World’s Breastfeeding Week from Aug 1-Aug 7 has inspired me to share my first hand experience on the topic.
I didn’t relate to breastfeeding at all before. Never experienced it. Old me was “You become mama and milk starts coming and you just feed the child”… end of story.
Now if you ask me, “Breastfeeding is a beast. It’s an effort, choice and journey. There are challenges that I am facing which makes it special for me as it was my first.”
Hence let’s talk about breastfeeding topics that are personal to me and I am choosing to be vulnerable. I feel everyone should talk more on breastfeeding which means more and more education should be available about it.
Really? When we eat at restaurants do we go to public restrooms to eat our meal? Then why should a breastfeeding baby? Just because a nipple and boob is involved? Can’t we humans change our perception towards breast wrt babies? We all got our first food in this world from our mother’s breast, so we should understand that a mother’s breast is the most calming place for a baby.
Honestly as a mother- when I hear the word “nipple”, my mind thinks about comotomobaby nipple or drbrowns nipple, preemie nipple or toddler nipple. Lol! Exactly!! My mind is all about FEEDING THE BABY.
My first public breastfeeding moment happened when Aviraj was 3 weeks old and was not sleeping. He woke up at 2am and was in no mood to sleep. My husband and I looked at the clock. It was 5am and we thought that if we are going to be up all night then let’s go to Mount Rainier. It’s far from our house and must place to see if you are in Seattle. As we were on our way, Aviraj started crying. So we parked our car at gas. I used his cotton swaddle from adenandanais and made a loop to put around my neck to cover him and breastfeeding started. I was shy in every step. From taking down one side of my dress to making sure Aviraj lips latched well on the nipple. I wish it was less stressful. I wish I was less conscious of who might see my nipple and say something weird. Mind you, this was the first time that Aviraj was feeding under a piece of cloth and he was very irritated. He is used to looking around when he feeds because I never covered myself before in my home.
My second breastfeeding in public moment was better. This time I fed Aviraj just before leaving. We were at modpizza and he did what babies do. Cry when parents are having foood. Lol. This time I was more bold and confident. Within seconds I was ready for the baby. I possibly would have flashed for a sec or two because I was too busy adjusting Avirajs posture to feed. We didn’t have my favorite mybrestfriend feeding pillow.
This is one of the biggest insecurities for many first time breastfeeding mamas.
With Gestational Diabetes and PCOS as my preconditions, my lactation consultant told me that I had to make a lot of effort to produce milk. I was advised to start pumping at 38 weeks of gestation before my delivery. YES! It’s one off advise and she told me I could go into early labour because of this.However, Aviraj was born 2 weeks before his due date (exactly 38 weeks) and gave me no time to pump.
So I tried whatever the lactation people told me but it didn’t work. Within two days he lost more than 10% of his birth weight. Now as a first time parent, seeing Aviraj lose weight everyday at paediatrician’s weighing scale was heart sinking moment for my husband and myself. We also had the jaundice hanging on our heads. We decided we want to use formula. Once he “Who can help me with my pregnancy, childbirth and lactation?”recovered to his birth weight, I started looking for more help to increase my milk production. It took 2 lactation appointments per week for 4 weeks, lots of advice from my friends who had babies, supplements and 2 breast pumps to get my supply to what it’s today .
Today Aviraj is mostly on breastmilk with a couple ounces a day of formula. I have no idea till when my breast milk will last. We plan to enjoy it till it does.
I still have to figure out how I can start exercising and reducing some weight without compromising the milk production. As I said in my introduction, “Breastfeeding is a beast.” It’s an effort, choice and journey. So if you are a mama or soon-to-be mama, know that is common and you are not alone.
I pretty much started from a blank state when I became pregnant. I didn’t have any idea when I should call the doctor? What food I can or should not have when pregnant? How about coffee? How do I know when I start contraction? Can I drink alcohol? And let’s talk about the big ques- Is it safe to have se* ? Till when?
So here are the resources which helped me:
- Signing up for following classes provided by our hospital providencehealthsystem.
- Childbirth preparation-taught about pregnancy and delivery
- Conscious Fathering
- Newborn care
- Infant safety and CPR
- We attended the Car Seat Safety 🚗 class by Safekids.org Washington
- Expecting 411 book by Beverly hills OB/GYN Michele Hakakha & Ari Brown
- Babies documentary on Netflix (This still helps me understand current state and cues of Aviraj better)
- Blogs by Kellymom.com and llli.org are insightful esp for Breastfeeding.
