B for Breast F for Feeding

Early days are tough. Though I had heard of it and read about it various forums, I never really realized how tough they could be. For starters there are issues which are anticipated and then there are things which come and hit you out of the blue.

One such issue is breast feeding. Every new mom had to deal it with irrespective of whether they choose to do it or not.

While I was growing up and in fact until very recently I was very squeamish with the word breast. Even when used with respect to feeding, it would embarrass me and make me uncomfortable, for I primarily saw the breast as sexual organ and well being brought up in a conservative family also contributed to this image but things were about to change, that too in a big way. The last few months of pregnancy were spent in preparation for our little one. P and I enrolled ourselves in the BCT( Brussels childcare trust) prenatal classes and many a evenings were spent learning the working of pregnancy, labor and child care. Of all the topics covered, the predominant and most talked about one was breastfeeding and its benefits. It is recommended by WHO. It is the safe. It is easy.It is natural. It is free and most importnatly it is the BEST for the child. Of course we wanted the BEST for our child and so even though I had never really thought or dwelt on the issue before, I took for granted that it is what I would also do. No questions asked. As the due date grew closer I was exposed to various associated issues that might come up like sore cracked nipples, engorgement, leakage, the workings of demand and supply, the evil teats, nipple shields, breast name it and I had either read about it or had heard about it.In short, I was told breast feeding was hard, I just did not realize how hard.

Little did I know that even though one might anticipate and be prepared for all sorts of issues, life always throws in some twists and turns and disposes any plans you might have made. 18th of august, 10: 58 PM Miss A was born after a long 27 hour labor which ended in a c-sec. As I spent the next few hours in the recovery room, P and a wailing Miss A were left to their own devices in another room. Helpless, P kept ringing the midwife bell as he just did not know how to deal with her. He was scared even to lift her! The midwife then came down and gave P a piece of her mind about not bonding with his own child and then fed Miss A a cup of formula! P says that did quite her down a bit but later on her waling continued only to be quieted down when he picked her up and held her till I was brought in, a good 4 hours later. That was the beginning of our formula story.

The next few days at the hospital were spent in trying to establish the latch at every feeding. At first, both of us were excited and eager but soon it turned to frustration. Miss A could not latch well and when she did, it was shallow. This resulted in sore nipples which soon started bleeding as I would not give up and desperately wanted it to work. The midwives suggested that I express and feed. I grudgingly agreed and that was when realized that my supply was low, really low and no wonder Miss A was annoyed. I could not keep up with her appetite. I cried. I felt like a failure.The whole feeling was compounded by the repeated questions about weather I was lactating well and if Miss A was feeding well. I was told more than once that "Mothers milk is so important". Like I did not know that already!

The day we came home, P rushed to Baby 2000 ( which was the only shop open till 7 in Brussels) to buy Philips avent Breast Pump. It proved to be a life saver in the first 2 weeks. Amma took care of my diet and fed me constantly healthy food at regular intervals( My diet was extremely restricted due to Gestational diabetes during pregnancy ). We tried all sorts of home remedies and I am not sure what exactly worked, may be it was a combination of things but in 1 week we were completely off formula. The only problem that remained was the latch. I tried to feed with nipple shields slowly but that did not work out much. In fact now it seemed Miss A just did not want anything else but the rubber teats. Expressing milk for every feed after a c sec can take its toll on you and I was finally ready to give up. To hell with Breast feeding, I thought. As a last attempt before giving up, we turned to midwife who was also a lactation consultant. She spent 5 min with us and Miss A latched well for the first time. This was the first pain free, bottle free feed we had. I was elated. Miss A could do it after all. I could do it after all.

On the advice of the consultant the next day we moved off all bottles and nipple shields and started working on reintroducing the breast. The result- An inconsolable wailing Miss A. Every wail was like a rejection and it pierced through my emotional, high on hormone heart. Both of us spent the whole day crying and trying. By the end of the day we still had not managed to latch. P came home to find us in a holy mess and then put me the right perspective by asking a simple question. If we had been given a condition that we could have a baby only if we would formula feed her,what would I have done? The world righted itself and good sense prevailed. That night the bottles came back on, but we were still with BM. The next morning I decided to try a new trick. I would give miss A the bottle for few minutes and then quickly swap with Breast. It worked! So for the next two days we continued this way until we did not need the bottle at all. Poor baby she just did not understand that teats and nipples served the same purpose. So now Miss A could bottle feed as well as breast feed. Yea, a baby with dual talents:)

Today when I look back, I know I could not have done it without my mom and P. They stood by me and Miss A and helped us at every step.

For those out there who are struggling with supply and latch issues, all I will say is don't beat yourself about it. It is difficult not to succumb under the pressure to breastfeed due to the OR ELSE subtext. It might seem impossible to turn your head away from all the lies, half-truths and exaggerations which are all designed to get the mother to consider breastfeeding to be the BEST for the BABY and MOTHER. I know I felt like a failure and a really bad mother on the initial days when my supply was low and all websites and books told me "low supply issues are easily corrected". They're not. Nothing is easy here. Yes they can be corrected but not easily.Believe it or not Breast feeding is not natural for all. For some like us it is an acquired skill. Breast feeding is not free. It takes time and effort.Both are not Free. No mother will feel "Free" as long as she is nursing. Breast feeding is not convenient.(Try waking up every two hours at night- This is one thing that tilts the balance- parenting becomes predominantly breast feeding) I am yet to do it in public and am shit scared of the 10 hour long trip back home.

However, nothing is impossible. Close your eyes and ears to the breast feeding propaganda. I know more than one child who turned out just as fine if not better on formula filled bottles than on breast. I know I am happy I did not give up( though I have no idea how being exclusively breast fed is going to change Miss A's life), but you must consider it only if you believe the effort and sacrifices are worth it.Whatever you decide,remember your decision is the BEST for the baby and you . Don't let anyone make you feel bad about it.

Related : How to increase breast-milk supply


muse said...

I had a similar experience as well. Sammu was given sips of formula at the hospital and and the first few days at home because my milk had not 'come in' yet. I felt so guilty and worked up about the whole thing. The only difference was that we had a good latch from the beginning. I refused to pay attention to my MIL and other's advice that my supply was maybe low. Sammu and I kept at it and in fact we are still going!!! Incredible, when you think she's already two. I think we will wean this month. I'm taking it slow because she has just joined playschool and is only now beginning to settle down there.

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