Uma Bhalerao was born and brought up in Thane (Mumbai, India). She has done her Masters in French, specialising in Translations. She moved to Bangalore in 2006 where she began her career at the Alliance Francaise de Bangalore. Later on, she moved to her job at the French Consulate as the Assistant to the Consul General of France. Uma quit her job after her first born arrived. She is now a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) to her two adorable sons, Siddharth and Trikay. Uma is a certified Babywearing Educator and does consultations from home to help caregivers learn about the concept of Babywearing. She also runs a small business – The Owl Mama, where she sells customised, hand knit products, designed and knit by her. Uma believes that your decision to breastfeed should not be influenced by anybody.
1. What made you take the decision to quit your job?
One of the main reasons behind my decision was to be able to continue breastfeeding my son on demand. I also wanted to be around for him through his early stages of life. I continued to exclusively breastfeed him till he was about 8 months old. Around his first birthday, I had a fall and that resulted in a minor fracture. The X-ray showed I had signs of osteoporosis. My orthopaedic advised me to wean my son off breastmilk. His explanations convinced me enough to take an informed decision to wean my son at 1 year. The weaning process was relatively smooth and took about 3 days. My husband helped distract and calm Siddharth down every time he wanted to nurse. If he wasn’t around, I would wear Sid in a carrier and step out for a walk to distract him. Thankfully, that would also calm him down since he was used to babywearing. It was not too painful for either of us.
2. When Trikay was born, how comfortable was Siddharth with watching you nurse him?
After my second son was born, my elder one was curious and asked me what the baby was drinking. I explained that small babies cannot eat food like him and me. They only drink milk that their mumma makes in her body. He thought for a bit and told me, mumma is giving baby milk from her heart. He is 3 years old and I let me believe that I feed milk from my heart! Once he did ask me if he could drink that milk too. But when I asked him what if the milk gets over, he decided he would drink from his cup and keep this milk for his baby brother instead! At that time I felt like I was not fully prepared for this whole breastfeeding journey and the questions he would ask! He does occasionally pretend he is feeding his doll from his heart because his doll was crying or was hungry. I find it adorable that he thinks breastfeeding calms babies down!
3. If you had to compare your breastfeeding journeys of both sons, how would you describe them?
With both my births, the nurses at the hospital helped me start the breastfeeding journey immediately. My lactation consultant was also around to guide me. Unfortunately, even though I had help and guidance, I remember the first few weeks to be very very painful with my first son. Nipple tears and bleeding and every feeding session was extremely painful. I had never expected breastfeeding, which I had assumed to be a normal course post birth to be such a tough task. I was not better informed and looking back, I have to say I was not at all prepared for the bumpy journey I walked on. The second time around I was prepared for the worst and that helped me cope with the situation in a more informed manner. Like the previous time, I did have nipple tears and bleeding. But it was not as bad as the first time.
I have never been away from my sons for more than 2 hours so never had to pump and store. The first time around, I did invest in a breast pump. I thought pumping would be less painful than latching my son on directly. That phase thankfully did not last more than 2 days and we moved on to direct feeding almost immediately. We will continue to breastfeed till both of us are comfortable with it.
4. Tell us a little about your support system.
I have been blessed with an excellent support system in the form of family and close friends. They have played a major role in me not giving up on feeding in the lowest of moments.
I thankfully escaped having to respond to or follow any myths related to breastfeeding because of my mom. I am sure she got to face the brunt of many well-wishers. But I must thank her for protecting me and not letting those ever reach my ears! But I did eat all the laddoos and other stuff my mom made to help increase my milk supply. I am not really sure how those helped me, but I ate them never the less!
I found out about the various support groups through my parenting journey. Thanks to the vast knowledge out there, I still follow them to be better informed. It has definitely made my breastfeeding journey with my second son much easier and smoother. Also, the knowledge and experience I have gained has been a boon. I learnt to be confident about nursing in public (NIP) thanks to these groups and the encouragement from the members there. I was still a bit hesitant the first time around, but this time I think I have NIP every time I have stepped out! And of course babywearing helps make it a discreet session and has helped boost my confidence to nurse in public!
5. Was your breastfeeding journey overwhelming?
I went through major mood swings with both my children. Looking back I remember having extreme emotions and depression on some days. There were days where I dint even want to get out of bed and face the world. Thankfully, I was lucky that it did not hit me hard. I had my husband and my parents around to pull me up every time I hit a new low. Also, taking up knitting to calm my nerves helped me get my life back on track.
6. How do you help other moms through your consultations?
At every babywearing consult when new moms come to me, I talk to them about the benefits of breastfeeding. We discuss about the ease of travelling and stepping out that comes with babywearing and breastfeeding in public. I assure them that they don’t need to be forced to stick to the house or give up on breastfeeding.
I also advice them to go by their instinct. Don’t let others decide for you as to when you should stop nursing your babies. Let it always be your decision, whatever it may be. Tomorrow you won’t be in a position where you feel you were pushed to do something you did not want to do. Also, be open to admit if you feel there is a problem. Don’t hesitate or feel shy to take help for it. We all go through up and downs in this journey so always remember, you are not alone!