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What I Wish I Prepared For Better

There were a few things I was really “preparing” for while I was pregnant: the baby room, my mindset for the labor and delivery and the lack of sleep for the first few weeks.

As soon as I was on my second trimester, Drew and I signed up for the Bradley Method birthing classes and the numerous free classes Medela House hosts for moms to be.

Andrew and I at Chiqui Brosas-Hahn's birthing class and at Medela House's Annual Baby Shower!
Andrew and I at Chiqui Brosas-Hahn’s birthing class and at Medela House’s Annual Baby Shower!

And as the months flew by and my due date was coming closer, I was getting more and more impatient for the baby to arrive. I felt so confident we were so ready. The baby room was all set, the things that needed buying were bought, we were sleeping as much as we could to be physically ready. Plus, since I was able to help take care of my sister’s new born twins the previous year, I felt I had a little idea of what to expect in handling new babies. So game on naaaa!

At 38-39 weeks, I was getting sooo bored waiting for baby to come so what better thing to do than to take photos, right?!
At 38-39 weeks, I was getting sooo bored waiting for baby to come so what better thing to do than to take photos, right?!

Despite all that “preparedness”, come first day in our home alone with our new bundle of joy, I felt so overwhelmed. OVER. WHELMED.

Here it is: looking back, I wish I prepared better for information about breastfeeding and how babies fare when they’re on it. Not the latch, not the baby holding positions since really you master that from practice and not fromhead knowledge and besides, all the nurses will teach you those. Instead, I wish I had the stuff that will calm a hyperhormonal new mom’s fears and insecurity if she’s doing things right.

Because this is what happened to us.

While at the hospital, the nurses and lactation consultants would come by and check on the latch and they would say it was good. They would teach me positions that I can do since I had given birth via caesarean section. I was told to latch every two or three hours, never letting more than four hours go by without doing so. Standard textbook things. I didn’t feel any pain in my baby’s latch and I thought to myself, my goodness, what were all those mothers complaining about sore nipples! This is so easy!

So we were discharged after three days and on the fourth day, my milk comes in. And I die.

I was screaming to my husband, “Babe, I can feel my boobs growing before my eyes!” It was insane. And hard. And painful. And my baby couldn’t latch at all. I panicked. How in the world will I feed my baby? So I go online and watched this video: http://newborns.stanford.edu/Breastfeeding/MaxProduction.html We decide to hand express and spoon feed our four-day old baby.

Spoonfeeding on Christmas day. We tried using the plastic baby spoons but it was too shallow and would make the milk spill.
Spoonfeeding our little baby on Christmas day. We tried using the plastic baby spoons but it was too shallow and would make the milk spill.

We hand express and hand express my painfully engorged boobs. It would feel relieved for awhile but then the hardness would come back again so we hand express again. This, by the way, feels like a giant pimple being squeezed. I.KID.YOU.NOT.ITS.SO.PAINFUL. I tried to use the pump and one boob would cooperate and squirt something out. It was the most depressing thing in the world to sit there for 30 minutes pumping and all you get is a measly 10ml of breastmilk. Between the tiredness of the labor experience, the “manas” from all the excess fluids from the painkillers, recovering from my operation and the engorgement, my first few days at home was nothing I could have prepared for. How come no one told me about this??

And then we had to deal with visitors. Family is great for their support, but really, privacy for the new mom is so much more important, I realized. I needed time alone to get used to the baby and our rhythm and breastfeeding. I didn’t want to have to dress up and “entertain”.

On our baby’s seventh day, we went back to the hospital for the routine pedia check up post delivery. We thought we were doing all okay until we find out during that check up that our baby lost one pound since birth weight. One whole pound. To adults that’s nothing, but to a baby, that’s like 1/6 of his weight! The usual weight loss is just 7-10% of birth weight but the pedia seemed unconcerned about it and signed us out as “well baby”. But me. OF COURSE I go on a downward spiral of depression and insecurity! I knew breastfeeding was best for our baby but why did he lose a pound? I had my moments of self-doubt if continuing on with breastfeeding was the right thing to do but my husband’s support was incredible so we kept at it – hand express, pumping, spoon feeding between practicing our latch, keeping the baby at the breast for as long as he wanted (which meant two hours sometimes with short breaks in between). But more than the physical exhaustion, it was really the mental and emotional roller coaster that was draining.  I was in a dark dark cloud that would send me on fits of crying. It didn’t help that on the fifth day, my baby was still pooping out meconium. His mustardy yellow poop only came in on the tenth day.

