It is amazing how 5 years flew by so quickly.
Nothing about my whole birthing experience with Little H can be called conventional, even when it comes to feeding. When he was born 14 weeks before his due date, none of us were prepared. Even my body was not prepared. Two days after giving birth, I had to produce at least half an ounce of milk so they have something to feed my son for the day. However, I was not producing any, not even my colostrum is coming out. I was worried, stressed and anxious. I was desperate for milk. It was an answered prayer when my son’s neonatologist helped by giving me a massage similar to what lactation consultants do, and in a matter of minutes, my milk started to flow, not so much yet but just enough. I literally cried buckets when we delivered his first milk to NICU.
Just like most people, my general knowledge of breastfeeding is that it is very beneficial for babies as it contains antibodies and nutrients that no formula milk can imitate. I also knew that it is the ultimate bonding moment for a mother and her baby. Now that I’m also breastfeeding, there’s one major thing that I realized; BREASTFEEDING IS NOT EASY. Breastfeeding is manifestation of a mother’s unconditional love for her baby. And with that I have gained a whole new respect for breastfeeding moms.
It took me 4 years of being a mom to realize that. I did not breastfeed my firstborn son because I did not have sufficient breast milk. But with my second son who was born 3 months earlier than his due date, I have to breastfeed because his small tummy can not take in milk formula. Since he is still in the incubator, I express my milk at home and bring it to hospital. The usual frequency of feeding newborns is every 3 hours and that is also what I follow in expressing my milk (except when I sleep at night). That level of frequency means my activities are limited. This afternoon was my first time to go to the mall and I’m literally rushing to go home because I’m late for my milk expressing schedule. I can just imagine how demanding it is when baby is at home and is already latching at mom’s breast. Not only is mom’s activities limited, but so is her sleeping hours as newborns are mostly awake at night. And how about working moms who express milk at work and latches baby at home? Talk about ultimate dedication!
A mom also sacrifices convenience. Breastfeeding can be painful. Breasts hurt when it is full and not expressed; and breasts hurt when being expressed and sucked by the baby. So either way, it can be painful. Also, milk not expressed leaks. Imagine the scenario if mom is out for an errand or in a meeting and milk leaks? You got the picture I guess.
These realizations put me in awe at breastfeeding moms, more so for those who did it for a year or more. Breastfeeding entails a lot of love, patience, sacrifice and dedication. A mother sacrifices time, sleep and convenience to feed her baby. Breast milk is a product of a mother’s unconditional love to her baby. I never knew that until now. So to all breastfeeding moms, a big salute to all of you!