- Lactation Consultants at our hospital(Once before Aviraj was born and then twice a week for 4weeks after birth)
- Diabetician – Someone who is an expert on gestational diabetes & nutrition
- Facebook Group 👥 – Breastfeeding Support for Indian mother (it’s amazing and so real)
- Friends & cousins who have babies
- Supplements – legendairymilk and motherloveherb
- Prenatal from theralogix 💊💊💊(this was recommended by fertility specialist as I had to see one owing to my PCOS)
- My and Digvijay’s mom 👩👦👩👧
Initially, not using formula/external feed wasn’t an option for us. Because of my Gestational Diabetes and PCOS we had to use resources that I mentioned yesterday till my supply increased. Eventually the lactation consultant told us we didn’t have to use formula anymore & by that we had already given Aviraj costco , enfamil gentle ease and similac_us. So the question now was do we want to continue or make Aviraj exclusively breastfeed?
We decided we wanted to continue as is. Why?
1)I am not over the fact that we(Digvijay) and I decided to be parents. Up until that moment we had gone through same emotions. From dating for 8 years to biking 30miles or jumping from cliff or doing intense rapid rafting, we had experienced everything together. NOW, our decision to become parents changed that equality experience. I was pregnant. Only I was. My belly was bigger, feet bigger and baby would kick on my hip and belly. As much as I wanted it to be an “us” experience, it was a lot “my” experience. Nature had it this way because only women can procreate. I Get it. I Accept it.👌
But now when Aviraj is born,I wanted us to have an equal footing in his life. 🤜🤛
Babies aren’t born with best vision. So they have other senses to identify the care giver. That’s why I wanted Digvijay to feed him from bottle. We call formula milk daddy’s milk. Lol. We wanted Aviraj to feel that his daddy’s arms can also give him food like mommy’s arms can. So that he can sleep on his lap. So that he would cry less. I didn’t want happy baby in Digvijay lap and crying baby in mine. I wanted both of us to have equal resources. Definitely the warmth from breastfeeding is unparalleled. But bottle is something than nothing.
You may be wondering why I can’t just pump my own milk into a bottle for my husband. More on that below.
2)My second reason of having formula feed was because I didn’t want pressure on myself. As first time lactating mom, the first two weeks of nursing are painful on nipple(I used earthmamaorganics nipple butter cream to calm the sore nipples as it’s lanolin free). A good reason to continue breastfeeding despite this is: the uterus shrinks as baby latches/sucks on nipple and goes back in size & excess blood accumulated inside to keep baby safe gets discharged. This helped me get back in shape as pre-pregnancy this was one of my biggest concern.
3) My tail bone pain got aggregated from extensive sitting in third trimester and continued after(even today). Nursing requires sitting and sometimes my body just couldn’t cope up.
4)I love my baby but I also wanted to be mobile. To be able to go for one day trips or hikes or work sessions which make me unavailable are huge possibilities. I wanted Aviraj to not be hungry then. Also, I have seen my cousins give their baby formulas and I have cutest niece and nephews.
Disclaimer: This is our reason to have mixed diet for Aviraj. We are not preaching here and I didn’t in any way meant to discourage ebf or eff. Just stating our decision as Digeli.
When I had to order a breast pump to extract milk, I did a lot of research. There are 1000 pumps out there. Your hospital should teach you how to use a breast pump. Ask for a lactation consultant after childbirth so that they help you try electric hospital grade and manual breast pump (both avail at hospital . No need to buy). The Affordable Care Act(ACA) makes insurance cover breast pumps. Hearing this I was ecstatic. I thought one less expense (wait till you read about the fiasco)
After my research, I wanted following things from breast pump:
2) Easy to clean and operate
My top 3 after intensive research were
I ordered Willows because I thought I could pump hands free while driving, grocery etc as it’s wearable.
However, Willows turned out to be a disappointment & caused a loss of confidence that I could ever lactate. Not only was it difficult to adjust but it’s readings were not real.
Now since I wasn’t able to pump but Aviraj was able to breastfeed, I knew I had supply but didn’t know how to extract or how much was I even producing? How could I work on increasing my production when I don’t know the baseline. I lost hope of pumping because I tried EVERYTHING with Willows and thought if a high tech product can’t do it, no one can. It’s true! Some mom’s are able to breastfeed but not pump. I thought I was in that gang.
Digvijay thought differently. He ordered Spectra for me after we consulted couple of our friends who had babies recently. I told him it’s waste of money. I learnt how to use it anyway. In my 3rd attempt I saw milk coming out. I was ecstatic. It allows you to see through so I could adjust funnel direction and it had low suction levels making it easy on the nipples.
Why do I pump?
1) Aviraj is sometimes sleeping when I am available to feed. So I pump & store.
2) To increase supply. Pump stimulates the breast and tells body to produce more.
3) When traveling in car for day trips, I can pump while Digvijay is driving and Aviraj can drink from bottle without us stopping the car.
By giving a smile or thumbs up to any mom around you who is breastfeeding It’s definitely not a shame. It’s an honor. To see the look on Aviraj’s face when he gets warmth and food is out of the world.
I hope that sharing my breastfeeding journey was informative and uplifting.
A huge thank you to derekdishmanphoto for making my vision come true.