Breastfeeding, as most of us already know, is best for babies and their mothers -- but it can be challenging for many women, especially those who work fulltime outside the home. However, “challenging” does not equate to “impossible.”
The truth is, you can make breastfeeding work while working fulltime. You and your child can reap the benefits of breastfeeding even if you have a busy career, which is why the theme for National Breastfeeding Awareness Month this year is “TSEk (Tama, Sapat at Eksklusibo) Ang Pagpapasuso Kahit Nasa Trabaho.”
To reinforce this theme, and to encourage all working mothers out there to make breastfeeding work even while at work, here is the story of inspiring mom Lia Mañalac del Castillo.
A working breastfeeding mom Lia is a senior correspondent for GMA News but despite her hectic schedule, she has been breastfeeding her daughter, Clara Ysabel or Aiyah for short, for almost 7 months now.
“I'm a field reporter for GMA News and I cover news events every day,” Lia shares. “My working schedule usually begins at 5 a.m. and I'm out of the house usually between 8 to 10 hours. When I started expressing milk at work, I was confined to covering the Justice and Judiciary beats where I had the comfort of staying in a press office.
“But ever since I was assigned to breaking/ general assignments starting last July, I've found myself pumping everywhere – literally! From pumping on the road to work, in between interviews, while covering a press conference or interviewing a subject, even while having my makeup done, in between live reports and doing news bulletins as an anchor.”
Doing her best to give the best to her baby Lia shares how she manages to give Aiyah her “liquid gold” even when she is away from home. “Because of the long hours away from Aiyah, I pump regularly, i.e. every 2 hours. No matter where I am, I do this religiously so I can imitate my daughter's frequency of feeding and to help keep my supply up,” she expounds. “My pumping bag, as I call it, is one thing that I never leave without; I always bring it with me even when covering events.”
“I used to leave 8 bottles of breastmilk for her in 3-ounce bottles and she would consume around 4 to 5 bottles (12 to 15 ounces) in a span of 8 to 10 hours,” Lia continues. “Now that she's eating solids, she would consume 3 bottles of 4 ounces each, or around 12 ounces in a span of 8 hours.
“I strictly follow the 1 to 1.5 ounce per hour rule to make sure our yaya is not overfeeding Aiyah. The milk is given every 3 hours, to be able to follow the said rule.”
Lia’s perseverance and consistency in sticking to her routine and “rules” has paid off – Aiyah is turning 7 months old on August 15 and has never been given any other milk besides breastmilk.
The challenges of breastfeeding while on the job Lia’s journey, like most “success stories,” has not been without its share of ups and downs, triumphs and challenges.
“The physical challenge of having to pump anywhere is very real for me,” Lia divulges. “So what I do before I start covering events, I spend 15 minutes pumping milk on the road to my first coverage for the day. I usually do it inside my crew cab and with the very limited space I have, it's quite a skill to master preparing everything and making sure I don't spill any milk while we move on the road.”
“The next thing I think about every day is where to do my succeeding pumping sessions, given the reality that I really move around.”
Lia recalls a few memorable milk-expressing instances during her breastfeeding journey: “I began expressing milk while waiting for a coverage to start inside a city hall, and asked the staff to allow me to use her office for a while.
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“I've also expressed my milk while covering a press con – earning me quizzical looks from those sitting with me at the table, unaware of what I might be doing under the cover. I've also expressed milk while covering the DOJ secretary give her speech – I secluded myself in one area of the event hall and pumped away! Recently, I also expressed milk while covering an event and interviewing people.”
“The most challenging thing I've done so far was to pump inside my crew cab during the coverage of a typhoon – it was so challenging because I would be wet from all the rain and had to ensure I was able to express on the dot every 2 hours, and keep my milk clean and cool.”
Dealing with breastfeeding challenges:“Whatever works” As a mother committed to breastfeeding her child, Lia did – and still does – everything she can to overcome the challenges she faces. She also knows that every breastfeeding mother’s journey is unique, and encourages moms to do “whatever works for you.”
“Before I went back to work, I just hand expressed my milk,” Lia shares. “I watched a video of it on YouTube and followed the instructions. It's easy to collect milk when you've been doing it for quite some time. I also think hand expression fully drains the breast.”
“Pumping, on the other hand,” she continues, “is very convenient and makes work easier for working mothers. Couple it with a hands-free bra and you’ve got super success! Pumping also cuts shorter the expression time.”
Because Lia believes in the efficiency and effectiveness of both pumping and hand expressing milk, she does both now, to make sure “na simot ang milk.”
