Milk Mama Diaries: Breastfeeding and Beyond
I was not breastfed. My mother had me via C-section and had to be kept in the maternity hospital for a full month due to infections. There I received formula: a cow’s milk-based one that caused angry red rashes wherever it touched my skin. But I can tell you with a straight face that this had absolutely nothing to do with my decision to breastfeed.
The truth is, I’m unsure of how I developed the idea that breastfeeding is the most natural thing for mothers to do. Like breathing. Like blinking. Breastfeeding and formula feeding both always seemed completely normal to me, but eventually, I decided that formulas are the back up plan. Breastfeeding is the ideal plan.
Now that I’m a mom I realise that the ability to breastfeed an infant is quite possibly the most important life hack nature provided.
My closest friends know that my idea of being a wife and mother is heavily based on the whole 50s concept of perfection. Modernized, of course, to include my having a career besides being a wife and mother. And this is where I began.
I could have stressed myself out over the amount of information I suddenly felt I had to consider. Bottles, pumps, bags, storage…it was a lot to take in. I will always unabashedly credit Jenny Ong of Chronicles of a Nursing Mom for easing me through all the bits and pieces of new knowledge, but my son (and any future children) has his Auntie Tatiana to thank for giving me the most unusually encouraging words I heard prior to giving birth:
It is a very empowering feeling, succeeding in a goal I set for myself. Even more powerful than this check mark on my list is that I’ve witnessed how well the milk I am providing has shielded my son from a wide variety of viral attacks my family has gone through in the past year and a half. In fact, when my son finally succumbed to a bout with the cold virus, he recovered in two days—after which, he transferred the virus to my mom who had to suffer through the viral attack for two weeks. I have to say that seeing this happen has made me feel like a superhero.
Self-image improved? Definitely a yes! I may not be too proud of the state of my physical fitness—I’ve lost and regained the 20 odd pounds I put on during pregnancy—but it is a matter of pride for me that I am able to do this for my baby. And yes, despite the prudery involved in seeing a naked breast, this sense of accomplishment has since led me to unabashedly nurse my son with or without a cover anytime, anywhere.
This has also led me to consider myself among the lucky ones who did not have to go through the horrors of searching for the perfect combination of formula, bottle, and nipple. Oh the horror stories friends who formula-fed shared with me!
See, economy isn’t just about money spent, in my opinion. It’s also about the time spent doing what needs to be done. Before giving birth, here’s how I imagined formula feeding my baby would be like:
The final point of consideration is one that occurred to me only after I began breastfeeding. It seems to me such a strange and solemn way to end this thought train but ultimately, it’s the one that I feel has the greatest impact of all.
A trip to the grocery store says it all: boxes and cans of various sizes filled with foil-packed formula. But I’m not really thinking of the damage producing such packaging does to the environment.
That formula that very likely started out in a test tube in some laboratory after being extracted from a nursing mother, one with four legs, and heated, given additives, refined, and very likely, tested on another four-legged animal, maybe a rat. Taking just one sample, at least two other lives that were disrupted just so we can have better formulas to feed human children.
I am fully aware that not all mothers are as fortunate as I am that I am able to breastfeed my child. But there was once a time when human milk was given to human children (in ancient tribes, mothers who could not produce their own milk were kindly helped out by mothers who could) and animal milk stayed within same species circles. How strange that we have this concept of a “global community” when we’ve lost such a basic sense of a what a community started out as: a group of people helping and supporting each other?
I’ve seen this happen in the breastfeeding community I am part of online. Mothers having trouble with their supply have reached out to other mothers for help and it was quickly given. In a way, beyond the idea that breastfeeding is a zero-waste source of food, I’ve since learned that breastfeeding might eventually become a way for us to reconnect with each other as people.
Here’s what other moms say about their breastfeeding experience and how it relates to the millennium development goals:
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