Breastfeeding – The natural phenomenon that does not always happen naturally

During the days of having a bun in my oven, like most expecting women, I used to spend a lot of time researching on all aspects of parenting. With vast information being just a click away these days, making an informed choice and making oneself aware about any matter has become relatively easier. But, on the flip side, the information overload can occasionally be the cause of mental mayhem. I was asked to read up on breastfeeding basics during my pre-natal classes arranged by my hospital, which I did very sincerely. However, to be honest, the theory that I read online became an “overhead” transmission of sorts as I could not really register the different feeding positions and latching techniques in my mind. My only important takeaway from all the exploration I indulged in was that breastfeeding is the best for a baby’s immunity and nourishment in the formative years. Hence, I had firmly decided that I will give my all to ensure that I can successfully breastfeed my baby. Whoever I spoke to during my pregnancy about breastfeeding made it sound like it is something that just happens naturally between mom and baby, and I assured myself that when my baby latches on, magic will happen.

Finally, the pivotal moment arrived and I was all set for a water birth. But destiny had other plans and it so happened that after hours of labour, I had to go for an emergency C-section. Luckily, I had a wonderful gynaecologist and doula, who were both breastfeeding friendly and they made sure that my baby latched on to me just a few minutes after we came out of the OT. I was not completely out of the effect of anaesthesia at that point so I could not feel much but I was told that my baby latched beautifully and this brought a huge smile on my face. Just when it seemed like we had nailed it at the first go, reality kicked in and I realized what breastfeeding is all about. From that day to now, I have completed 18 months of breastfeeding and I intend to continue till my child self weans. The journey has been nothing close to smooth sailing but has been tremendously rewarding and fulfilling. There were many instances when I had almost given up but I could sail through because of the excellent support system I had throughout. My husband, my parents, my in-laws and my friends have all been instrumental in making this milestone possible for me. I am sharing a few tit-bits based on my experience which I believe every new mom or would-be-mom must know and understand about breastfeeding, as that can save her a lot of grief later and help her establish a successful breastfeeding relationship with her baby.

 Colostrum is truly Liquid Gold – A few of my friends tell me that they were extremely worried on the first day because they could not see any milk coming out and the baby kept crying due to hunger. Unfortunately, their doctors and nurses didn’t know any better to tell them that the first milk called Colostrum does not look like regular breast milk and it is produced in small quantities only. I was blessed to have a knowledgeable doula who had told me before I gave birth about the benefits of colostrum for a new-born. It is truly liquid gold and protects the newborn from diseases. It aids in clearing out meconium from the baby’s system thus keeping bilirubin levels in control which helps prevent newborn jaundice. A newborn cries due to a number of reasons and attributing all the crying to hunger is not correct. So, please feed your baby colostrum after birth if you can and do not worry about quantity if baby is peeing and pooping fine as per the doctor.

Dynamics of milk supply – At some point, most of the lactating mothers doubt their milk supply and wonder whether their babies are getting enough milk. Sometimes this can be due to slow weight gain of babies or sometimes due to their frequent crying spells. But the fact is that both of these are not always true indicators of low milk supply. Pee count of the baby and overall growth are important factors to be considered. As I mentioned earlier, babies cry due to a hoard of reasons – feeling hot, feeling cold, boredom, gassiness, too much stimulation, for security and comfort etc. The milk supply equation is simple – the more you feed, the more you make. So if a mother wants to exclusively breastfeed, then the best way to improve milk supply is to keep feeding baby on demand, be it for hunger, thirst or comfort. Nursing vacation is a great way to boost supply for moms who have had a major drop in supply due to various reasons. I also doubted my milk supply sometimes, but thanks to a wonderful forum on Facebook called “Breastfeeding support for Indian Moms”, I understood the dynamics of supply and demand of breast milk. I urge all new moms to join this forum which is one of the best groups I ever joined on FB. The administrators of the group are highly knowledgeable and certified, and believe in providing evidence-based advice. I cannot imagine how things would have been for me if I did not have assistance from my virtual friends. I have often read on this group that many moms are discouraged from breastfeeding by their parents or in-laws and are advised to give baby other stuff over breast milk. Either this is because they believe that breast milk is as good as water once baby turns 6 months old or it’s because they assume baby is crying due to inadequate milk. This makes me very sad because the biggest support mothers need is the assurance from loved ones that what they are doing is right. Lack of this moral support can be a hurdle for them in their journey as it can be quite demotivating. I am fortunate that all my family members and friends are with me on my decision to breastfeed my baby till she self weans.

