As a pregnant mother, with multiple complications and on bed rest, I had time to kill. As in previous posts, I spent most of it on spirituality to gain mental strength. Little time, I spent Googling the pregnancy itself. However, I spent no time preparing to be a mother. Out of fear of jinxing it. Sounds silly. But the fear was real. I don’t regret it as such because I know I coped well and it kept me calm and sane which was the prerogative then.
However, in hindsight, it would have been helpful if I had known about certain things as a new mom. It would have eased the first few months tremendously- not only for me. But for my family too.
The first on the list is about breastfeeding. Here are my learnings from the process.
- Breastfeeding is hardly natural
- Breastfeeding is hard. It isn’t natural. It doesn’t come easily. It is extremely painful the first few days. It takes consistent and deyermined practice from you and the baby.
- It may feel like you are not producing enough milk. But don’t give up if you had planned to breastfeed. Nurse and nurse more.
- If you have other issues like forceful letdown or oversupply or tongue tie, work with a lactation consultant to find suitable remedies including pumping.
- Babies cry a lot in the first few days
- Babies are inconsolable the first few days. Obviously they have had a traumatic entry into a new world that is very scary. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are hungry. How can we know the difference? Check this video.
- I wish I had seen this video earlier. I have no idea if it works cos I saw this too late. But if it does work, it’s a life saver.
- Learn as much as possible about breastfeeding before delivery
- How does it work, what is a latch, how do you know if baby is actively sucking or there for comfort, how do you know they are done, one breast or two, which breast to start with. Many more queries. If possible, attend classes to understand this.
- This video, I love. Again I came across this much later.
- The best resource I found for these queries is here.
- Know babies signs
- How do babies look when hungry, tired, sleepy, full? Check videos and if possible take classes to understand this.
- When I started feeding, as my entire journey was colored with self doubt, I mistook baby’s sleepiness for being tired and assumed he isn’t getting enough milk.
- Lactation consultant
- Know what to ask them. DO NOT believe everything they say. Accept their advice, try it. Return if it doesn’t work. Keep working with them till you get it right. No matter how long it takes. They are expensive though. If possible, set aside a good budget for this.
- There will be a separate post on how to work with them.
- Listen to your mother
- While lactation consultants and breastfeeding support is good, I believe sometimes it is overrated. Perhaps for the business, for the pump manufacturers. The previous generation moms and those from lower income groups feed with guidance only from their moms. They feed intuitively. And mostly successfully. So if you want to do away with pressure and be guided by just your mom or sis who has done it, please do so. You can seek support if it isn’t working. Else don’t fix what isn’t broken.
- Listen to only one person on a topic
- Do your research. Find that one person whose advice you want to follow.
- When I had breastfeeding issues, I asked the gynecologist, the pediatrician, family doctor and multiple lactation consultants. Each person’s advice was different. It was confusing and nothing worked. I wish I could have had ONE trustworthy person whose advice I could have followed blindly.
- Postpartum depression is real
- With the swathe of hormonal changes, feeling out of sorts is normal. How out of normal is something that can be totally misjudged. Learn and educate family about signs of postpartum depression or anxiety. Take help if anyone, including you, has even the slightest doubt that you have it.
- In my case, I just cried and cried. Got angry for everything. It persisted for months. No one knew it was depression. I am not sure if depression contributed to lack of milk or the other way round or if it was a cycle. Whatever it may be, I wish both my family and me were equipped with knowledge of recognizing and addressing the depression. It might have made my breastfeeding experience better.
- Lose your logic
- I believe in measures. Everything I do is calculated. The recipes I cook, the routes I take. I even make excel sheets with detailed comparisons before making any purchase. So believing in a process I couldn’t see was hard. There was no way to know if the baby was drinking enough, how much, was there a pattern. Nothing.
- For breastfeeding, it’s essential to lose your logical brain and trust yourself and the baby. This is VERY HARD.
- Check for signs of healthy growth to reassure yourself that the process is working.
- If unable to get over this, buy a weighing scale and measure the baby for how much milk has been consumed. However, this is a very last resort. Its is easy to lose yourself and obsess over numbers. It is best avoided.
- Getting into a pumping schedule is immensely difficult
- It takes supreme willpower to follow through. If exclusively pumping, it is doubly hard. Family support is essential. Educate them on what might be a necessity and set expectations.
- Pumping sucks. It is mechanical, impersonal, stressful, frustrating and time consuming with multiple sterilizations. But it may be needed. Keep an open mind.
- Also pumps are expensive. Plan for this in your insurance or set aside a budget. Research and find a good double pump. Also set budget for a pumping bra.
- If you intend to pump while working, research handy carry bags and storage solutions. Check and adhere to breast milk storage guidelines.
- Best resource i found for pumping.
- Feel empowered
- If you have tried and failed or don’t want to try or want to do combination feed, ALL are acceptable and good. It only matters if the baby is well fed, taken care of, is healthy and happy. NOTHING else matters.
- You are the best person to make the choice. Do not leave it to the family or doctors. You and only you can make the choice of feeding. Whatever your decision, it is right.
- Lose the guilt. Be confident. You are a mom, not a feeder alone.
- Don’t overcompensate
- It is natural to feel you are failing as a mom. Especially if you are a first time mom with grandparents helping out. Right from lifting the baby to bathing to changing, everything seems wrong when contrasted with how grandma does it. Added with postpartum depression this is debilitating.
- I overcompensated my feelings of inadequacy by vowing that baby would never go hungry. I insisted on giving the bottle after every feed. Even after rejections. In a few months, this lead to bottle aversion. I am aware of many moms who suffer with low milk supply doing the same. They now struggle with bottle aversion.
- Trust your baby
- Your baby knows how much and when he wants to feed. Accept this. He will not and should not feed as much as you think he should. Always follow and respect the baby.
Have you faced breastfeeding issues? How did you manage? Share your story and let’s talk about that!
3 thoughts on “Breastfeeding – what you need to know”
Nice awareness.. and sorry it’s been so challenging. I remember those days well. I taught birth classes, pre-postnatal exercise and baby massage and diperarobics many moons ago. You’re right that it is a good idea to have resources of lactation specialists etc. I found Oprahs show you posted interesting.. I think bottom line is, they are always telling us something if we listen.. I always assumed it was hunger but in fact I would start with other needs first and then move to hunger no matter what the sound. The main thing her is babies teach so much and it is challenging but trust yourself and listen and know you are doing your best job and reach out for support. Sadly, programs aren’t as availbel with Covid and it has shifted a lot but it is such a needed support system. Nice you are reaching out to moms to provide support. ❤️ Cindy
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Thank you Cindy! Wow! It’s interesting to know how you have helped moms earlier. You must have a treasure trove of experiences. I agree with you. Support is absolutely needed, from experts, from family and friends. I feel despite so much of social media, press etc, the lack of awareness and support is alarming. Expectant moms need to be empowered with resources. It’ll make the transition that much better. Hopefully, with a collective voice things will change. What you mentioned is also vital. Trust the baby, trust yourself. But to trust yourself, you need to feel empowered. That’s where we all need to pitch in.
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You are sooo welcome and thank your sharing your voice.. It is so needed. It was my gift to share and bare witness to others struggles. I still do baby massages and moms when before Covid.. I had 3 of my 4 at home and they were my biggest teachers. Yes, more support is needed and I loved my monthly post lucks where woman came together and supported each other. If ever my kids have kids, I’ll move back into the areana.. Happy to hear there are more people out there like you offering support! ❤️❤️👏👏👏👏
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