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Best breastfeeding supplements in Manila

Two mommy friends who read my earlier blog post about how Trying your Best is Best asked me what I did to sustain breastfeeding for a year, given my undersupply problems. I told them that I tried virtually all the breastfeeding aids in the market in my zealous quest for more milk (this I was not a lazy mama about!)

So then they requested me to write this blog post to share what I thought of these products, considering that I tried them all. Just a small disclaimer: these are all just based on my personal experience. Some products that worked for me may not work for other Moms. And another thing, obviously, one should keep drinking lots and lots of water and eat healthy.

Let me break down this review into three categories: capsules and supplements, lactation goodies, drinks and teas.

I also want to say at this point that I bought ALL the supplements I tried.

1. Capsules and supplements

I experimented with a lot of capsules and supplements in the early days of breastfeeding. I tried Fenugreek, but I really did not like how it made my sweat smell like maple syrup. Hearing a lot of good reviews about malunggay supplements, I tried 4 brands for two weeks each: Mega-Malunggay, Natalac, Life Oil, and Atienza Naturale Malunggay. What I liked about Life Oil is that it doesn’t give off that “matcha burp” — that distinct matcha grassy flavor you get from the other supplements. It is likely because it is made of oil and not of dried leaves. Atienza Naturale, on the other hand, is the cheapest of all 4 supplements (not by a lot, though). So if you are price-sensitive, you might want to consider that. However, after the one month of experimentation, I noticed that my milk supply increased the most with Mega-Malunggay, and I get stronger letdowns. I didn’t like the matcha burp but, oh well.

Another kind of supplement I tried is the Legendairy line. They come in different variants, which you can read more about here. For me, Pump Princess worked the least and Liquid Gold and Lechita worked the most. Mega malunggay helped the quantity of milk supply and Liquid Gold and Lechita made my milk rich and fatty. I cannot going to be scientific about this — all I can say is that I definitely noticed that my milk became creamier after using Legendairy for a week. I used to take one capsule thrice a day of the mega malunggay and two capsules thrice a day of Liquid Gold or Lechita (alternating between the two month on month). This combination sustained me during the first six months when my son was consuming nothing but breastmilk.

2. Lactation goodies

I tried so many Lactation goodies, and to be honest, many were yummy but I cannot be sure if they helped my milk flow. My favorite and the yummiest for me was MilkingBombsbyABC. Those things are seriously addictive. I wolfed down cookie after cookie while breastfeeding and it does feel packed with ingredients, like flax seed and such. Another favorite of mine is MamaChows oatmeal cookies. I cannot be 100% sure, but it did seem like I had stronger letdowns after snacking on those two goodies. I take these goodies once in a while only because I’m scared of the calories hehe.

3. Drinks and teas

I love iced tea so it was great to discover that there was such a thing as lactation iced tea. I drank a lot of MQT Moringa Tea, and love the subtle lemongrass flavor. I am not a big water drinker so this helped me get my liquid intake up.

But I think what helped the most was Lactablend coffee mix. I was at a steady 4-5oz per pump session from the supplements (malunggay + legendairy) and when I tried Lactablend, my output shot up to 6oz per pump. It’s not the greatest tasting coffee, which was my biggest challenge because I need quality caffeine in the morning. What I do is I take the Lactablend at home, then when I go to the office, I get myself a proper cup of java.

SUMMARY:

So in sum, here is my tried and tested lactation support routine during my EBF days:

Morning – 1 capsule mega malunggay + 2 Legendairy, lactablend coffee

Lunch – 1 capsule mega malunggay, 2 Legendairy, MQT iced tea

Dinner – 1 capsule mega malunggay. 2 Legendairy, MQT iced tea

Mamachow and MilkbombsbyABC for snacks. MQT iced tea as thirst quencher throughout the day.

Now that my baby is 1.3 years and eating solids, I took out the Legendairy (too expensive!) and substituted with 2 capsules of Mega Malunggay thrice a day and Lactablend in the morning.

Baby Love My Baby Love, Uncategorized

Trying your best is best

I remember one afternoon, while on holiday in Singapore, I was breastfeeding my child at a nursing area. A woman and her child then sat on the seat in front of me. I smiled the mommy-solidarity smile, and then looked curiously at the bottle, only because it was of an odd shape. She caught my glance, misinterpreted it, and then said, “yeah, breast is best, right?”. I was startled for a few seconds, not knowing what to say. Finally, I just said, “no, no, I was just looking at your bottle. That’s an Interesting thing inside.” (It turned out to be a vent system against colic). She then smiled, like she didn’t believe me, and we went our separate feeding ways. Then when she was done, as she was packing up and leaving, she glanced at me and said, “For me, fed is best” and then walked out. I didn’t know how to react at that moment, but felt several things: resentment at being lumped into a ‘camp’ I didn’t want to be in, and whose members I actually dislike (the sanctimonious nursing-nazi camp), compassion for moms that feel judged all the time, sadness that there are even camps to begin with.