Everyone said my latch was good and it wasn’t painful. In fact, I didn’t feel anything! Haaay. If you’re reading this and you’re a new mom and you also don’t feel anything — that isn’t a good sign. You’re not suppose to feel nothing! You’re suppose to feel a suction. Apparently, my baby needed a bit of time to get that going. We tried using a bottle and it actually seemed to help him learn how to suck better. We used the Medela Calma teat – most breastfeeding materials will tell you not to introduce artificial teats until six weeks but I didn’t care, I just needed to feed my baby whether he gets confused with the nipples or not! By his second week, he was doing a much better job at sucking that I started getting sore nipples. Aaah, it wasn’t a myth after all. While I didn’t crack or bleed, it really was sore. I found a new use for my Avene Thermal Spring Water Spray! hahaha I didn’t like how sticky the Lansinoh was that everyone recommended so I would just use my breastmilk and a spray of Avene to moisturize my boobs and keep it from getting sore and cracked. But really, I took the pain as a good sign that my son was learning to feed and so I kind of welcomed it… in a non-masochistic way, okay.

And most effectively, I turned to God. This verse I read on Rica Bonifacio’s blog was a great comfort to me:  Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.” (Psalm 22:9) It made me realize that the burden to produce milk wasn’t on me. It’s God-given. I had milk, that’s why I was engorged in the first place! I just had to trust in Him. We started to pray right before latching. It felt funny at first but then it made sense. It was our baby’s mealtime! So like the adults, we prayed first before he ate. haha

And miracles of miracles, I moved out of my dark cloud right at the end of the second week! All of a sudden, my outlook was brighter, I was more positive and I didn’t easily cry anymore. It helped that my “manas” (bloating) was gone too and I felt physically stronger. Four days after our visit to the pedia, I insisted we go back to the hospital to get our baby weighed and he had gained about 100 grams in just that short time! The average weight gain is about 112-200 grams a week! By the time we saw our pedia again on his first month check up, he was right on track.

We’re only about to hit our two month milestone next week. I had a breaking point in my breastfeeding journey when I just had to ask our pedia if she could recommend a formula brand because I was just so so tired and emotionally drained from all the worry if my son was getting enough to eat. We bought one small can in the middle of night. There were nights like those.  But we ended up using only about 3 oz in total as supplemental feed. If there’s a will, there’s a way, right?

The gradual progress of pumping! Celebrate every milestone...or oz of milk! hahaha
The gradual progress of pumping! Celebrate every milestone…or oz of milk! hahaha

So if you’re a new mom and breastfeeding, here’s a few information that I know you will want to know, too:

1. Breastfed baby weight gain (growth patterns)

No amount of diaper counting will replace the weighing of the baby to ensure he’s getting enough milk:

  • Weight gain of 4-7 ounces (112-200 grams) a week during the first month
  • An average of 1-2 pounds (1/2 to 1 kilogram) per month for the first six months
  • An average of one pound (1/2 kilogram) per month from six months to one year
  • Babies usually grow in length by about an inch a month (2.5c.m.) during the first six months, and around one-half inch a month from six months to one year.

FROM: http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/feeding-eating/breastfeeding/faqs/how-much-weight-will-my-breastfeeding-baby-gain

2. Breastfeeding the First 12 Months from Ameda

I bookmarked this page and would refer to it constantly on the milestones to expect. The chart on how much milk is needed was so informative, too!

3. BUY THIS BOOK AND READ IT!

Blogs and websites are great but there are times you just gotta buy a book. This is one of those times.

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4. Buy that giant nursing pillow you see at St Luke’s BGC Lactation Unit

It’s bigger than the Boppy Pillow but it’s the best thing I’ve bought for our baby. It just props him higher to my boob for really good support and when he’s sleeping after the feed, he can rest there for a little bit while mom catches her breath too! It’s available at the 3rd floor of the hospital. But while you’re at St Luke’s and you plan to give birth there, do know that their lactation nurses can give you tutorials or answer any questions you have. I ended up asking for a registered lactation consultant to visit me at home and even if I didn’t necessarily learn anything new, just having her come by to visit me helped me a lot emotionally and mentally. So when you go to those breastfeeding classes, jot down the number of the person teaching if they do home visits. Trust me, it might just be your lifeline when you’re about to give up!

5. Find a home service lactation massage therapist.

When you’re engorged, a massage will really help relieve the pain. My sister in law referred me to her therapist and it was so good, I had her over twice in a week! Best if you have some expressed milk that someone can give to your baby while you’re having the massage so you can relax but if you don’t, most therapists will understand and stop while you feed your baby.

Well, hello again!

I was surprised with myself when I realised I wasn’t very interested to write about the tiniest details of my pregnancy…or anything much about it. I guess it was one of those things that I just wanted to savour and relish and “live”.

But now that my baby is turning two months next week, I guess it’s the best time to write at least something or else I’ll just forget! So here are five things:

1. It was a relatively uneventful pregnancy, praise God. But that first trimester dizziness was crazy. What was crazier though was the moment I hit my second trimester, it disappeared instantly! Was it all mental?
2. BabyCenter app and Mom blogs were suddenly the first websites I checked out in the morning…or early morning.
3. YES! I could park on the disabled parking slot! Just rubbed my belly at the guard and he’d give me priority!!
4. It was the most awkward feeling when my belly would move on its own in public thanks to the baby stretching. I never got used to it. And his hiccups!
5. Sleep was the best gift my baby gave me during the last trimester. That goes to show how easy he was to carry around.

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Baby Shower by Family and Friends
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It was great to have an excuse for a reunion aside from Christmas parties and dinners!! haha
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My awesome Mom and cousin, Jei, who planned everything!
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Safari-themed Baby Shower from ICA friends!

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Postcard Series #24: Tokyo Tokyo

Last year, I planned a little Tokyo food trip tour for Drew’s birthday in Makati’s Little Tokyo. For his birthday this year, we decided to head off to the real city to do basically the same thing — major food trip!!! I threw out my Cohen meal plan *hayay* and went all the way. In one day, I ate bread, noodles and rice. I felt like I was the baddest girl in the world. The only way I could justify to myself the amount of food I was eating was all the walking we were doing. They were basically 20-30 km walking days!

We stayed at an apartment in Shinjuku so of course we had to head off to Shinjuku Gyoen National Park right after checking in for an afternoon stroll in one of the most beautiful parks I’ve ever been.

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Since we kinda planned things late and it was the golden week in Japan, we decided to settle in Tokyo and just hunt down the best food places we could find. So the next day, we were up and about early to hit Tsukiji Fish Market at the crack of dawn for the freshest sushi and sashimi and ended the day with the meal at one of the best tempura houses. Whatever happened in between those two meals? Beats me. I’m sure we went to some temples and tourist spots but these two meals in Daiwa and in Tsunahachi — aaah. Forever in my mind.

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Then the next day, Drew found the bestest katsu resto in Tokyo. I felt like I was eating lechon, the pork was so delicious!
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Then we walked off all that fat and guilt in Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park,

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only to hit this hole in the wall resto in Shibuya with the awesomest noodles!

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Tokyo – we’ll see your sights next time but our bellies and taste buds come back home renewed with that deep religious experience!!! hahaha

Early the next morning after arriving back in Manila, I did a test (twice) because I’ve been feeling weird and “off” and found this out:

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Happy birthday, Drew!!