Good latch can take time – I had made it very clear to the hospital staff post delivery that I wanted to exclusively breastfeed. Due to my surgery, I had a hard time finding a convenient feeding position in the initial days and the nurses were also not of much help even though they tried. This meant relentless efforts during every feed to get the baby to latch on correctly and the side effect of all this was sore nipples. My mom stood by me like a rock during that phase helping me during every feed including the night time feeds, and had it not been for her comforting presence, I would have abandoned all hope due to exhaustion and frustration. So, always remember that you need to give your baby and yourself time before you both get at ease in this whole process. Eventually, the baby will become a pro at it but it takes patience and perseverance to get there. I would also highly recommend acquiring the services of a certified lactation consultant right at the beginning if you can afford one instead of relying on others. Though the babies are meant to latch on to the breasts by nature, it may not always be a trouble-free start. Hence, please don’t lose heart if that’s the case with you. Skin to skin after delivery helps a great deal so talk to your doctor about it in advance.

Bites and cuts – Ouch! Even the mention of this reminds me of those painful days when my daughter had started teething and became aggressive during the feeds. She used to clamp on the nipples and suck fiercely which led to cuts and bruises. This was my toughest phase during breastfeeding as the pain was excruciating and I had to still keep feeding her. My mom was my saviour again as she would look after my daughter while I pumped milk for hours, so that the pumped milk could be fed from a bottle. I had to continue this for many days till my nipples healed properly. Couple of times these cuts led to inflammation and fever, and I had to take medical treatment for it. Those were trying times and I almost wanted to stop breastfeeding in despair. But, the encouragement from my near and dear ones kept me pepped up and I could reach this far which I could never foresee happening early on.

Pumping is not easy – Many folks who haven’t pumped and have no idea about it think it’s an easier route. Even I was under that impression till I discovered what a challenging task it is. It is gruelling and also stressful at times because it’s not easy to get the required quantity of breast milk consistently. Pumping requires immaculate planning, calculations, persistence and endurance. Hats off to all the working moms who have to pump regularly! If you are planning to pump, please do your research well and invest in a good quality pump appropriate for your requirement. This is one investment which will be more than worth it.

Do not time feeds – After my delivery, among the flurry of advice from all around was the advice to feed for around 15-20 minutes from both sides per feeding session. I am glad I figured out sooner that it’s the wrong thing to do. It’s best to let your baby decide the duration and frequency of feeds. Every baby is unique and no rule can be defined for one. Trust your baby to know best because we would never know for sure the reason due to which the feed is being demanded. Newborns, especially, have tiny tummies so they may need frequent feeds and each session may last for a long duration. During the initial months, the only way I could survive the long-lasting and enervating feeding sessions without getting overwhelmed was by getting my family members to help with all household related chores. I only focused on feeding my baby and once that was done, my husband or either of the parents would take over the baby from me so that I could rest and recover.

Nursing in Public – I remember those days when I used to plan outings in such a way that a store or mall that has a feeding room was in close proximity to wherever we planned to go, which meant visiting similar places always. I started feeling restricted but just accepted it as a part of being a new parent. Then, it so happened that we had to travel to my native place which involved long journeys by train and flight. During that trip, because it was the need of the hour, I shed all inhibitions and nursed my baby everywhere – flight, train, cab, temples. My husband and in-laws were so cool about it which gave me further confidence to nurse in public. What they said was very simple – you are just feeding your baby, so there is nothing to hide or be embarrassed about. This meant a lot to me and I guess this is how we all need to normalize breastfeeding. There is nothing sexual about it and it is extremely important that we create a comfortable and conducive environment for a mom to nurse in public. Having said that, I hope to see more feeding rooms in our country to make life easier for nursing mothers.

C-section Mummas can also feed – It’s a myth which is believed to be true by many that milk comes in late after a C-section and that one cannot feed after the surgery. Quite a significant number of moms who underwent C-section told me that they saw their babies only after 12-24 hours post the birthing process. This thinking is not at all true unless there is a medical reason behind it. Please be upfront about this with your doctor before your due date itself. I had nursed just few minutes after my surgery so undoubtedly, it is definitely possible and doable. You just need to educate yourself on this aspect beforehand and have the right people around you to help with this.

To breastfeed or not is a personal choice of a mother and none of us should judge her for it. At the same time, it is imperative that the mother is aware of all facts to make a learned choice. However, it never ends with only deciding; rather that’s where it starts. It’s on us to provide her with the right support system at home and her workplace so that she can breastfeed till whenever she deems is right for her and her baby. One can find countless benefits of breastfeeding for not just the baby, but also the mom,  on internet. But, we need to spread awareness about this to those who do not have access to this information so that we can help every mom breastfeed. It is world breast-feeding week and this time, let’s pledge to play our part in making it a divine, relaxed and secure experience for every Mom. Let’s #HelpMomsBreastfeed!

//This sponsored article was written for Nestle’s “Help Moms Breastfeed” campaign conducted during World Breastfeeding Week 2016 and was first published in Momspresso and is available at the following link

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