A father-to-be learns about breast milk

Breastfeeding may be a hassle, but it may all be worth it.

By Anthony O. Alcantara

“Some babies develop a preference for a certain breast,” said one of the girls during a seminar of La Leche League at Rustan’s Makati.

Hmmm… what a refreshing way to think about breasts. I guess babies think differently. But I’m going to be a father soon, and I have to think like a baby, or think what’s best for babies if I’m going to do a decent enough job of being a father.

I accompanied my wife to this seminar since she thought it was a good idea. It opened a new world to me. And I think couples expecting their first child, or those who haven’t tried breastfeeding, or those who had frustrations with breastfeeding should attend seminars like this.

Breast milk is still best for babies, they say. So we’re going to try it out with our first baby.

Anyway, the seminar is free and La Leche League has built a worldwide community of moms dedicated to breastfeeding. Imagine that. A cult for breastfeeding.

The local cult leader, Abby Yabut, starts the informal meeting by asking if any of the moms or moms-to-be has a breast pump or is planning to have one.

There were 13 women initially, including my wife, but about nine more trickled in as the 1 1/2 hour meeting went on. There were also three dads, including me. Three more arrived later on, but they left after a few minutes, probably thinking that breastfeeding is none of their business.

The women formed a circle while the dads stayed at the periphery, virtually ignored. Which was a good thing. I can’t imagine myself talking about female breasts in front of these women. So I assumed my most appropriate role: an attentive fly on the wall.

But going back to breast pumps, I was appalled by my ignorance. I thought it was just like milking cows. From what I recall in watching National Geographic, milking cows is easy. You just go to the cow,  find those little protrusions from their bellies, squeeze enthusiastically and, voila, you have fresh cow’s milk.

I am disappointed to find out that milking humans are much more complicated than that. I sure hope scientists would someday find a way to genetically engineer humans with a cow-inspired milk-producing gene. It will spare us from a lot of headaches, though I think the breast pump industry would vehemently oppose this.

During the meeting, I learn about single manual breast pumps. You use your hand to operate it on a single breast. I also learn about electric pumps, which come in single or double varieties.

For those who have no idea about breast pumps, here’s a simple guide:

1. If the mom is not working, and she has all the time and the desire to develop her forearm flexors, she can use a manual pump. I tried this on myself just to see how it feels. I gave my arms a good workout, but my breasts became a little distorted.

2. If the mom is working part-time, it’s best to use the electric single pump. That way, the mom can still work while the electric pump works its magic on one of her breasts, while the other breast is free for other activities.

3. If the mom is working full-time, the electric double pump is recommended. It’s the most efficient among the three. It works double time since it works on two breasts at the same time. This I have yet to try.

I also learn that pumping is recommended beginning on the 7th week onwards to stimulate the breasts to produce milk. A mom can pump between feedings, which is approximately every two hours.

Also, the pump doesn’t have to be washed after every use. Just put it in the refrigerator. You just wash it at the end of the day.

If the working mom forgets to bring the pump to work, she can use her hand to express the milk from her breasts. It was only mentioned in passing and I was tempted to ask if it is done cow-style. But then, I remembered that I was a fly on the wall so I kept my mouth shut.

There were other bits and pieces:

1. At room temperature, milk is best consumed within three to five hours. Now that’s a long gap. But I’m a fly so I didn’t ask why. To be safe, just consume within three hours. If the room is air-conditioned, the milk should be safe to consume within five to seven hours.

2. There’s a hierarchy for breast milk depending on how and when it was stored and consumed. The best breast milk comes direct from the source. The next best is the milk put in the refrigerator. Refrigerated breast milk must be consumed within 24 hours. The third best is the milk put in the freezer, where breast milk can last up to seven days.

3. Pumping should not go longer than 30 minutes at a time. A 30-minute rest should follow. Some, however, do it at shorter intervals, say 10 minutes of pumping followed by 10 minutes of rest.

4. Warming milk from the refrigerator or freezer must be done a certain way and slowly. Place the bottle or container in your hands or between your legs. Armpits were not mentioned, but I think it’s a good idea. Just make sure they’re not sweaty and they don’t smell. You must also swirl the milk as it melts. Don’t shake. You’ll come up with the right milk consistency for the baby that way.

