Thursday, 14 May 2020 07:51

The importance of breastfeeding: Lessons from a teenage mother

Written by John David O. Moncada
(Note: This is an opinion piece by John David O. Moncada, a Graduate School student from the University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines.)
Being a teenage mother who still chose to attend school as a senior high student, one of the things that Kristina, 19, is thankful for is the due consideration given to her. Her class schedule was made flexible. She was even allowed to bring her baby to school so she can breastfeed her.
From the comment she wrote on the looking-for post I made on one of the Facebook groups related to Barangay Bugo, to the manner she speaks during the interview – that is, with conviction – it felt that Kristina is a staunch advocate for breastfeeding.
Dugay ra g’yud kaayo nako gusto e-share akong breastfeeding journey kay daghan man gud ko’g friends nga teenage moms. (I’ve long been wanting to share my breastfeeding journey especially to my friends who are also teenage moms.)” When I asked her what she knows about the importance of breastfeeding, right away, she enumerated three – following the rule-of-three strategy, if my memory serves me right, a lesson in oral communication.
“First,” she started, “grabe siya ka nutritious (It is very nutritious).”
It is. Credible sources say that breastmilk contains proteins, fats, vitamins, and lactose. All of these are important for the health and development of the baby.
“In this pandemic,” Nadine Casiño, brainchild of Modern Nanays of Mindanao that advocates for breastfeeding and who Kristina has met in Alima Mother Support Center said, “Breastfeeding is very important because breastmilk is the only food that can create active antibodies against viruses and bacteria. It is the most secure food commodity for infants.” It does not just protect the baby from COVID-19 but from diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea as well.
The emotional state of wellbeing and the diet of mothers may have been affected because of the pandemic, but the truth is, the quality of the breastmilk remains the same, Nadine revealed. She added, “You do not need perfect food to make perfect milk.”
Ikaduha, (Second),” Kristina continued, “accessible siya (it is accessible).”
She finds breastfeeding easier compared to when she prepares formula milk. In doing the latter, she doubts: “Wala pa kay sure kung safe ba na ang water nga imong gigamit (the water you use may not be safe to use).”
Although, Kristina shared to me that she struggled during the first three days after she gave birth. She did not have breast milk. Her prolactin and oxytocin hormones may have not been properly stimulated at that time. Luckily, she has support which is important in this journey. Her aunt and cousin were there to breastfeed her baby, with Kristina’s consent, in lieu of her. Eventually, days after, she was able to produce milk.
Tapos dayonang third is kuan (Third is)… mas ma-bond mo ug ayo sa imong baby (it strengthens the bond between a mother and child).”
She recalled that her friends would envy her saying, “maayo pa mo sa imo baby, close kaayo mo bakami sa akong baby, dili (good for you that you’re close with your baby; my baby and I aren’t).” Kristina attributes this bond to the close physical contact she and her child has during breastfeeding.
Kristina revealed that she and her three siblings were formula-milk babies. But this is just because her mother has a physiological problem with her breasts. Growing up, Kristina felt that she is not close relationally with her mother. But now, her mother encourages her to breastfeed her baby so that, she seems to imply, history will not repeat itself.
It has been the practice of the barangay health center in Bugo to promote exclusive breastfeeding for babies until they are six-month old to every pregnant women and lactating mothers who pay a visit to the center. Kenn L Cabunoc, Nurse III, head of the center, assured this, citing Executive Order 51 or simply known as the Milk Code.
The center explains how economically advantageous breastfeeding is and how easier to digest breastmilk is. More importantly, Cabunoc added something that Kristina said as well, breastfeeding develops bonding between the mother and her child.
Safety is of utmost importance during this time that is why Cabunoc reminded lactating mothers to observe personal hygiene always. This includes wearing of mask, cleaning of the nipples, and washing of hands with soap and water for thirty seconds. Although, “there is no evidence yet of transmission through breastfeeding,” Dr. Anna Lisa Ong-Lim, chief of the Infection and Tropical Disease department of the Philippine General Hospital and President of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines was quoted in an online news report last week.
Recalling her past, Kristina said, “Feel biya nako na bad influence ko (I feel that I’m a bad influence).” I felt her remorse. She held her baby’s stroller and said, “Pero so far, so good kay na fix na nako akong self tungod ra pod sa iyaha (but so far, so good; I’ve fixed myself because of my baby),” Katrina glanced to her one-year old little princess, Athena Catriona, and continued to say, “Siya ra pod ang inspiration nako (she is my inspiration).”
Her baby’s second name reminds me of the term silver lining. Kristina, who wants to be a flight stewardess, has been through a gloomy experience but every cloud, it has been said, has a silver lining. The consoling part of Kristina’s experience are the life lessons of being a teenage mother underlying the lessons in breastfeeding that she can share to her peers. They are worth listening to.
Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD. (n.d.). What is colostrum? Nutrition, benefits, and downsides. Healthline.
Beyond numbers: what the flattening curve really means; Protecting children in the time of COVID-19. (n.d.). Welcome to Department of Health website | Department of Health website.
(n.d.). world breastfeeding week 2020 | Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet!