As a kid, I was breastfed for 7 to 8 years! It was the best bonding experience I shared with my mother. My mum and I are still very close and I have not seen a doctor for more than once in 20 years! Therefore, when it came to my baby, my decision to breastfeed was pretty straightforward.
Baby Ro was born at home. Soon after his birth, we had skin to skin and we let Ro latch on when he was ready. He was ready within the first few minutes to be honest. I struggled initially, more in terms of handling as I was overwhelmed by it all, but luckily Ro came all ready with a perfect latch. He knew exactly what to do. And thus began our beautiful journey of breastfeeding.
First few days……
Eventhough, baby Ro had a perfect latch and my breastfeeding journey was seemingly easy and straightforward, it wasn’t completely pain free. Baby Ro was very tiny at birth and so was his latch. Smaller latch meant a lot of cuts and recurring blebs on my nipples. They were very painful. I took pain killers. I felt like I failed myself. After having given birth without any pain relief, not even gas & air, I succumbed to the pain of breastfeeding.
I wanted to enjoy breastfeeding. I hated the fact that I was fearing the pain as the time for his next feed was approaching. If a pain killer would help me achieve a positive experience without causing any harm to my baby, why shouldn’t I take it! In about 6 weeks, my milk supply was properly established and so was Ro’s latch. My nipples were sore free and breastfeeding was as joyous as I had hoped.
Breastfeeding in public
There was nothing in the world that would stop me from feeding my baby. Because of the support system I have in my family and amongst my friends, I was pretty confident about feeding in public. I was always slightly worried about people making snide remarks at me but I was prepared to ignore it and not let that have any effect on me. To my surprise, no one ever said anything. Infact, I received a lot of love and praises from people.
I still breastfeed in public and plan to feed him into his toddlerhood.
Breastfeeding and baby weight
Ro was a mere 2.5 kgs at birth which isn’t an alarmingly low weight for Indians, but according to UK standards, he was pretty small. Luckily, I established breastfeeding right after birth, but I was told that if he did not gain weight, we will have to talk. I seriously did not want to give him formula unless absolutely necessary.
Roshan wasn’t gaining tons but he was gaining at a steady pace. That gave me hope and instilled my faith in my milk supply. I had a great support system in my mum, my husband , my doula and my friend who is also a breastfeeding peer supporter. They all helped me stay focussed.
After couple of months, I started receiving some pressure from relatives back home to give him some formula to make him chubby. I, very politely, ignored their advice and carried on.
Roshan kept gaining weight slowly but steadily. He has never been a chubby baby and I do not particularly desire him to be. Yet, Ro is one of the happiest, noisiest and most awake/alert baby around the block.
There is no routine. I feed on demand and that is what I did when he was born. He sometimes fed every 2 hours, on somedays every 30 minutes; sometimes he fed for an hour whilst some other times he fed for 10 mins. There was no routine or expectations. We chose to simply respond to every cue by breastfeeding. We may not understand what is wrong with the baby or why is he crying, but breastfeeding happens to be the right answer to most worries. So use it to your benefit!
Breastfeeding can be demanding but it does not have to be so tiresome. It is so much more rewarding and enjoyable. Those little moments when they shove their fingers into your mouth, or giggle whilst still breastfeeding or look straight into your eyes or stroke your chin or fiddle with your necklace; all those moments are priceless! Trust me!
Here are some handy tips that will help you enjoy your breastfeeding journey:
Water: Drink a lot of water. Dehydration can have some really serious problems. It can not only have an effect on your supply, but also have an impact on your mood. Headaches, muscle aches, grumpiness, insomnia or overly emotional behaviours are often signs of lack of water. So please mama’s, drink a lot of water to boost your supply and energy levels!
Skin to skin: Skin to skin is so important, not only for warmth and to maintain body temperatures but also milk supply. The closer the baby is to your skin, the more responsive your body becomes to the cue of making more milk.
Babywearing: It helps achieve the closeness, calmness and skin to skin required to produce or establish milk supply.
Oats: This may not apply to all, but till date, a bowl of porridge really fills me up (I mean my boob). I can tell oats helps me with my milk supply a lot. So, if ever feeling unsure of the supply, eat a bowl of porridge before going for the formula.
Sleep on the boob: This one is frowned upon by many people. There is a culture of putting the baby down as soon as they fall asleep on the boob. No, please let them just have the boob in their mouth unless they let go completely. The motion of sucking is not a waste of time, there is a lot of communication going on between the baby’s saliva and your nipples. When the saliva comes in contact with the areola, it sends a very important message to your body. It exposes your body to all the bacteria the baby has come in contact with, and if the baby has come in contact with any bad bacteria, this saliva sends a message to your body to make milk rich in enzymes and antibodies needed to fight the germs and infection the baby is infested with. Therefore, the baby gets rid of the germs before it even has a chance to make him fall ill. Don’t you think it is amazing?
I have spent hours and still do, sitting on the sofa with him in my arms, sucking on my nipples, clearly not drinking but fast asleep. It is the best time to read a book or a good excuse to just sit down and chill out.
The aim of this article is not to make non-breastfeeding mommy’s feel bad. I understand that breastfeeding is a very personal choice and it may not be for everyone. The number of women who can actually not produce milk is about 2% I think, and in those cases formula is probably your best option. If in doubt about your supply, please seek the right kind of help. If you produce breastmilk, you are more likely to produce enough for your baby (some women established proper supply a bit later but they do eventually). So any aunt telling you to feed your baby formula because the baby is too thin should not be taken seriously before you have met some lactation consultants.