5. How do you know if breast milk is spoiled? It’s sour. You have to taste it. Compare the taste to freshly expressed breast milk.

6. To store breast milk in the freezer, use glass or plastic. Some use Ziplock plastic bags, and pile them up in the freezer with the appropriate labels. Consuming breast milk in the freezer or refrigerator follows the FIFO rule, first-in first-out.

Another important thing I learned was that breastfeeding is not just for feeding.

“It’s for comfort and warmth, too,” says Abby.

Oh well, the things you learn when you’re about to become a father.

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15 Responses to “A father-to-be learns about breast milk”

  1. What a supportive father you’ll turn out to be. Have you decided if your baby will be fully-breastfed?

    I was supposed to attend that one too. It really is a very nice venue for new mothers (and new fathers) to learn about breastfeeding. Abby is such an expert on that subject. Good luck with this new phase in your lives. Mahirap but masaya.

  2. Yes, I agree… I believe you’ll be a very supportive father. I think that’s absolutely wonderful!

    I just wanted to add what I was taught by a lactation consultant that I worked with… breast milk will last 5 days in the refrigerator and 5 months in a deep freezer. It would be such a shame to discard breast milk under such strict guidelines of 24 hours in the refrigerator and 7 days in the freezer unless the milk soured.

    Good luck to you and your wife! Enjoy parenthood 🙂

  3. The Lazy Mama Says:

    Congratulations! You and your wife just made the greatest decision for your child! Breastfeeding is easier compared to formula feeding. You will not want to learn that…

  4. benz rana Says:

    Hi Daddy,

    Wow I had fun reading your post… will find time to read more of your other posts.

    The expressed milk doesnt spoil that easily 🙂
    It’s up to 5 days in the ref and up to 3months frozen.

    Hope to see you again this Sunday.

    -Benz

    • gohelpyourself Says:

      Thanks for the correction Ms. Benz. 🙂

      Wish we could go on Sunday, but it’s the birthday of the lola-to-be and we’ll be having a little celebration. Perhaps in your future meetings… 🙂

  5. Sorry you felt like a fly on the wall but we really encourage dads to attend and participate. Like you, even by listening, they get to pick-up a lot of things. In the first weeks, the dad’s role is even more important as it is the dad who encourages mom to continue especially when mom is about to give up. That was my husband’s role in my breastfeeding experience. Anyway, about the manual expression, it’s not like milking a cow 😀 its “milking” using a “C” and “U” position of the fingers. here’s my post on the matter – http://fabnaima.blogspot.com/2009/09/do-you-really-need-pump.html
    I have a double electric pump as a i work full time but i find that after using the pump, i am still able to get milk (.5-1oz.) through manual expression.
    hope to see you in the meeting later and do ask questions 😀

    • gohelpyourself Says:

      Sorry we weren’t able to attend the meeting. We hope to attend next time. Thanks for the link to your post. Now I know how it’s done. 🙂

  6. the womanly art of breastfeeding from LLL is a very good book for moms (and dads too). i’d say it literally turned my life around

    • gohelpyourself Says:

      Thanks, Daisy. Will check that out. We never thought breastfeeding could be so draining for my wife. Our baby is almost 1 month old now. But we haven’t tried storing milk in the freezer yet. Anyway, is the book available in bookstores? Or is it available only from LLL?

      • I got mine from fully booked. Maybe powerbooks has it as well but not sure. It is my breastfeeding bible – glad that my copy survived ondoy after being submerged. Oh, was it booksale? Cause one of the breastfeeding moms I know got it in a second hand book store. Congrats! You’re a certified father now! How’s the breastfeeding going?

  7. […] the circle but he wouldn’t mind. He even took notes on our first meeting and blogged about it here. The Mother. I knew I’d be facing a lot of debate with my mother just because she is my […]

  8. […] circle but he wouldn’t mind. He even took notes on our first meeting and blogged about it here. The Mother. I knew I’d be facing a lot of debate with my mother just because she is my […]

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