My breastfeeding journey started long before I found out that I was pregnant. I have two step-children who have been with me since they were toddlers. Although, we bonded very closely and we have unconditional love for each other; there was always this empty feeling inside of me as I am sure is in them when we think and talk of their infancy. There are no memories or pictures of me holding them close as babies, or of those early days of breastfeeding, cuddling up and connecting at a very different spiritual level. We have worked very hard to establish an unbreakable relationship nonetheless.
I knew the joys of breastfeeding from a perspective of a child too. I was breastfed for 8 years of my early life and my bond with my mother is something that is desired by many. Apart from my bond with my mother, my immune system is (touchwood) also something to be desired by many. It was very important for me to breastfeed my baby due to the above two reasons.
I did a lot of reading on breastfeeding when I was pregnant. One of the books that I read page to page was Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding. I found it very very helpful in preparing me for those early days of breastfeeding when you haven’t established the feeding completely.
It was the need for achieving perfect breastfeeding experience that I chose to try and have an unmedicated birth (read about it here), and I feel extremely lucky that my labour went smoothly and baby Roshan was born safely without any medical intervention of any kind. Soon after the birth, we had skin to skin with both my husband and myself and within the first 1 hour, he was latched on to my breasts like a pro. It was magical. I was amazed at this newborn spirits ability to feed so naturally. With every tingle of his suck, I felt an overwhelming joy running through my body.
We had a homebirth and so it was easier to establish breastfeeding because as soon as the midwives left, I was left alone with the baby to feed him and bond with him in my own comfort zone. At this point, I would also like to tell people about the importance of having a very supportive partner. My husband was always very supportive of my approach towards everything natural, whether it was my choice to have a homebirth, delayed cord-cutting, freezing the placenta, skin to skin with both parents to breastfeeding. He was happy to run up to the pharmacy at 10pm in the night to get me some breast pads, youtube latching techniques etc. Having my mother also helped me a lot get through a lot of hurdles. Her years of experience paved way for my healthy breastfeeding journey.
Hurdles, although not many, were there in the early days of my breastfeeding journey. My baby was small at 2.5kgs at birth. His mouth was small and so although it seemed like he had the perfect latch, it was a perfect latch for his size which was still small for my breasts. Also, he was so so sleepy (he could have stayed in for another 2 weeks or so to be fair) his latch would get a bit lazy from time to time. Hence, I ended up with cracked nipples. My friend Ashleigh brought me some Lanolin, which was supposed to help. But in all honesty, Lanolin only made things worse as it would glue the fabric of my clothing on my skin, thereby peeling off the scab and making it raw all over again. What helped me the most were Lana Care’s BreastPads. These breast pads are made out of organic merino wool. They are so soft and soothing. So although they had no medical contribution in treating my sore nipples better, they provided the much needed comfort. I would literally look forward to popping them back on after every feed. They are so easy to wash, and requires minimum maintenance to be honest. I would highly recommend this product to all nursing mothers whether you are leaking or sore.
Between week 4 and week 6, I also suffered from one of the most common problems of breastfeeding – engorgement. Engorgement is very common when you are establishing healthy breastfeeding. Your supply comes in and your body take a few days for your body to correctly regulate the supply needed by your baby. I saw my friends suffer from mastitis and what not! I really didn’t want to suffer and so I tried my best to take care of the engorgement (hard painful lumps in my breasts) before it got worse. Breast massages and hot compress few times a day was very helplful.
But of all the issues the one thing I never read about or was prepared for was a nipple bleb! Oh my good lord! I could have given up breastfeeding when this happened. I dreaded each feed. I had a recurring bleb on the baby’s favourite side which made feeding times even worse. But I kept fighting the negative feeling and kept feeding my baby, hoping it would go away. And lo behold, gross as it may sound, I think the baby pulled the bleb out with all his sucking. Once the bleb battle was overcome, my breastfeeding journey has been good so far.
How long does my baby sleep in the night?
A lot of people have asked me this and my answer is just as long as it takes for him to digest his milk. Breast milk is digested much faster than formula or any other milk. So babies on breast milk in general feed every 2 to 3 hours and that is very common (that doesn’t mean that on some days/night he wouldn’t feed every 30 mins to an hour). My baby does the same. But as he is growing bigger he is sleeping longer. But he does wake up for a few feeds in the night time. It just hasn’t been an issue or the fact that I have stopped counting how many times he wakes up is because co-sleeping makes night time feeds a breeze (more on that in my upcoming post). I sleep through most of the feed. I am half aware of him sucking but because I don’t have to wait to put him back in his cot I feel pretty relaxed lying and probably falling asleep as he gets closer to finishing his feed.
Feeding in public?
Never really been an issue. I think breastfeeding in public is not such a big problem than it is made out to be. I am sure there are some stupid people who may have a problem but I don’t think about it too much. I am half prepared for someone to walk up to me and say something but more often than not I am pleasantly surprised by the positive attitudes of people around breastfeeding. I try and breastfeed as discreetly as possible. I use the one top up and one top down method, but sometimes, it is all out there, especially on occasions when my baby decides to unlatch and have a look around. I mean seriously baby, ‘focus’ on the boob PLEASE!
Have I lost weight?
No. I think it is a myth that one loses weight instantly by breastfeeding. If anything, I might have gained weight. But that is partly because of the sugar intake. Nursing mothers crave sugar. I think, that is more to do with disturbed sleep or sleep deprivation. Honestly, I don’t think weight should be on my mind just yet. One will be surprised how easily your milk supply can be affected due to diet changes. It is not easy to eat and drink well to keep your supply up. I”d rather eat more than less to prevent any risks of low supply as that is my baby’s only source of nutrition. If that means I have to carry a few extra pounds so be it. I practice regular yoga everyday, hoping to stay fit and flexible.
How long do I plan to breastfeed?
Hopefully not 8 years, definitely not! My mother is an epitome of patience, I unfortunately did not inherit that trait from her. I do want to exclusively breastfeed for minimum six months and hopefully carry on for a year or two until my baby is completely weaned and eating solids for his primary nutritional needs. I reckon all that would not take more than two years. One of the reasons why I wish he would voluntarily wean off within 2 years is because, I personally found being weaned off very traumatising at the age of 8 years. I am not sure at what age do kids remember their emotional experiences in their conscious mind, but the longer my baby uses breasts for comfort only, the more the chances of him having a negative association with being weaned off which I do not want him to suffer from at all. So fingers crossed for that, I personally dread that phase!
My biggest achievement as a breastfeeding mother?
Eating lobster with one hand whilst breastfeeding with the other! Beat that!