Last night I was watching A+, an Australian channel in which they were showing a programme on how new mommies and daddies were coping with their babies. A section of it was related to breastfeeding. It showed how a new mommy who was determined to breastfeed her infant, but was struggling with it. It showed her struggles, how the infant was not getting a proper’latch’, how she screamed with pain each time the baby tried to latch on her cracked nipples and how she finally bid BF good bye.(By the way, BF is breastfeeding, not best friend.)
It reminded me of my own struggles as a new mother trying to get my shit together. And I remembered about posting a ‘preachy’ post on breastfeeding. Here I am editing and reblogging it.
I wasn’t breastfed as a baby, since my mother had to go for work within a couple of weeks after my birth. So I knew I would be breastfeeding from the day I realized I was pregnant. I had read a lot regarding the subject and had made up my mind for the purpose at hand. But I had actually underestimated the whole process of breast feeding as something very trivial, that all mammals who gave birth were destined to breastfeed their young ones. What I didn’t know was how overwhelming an experience it would be. Nothing could have prepared me for what I would experience after delivery. It brought to the fore my insecurities and pushed my body and mind to its limits.Fuck the cracked nipples, I finally got my shit together and got over with it.
I had read in the internet that unlike in women who have normal delivery, the process of which automatically triggers milk production in the body, women who undergo c-section have delayed milk production. I had to undergo an elective c-section because of a back problem which made it impossible for me to have a normal delivery. In addition to that, I had insulin resistance as a result of PCOD, which has been found to cause insufficient lactation. So I have always had that feeling that my body wasn’t making enough milk after delivery.
I would never forget how hard it was at the hospital. Four hours after my c-section, I woke up in the recovery room to the relentless cry of a baby. There had been three c-sections that day, mine and two others. We three ladies were lying in beds adjacent to each other, in the recovery room, and behind a curtain which divided the big room into two, were the three newborn infants. I didn’t know that the one who was crying was mine, since I hadn’t seen her , but some how I had an intuition that it was in fact mine. In a short while, the nurses came to us with our respective babies to initiate breastfeeding. While the other two where experienced second time mothers who started breast feeding their babies naturally, for me something was wrong. ‘It’ was simply not coming and the baby couldn’t latch on properly. None of the nursing staff present there, came forward to help me with the ‘latching on’ and ‘positioning’. After struggling to feed her for 20 minutes or so, one of the nurses, took my baby back, saying ‘enough’, not listening to my concern that my baby couldn’t get anything out of me.
Ok. First things first. I gave birth in an ordinary hospital in India, not the five star corporate variety. There were no breastfeeding or birthing classes given, and the nursing staff wasn’t exactly helpful.
After a couple of minutes, the nurse came back to me with an empty syringe in her hand. She said that I was having them ‘inverted’ which was making it difficult for the baby to grasp and start feeding, which she ‘rectified’ using the syringe. While she was pulling out the syringe, a layer of skin also peeled off with it. Thereafter, each time, I tried to breastfeed, my baby latched on improperly and the wounds cracked and bled. Only those who experience it can understand how excruciating that pain is. My little one was always hungry and always crying, and always wanting to feed. And I was screaming and pulling off each time.
Mine was a poor feeder. She had great difficulty latching on. And even if she latched on, after suckling twice or thrice, she would fall off, and start crying. She had shortness of breath while feeding and would get tired easily and sleep within a few minutes of trying to feed. Within two days, her body weight reduced drastically and I became very anxious, far too much, like the garden variety anxious.
Besides that, lack of rest and sleep after the c-section was literally killing me. I was a bundle of nerves with PTSD and postpartum depression. It wasn’t an enjoyable time like I had imagined it to be, after going through too many happy mommy breastfeeding blogs. I tried various ways to feed her. I tried expressing breast milk and feeding with a dropper. It failed. I tried putting on a nipple guard to escape bruising each time she tried to feed. It failed. Finally I decided to try bottle. But that too failed. My baby simply rejected it and cried. She cried endlessly; day and night. I felt hopeless and paranoid seeing her cry so much, especially in the nights. I became a mombie( mom+zombie). I freaked out thinking she was going to starve and die. I thought I was going to die being so tired and stressed out.
(Later her paediatrician diagnosed that she had an Atrial Septal Defect of 6.8 mm at birth which was the reason for her not being able to feed properly. And the paediatric cardiologist whom we had consulted regarding her condition told me that the only solution to her problem was to feed her more often, that is whenever she demanded it. That was the only way to ensure that my baby’s hunger was satisfied. Besides, the more she gains in weight, the more the chances of the ASD closing on its own.)
My baby fed only very little, but very often. It was a constant battle for me to keep up with her demands. I was feeding her almost every half an hour or so, because her feeding-sleeping pattern was like that. It was an awfully nerve-wracking time for me.
I had no other choice but to put up with it every hour that she wanted to feed. Each time I was trying to breastfeed, I was a bundle of nerves. Besides struggling with finding a good position to feed, I also had to fight chronic back pain. I didn’t have anybody to help me during those days, because it was a year of continuous travel, settling and unsettling for both my husband and me. And since I didn’t have a choice, I had to do everything on my own.
But after one and a half months of struggle, I finally learned how to breastfeed properly and my baby learned to feed properly. As time progressed it became easier and easier and the problem of insufficient lactation solved on its own. And it was immensely rewarding to see my daughter gain weight, week after week, and her ASD closing on its own in a couple of months. I breastfed my little girl till she was two years of age.
Working mothers who go for work soon after the baby is born, may find it hard to keep up with a demanding infant. They may have no other alternative than to bottlefeed their baby. Mothering is about love. Breastfeeding or bottlefeeding is only a small part in the entire scheme of things. Some may find breastfeeding very easy. But for many others, like me,the struggle was very real. I struggled hard initially, but thankfully those days are over and l have survived.