(Officially posted on Jan 31, 2021)
According to my personality type, I am the die-hard supporter. I have the ability to give to others, many times sacrificing myself. After my challenges with Breastfeeding, I feel there is no better time than the present to share my challenges with you.
Welcome World Breastfeeding Week 2020
(Aug 1st - 7th)
I know this picture upsets some of you. But understand this, humans aren’t cows, our body, when we are a baby, is not designed to reap all the benefits of cow’s based milk. A human mother’s breastmilk is specifically crafted for the human child. It’s the most natural part of being a mammal (an animal that produces milk for their young). Being so convinced that this natural process was best for my baby, I bought only 1 bottle before giving birth to my first child. After all, my plan was to give the best to my child, the same child who was fighting to exit my body since the first trimester of pregnancy. No doubt, my pregnancy was difficult, but I had no one to warn me about the challenges that lay ahead. As a doctor, especially one who believes in this process, I have learnt all about the do’s and don’ts of this process. To the extent, where I was part of a team that conducted research about the breastfeeding practices of Employed Women in Trinidad and Tobago. From our study in 2004, we found that breastfeeding rates were fairly high in our population, but the rates were lower amongst working women. We also found that workplaces which provided support for breastfeeding, the rates were higher than if there were no facilities. Knowing all of this, again I prepared myself to succeed! A working mom, my first baby and fortunate to have family support, I thought: I could do this! I finally delivered my little one, and the nurses encouraged attachment in the delivery room. They said don’t worry, with a little practice both of you will learn how to get her to latch. I wasn’t worried, I knew I got this! After a few days at home, my small little angel started turning yellow. Ah! Neonatal Jaundice! The paediatrician did not hesitate to give me a tin of formula, saying the baby is very dehydrated as she was not getting enough milk. With more milk, she would recover from her jaundice faster. I was so disappointed. I knew if I started with bottle-feeding, that would be the end of my efforts. I went home, and I thought about it. I decided I was not giving up! This led to many, many sleepless nights, tears and more tears, and reaching out for help and support from anyone who went through this before. I increased my food and water intake, drank all the fresh teas that would help bring down my milk, when finally I got my first let down! The milk started coming! Small milestone, as I didn’t realise it was only the beginning of the journey. My dear daughter cried and cried, day and night, for 3 months. She slept for only 10 minutes at a time, and when she was awake, she was literally attached to me. I timed her as recommended, switched breasts as recommended, even took her back to the paediatrician who weighed her and reassured me. She was in fact getting enough milk. I persevered! Milestones, they come when they come. If I knew there was an end to the frustration of having a newborn AND trying to successfully breastfeed, maybe I would have been more positive. I really didn’t know, no one around me breastfed their kids, I was not breastfed and to receive advice from people who did not breastfeed was like receiving advice from a wall! Finally, at 3 months of age the crying ended, breastfeeding settled, and I was doing my pumping routine at work so she would always have milk for the next day. Pumping was something I really did not enjoy, but it was great to see how much milk I was actually producing. My little sweetheart, however, only drank what she needed from her bottle and waited patiently until I came home from work for me to feed her myself. It also relieved me to engage her because I needed to empty that weight on my chest. To the dismay and disgust of others, I made it to 18 months of breastfeeding! My target! I knew I could not go further than that, but I had to cross the 1 year mark. Why was this important? Because the milk produced after 1 year is purely for immunity. It was like pumping tiny armies (antibodies) into her little body to protect her for life. That was important for me, to know I was giving her my best. Weaning her off the breast was also strategic. I gradually decreased the attachment and kept her engaged and entertained in different ways. Then I told her you had enough, and I gave her an event for her to mark when she will not be getting anymore of my milk. This is also not the best, but I gave her a very small pack of full fat chocolate milk (120 ml) with a straw which thankfully shifted her attention away from the breast. What I did because of my experiences I do not recommend for specifically for anyone. The most important take home messages from this are to support you, the mother who in her heart really wants to give the best to her baby. So I’m leaving you with these:
Breastmilk was designed for the human baby (this is science!)
Breastfeeding can seem very unnatural, but it’s a ‘supply on demand’ process. The more you stick to it, milk production will increase.
It can push you to your limits of sanity because there is a time-lag between the constant feeding and the production of milk. Just be patient! Nothing happens before its time.
There is an end in sight! As a new mom, you can’t see it, but trust me, the end is closer than you think. Things get better as the baby grows, learns, and reaches their milestones at their own pace. We are here only to support their growth.
Get support for yourself, seek advice from people who have been there, and more importantly from people who share your own timeline for breastfeeding. Trust me, you will get advice from everyone and it will complicate your life and emotions. I started asking, how long did you breastfeed for? Then I filtered advice accordingly.
Latching is a learning curve for both you and baby. When it goes wrong, it leads to severe pain. If you know the attachment is painful, take the baby off and try it again. Don’t persevere in pain, keep trying the latching process until you both get it. Practice, practice and practice.
Fact is, most women can produce enough breast milk to feed their baby. The most conservative numbers range from 88 to 95% of women being able to produce enough breastmilk.
There are lots of support groups, doctors and lactation consultants available worldwide. If you can’t find someone in your community, reach further, the world is your limit.
Employers, providing facilities for women who choose to breastfeed, not only increases country wide targets but it also enhances wellbeing and promotes women's health.
At the end of the day, maybe it was my personality that allowed me to persevere, but I truly believe with the right mindset and the correct support, women are capable of achieving the extraordinary! Feel free to setup an appointment with us as well. We will be happy to support you on your journey without you having to leave your home.