The lessons I have learned from 15 years of breastfeeding and beyond

Five kids, three generations apart with different breastfeeding scenarios, have taught me that breastfeeding is possible in every situation.

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Breastfeeding is best for babies from two years old and beyond.

Five kids, three generations apart with different breastfeeding scenarios, have taught me that breastfeeding is possible in every situation. This, coupled with over a decade of giving support to thousands of moms, personally, over phone, video calls or text messages, much more strengthened my advocacy in breastfeeding.

The kids: 24, 22, 14, 11 & 2.

My first was born in 1993 when no milk code was in place yet. It was standard for babies to receive glucose water from the bottle for the first few days. In fact, the advice then was to continue it at home every two to three feeds using hotcake syrup.

The 15 important lessons I have learned from being an extended breastfeeding mom

image courtesy: Abbie Yabot

Lesson 1: Only breastmilk for baby’s first 6 months.

Oh if only I could turn back time… Barely twenty years old, I needed to go back to university in three weeks. I pumped every 2 to 3 hours sometimes with my classmates as audience (everybody was so amazed by it! ) and gave it to my baby the next day.

What I didn’t know back then was that I could keep breastmilk much much longer (up to 7 days in the ref and 2 months in the freezer) so when my milk slowed down, I didn’t know any better but to start mixing and this led to that inevitable spiral of losing my supply.

Lesson 2: You can continue breastfeeding even if you return to work (or studying) full time.

In 1995 when I gave birth, the milk code had just been implemented. So my baby was immediately roomed in and bottles were banned. Being a second-time mom, I thought I knew better (with wrong information on glucose water thinking milk only came in on the third day).

Lesson 3: Moms have milk from birth. There was no breastfeeding support, just a few posters in the hospital.

We had to keep the temperature in the room warm to keep baby warm (oh this could have been addressed by attachment parenting and frequent nursing). Sometime during his third month, rashes started developing all over his body and was diagnosed as an allergy.

I continued to breastfeed trying to eliminate the foods I was allergic to (the usual dairy, seafood, nuts, etc.) but alas, even if I physically took them off of my plate, we still got a reaction.

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Lesson 4: It is better to continue breastfeeding (with caution to what baby is allergic to) so their chances of contracting the same allergies are much less.

What I missed then was that when you cook a dish with the allergen, even if you take it out before eating, it had already been infused in the dish, hence the allergies.

I should have just been more wary of what ingredients went to my food during the cooking process.

This was my shortest breastfeeding experience among all kids and it is not surprising to note he is the only one whom my asthma (I was very sickly and asthmatic in my growing up years) was passed on to.

Nine years fast forward to a much mature me, I attended not only childbirth preparation classes but also breastfeeding support groups during my pregnancy.

Lesson 5: Attend breastfeeding classes and surround yourself with successful breastfeeding moms.

So when my baby came, I was extra determined to breastfeed EXCLUSIVELY. Being my usual competitive self, I knew that if other moms could do it, I could do it too.

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So I continuously attended support group meetings and learned from other moms. After a while, I was getting more and more confident in sharing my own experiences as an extended breastfeeding mom as well, which was helping other moms too.

Lesson 6: Breastfeeding boosts your parental esteem. And this new confidence has awoken a passion to make helping moms my life purpose.

I started helping facilitate the meetings. Eventually, I became a support group leader and I even attended classes to become a Certified Lactation Counselor. I had short-term goals to make it realistic, to get through first two weeks (where there is the most discomfort), to six weeks when my milk stabilizes, the second month when I started going back to work.

image courtesy: Abbie Yabot

Lesson 7: You can live without bottles.

My first day at work didn’t go smoothly. And so after lunch, I rushed home to a crying baby who refused to take milk from a bottle.

I had heard of cup feeding in a support group so I gave it a try. The next day went by without a hitch and we never gave a bottle. From small medicine cups, we shifted to sippy cups on his fourth month then to regular cups on his 9th month which eliminated my problem with bottle weaning.

Lesson 8: Breastfeeding saves a lot of money, not only on bottles, but also on trips to the doctor, medicine, formula and bottle feeding costs, etc. etc. etc…

This baby was four years old when he decided to wean off from breastmilk. But when he was over two, we received happy news of another pregnancy.

Doctor advised us to wean our baby and I really tried, maybe only half-heartedly, and was unsuccessful. So began my search for a new doctor. Because yes…

Lesson 9: You can continue breastfeeding all throughout pregnancy.

I had a small glitch on my 32nd week when I bled a little.So I brought myself to the hospital and strapped on an NST where we saw it was not the breastfeeding that was causing my big contractions but more from moving around.

I had a one day break when my unica hija was born and the next day, when my son visited, he tandem fed with his baby sister.

Lesson 10: Tandem feeding helps toddlers adjust better to their newborn siblings.

…and these two kids, now aged 11 & 14, have always been best friends.

I started homeschooling shortly after and because the whole world is their classroom, we started travelling locally and internationally. Breastfeeding made it so much easier for us.

Lesson 11: We can go anywhere hassle free. We don’t need to pack the “entire house” when we leave.

We also don’t worry about traveling discomforts because when they are uncomfortable, they just breastfeed and all is well. This further boosted our confidence specially that most babies would cry on long trips or during take off and landing of a plane. Mine were both always quiet.

They rarely get sick and if they do at all, would not cause them immobility and much discomfort. She continued to breastfeed until she was six. Baby 3 and 4 has never gotten sick over three days and have never taken any vitamins or over the counter drugs.

Lesson 12: The longer you breastfeed, the better your baby’s immune system is. I can say their bodies are working very perfectly.

They eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. They are not too slim nor too fat and I know that their eating habits are also an effect of a good start in nutrition since they were newborns.

Thinking it would be the last pregnancy, I focused on helping moms by doing classes, attending short courses, creating support groups and even teaching playgroups for babies and toddlers.

Lesson 13: Helping moms (and dads) has become my life purpose.

And just when I thought I had graduated from the happy chaos of newborn parenting, we found out we were again expecting during one of our couple’s holidays.

Oh yes, Lesson 14: We have guilt-free couples only getaways.

Of course we miss them terribly. But knowing we’ve given them our full effort in breastfeeding and attachment parenting, we both know we only function as good parents if we are happy with each other too.

And yes, baby 5, definitely the last this time, came to our lives another 9 years after. Still strongly breastfeeding now at 33 months, she loves playing with babies and breastfeeding them herself.

Lesson 15: Breastfeeding is the norm.

It has also taught my kids to be nurturing and to follow their body cues. And all these siblings, from 24 to 2 years old, look out for each other and love each other despite their differences.

And life and parenting for me continues. There is really no easier or harder stage in being a parent, but a challenge each step of the way.

Breastfeeding has given me and my family a good headstart and I pass on these lessons to my kids, my family and all the moms I meet.

—- Abigail V. Yabot is a multi-generation mom, Certified Lactation Counselor, Parenting Educator, Life Coach, homeschooler and Attachment Parenting Advocate. She is currently finishing 4 more parenting courses that she will be teaching and practicing soon. With another mom, they set up Parenting University PH which aims to give support and classes on all areas of parenting.

Also READ: Coping with low milk supply: A guide for first time moms