Padmashri Shanmugaraj, lovingly known as Pallavi to her near and dear ones, is a Registered Dietitian with 14 years of progressive experience in patient counseling, Corporate Wellness Programs, content writing, academics as well as recruitment and training of dietitians. She holds a Post graduate Diploma in Dietetics & Hospital food Service from IHMCTAN, Mumbai and is the Managing Partner at Prime Health Consultants. Padmashri is a breast feeding, cloth diapering, babywearing and co-sleeping mom who believes in attachment parenting. Her sons are 8 ½ (Sarvesh) and 2 ½ (Saharsh) years old. She lives in Mumbai with her sons and her husband. Read on to know about the breastfeeding positive effects of Pallavi’s journey with her sons.
1. Padmashri, your children are 6 years apart. How different were/are your experiences if you had to compare your breastfeeding journeys?
Both my deliveries were C-sections, and during both times, my babies were put to my breast within 30 minutes of birth. Thankfully, I did not have to insist as both times I was assured by my gynaecologists that it would happen. I was under the care of different doctors and both times the doctors as well as the support staff were extremely supportive and pro-breastfeeding.
The first latch, both times, was successful and extremely blissful. I breastfed both my children exclusively for the first six months. My older weaned off (in three days) when he was 18 months old with no issues whatsoever (Phew!). I continue to breastfeed my 29 month old now. The age difference between my sons is 6 ¼ year; so I wasn’t fortunate enough to tandem nurse.
With Sarvesh, the breastfeeding journey was nothing but pleasant and uneventful; but, with Saharsh, there are days (even now at 29 months), when he nurses almost 6 times during the day and at least 5 times in the night. Those are the days I wish I could get a 7 hour long, uninterrupted sleep (sigh!). I remind myself what a boon breastfeeding is, and I pick myself up and go back to being grateful for what I have.
I was not aware of the concept of self weaning and extended breastfeeding with Sarvesh. He started eating solids pretty well when he was around 15 months and I was under the impression that if I didn’t wean him off before he turned two, he would never wean. So, I decided to start the process when he was 1 ½ years old and surprisingly he weaned off in three days!
I hope to nurse my younger one at least till he turns three.
2. Normalising breastfeeding should begin at home. How did your older son react to you nursing your younger one?
When Sarvesh came to visit me and Saharsh at the hospital, on the evening of day 1, I made him sit next to me and let him see me nursing Saharsh. He had a few questions about whether it hurt me and how would I know if his tummy was full and if he can tell his friends about it (ha ha).
The fact that he had learnt about mammals feeding their young ones with their own milk, in school, was a great help, of course!
3. Did you have to resume work immediately? How did you ensure that your son’s nutritional needs were met while you were away?
During Sarvesh’s time, I was working with a U.S-based firm which required me to work from home (WFH) entirely. So, I resumed work when he was 3 months old. I used to work for a couple of hours at night when I knew Sarvesh would be sleeping for sure.
With Saharsh, I resumed my out-of-home work commitments once I completed my six months of exclusive breastfeeding. I never took up commitments that needed me for more than four hours. I used to nurse Saharsh before I left, and my mother in law offered one complementary feed (pumped breast milk) and then I would be back for his next breastfeed. Rest of my work commitments, I managed from home.
Being a WFH home, I never felt the need to pump. Except for when I was diagnosed with lymphadenitis/sore nipples when I couldn’t nurse Saharsh from my left breast, I had to hand-express to relieve myself from engorgement. Thankfully, this lasted for just a few days.
4. Would I be right in saying that your profession helped ward off the “well-meaning” advice?
Well, being a dietitian, people around me always assumed I knew what I was doing and were confident I would do the right thing. So, thankfully, I wasn’t bombarded with too many of those advices.
Fortunately, I never had to use formula. In fact, I never bought a feeding bottle! I am fortunate to have a family which completely trusts my decisions when it comes to my boys. So, they continue to support me.
Honestly, I think I am one of those very few who have enjoyed a fairly smooth journey. I had full family’s support, my heath was also fine, both my boys were expert latch-ers and my flow was sufficient too! If I had to describe my support system in one word, it has to be, “EXCELLENT”!
5. Facebook (FB) support groups are recent. Did you ever feel the need for a support group to keep you going?
During the first time around (in 2008-09), I was not a part of any support group. But, during my second stint, I was paranoid I wasn’t producing enough! May be because I was 33+ years old and also because I thought it was too good to be true for me to be able to breastfeed both my kids adequately. That’s when I joined the group Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers (BSIM) on FB and it was one of the best calls I took!
6. Is breastfeeding difficult?
In fact, it’s the exact opposite of difficult. I feel one should make all travel plans when one is exclusively breastfeeding, because it’s hassle free and super convenient. With Sarvesh, I used to nurse him in the car as far as possible and when we travelled by long distance trains I used to nurse him, using a nursing cover. With Saharsh, thanks to babywearing, I have nursed him at all places. 🙂
I used to feel lonely, irritated, sad and weepy all the time. But, breastfeeding was the only time I felt at peace. So, I guess breastfeeding affected me only positively.
7. As an expecting/new mother, how informed were you? How important do you think it is?
‘What to expect when you are expecting’ was my go-to book during my first pregnancy. During the second, I guess I knew what to expect (ha ha!).
I insist every single pregnant mother I come across in my social circle to read up on breastfeeding and to definitely exclusively nurse for the first six months. Being a dietitian definitely helps, because mothers do take my advice seriously.
It is very very important for every mother to be aware about the breastfeeding practices and her rights as a breastfeeding mother. She should listen to her body. They must join the BSIM FB group and enjoy the support and motivation of other breastfeeding mothers and continue the beautiful journey as long as they are comfortable.
8. As a dietician, what would be your suggestion for a mother to ensure her supply is up?
Eat a balanced diet which includes complex carbohydrates from whole grains, vegetables and whole pulses. Make sure to include proteins from low fat dairy, eggs, lean meats and sprouts. Get your dose of healthy fats from nuts like almonds, walnuts, pistachios and seeds like sunflower seeds and flax seeds. Calcium rich foods like sesame seeds, methi leaves, rajgeera flour, ragi etc help keep calcium levels in your body from going down. Include spices like fenugreek seeds, turmeric, asafoetida and cumin seeds in your daily cooking.
Breastfeeding positive effects are for real. Keep yourself hydrated to prevent fatigue due to dehydration. Resist the temptation to over indulge in empty calories from processed foods. If you want to keep up the milk supply, make sure you…..NURSE ON DEMAND!