Breastfeeding. Most men in general, myself included, don't care about it since we literally don't know how to breastfeed. As far as we are concerned, breastfeeding is a woman's job. Is it really?
A lot of our friends know that my wife and I really encourage breastfeeding.
My wife started her breastfeeding advocacy back in 2012 when we were still dating. Back then, I didn’t care much about breastfeeding. Most men in general don’t care about it since we literally don’t know how to breastfeed. As far as we are concerned, breastfeeding is a woman’s job.
Raissa would always get excited about upcoming trainings, seminars, conventions, even webinars (online seminars) that would last for days. I would always get nervous about the costs of the trainings. Raissa would often say that there is very little money in this type of advocacy. What? No ROI? The thoughts in my head would usually be, “how much do you need to know about breastfeeding anyway?”, “do you really need to spend hundreds of hours learning how to breastfeed?”. I mean, it shouldn’t be that complicated. Right?
I could tell back then that Raissa was really into it and conversations like, “Langga, did you know that breastmilk can…” would be unavoidable, especially when stuck in traffic. Needless to say, she eventually convinced me on how important breastfeeding really is. Back then, she would usually have 90% of my support when it came to trainings because the 10% of me would always be thinking about the ROI. The more I learned about its importance, the more I encouraged Raissa to take the trainings without thinking about the ROI. There would be times that I would tell her to go to Starbucks so she can finish her webinars (our internet connection back in our apartment was non-existent).
As she continued with her trainings, she started doing breastfeeding counseling and giving talks combined with prenatal or postnatal yoga. Eventually, we started holding our own two-day seminars partnered with Onelife Studio where we used to teach yoga. Since it was really a small production, it would just be Raissa and I coming up with the content and a handful of people to help organize the whole thing. We also invited resource persons from breastfeeding groups like LATCH to share their expertise and on one occasion, Make Up Doc did belly painting for our pregnant participants. I would usually help read through all the materials, listen to the lectures while taking photos, answer some questions when I could. Needless to say, I became an advocate of breastfeeding as well.
Nothing will beat nature in making milk for our children; the most expensive formula milk will not even come close. That is why there is always a disclaimer “breastmilk is still best for babies” on every advertisement, on every can of formula milk. Often times, Raissa gets asked, “what if I don’t have milk?”, “what if I can’t produce enough milk?”, and the context of her reply would always remain the same: to every breastfeeding problem, there is always a solution.
milk4tinyhumans sums up a lot of things that make breastmilk the best for babies.
Our “expertise”, however, was more on the “theoretical” side of it. Though Raissa had a lot of hands-on experience since she does actual breastfeeding consults in her clinic, the closest she came to breastfeeding a real baby was during a lactation training where she was encouraged to let a baby latch on to her. Expressed breastmilk was slowly poured from the top of the breast and was allowed to trickle all the way down to the suckling mouth of the baby to simulate actual breastfeeding. I, on the other hand, am only equipped with third-hand knowledge and Youtube. No hands-on experience whatsoever.
Fast forward to January of this year (2017) when our baby was born, I was very confident coming in to this breastfeeding game. Because of our combined knowledge and experiences, it’s like having a cheat code in a game that you are already an expert in. What could go wrong?
Well, almost everything went wrong.
Our first day in the hospital was okay. Raissa just started breastfeeding so it was understandable that her nipples were a little sore. There was very little milk, also understandable because baby’s stomach is just the size of a cherry. Law of supply and demand, if baby requires little milk, the mommy will only produce just enough for the baby. As long as you see poop or pee, you know that the baby is getting something.
When we came home, breastfeeding became more difficult for Raissa. The sore nipples became open wounds and latching became very painful. To the point that Raissa would begin to cry even before Tala (our little girl) latches. Even the most encouraging words said in the perfect tone designed to win a tournament would do no good. Sometimes I would see that the baby is positioned incorrectly but I was not confident enough to reposition her because Raissa, being the “expert”, seemed to think they were both in the correct position.
This is when we realized, we were back at square one.
We did not know what to do. We almost considered using a feeding bottle to feed the baby because of the pain. Knowledge does not equal power because we were very powerless at this point in time.
For every breastfeeding problem, there is always a solution.
At this point, most people would start contacting friends, relatives, Google, maybe even ask Siri for help. Raissa told me then that now she truly understands why some mothers would give up on breastfeeding.
Thank God for the breastfeeding community that we have. Yes, we have a few of those here in the Philippines. We even have a big community here in Mindanao. They call themselves the Modern Nanays of Mindanao (MNM), of which Raissa is also a part of.
She contacted Nadine Betonio and Nadine Casiño, both of them her friends from MNM. True enough, there is always a solution! After just one visit from Nadine, a slight adjustment here, move the head here, position the arm here, Raissa suddenly went from crying to smiling while baby was latching and feeding.
Over the next several days, Raissa has truly become an expert (but she refuses to call herself that), maneuvering Tala from left to right, switching from one breast to the other. And every day, she gets better and better at breastfeeding. Not just her, but our baby as well.
Where do I fit into all these?
I mentioned earlier that breastfeeding is woman’s job. This has not changed one bit. It is up to me though to make it harder or easier for Raissa. Of course, I chose the latter.
To all husbands, soon-to-be fathers, fathers, men, if you are reading this article, I would like to share with you that it is our job to make breastfeeding easier for our wives. It is our job to provide that stress free environment and let our wives focus on only one thing in the early weeks after giving birth: breastfeeding our babies. It is our job to be the third, fourth, fifth and sixth hands of our wives.
Me, sorting and preparing the accumulated breastmilk for proper storage and freezing.
Some might think that it is easy for me to say all these things because I don’t have a 9-5 job. Yes, I am fortunate enough to handle my own time, but just like every other working parent out there, I too, try my best to provide for my family. I teach an average of 2-6 classes per day. Every morning I wake up between 5-6 AM (depending on what time my classes start) to walk our dogs and every night I sleep late so I can walk our dogs again. In between, I try to manage this website and still in between, I work for a logo design firm TeamGraphika.
And like every new father out there, I am also very tired. How do I cope? By praying.
We believe in the power of prayer. We, as a family, ask God for guidance in everything that we do. We do our best everyday and the things we could not do we uplift to Him and let Him handle the things beyond our control. Some might say that it’s just hard work paying off, true. But I am not really working that hard. I just do my best and let God do the heavy lifting for me.
Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Almost every parent-couple that we meet say that it gets easier. True enough, it gets easier! Raissa can now do more. She’s managed to add those other four hands to herself to assist her without my help. I can focus on other things like writing this article or filling my phone with cute baby pictures and videos. And yes, she is producing more and more milk daily for our little Talitha.