Breastfeeding, though a natural rite, comes with struggles and mothers don’t always get the help that they need.
In the spirit of supporting new mothers, Sekaya, a consumer brand of natural food supplements, organized a webinar that discussed physical and emotional issues which emerge in breastfeeding.
In “Sekaya Prescribing Nature: Mommy Are You Okay?,” panelists underscored the importance of meeting a mother’s needs because these affect her well-being and her child’s. They also maintained that mothers should stand by their decision in pursuing their breastfeeding goals instead of succumbing to pressure.
During pregnancy, Paula Peralejo Fernandez primed herself by taking up breastfeeding classes and researching on proper latching—the infant’s ability to suck milk from the breast. Yet, her groundwork didn’t prepare her for other challenges. Her son had tongue-tie, a restricted range of tongue movement which made breastfeeding painful.
The tongue-tie was corrected through surgery and breastfeeding became normal. Then, Fernandez developed mastitis, breast inflammation which left her lethargic. The antibiotic treatment had a side effect of itchiness. After consulting several doctors, she learned that her immune system was weakened. Fernandez claimed that malunggay or moringa olifeira, a medicinal plant, helped restore her vitality.
Interior stylist Leona Laviña Panutat had different breastfeeding experiences with her two sons. With her firstborn, her milk supply was abundant and the son latched easily. When her milk supply decreased on her second child, she felt inadequate and resorted to combining methods of feeding her baby.
Author and speech and language pathologist Robyn Chua Rodriguez recalled that the early weeks of breastfeeding were rife with worry. Her daughter developed mild jaundice, the yellowing of the skin, which is common in newborns as the liver is not adequately developed. The doctor said her daughter lacked fluids. Rodriguez felt guilty for not producing enough milk.
A lactation consultant gave her a massage to yield more milk. However, the overproduction of milk led to breast engorgement. “Your breast would feel hard like a potato,” she said. Then her breasts began to blister caused by the clogging of milk near the nipples. Eventually, Rodriguez learned to adjust with the physical changes.
Dr. Anna York Bondoc, a pulmonary specialist and politician, said the most common question among mothers is the adequacy of their milk reserves.
Breasts generate more milk when the baby breastfeeds on demand. This serves like a natural feedback mechanism to regulate milk supply and guarantee that the infant will have continuous milk.
If the mother chooses feeding by pumped milk, she can check on how the child looks and its amount of urine, she said.
Bondoc added that mothers feel stress not only from unmet breastfeeding objectives but also from external pressures.
“Are you affected by what other people say?” she asked. People’s opinions and suggestions, though well-intentioned, may not understand the nuances of the mother’s issues. Mothers become anxious, sensitive to comments or lose appetite and sleep.
Get help from experienced mothers, mother support groups and the internet, she said. “It doesn’t need to be a professional. It can be a yaya who breastfed three kids, or your best friend. For me, my cousin had breastfed two kids. When I gave birth, she brought me tinola with malunggay.” Moringa olifeira has been a traditional therapy to increase milk production.
Bondoc warned that beyond the blues, postpartum depression can be more long-lasting. Unlike baby blues that occur a few days after birth, postpartum depression can emerge months after the delivery. This is manifested by panic attacks, loss of concentration, crying spells and possible self-destruction.
“Seek medical advice. Start with the OB gynecologist and the pediatrician. They know you before the postpartum event. That makes a difference,” she said.
While breastfeeding may have its challenges, it is actually a joyful experience. Breastfeeding releases happy hormones called endorphins and love hormones, oxytocins, that help the mother connect with the infant.
“It’s the best thing in your life. You will feel closer to your husband and child,” said Bondoc.
Motherhood has definitely made the panelists savvier, they unanimously said. Self-care is vital. These mothers recharge themselves through self-affirmation, nutrition, proper sleep, regular exercise and other activities.
“Be kind to yourself. Many moms are hard on themselves,” said Fernandez.
Panutat said one should acknowledge self-guilt but not to dwell on it and seek help. Her husband spends time with the boys so she could have her me time, like regular Pilates sessions.“The difficult stage won’t last. After you acknowledge those emotions, you can address the underlying issues. It will allow you to focus on the happy moments,” Rodriguez said. “Don’t lose your sense of self when you become a mom. As full-time moms, we forget we have other roles. You are a child of God, a wife, a friend. You have talents—you can dance, cook. That way, your child gets to know the real you.”
Bernice Gonzalez, Sekaya’s marketing head, warned that some commercial malunggay capsules may not be safe or are of inferior quality. “Moringa is highly absorbent. When they are planted in high pollution areas, heavy metals and toxins can be absorbed,” she said.
Moringa olifeira—whether through food, dried leaf, capsule, and dietary supplement in powder form—is widely promoted to mothers to boost milk production. Doctors maintain that malunggay is a superfood for everybody. It is a rich source of essential nutrients, B vitamins, ascorbic acid, vitamin A, magnesium and iron. Vegans can get more protein from moringa than milk. Science-based studies indicate that moringa can increase blood antioxidant levels, help reduce blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol. The plant proteins may reduce blood sugar for diabetic patients.
Bondoc added that moringa is rich in calcium. “Even men will develop osteoporosis as they get older. Moringa is good for all ages.” —CONTRIBUTED INQ