Few things divide moms as much as the “breast is best” vs the “fed is best” debate. Let me get one thing out of the way: I think there is enough peer-reviewed scientific evidence to demonstrate the superior benefits of breastmilk compared to formula. For this reason, I have chosen to breastfeed my child exclusively for his first year. I also think that the tag “fed is best” is problematic even semantically, because, err, feeding your child is the minimum. Starvation is, I think we will all agree, unacceptable. How can fed be the best and the minimum at the same time? Lastly, there are credible reports of milk companies that use predatory practices to aggressively push formula, and this should not be countenanced.

AT THE SAME TIME, I think something really needs to be said about the self-righteousness of “breast is best” advocates, and how this self-righteousness is really not helping further the breastfeeding agenda. Women are made to feel they are not trying hard enough, and are shamed for considering mixed-feeding or switching to formula altogether. In a breastfeeding group I used to belong to, moms were always told “unli-latch lang yan!” to virtually each and every breastfeeding difficulty reported on. Do they have any clue how hard it is to have a hungry, wailing child at the breast because no milk is coming out? Because I do. Do they know how stressful it is to be pumping like a fiend in the middle of the day, between work meetings, and then getting only 2 oz after thirty minutes of pumping? Because I do.

Yes, I soldiered on. And yes, I successfully exclusively breastfed my child for his first year, but it’s not because I’m some wondermama. it’s also because I’m in a position of privilege. I have a job where I know I won’t get fired for taking long breaks to pump milk. I was given maternity leave in accordance with law. These are things that are not readily available to a female worker working in a factory or fastfood joint on contractual status. Are they any less a wondermama than I am? I think not.

And so this is my alternative formulation for women (like me) who feel caught in the middle of ‘breast is best’ and ‘fed is best’: Trying your best is best. For mommies, let’s try to breastfeed our children, because the evidence of its benefits are incontrovertible. But if it doesn’t work out, we need to tell ourselves that we are not lesser moms for looking for acceptable, medically-sound alternatives. We need not only to forgive ourselves, but to trust that the best we can give is truly the best for our child.

For communities that surround mommies, for families and friends of mommies, the ‘trying your best is best’ framework means that, while we ensure the availability of information and resources to enable breastfeeding, we are not allowed to second-guess women when they say that they try but that it’s not happening. We are allowed to heckle pharmaceutical companies that push formula to moms, but we are not allowed to make mothers feel inadequate for the choices they make. We put the needs of babies as paramount, but we should not ignore the mental health needs of new mothers who are already overwhelmed by this bewildering new frontier called motherhood. Most of all, we need to trust that all mothers want the best for their child and would give an arm and a leg to nourish them in the best way possible.

Because when mothers give their best, they give enough.

Uncategorized

On her First Mother’s Day, please spoil her rotten

Dear husband of first-time Moms,

I am writing this to you because this might not seem so obvious. Maybe you’re one of those people who say things like “Valentines is just a way to milk money out of guilty husbands who ignore their wives 364 days in a year”, or “Santa Claus is capitalism in a fat suit”. Maybe you hate crowds and being a bandwagoner. Or you tell yourself that you don’t need an occasion to tell your wife she’s an awesome mother.

All valid (though the Santa bit is a bit of a gray area). But let me tell you this: if this is your wife’s first Mother’s Day, please PLEASE pull out all the stops.

Think about it. If this is her first Mother’s Day, it means that she probably is still healing from the delivery, whether Caesarian or normal. She will probably not have lost that baby weight, and is saddled with insecurities every time she looks at herself in the mirror. Maybe she is struggling with postpartum depression, maybe she isn’t. But she certainly is overwhelmed AF, struggling with providing for the 24/7 needs of a little human being completely dependent on her. She is up at 3am everyday, nursing or pumping — some days feeling nothing but pure waves of love for the creature on her lap, but some days thinking longingly of night outs with friends or date nights with you and feeling the weight of isolation.

