Moncada: Of breastfeeding, motherhood and #cloy

NO DOUBT that Korean dramas or K-drama for short are so popular in the Philippines, especially among the teenagers, that the multi-awarded director Erik Matti sees the demise of local cinemas in the Philippines because of the inescapable trend.

But this is not about K-dramas. This is about Kristina, a teenager and a mother, and her breastfeeding journey. And despite having to bear the burden of having a child at a young age, she chose to enroll in senior high school. Thankfully, her class schedule was made flexible so she can attend to her baby whenever needed, especially that she breastfeeds her little princess, Athena Catriona, who has turned one year-old just last month.

Kristina, 19, recalled that she and her three siblings grew up as formula-milk babies. But with the support of her family and Modern Nanays for Mindanao, a local organization that advocates for breastfeeding, Kristina has come to understand the value of breastfeeding.

"Dugay ra gyud kaayu nako gusto e-share akong breastfeeding journey kay daghan man gud ko'g friends nga mga teenage moms (For a long time, I've wanted to share my breastfeeding journey especially to my friends who are also teenage moms)." When I asked her about the importance of breastfeeding and breastmilk, Kristina enumerated three answers right away.

"First," she started, "grabe siya ka nutritious (It is very nutritious)."

I searched on the internet to find out more about what makes breastmilk nutritious. And credible sources online say that breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for a new baby. The components of breastmilk like proteins, fats, vitamins, and lactose are vital for the health and development of the baby.

What is more interesting is that breastmilk has antibodies that protect the baby from infection and diseases like Covid-19. Think about antibodies as the lead male character Captain Ri Jeong Hyeok, and his inner circle of soldiers, in the K-drama "Crash landing on you" or #cloy fighting against the principal villain Cheol Gang.

Breastmilk is the only food that can create active antibodies and because of these antibodies that function like soldiers, breastmilk is the most secure food commodity for the baby.

Sounds like very much helpful especially that we are in a pandemic, isn't it?

Breastmilk remains nutritious no matter what the emotional state of wellbeing and the diet of mothers is, Nadine Casiño, who is the brainchild of Modern Nanays in Mindanao emphasized. Kristina had met Casiño in the Alima Mother Support Center. For me, this is a revelation. And this is important to know especially that the uncertainty brought by Covid-19 has made everyone, not just the lactating mothers, anxious. Nadine added by saying "you do not need perfect food to make perfect milk."

In episode 13 of season 1 of #cloy, Yoon Se-ri, the lead female character, sent the troop of Captain Ri, who came after their leader to the South with a mission of bringing him back to the North, to a shopping spree using the heiress' card called Seri Card. And this leads me to what Kristina said next about the importance of breastfeeding.

"Ikaduha, (Second)" Kristina continued, "easier ra kay siya (it is easy)."

The other way she put it is that breastfeeding is accessible. Furthermore, she explained that dali ra magamit (easier to do) compared to using formula milk which may take time and burdensome to prepare.

But to paint breastfeeding as idyllic as the Lake Brienz in Switzerland where the beautiful piano scene of Captain Ri was shot without mentioning the real struggles lactating mothers have to go through is perhaps an injustice. That is why Kristina confided with me that she actually struggled at the onset of her breastfeeding journey. She was without breastmilk for three days and as a young and passionate mother, she was so worried for her baby.

Breastmilk production is prompted by stimulation of hormones in the brain - prolactin and oxytocin. "You just need to stimulate these two hormones para mag make milk," Nadine said. "You do not get these from food" she continued. Galactagogues or simply milk-making food like malunggay or papaya or ginger are just "annecdotal ang effect," Nadine shared.

So Kristina tried and because prolactin, the hormone that promotes lactation, is stimulated every suckle of the baby, she has finally breastfed her baby on the fourth day since giving birth.

Breastmilk is made and prepared for the whole nine months of pregnancy. "Pagpanganak, ready for secretion nalang na," Nadine said.

So imagine what a big miss it is not to take advantage of what has been given already, isn't it?

The trusted troop of Captain Ri did not maximize the card that was so generously made accessible to them. Se-ri wondered why and felt sorry for them. If I were them, I could have squandered it in the shopping street of Gangnam and barbeque in Hongdae.

But moving on and to complete the three, Kristina said "Tapos dayun, ang third is kuan (Third is)... mas ma-bond mo ug ayo sa imong baby (it strengthens the bond between a mother and child)."

She recalled that her friends would envy her saying, "maayo pa mo sa imo baby, close kaayu mo ba; kami sa akong baby, dili (good for you that you're close with your baby; my baby and I aren't)."

Kristina attributes this bond to the close physical contact she and her child has whenever she breastfeeds her.

The science behind this closeness and intimacy of breastfeeding that strengthens maternal affection lies in oxytocin or the "love hormone". There is a massive rush of oxytocin or also known as trust or cuddle hormone to a mother's brain, whenever a baby suckles. And as a result, the mother's feelings of trust, love and affection are enhanced.

Now, what is oxytocin in relation to #cloy?

Before answering that, probably by now, I have given you a hint that I have been binge-watching #cloy in Netflix to while my quarantine time. I am now in episode fourteen of season one. I have been so hooked to it for more than a month now that I am surprise whenever I blurt annyeonghaseyo (which means hello) or arraseo (okay). And making this K-drama a must-watch for my Intercultural Communication class next semester is playing in my mind. Joesonghabnida, Direk.

To answer the question, that kind of affection formed when a mother breastfeeds her child is found wanting in Han Jeong-Yeon's relationship with her step-daughter, Se-ri. Is it because Se-ri is not her real daughter? Probably.

But I am not going to go to that direction for now. What is sure is that it was not a happy childhood for Se-ri, compared to that of Captain Ri. Her step mother, Jeong-Yeon, attempted to abandon Se-ri. A wall divides between the two.

Spoiler alert.

But in the end, Jeong-Yeon, the step mother, succumbed to the sincere love that Se-ri has for her. She eventually learned to put the walls down that has long hindered the affection between the two of them.

After all that is said and done, I kinda feel weird drawing parallelism between breastfeeding and a K-drama such as #cloy. But hey, how do you make something very important more interesting? I hope I did it.

I asked Kristina if she watches any K-drama herself. It was not a surprise when she said yes and mentioned the likes of Legend Of The Blue Sea, Boys Over Flowers, among others. She watches these, oftentimes while breastfeeding her little princess, Athena Catriona, who she loves more than anything.

In #cloy, the love of the parents is understated. But Kristina wants to shout out that she has fixed herself, drawing inspiration from her daughter. That she is proud of her daughter, no matter what.

Again, this is not about K-dramas. This is about Kristina, a teenage mother, who wants nothing but the best, just like breastfeeding, for her daughter.

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