The Divine Phenomenon of Breastfeeding – My Journey, Challenges and How I Faced Them
I am a mother to a sixteen-month-old baby girl. Being a new mom, I am cherishing the whole experience of motherhood; the aspect that amazes me the most and is closest to my heart is breastfeeding.
The first time I breastfed my baby was with the joint efforts of me, my baby, and the hospital nurse. After a few minutes of struggle by all three of us, my baby was able to latch on and started sucking. It was a weird sensation, not just physically, but also emotionally. It was my first tryst with motherhood. After she was done, she unlatched and slept peacefully, and I felt divine and empowered. In the initial weeks whenever I fed her, the feeling was the same. I remember when I first fed in front of my husband, he looked at me like I was a goddess, and said, “Thank You”. I was touched beyond words. Today, although I have gotten used to the feeling, the profound contentment I feel remains the same.
In the sixteen months of my breastfeeding journey, I faced a few problems. I am from a small town where there are no lactation consultants, and the advice that I received from others did not seem to help much. The biggest help I have had till date is from a support group on Facebook, i.e., “Breastfeeding support for Indian Mothers” (BSIM). It is an amazing group created solely for creating awareness about breastfeeding and answering the queries of nursing moms. I strongly recommend it to all breastfeeding and expecting moms.
Below are the issues I faced and the solutions I received and successfully implemented, thanks to BSIM.
1. Pain During Nursing
Initially, whenever I nursed my little one, it used to hurt a lot and I couldn’t understand why. Then I got to know about the concept of deep latching. Mild pain during breastfeeding is not “normal” as most of us tend to assume. If it hurts even a little, it may be because your baby is not latching correctly. I checked some videos on the internet regarding latching technique and “poof” the pain was gone.
2. Engorgement and Leakage
Now, this issue was irksome and embarrassing. In the first few weeks, as a mother’s body is still perceiving the needs of the baby, so there is often oversupply of breastmilk. If the engorgement is not painful you need not do anything about it. However, if it is painful, then just hand express a little until you are comfortable then feed the baby normally. If the pain persists and you experience other symptoms, it is best that you consult a gynaecologist.
For leakage, you can use breast pads which are easily available online as well as in the bricks-and-mortar outlets. I used to prefer cloth napkins since they were more comfortable and I could wash and reuse them. After around the third month, the supply of breastmilk starts stabilizing, as the body understands the requirements of the baby by then and produces accordingly.
3. Feeling Uncomfortable While Nursing in Public
In the initial months of being a mom, I had no social life and I hardly used to step out of the house. Even when I did, I used to rush back home helter-skelter within an hour. All because I was exclusively breastfeeding my baby and I was not comfortable nursing in public.
Now, this is an issue I have not yet fully overcome, but I have managed to shed my inhibitions to a great extent. To comfortably breastfeed in public, it is very important for one to first understand that the primary function of breasts is to feed a baby. It is a very natural and beautiful phenomenon, and you must feel proud. So if you are breastfeeding and someone is staring, the only person who needs to be ashamed and embarrassed is the latter! That said and done, most of us would still feel uncomfortable while breastfeeding in public. What really worked for me in this situation was the “Two T-shirt Method”. I tried shawls, dupattas, covers, and specially stitched kurtas, but it was this simple technique that actually helped me, one where you can actually wear your normal everyday clothes.
Using the above-mentioned technique I nursed my baby in cars, trains, flights, and airports. During a recent trip with the family, I had to take four flights and I breastfed my baby during takeoffs and landings. I fed her comfortably sitting right beside my father and brother in all the four flights thanks to the two t-shirt method. Also, they are the most awesome people on the earth because there was no awkwardness on their part.
4. Using Formula as Top Feed
In the fourth and fifth month, my baby was very cranky. She would cry often and take her fist in her mouth. There were times when she demanded being fed almost every half an hour. The obvious conclusion drawn by relatives and family members was that she was not getting enough milk. Luckily by that time I had read a lot on the internet and religiously followed the group BSIM, so I knew that was not the case.
The thumb rule is that if your baby’s pee count (approx 6 times a day) and weight gain are good, she is definitely getting enough milk. Taking fist into the mouth is very normal for babies (in fact a milestone) and crankiness can be because of a number of reasons. Frequent feeds are demanded by the baby during growth spurts or when she wants to be comforted. Luckily, my paediatrician suggested me to breastfeed her. He encouraged me and told other family members that I should not introduce formula, not at that time.
In spite of this, there was pressure on me to give top feed because “What harm could one feed a day do?”. But my conscience did not allow me to deprive my baby of a single drop of breast milk she could receive. Also, I knew that once I started top feed, my body will perceive it as a decrease in demand which in turn would result in a decrease in supply. I did not want to fall in that trap.
I stood firm and sailed through without a single drop of top milk. So even though I tend to be a submissive person naturally, often unable to take a stand for myself, this time I stood for what I believed in, because this time my baby was in the equation. Motherhood did bring out the best in me.
Benefits of Breast Milk
Breast milk is rightly claimed to be “liquid gold” as it has innumerable health benefits. Listed below are few points I personally experienced.
1. It Strengthens The Bond Between The Mother and The Baby
A mother has an exceptional bond with her baby no matter what, but whenever I breastfeed, I feel that bond becomes even stronger and more special. Sometimes my girl stops mid feed just to give me a quick smile as if saying thank you. Now that’s a feeling I am in no hurry to get rid of.
2. Helps in Weight Loss
After my baby turned 5 months, I started losing weight with no workouts or diet plans, courtesy breastfeeding. By the seventh month, I had lost almost all my pregnancy weight and could fit into most of my old clothes. Now, this may not hold true for everyone, but it’s a known fact that exclusive breastfeeding helps in weight loss.
3. Boon While Travelling
While you are travelling, your baby tends to become cranky because of disrupted sleep schedules and change in atmosphere. This happened to me, and my girl would refuse to eat anything at all for the whole day. This was around the one year mark. Breastfeeding was my saviour during these times. The one thing she would readily accept and which I was assured gave her enough nutrition.
4. It is Hassle-Free
Exclusive breastfeeding saved me a lot of hassle of preparing powdered milk and washing and sterilizing the bottles. Apart from the above, breastfeeding has a plethora of benefits. It is loaded with antibodies and so improves the immunity of the baby; it is tailor-made according to the requirement of the baby. Breastfeeding your baby can prevent him from a number of chronic illnesses. Its flavour depends on the food consumed by the mother. Breastfeeding has many benefits for the mother as well as the baby and it is difficult to put it in one single post.
All in all, breastfeeding has been one amazing journey for me till now. Yes, I have had my share of low moments too. When I experienced postpartum blues, I felt trapped and depressed. But I sailed through them. There are many people who are surprised, shocked even, when they hear I still feed my sixteen-month-old baby. They ask in all good interest “Why don’t you just wean her?” To them, I reply, “Not planning to anytime soon”. Not just because of the amazing health benefits it offers her, but also because when she taps me on the chest, looks me in the eye, and says “Dudu”, I feel more loved than when my husband looks into my eyes and says “I Love You”.
To all the lovely mothers out there, have a wondeful breastfeeding experience!
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