Beyond the physical obstacles The physical challenges of expressing breastmilk aren’t the only “hurdles” Lia has to face, though. “I also feel that one of the major humps on the road of my breastfeeding journey is the fear of nipple confusion and dip in supply,” she confesses.
“Luckily, during this entire time that my daughter has been bottle fed with my breastmilk, she has never had any nipple confusion. She always directly feeds from me as soon as I come home from work. Unlilatching whenever I'm home has also helped me overcome the threat of losing my supply.”
Lia admits that she and Aiyah’s yaya actually tried cup feeding but Aiyah would always spill the milk. “I was scared she might not be able to drink well if she keeps on spilling it,” she shares. “Since I leave her with a yaya, sayang yung milk if the yaya also doesn't know how to cup feed.”
Given that, though, Lia says she is still willing to try cup feeding. “I guess it might be easier now since Aiyah is bigger,” she says.
There have also been times when Lia would really be unable to store enough milk for Aiyah to consume on the following day. “I had to absent myself from work so I could directly feed her instead,” she discloses.
This shows how truly committed Lia is to breastfeeding her daughter. “I would do everything to keep my supply up – unlilatch, lactation massage, eat/ drink lactation goodies, pump more regularly, and stay away from stress.”
It takes a village to breastfeed a child Breastfeeding, like most everything that is related to parenting, is certainly made easier when done with the support of others. Lia can attest to this.
“My breastfeeding journey wouldn't be successful if I did not have a supportive husband. He never discouraged me from continuing the journey, even if he himself knows it would be quite difficult and really challenging for me to express milk given the work I do,” she proudly declares. “He would cheer me on when my supply would slightly dip, and always told me I'm doing a good job.”
“I also have breastfeeding heroes in Michelle Nepomuceno-Chu, Beng Feliciano and Maricel Cua," and the people in her circle at work. And although Lia’s mother was unable to breastfeed her, she still encouraged her from the start to do it for Aiyah for as long as she can. “Thank you, Mommy,” Lia gratefully proclaims.
“And of course my daughter Aiyah – she's been a great partner in this journey. Despite being lip-tied, she tried her very best to feed from me,” Lia says. “Now, she feeds so well as if she wasn't the lip-tied baby who struggled so hard at the start.
“You know, on our third day of breastfeeding, I already had bleeding and cracked nipples because of her wrong latch, but I still breastfed her, complemented by breastmilk donations from my sister-in-law,” she continues. “Aiyah has been very patient with her very impatient newbie mom, and her smiles are all I ever need to go on a little further.”
Tips for fellow working breastfeeding moms While admitting that she is no breastfeeding expert, Lia wants to encourage other working moms to persevere in providing their breastmilk to their children, and shares the following tips:
1. Attend breastfeeding seminars/courses and read books on breastfeeding “I equipped myself with the knowledge I got from breastfeeding classes and books early on,” Lia shares. “I actually learned about cup feeding at a class given by The Breastfeeding Club founder and PGH-certified lactation counselor Abbie Venida-Yabot.”
“Dr. Jack Newman's Guide to Breastfeeding is a good book,” she continues. “I gave it to my friend who recently gave birth and it made her a convert! She didn't want to breastfeed but after she read the book, she persevered in breastfeeding.”
2. Take care of yourself. “Eat well, drink water, rest and stay away from stress!” Lia emphasizes.
3. Equip yourself if you can afford to do so. “Find and get the best pump,” Lia advises. “It’s also very important to get a hands-free pumping bra if you're using a double electric pump, so the work will be easy. Hand express after pumping.”
4. Stick to a routine. “Remember to make time and express milk every 2-3 hours, to keep your supply up,” Lia shares from experience.
5. Don’t give up. “Remember that you can do what you set your mind to, and never give up easily if you haven't tried everything you can,” encourages Lia.
Last, but certainly not the least:
6. Believe that you are the best mom for your child, no matter what. “Breastmilk is the best thing you can give your child, so try to breastfeed as much as you can,” Lia says. “But if for some reason, you really can't keep at it, never feel bad. You will not be less of a mom for it. In fact, I also have friends who exclusively breastpump, and don’t direct feed. There really should be no judgements because we all have our own journeys.”
Parenthood by itself already has its own set of challenges and obstacles, so let us do what we can to help and support our fellow parents, especially breastfeeding moms everywhere. As World Breastfeeding Week 2015’s theme goes, “Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s Make It Work!”
Are you a working mother who needs encouragement and inspiration to breastfeed, or know someone who does? Share this article and help spread the breastfeeding love!