So no, her first Mother’s Day is ABSOLUTELY not the time to talk about how it’s all Hallmark commercial crap and hell no you’re not a sucker. Spoil her, fuss over her, pamper her, tell her she’s beautiful, because guess what, she’s flailing. And she needs a day when it’s not about her baby, it’s not about your cute new family, it’s about HER.

So please daddies, go crazy on the First. ☺️

P.S. I personally didn’t have a pull-out-all-the-stops First Mother’s Day. But it was because we had just arrived from an emotional trip to the Netherlands with our then two-month-old where we said goodbye to my father in law. My Mother’s Day celebration was at a Chinese restaurant at the mall closest to our house, on the Monday after. It wasn’t exactly what I imagined, but it was the best at the time. ❤️

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Expanded Maternity Leave IRR: All you need to know (Part II)

This is Part II of easy-to-read FAQs on the Expanded Maternity Leave Law. If you want to check the full text of the EML IRR, you can check it out in Part I.

Are female workers of the informal economy, and voluntary SSS contributors eligible to access maternity leave benefits?

Yes, if they have remitted three monthly contributions to the SSS within the twelve-month period before the semester of childbirth.

Who are considered informal economy workers?

Female workers in the informal economy are those who are self-employed, occasionally or personally hired, or subcontracted; paid and unpaid family workers in household enterprises, including home workers; micro-entrepreneurs and producers, and operators of sari sari sores.

Who are considered voluntary SSS contributors?

These are Stay-At-Home spouses, an OFW who upon termination of her contract overseas, continues to pay SSS contributions, a covered employee separated from employment who continues to pay SSS contributions, a self-employed member who realizes no income in any given month but continues to pay SSS contributions.

Can maternity leave be allocated?

Yes, a female worker may allocate up to 7 days of leave to the father of the child, whether or not they are married. In case of death, absence or incapacity of the father, the female worker may allocate the leave credits to a relative within the fourth degree of consanguinity, or the current partner of the female worker sharing the same household.

May the current partner be female?

Yes. The IRR contains the phrase “regardless of the sexual orientation or gender identity” of the partner.

Is the option to allocate applicable in the case of miscarriage or emergency termination of pregnancy?

No.

How much will the female worker in case she opts to allocate?

She will be paid the amount corresponding to the period not allocated.

Who will pay for the seven-day allocated leave?

The seven-day allocated leave is paid leave and will be borne by the employer of the father, or the alternate caregiver as the case may be.

How is the intent to allocate conveyed?

The intention to allocate is conveyed upon application of the maternity leave. Likewise, the father or the alternate caregiver must also inform his employer of his allocated leave.

What if one of the parties is from the public sector, and the other from the private sector? Can the female worker still allocate leave credits in that case?

Yes.

Must the allocated leave be used in a continuous manner, or can it be used intermittently?

It can be either continuous or intermittent. However, it should be consumed within the period of the maternity leave of the female worker.

What if the female worker dies?

The balance of her maternity leave shall accrue to the father, or the qualified alternate caregiver. If the money benefits have already been paid in full, the father or qualified alternate caregiver may still enjoy the remaining leave credits but without pay.

Is it a criminal offense to deny maternity leave benefits to qualified female workers?

Yes. The law punishes with a fine of not less than 20,000 pesos and not more than 200,000 pesos and imprisonment of 6-12 years anyone who violates the provisions of this law.

General

Expanded Maternity Leave IRR: All you need to know (Part 1)

So the Expanded Maternity Leave IRR is out! What great timing: on Labor Day, as a tribute to workers everywhere, and less than two weeks before Mother’s Day, as a tribute to all Moms. Since our office, the office of Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros, is the sponsor and champion of this law, I thought I would prepare a set of FAQs based on the law and the Implementing Rules and Regulations for working-out-of-the-house Moms like me. The law is available via this link. If you want to read the full text of the EML IRR, you can read it below:

This is PART 1: MATERNITY LEAVE FOR PUBLIC SECTOR AND PRIVATE SECTOR EMPLOYEES.

I will be posting PART 2 soon: ALLOCATION OF MATERNITY LEAVE CREDITS (the Daddy Quota!), MATERNITY LEAVE FOR VOLUNTARY CONTRIBUTORS (informal workers, freelancers, OFWs) and NATIONAL ATHLETES.

First things first, when is the effectivity date of the EML?

The EML has been effective since March 11, 2019. (This is 15 days after the official date of publication, which I think has been set at February 23). This means that all qualified female workers who delivered or miscarried on March 11 or later shall enjoy benefits under the law. This confirmed by the SSS in an interview quoted by Smart Parenting.