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Have I been able to mention that we tied up with Haribon Foundation to adopt a forest and join in the push for biodiversity in Philippine forests? If I haven’t, well, we did. So last Friday, we headed off to Laguna to do an ocular inspection so we can intelligently plan the actual tree planting. I’ll be bringing 50 of our employees so it’s going to be a real production number! After an hour of trekking, this was our view:

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Sadly, I was short of 450 meters from reaching the top where our tree planting site will be! Between my recent lack of exercise and the limited food intake because of Cohen, I knew it wouldn’t have been wise to push myself. My lower back is still feeling the strenuous trekking because the paths were not easy to navigate. We were literally walking by the sides of the tomato and green bean plants and bushes!

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But the forest was so lush although the lower lands were a bit dry since it hasn’t been raining.
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When we finally made it back down to level ground and into town, we went crazy in the Liliw market. There were freshly picked tomatoes, cabbage, and ampalaya. And the hard to find pako (fiddlehead fern) was for sale! All the way home, we were dreaming of making our Insalatang Pako using all the fresh produce we found in Laguna.

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Here’s my recipe for Insalatang Pako:

1 bundle pako
4 small tomatoes, washed and diced
1 salted egg, peeled and diced
1/2 onions, cut into thin strips

1. Cut the tips of the fiddlehead fern, about 4 inches from the top. Discard the tough stems then cut up the ferns into 2 inches or however long you want your salad to be.
2. Blanch the fiddle fern in ice cold water to remove the sliminess. Let it soak for a few minutes then spin dry. (Some people blanch their pako in hot water but I think cold water helps keep the crunchiness better)
3. Arrange pako with tomatoes, onions and salted egg on salad plate. You can also opt to add shrimps or nuts.

Best served cold so keep in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat! I also prepared a vinegar dressing on the side instead of pouring it so everyone can adjust the dressing to suit their taste. Just mix together white vinegar, olive oil (optional), salt, ground black pepper and that’s it!

Preparing for Life After Cohen

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I’m about a month away from graduating from my Cohen program (woohoo!!!!). I’ve been so thankful not only for the loss of the weight but also for the habits I’ve developed and knowledge I’ve gained while on the program but I know the real battle is still up ahead — when I’m maintaining my weight out in the real food world. I’ve been on the hunt for helpful advise to make my post-Cohen food life still as healthy and intelligent as possible so I picked up Tosca Reno’s book (The Eat-Clean Diet Recharged) at the Dallas airport on the way home from our trip.

I loved it! Okay, so Tosca can come across obnoxious at times but I loved the principles she put out in her book. Most of them reaffirms Cohen principles, too! I guess healthy eating can be founded on these basic tenets:

1. Drink lots of water (Minimum of 2 and try not to go beyond 3 liters)
I invested in a 22oz bpa/bps-free glass bottle to help me consume more water and keep track of it as well. As long as I refill my bottle 4 times – I know I’ve had enough water for the day. Putting a cap on how much water we drink and how fast we drink it is just as important as drinking enough water since washing away electrolytes (called water intoxication) can be just as bad for our body. Read what livestrong has to say about it here.

2. Eat more fruits and vegetables! Limit starchy complex carbs!

I enjoy discovering new fruits and vegetables now. I’m excited to be able to eat avocados, berries, broccoli, kale, malunggay and other superfoods that were non Cohen compliant.

3. Try to schedule regular meal times, eating small but often

Apparently, our body really needs to follow a schedule in order to regulate our blood sugar levels. Having a stable blood sugar level throughout the day helps curb hunger pangs and cravings. When our meals are too far apart, our blood sugar crashes and then after eating, our blood sugar spikes. A spike in our blood’s sugar levels make us feel weak and want to eat more! Eating more often and regularly (3-hour pattern for example), keeps our sugar levels stable all throughout the day.

This seems contrary to Cohen principles which make us space out our meals every 5 hours so that we don’t mix our proteins, but since snacks are allowed every 2.5 hours, I think eating small but often can still be done during Cohen!

