Saturday, October 23, 2010

How to Win Over Breastfeeding Challenges

I have just achieved my personal goal of successfully breastfeeding my son during his first two years of life around a week ago and I have also successfully weaned him the day after he turned two years old. I feel so good and grateful to God for enabling me to win over my many challenges in the past two years. This is a big milestone in my life as a mom. I initially thought and felt that it was a daunting goal to breastfeed for two straight years. I’m glad I persisted for the rewards are indeed countless and precious. That is why I’ve decided to write this article. I’d like to share with other moms – pregnant, first-time-moms, moms for the nth time, breastfeeding moms – my experience of how I won over breastfeeding challenges in the past two years. I’d like to encourage you all and exhort you to keep on so you too can achieve your goal of giving your babies the best milk they can ever have in their lifetime and ensure that your babies get a head start in so many ways.

Let me begin by saying that winning over your breastfeeding challenges begins in winning over them in your mind and in your heart. Before you can successfully breastfeed with your body, you need to win in your inner battles first.

First, you need to be completely convinced of the benefits breastfeeding will bring to your child and to yourself. You need to convince yourself first before you can successfully command your body to produce milk. If there is any doubt in your mind that you can supply the milk that your baby needs, your body will sense it. But if you are fully convinced that you will produce milk and that you would be able to achieve this goal, you can definitely pull through with it by God’s grace. When you are fully convinced of its benefits, you will be strong enough to endure ALL the hardships and challenges that will come your way in your breastfeeding journey. You only need to call these benefits to mind and you will have renewed strength and will power to go on. You need to be your own champion so you can rally the people around you (especially your spouse) to support you in your goal to breastfeed your child.

I could say this with confidence and conviction now because I have experienced this personally. When I read literature about breastfeeding and its benefits while I was still pregnant, I made it one of my goals as a mother to breastfeed my son for at least a year. After successfully achieving that goal on my son’s first birthday, I reviewed its benefits and decided to extend it for one more year. I was so convinced of its benefits. Actually, it was easier to make the decision to extend one more year because by then I was already reaping the rewards. And I wanted to reap more. When we were just starting, I did not make it one of our options. It was the only way to go. I was resolute in achieving my goal.

Second, you need to strongly desire to breastfeed your child. If you are half-hearted, chances are you would easily give up when challenges come your way. And there are innumerable challenges you can encounter. So if the desire to breastfeed your baby has not yet won in your heart, your win physically would be unsure. You may be able to breastfeed for a short time but it will not enable you to breastfeed long term. My knowledge of the benefits of breastfeeding to me and to my baby fuelled my passion to breastfeed my baby for a long period. I did not only desire it. I desired it passionately, fiercely. My strong desire for it enabled me to overcome ALL the obstacles my son and I encountered along the way. All the challenges we faced were blurred because my eyes were so focused on my goal and its rewards.

Once you win in these inner battles, it will be much easier to win physically.

Here are some more tips I’d like to share that can help you breastfeed successfully.

1. Be Disciplined. – Breastfeeding entails a lot of discipline on the part of the mother. The mother needs to eat healthy foods so that she can provide good nutrition to her baby. She needs to be vigilant in ensuring that she eats right and that she avoids the food that would be bad for her child because whatever she takes in can be ingested also by her baby through her breast milk. And discipline is something you build over time. You can’t be disciplined today and not tomorrow. There are consequences and these could be costly. It can cost your baby’s health. There were countless times when my discipline was tested in the past two years. What enabled me to win over my challenges and temptations was constantly reminding myself of the possible consequences of my indiscipline to my baby. That was enough for me to resist unhealthy food/drinks or food/drinks that should be avoided. Examples of which are coffee, tea and soft drinks/soda, alcoholic drinks, nuts, peanut butter, shrimp paste (bagoong), seafood or fish with high toxicity and mercury content, and food that cause gas among others.

2. Be Willing to Make Sacrifices. – I believe that making sacrifices for your child is an integral part of motherhood. Embracing that concept or principle was easy. Living that out was the difficult part. Again, what made it easier for me to make the sacrifice was the knowledge that I’m sacrificing for a greater purpose. For example, I stopped taking my medicines for my pimples since I got pregnant and while breastfeeding. It was a big sacrifice because that meant enduring skin breakouts for two long years. I was told by the dermatologist that I can only start taking my medications again when I’m no longer breastfeeding my child. But I loved my baby more than my vanity and outside beauty. I focused on the truth instead that I’m growing more beautiful in the inside because I’m learning more and more to choose others over myself. In short, the sacrifice isn’t that bad because not only does it bring good to my baby, it also helps me to grow in character. Now, that my baby has been weaned from the breast, I’m excited to see the dermatologist again! I can be beautiful inside and out again. Hurray!

3. Always Have a Positive Attitude/Mindset. – There are many people and circumstances or things that can discourage you while taking on this challenge of breastfeeding your baby. Don’t let yourself be discouraged. Don’t let them get into you and stop you from achieving a noble goal. Choose to be positive at all times even when everything around you says otherwise. Like what Stephen Covey says, “Carry your own weather.” Be positive. Feed your mind with encouraging thoughts and a mental picture of you happily and successfully breastfeeding your baby. Surround yourself with people who support you and build up your positive disposition and your commitment to breastfeed your child. Win over your thoughts by filtering negative thoughts and nipping unhelpful thoughts in the bud. Your attitude will greatly determine your long term success in breastfeeding your child. If you feel good about what you are doing, chances are you will keep doing it. So find joy in breastfeeding your child even when your nipples are cracked or bleeding or your breasts are engorged with milk. Remember that there is reason for rejoicing even in the most painful moments.

4. Be Persistent. – Last but not the least is persistence. Just keep at it. Whether you feel like doing it or not. Keep on keeping on. That’s how you build discipline. That’s how you build character. That’s how you achieve small successes which will eventually become a big success that will earn you and your baby big rewards. When you make mistakes and when you suffer setbacks, persist. When you see/feel that your milk supply is running low, persist. Just keep on bringing your baby to your breast. Pumping can also help a lot to increase your milk supply. Eat food which help increase milk production like malunggay leaves. Just keep on adding something to that fire within so that it does not completely goes out. Every little thing you do to persist will bring you forward. I remember when I was just starting. There were a number of times when my son was not able to latch correctly. This caused my nipples to crack and bleed. There were times when I cried while breastfeeding my baby. It was really very painful. My husband asked me several times if we would give our baby the bottle, but I said NO. I chose to be persistent and endured the pain because Yanthy was only a few weeks old. I wanted him to get used to my breast before being introduced to a bottle. Then, I discovered silicon nipple shields through a friend. I chose to use them while my nipples were hurting so that I can continue breastfeeding with lesser pain. Those nipple shields helped me survive. They helped a lot. But what helped me the most was my resolve to persist. I am most thankful to God for the grace for I believe that without His grace I would not be able to persist for a long time and achieve my goal.

So there, I hope I have helped other moms out there with this sharing. Let me end by saying: Have faith in God and have faith in yourself. We, mothers, are wonderfully made by God. He created us in a very unique way. Let’s use our unique gift to nourish and bless our children!

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