What are the maternity leave benefits under RA 11210?

Generally, a qualified female worker who has delivered an infant is entitled to receive 105 days of maternity leave, full pay, with an additional 15 days if the female worker is a solo parent. She is entitled to 60 days of maternity leave, full pay, in the event of miscarriage or emergency termination of pregnancy. The female worker may also choose to allocate a maximum of seven days to the father of the child, or in his absence, a qualified alternate caregiver. An additional maternity leave of 30 days may be availed of, on top of the 105 days, without pay.

What is the amount of maternity leave benefit that qualified female workers are entitled to?

All qualified female workers employed in the formal economy are entitled to full pay.

What exactly is the definition of full pay?

Full pay refers to all remuneration or earnings paid by an employer to a worker for services rendered on normal working days and hours not lower than the wage rate fixed by the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board including allowancesprovided for under existing company policy or collective bargaining agreement, if any. Full pay in the public sector, on the other hand,  includes the basic salary and allowances as may be provided under existing guidelines.

Is there a maximum number of times that maternity leave benefit can be availed?

Maternity leave shall now be granted in every instance of pregnancy, miscarriage or emergency termination of pregnancy, regardless of frequency.

What about multiple childbirths (twins or triplets)?

The female worker shall enjoy only one maternity benefit, regardless of the number of offspring.

What about overlapping maternity benefit? (This can happen when, during the 105-day maternity leave period, the female worker gets pregnant again, but miscarries; or, during the 60-day period after miscarriage, the female worker gets pregnant again then miscarries again)

The female worker shall be enjoy maternity benefits for the two contingencies, but the leave must be utilized in a consecutive manner.

How shall the maternity leave be used?

Enjoyment of maternity leave cannot be deferred but should be availed of either before or after the actual period of delivery in a continuous and uninterrupted manner. It can be credited as combinations of prenatal and postnatal care, but in no case shall postnatal care be less than 60 days.

Who are qualified to avail of maternity leave benefits under RA 11210?

Female workers in the public sector, female workers in the private sector, female workers in the informal economy, female workers who are voluntary contributors to the Social Security System, and female national athletes.

Who qualifies as a solo parent?

Solo parent refers to a covered female worker who falls under the category of a solo parent defined under Republic Act 8972 or the Solo Parents Welfare Act of 2000.

Public sector employees

Who are considered female employees in the public sector?

This category includes any pregnant female worker in the government service, regardless of employment status and length of service, in National Government Agencies, Local Government Units, Government Owned and Controlled Corporations, State Universities and Colleges or Local Universities and Colleges. Employment status may be permanent, temporary, coterminous, fixed term, casual, contractual, substitute or provisional.

May maternity leave also be availed of by teachers during long vacations?

Female teachers may also avail of maternity leave even during long vacations, i.e., summer and Christmas, in which case, both the maternity leave benefits and the proportional vacation pay (PVP) shall be granted.

How will public sector employees be paid?

The female worker shall have the option to receive full pay through lumpsum payment or regular payment of salary through agency payroll.

How are disputes to be resolved?

For public sector employees, disputes shall be filed initially to the head of agency and then appealed to the Civil Service Commission. The agency shall not hold or delay the payment of full pay to the female worker pending the resolution of the dispute.

Private sector employees

Who are considered qualified female employees in the private sector?

To qualify for the grant of maternity leave benefit, the female worker must meet the following requirements: (a) three monthly contributions in the twelve-month period immediately preceding the semester of childbirth or miscarriage; (b) the female worker shall have notified her employer of her pregnancy and the probable date of her childbirth, which notice shall be transmitted to the SSS.

Are domestic workers (kasambahay) included?

Yes, they are included. The IRR defines employed female worker as “a female worker, including a domestic worker, who performs services for an employer in which either both mental or physical efforts are used and who receives compensation for such services, where there is an employer-employee relationship.’

What if the SSS benefit is lower than the actual pay received by the female employee?

Employers from the private sector shall pay the difference between the full salary of the female employee and the money benefits received from the SSS. (For example, if the employee receives 30,000 pesos a month, and then receives from the SSS 16,000 pesos as the monthly maternity benefit, the company has to be shoulder the balance of 14,000 pesos.) This is subject to exceptions, such as if the employer is a distressed establishment, is employing not more than ten workers, and is considered a micro-business enterprise with total assets of not more than 3 million pesos. (To know more about this, please refer to the IRR, which outlines the exceptions in detail).

