Most mothers may find breastfeeding very easy. But for others like me,the struggle has been very real.
When I was expecting my first child, I was determined to breastfeed her. 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 as something very trivial. From a biological perspective all mammals who gave birth could naturally breastfeed their young ones, right? What I didn’t know was how overwhelming an experience it would be. Nothing could have prepared me for what I would experience after childbirth. From cracked and bleeding nipples and a constant feeling of insufficient milk, to leaking breasts and engorgement pain; I have experienced it all before finally getting my act together.
I would never forget how hard it was the first time; having a c-section and waking up in the recovery room to the relentless cries of a hungry baby. There were two more ladies, lying in adjacent beds next to mine. While they started breast feeding their babies naturally, for me; something was wrong. ‘It’ was simply not coming and the baby couldn’t latch on properly. After struggling to feed her for 20 minutes or so, I gave up. I was sobbing to the duty nurses that my baby couldn’t get anything out of me.
In a couple of minutes, one of them came 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 suckle. She rectified the problem using the syringe. While she was pulling off the syringe, a layer of skin also peeled off with it. The next time I tried breastfeeding, my baby latched on improperly making the wounds crack and bleed. Thereafter, each time she tried to feed, I was screaming and pulling off in pain. It wasn’t an enjoyable experience as I had imagined it to be, after going through all those happy mommy breastfeeding blogs.
My baby had difficulty latching on. She would tire herself up before getting a proper latch and drift off to sleep without feeding adequately. In a few days time, her body weight reduced drastically. Besides, being a bundle of nerves with postpartum depression, I felt hopeless and paranoid seeing her cry so much. I tried various ways of feeding her. I tried manually expressing milk and feeding with a dropper. I bought an electric breast pump and tried bottle feeding her. I tried putting on a nipple guard to escape bruising each time she tried to feed. But all in vain. My baby simply rejected it all and cried endlessly; day and night. I became garden variety anxious thinking she was going to cry herself to death!
But as time progressed, it became easier for both of us. My wounds healed. I learned to breastfeed properly and my baby learned to feed properly.
After two and a half years of breastfeeding my first child, I was on the cusp of becoming a breastfeeding zealot, secretly sneering at all those mamas who formula-fed their babies. How those mothers were denying their little ones the liquid gold that mother nature had meant for them! Little did I know that formula milk would save me one day. My second baby was born macrosomic (birth weight 4.76 kg), hypoglycemic and in respiratory distress, for which she had to to stay in NICU for the first seven days. Her being hypoglycemic meant that she had to be fed every two hours to maintain her sugar levels. This meant that I had to be wheeled in, every two hours to the NICU which was on the first floor of the hospital building, from the recovery room in the ground floor. After a traumatic delivery with severe blood loss, getting up from bed itself was proving to be a gargantuan task for me. And though I tried my level best, I was too exhausted to express milk every two hours. The NICU nurses who took care of my infant, understood my predicament and fed her formula milk during times when I couldn’t breastfeed her.
New mommies have a lot to cope with in addition to taking care of their babies. The least we can do as a society to support them is to be a little less judgmental regarding the choices they make. Mothering is all about love. Breastfeeding or formula feeding is only a small part in the entire schema of parenting. I struggled hard with both my babies initially. Thankfully, those difficult days are behind me and I can say I ‘survived.’
P.S:- This article was published in Huffington post. http://m.huffingtonpost.in/subha-sunny/how-i-transformed-from-a-breastfeeding-zealot-into-someone-with-more-empathy-towards-new-mothers_a_23352870/
Mommies who find breastfeeding a challenge, do connect with the facebook community https://www.facebook.com/groups/breastfeedingsupportforindianmoms