4. Sleep!

It was a major discovery for me to learn that we burn fat most efficiently while we’re sleeping! Who knew! Apparently, once we sleep and around 7-8 hours after our last meal, if our liver is working right, we will burn 60% of our calories from fatty acids and 40% from glucose — all stored fat and not our muscles! Amazing!

5. Shop the Perimeter of the Supermarket

All the good stuff that our body really needs are located around the perimeter of the supermarket — fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood and meats. Everything in the center of the supermarket — we need to put our eat-clean-and-healthy game face on so that we can resist all the sugar and starch-laden temptations!! Limit shopping time in the middle aisles and stroll longer through the fresh sections of our favorite supermarkets!

Postcard Series #23: NYC!

OH NEW YORK! Even when your winter ate into our supposed early spring visit and was bitterly bitterly cold — you are still an amazing city to visit again and again and again!!

1. HARLEM

I decided to book our apartment off the beaten path of most tourists — in historic Harlem! It was a beautiful brownstone apartment a couple of blocks away from bus stops and metro line. To be honest, I wouldn’t have thought of Harlem if I hadn’t seen the interiors of this apartment in airbnb. Since we traveled while I was still on my strict Cohen meal plan, I had to have access to a kitchen. Six days of using a kitchen — it had to be a good one, right?! Doesn’t the apartment justify our a bit out-of-the-way location? It definitely added a different flavor to our NY experience. We felt like real locals! We even managed to attend a gospel worship service that weekend. And what’s the point of being at Harlem without getting some soul food: chicken and waffles, right?!

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2. MAJORLY TOURISTING IT!

Since it was Drew’s first visit to the city, we decided to tourist it out with major city landmark highlights. It was nice to revisit these famous landmarks again since my last visit was way back in 2002, too!

WTC MEMORIAL / WALL ST / BATTERY PARK / STATEN ISLAND

I don’t know why we decided to do the sights near the waters on the coldest day we were there! We were freezing our faces off — it was so hard to smile!

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DOWNTOWN NEW YORK: Rockefeller Center for the view of Empire State Building! Grand Central Terminal (where Drew finally had his Shake Shack experience) and Lincoln Center

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GREENWICH VILLAGE!

Walked along Sarah Jessica Parker’s apartment, the rumored would-be apartment of Jennifer Aniston, the gym where Anderson Cooper goes and where Philip Seymour Hoffman died — Greenwich Village is the spot to spot artistas! hahahaha The High Line would have been nice in proper spring. Actual, all of New York would’ve been nicer in proper spring! And Chelsea Market — haay, I wish I could transplant you in Manila.

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CENTRAL PARK

I was so optimistic about the weather in NY prior to our arrival that if you read our itinerary — we were suppose to have a beautiful sunny picnic lunch here! Instead — tada!

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THE LOVE SIGN, RIZZOLI BOOKSHOP & THE PLAZA HOTEL

The Rizzoli Bookshop was a landmark NY bookstore that is closing its doors. Had to drop by and pay our respects. Afterwards, we were consoled by that insanely delicious 20 layered crepe cake from Lady M at the Plaza Hotel! hahahaha

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3. BROADWAY SHOWS: JERSEY BOYS & LION KING

What’s a trip to NY without catching a Broadway show?! When I used to travel with my Dad — we wouldn’t do anything but lineup at TKTS and buy shows upon shows! We’d catch a matinee AND an evening show! Addict! hahaha But because we wanted to do more things this time, we ended up buying tickets online for JERSEY BOYS but got bumped up from balcony seats to orchestra center!! Yahoo!

Travel tip: Broadway shows raffle off free tickets for the same day performance a couple of hours before show time! Best to check each show’s website for more information!

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4. MUSEUMS

We decided to skip Guggenheim this time around but the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art had our plates full anyway. The Met, especially, made me wish I had a couple more days to visit it again. I was still a kid when I last visited so I didn’t remember how overwhelming it was!

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5. FOOD TRIP: BURGERS, PIZZA AND HOTDOGS — A New York must that Drew enjoyed to the max and deserves a separate post all its own!!

WE WILL BE BACK NYC!!!