How are disputes resolved?

Disputes relating to SSS payments shall be lodged before the SSS. Disputes regarding the payment of salary differential, and labor standards issues, shall be filed before the DOLE.

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Last night, I said things

Last night was rough.

You woke up every two hours, always in a fit of anger. I was perplexed. We haven’t really had straight nights of sleep, but it’s been a while since you were this difficult. Nothing I could do could comfort you. Boob? Not interested. Rocking on my chest? Not interested. Getting carried in a vertical position? Yes, ok, that works, but when I tried to put you back in your crib, all hell broke loose again.

I was tired, love. I just wanted to sleep. My arms were hurting from having to hold you vertically for what felt like hours. I also wanted to shut you up so that your Heit (*daddy) — who came home at 2am tired AF after a late-night Airbnb tenant check-in — can sleep. And did I say I was tired?

And so… I may have said things. To your little red angry face. I called you difficult and annoying. I said, verbatim, to all 31 chubby inches of you, “stop being a spoiled brat.”

Finally, you drifted off to sleep around 4:30am. I laid you on your crib and tiptoed out of your bedroom. You wailed again and I waited a while before checking in, and then you drifted off to sleep. “Little monster”, your Heit and I mumbled to each other, making groggy promises to encourage you to be more independent and less attention-hungry.

At 7am, you woke up for the morning. I half-asleep carried you downstairs to Leizl so I can get more sleep in. At 10am (thank God for Labor Day) I lumbered down for coffee. That was when Leizl sprung her news.

It turns out that this morning after I brought you down, she thought you were heavier than normal. She opened your diaper, and what do you know? It was full of poop. Humongous, sticky, stinky C-R-A-P. We had gotten so used to your pooping habits (daytime only, and with warning so we know to perch you in your little bowl), that it didn’t even occur to me to check your diapers for blowouts.

You must have been trying to push it out all night, and it might have already been in your diapers while I was busy being angry with you.

You must have been trying so desperately to tell me how uncomfortable you were, and I was busy calling you a spoiled brat.

I was so focused on my own feelings, I failed to consider yours. I was so focused on how last night was rough on me, I forgot to consider how it could also be rough on you.

I’m sorry, love. I’m sorry for the things I said, and for the things I thought about you. I want you to know that I’m learning, day by day. Every FAIL moment, a reminder to do better. Every parenting mistake, a lesson for the future.

And, on the upside, messy shitty lessons stick around the longest.

Baby Love My Baby Love

1:00 am

No, my baby doesn’t sleep through the night.

He is 14 months old, he is put to bed at 8:30pm, and every 1am without fail, he wakes up, makes his “awake-ness” known to the whole house, gets breastmilk, and then — depending on whether or not the goddesses are on my side — either slips back to sleep or gets cranked up and demands mommy time.

Yes, I know that babies past the age of 6 months *SHOULD* sleep through the night with no difficulty.

Everybody has told me that. I have been inundated with suggestions on how to get him sleeping for 8 hours straight. It has been suggested that I am an overindulgent mom, and my son, a despot in a teacup. A particularly pushy Tita has told me, “there is no medical reason a child above one needs to feed between dinner and breakfast.”

Of course, I’ve read all sorts of books to get him sorted. I’ve spoken to sleep coaches. We have had some improvement after employing some sleep training methods: after the post-midnight feed, we’ve gotten a straight stretch of sleep until 6am. I have gotten a bit used to it, and my body clock has adjusted accordingly.

But here’s the thing: there still is, it seems, enormous social pressure to drop the midnight feed. In the mommy blogs, in the self-help books, in the parenting forums.

I have decided recently to say SCREW IT.

No, it’s not just because I want to make sure my baby is fed when he’s hungry. Or comforted when he needs comforting. Or my warm body when his crib feels big and empty, and his room dark and forbidding.

It’s because that sliver of time when the universe around me fades to a whisper, is the only time my child and I truly have to be alone together. At 1:00am, when the work WhatsApps taper to a halt, when my husband is softly snoring beside me, when our household staff have retired to bed, I feel my child’s heartbeat next to mine. At 1:00am, I breathe his baby smells — milk and powder and little-boy wonder — and trace my fingers on the curvature of his head. I watch him sleepily look for my fingers to hold, reassured by the feel of our palms touching. At 1:00am, I watch what my embrace does to him, how it quiets the swirling chaos, and I wonder to myself how long my embraces will continue having that effect.

At 1:00am, I am his and he is mine.