Friday, April 16, 2021

6 Things I've Learned as a New Mom

This has so far been the most difficult journey I've been on, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm so grateful to be going through this and to be able to share my learnings as a first time mom.

Hope is almost three months old now. During her first week, she lost a lot of weight, from starting at 2.9kg in the hospital to 2.4kg (a week later) at our first check-up with our pediatrician. I was told it's normal for babies to lose up to 10% of their weight after a week, but 500 grams is just too much. Feeding her has been a struggle due to latching issues, so after that, I decided to just pump my breastmilk and bottle-feed her - this way, I can actually see how much she consumes at a time/per day. I learned so, so much over the last couple of months so I thought I'd write about them here, in case anyone's going through something similar.
1. Things won't always go your way.
All throughout my pregnancy, I've heard nothing but positive things from my OB. Even up to the week I gave birth, baby was in position and amniotic fluid levels were a-okay. Come delivery time, I still ended up with an emergency C-section (you can read more about my birthing story here). No matter how intensely you prepare, how many books you read or how many friends/doctors you talk to or consult about giving birth, things may not go 100% your way. Prepare for different scenarios and create backup plans if you can. For example, since I thought I was going to do a normal delivery, I didn't purchase a binder beforehand. The first week at home was especially hard because the stitches from my c-section were still fresh and made it difficult to move around (and even harder to position myself to breastfeed). Having a binder will help keep everything in place so you don't feel like your stitches are going to burst open every time you move. So yes, I highly recommend looking into purchasing one. I personally got a Wink Postpartum Ultra Bikini from Urban Essentials. Sizing can be a bit confusing, so if you're iffy about purchasing yours online, you can visit their store at Capitol Hills, QC, where they can help you find the perfect fit.

2. Find a solid support system.
I cannot stress this enough. Surround yourself with people you love and trust.. people who will support your decisions and give you sound advice when you need it. This may or may not include your family, your friends (mommy friends especially), parents from online support groups, your yaya, etc. I learned this the hard way and ended up having this fear-slash-trauma when it comes to breastfeeding. Long story short, our yaya constantly discouraged me from breastfeeding my baby Hope. She told me from day one that I didn't have any milk in my breasts and latching will only make Hope cry. On our first day home, this yaya had asked her previous client for breastmilk and kept pushing me to have it picked up so she could feed it to my baby. Being a first time mom, I relied and gave my complete trust to this yaya especially since she was Tim's close relative's yaya as well. She did things with complete disregard for what Tim and I wanted. I swear, the few weeks she was with us, I was extremely miserable and felt so worthless. Thank goodness she decided to cut her stay with us short. I wanted to fire her on her first week but I was repeatedly told to suck it up. "Tiis nalang, aalis naman na siya."

Note: if you're planning to breastfeed, make sure to find a yaya and a pediatrician who are breastfeeding advocates and share the same views as you.
3. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
You can't do everything alone. Having a baby can take a lot out of you, whether you've had a normal delivery or c-section. People kept telling me to rest and sleep when the baby sleeps, but it's not as easy as that. If you're breastfeeding your baby, you'll need to "feed on demand" which will take 30 minutes to an hour per session. For those exclusively pumping like me, you'll need to pump 15-30 minutes at a time every 2-3 hours. You'll also have allot time to sterilizing your pump parts and of course, feeding your baby. Just recently, I stayed over at my parents' house for a week, and having them around really helped lessen my stress and anxiety. Everyone in that household pitched in - my brother and sister helped mostly with sterilizing bottles and pump parts; my sister-in-law gave Hope her morning and afternoon baths so I could sleep a bit more; my mom assisted in feeding and watching Hope while I pumped in private; and my dad would carry and play with her as he would with his other granddaughter Bella.

Asking for help does not make you any less of a mom. 

4. Create a stress-free environment.
I can't count how many times I've cried in the last two months. Postpartum depression is very real. Without support, you can really fall deep into that spiral. I've always thought of myself as a very positive person, easygoing, cheerful, but a lot of this has changed since giving birth. It's also difficult to be happy when you're stuck in one place 24/7 (no thanks to Covid-19). I've also been told that stress can negatively affect your breastmilk supply, so that's another thing I've been struggling with.

During the first few weeks of my pumping journey, I would stare at the bottles as I pumped and be so disappointed at myself for not being able to produce much milk despite taking supplements, drinking lots of fluids, etc. Fyi, doing this will not help increase your supply. It will only make it worse. Try to think happy thoughts instead. Think about your baby and all the things you can do and places you'll visit once it's safe to go out again. You can also do what I've been doing - distracting myself by watching YouTube videos and Koreanovelas on Netflix instead.
5. Breastfeeding is no joke.
Everyone is different, every experience unique, so don't compare. Some moms have an oversupply, some have little to none at all. According to the breastfeeding groups I'm part of, I would classify as an "enougher" where the milk I pump is just enough for my baby’s daily consumption. I need to regularly pump (at least 8 times a day) to keep up with Hope's appetite and to signal my brain to produce more milk. Sadly, I seldom have excess milk to put in the freezer for future use. What I usually do is just place my pumped milk in the fridge and warm it once it's time to feed Hope. Compared to when I first started pumping, the amount of milk I've been collecting per session has increased, I just really have to be consistent with following the Magic 8 rule and hopefully I'll at least have more milk to freeze in case of emergencies.

P.S. if you're formula-feeding, that's okay too. There is no shame in that. Remember that whatever we do, however way we decide to bring up our kids, people will always have something to say, so just do what feels right for you and your baby :)

P.P.S. a lot of people I know (myself included) were bottle-fed and we grew up just fine. It doesn't make you any less of a mom, remember that.

6. Listen to advice but choose which ones to follow.
Like I said earlier, we could always do with some help. But this doesn't mean you should follow every single thing that people tell you. Like I said earlier, everyone is different.. this includes babies. What works for them will not necessarily work for you and/or your baby. For example, in ge lai (Chinese confinement), our bodies are said to be in this "cold state" after giving birth, hence we're not allowed to shower, wash our hands, eat certain "cold" foods, or even drink water for a whole month to avoid getting sick and restore the body's qi.

 I did all of this (and more) but I couldn't let go of hand washing altogether. Why? Well, times have changed. With everything that's happening in the world now, how can you not? I can forego showers for a month (I did a sponge bath upon getting home from the hospital) but I can't risk getting my baby sick or contaminating her milk bottles by not washing my hands. Mahirap na. I actually also regret not drinking water for an entire month (I had this special tea instead) as it's said to help increase mom's milk supply. Maybe it's one of the reasons I struggled so much?

When it comes to heeding advice, don't just blindly follow everything and everyone like I did. I learned this the hard way. Choose which ones work for you and help you the most on your journey to becoming the best mom you can be. Best to ask professionals when in doubt or do your own research (make sure they're from reliable sources). 
Everyday is a learning experience. Treasure every moment with your child. Take endless pictures. Cuddle her. Dance with her. Sing to her. The sleepless nights? All worth it. I mean, just look at that smile!! We can do this, mommas! 
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