A software engineer, Meghna Antani, used to work full time till she delivered her son in May 2012. When on maternity leave, she had to move and hence quit her job. She is now a full time mommy to her two children. Let’s read through her beautiful journey, nursing in sequence.
1. Meghna, how was preparation vs. initiation of breastfeeding?
While pregnant in 2012, the literature recommended and available was not the best. I read “What to expect when you’re expecting” many times. I thought I was prepared for labour and delivery. And that breastfeeding should be instinctive.
My son was born with an emergency cesarean at about 8pm on a Sunday. He demanded to feed and latched on fairly well for the situation, as soon as he was to brought to me in the recovery room. With the still fresh wound, It was a challenge to turn to my side, but somehow I was able to position him. He wanted to take a long feed and sleep with me. The nurses thought I needed to rest myself. So he would feed for about half an hour and then cry when taken outside. I couldn’t rest even if I wanted to; not much because I could only hear my newborn’s wails.
The nurses would entertain him for another half to one hour and bring him back to feed and hopefully sleep. I think they also gave him a feed of formula. The cycle continued till 5:30 in the morning, when I simply asked the nurse to go away and leave me with the baby. I covered him and nursed him to sleep. After waking up, I needed another incision for the IV as it had collapsed from the entire baby holding and positioning. They asked me to be careful as it took many incisions.
2. So, it basically was a smooth journey?
The breastfeeding journey was not very challenging, he fed well. The only hitch was the lactation counsellor (LC) recommending to sit and feed, space out feeds, limit the feeds to certain time every few hours. To my regret, I followed this advice till seeing the paediatrician after a week. He advised to feed on demand and use any comfortable position. I lied down to nurse. The breastfeeding journey was smooth from that point onward; baby’s pee count was good. I did get tired from constant nursing and used to attempt to go out of baby’s sight once or twice a day.
Learnt about baby carriers and tried one commercially available option at about 6 weeks, it was a resounding fail. I did not know enough about ergonomic babywearing or would have tried something (I regret not knowing enough then, it was a boon with my second).
3. You breastfed your son till he turned 4. Can you tell us a little about the journey?
My son breastfed on demand till he was about 17-18 months. Slowly, I started distracting from few daytime demands and focusing on food intake. By the time he was 2 years, he was down to breastfeeding before nap and bed, after wake up, and during night wake up. I relaxed it based on the situation; when he was teething or sick he fed on demand. In another few months, I dropped the wake up feeds and offered food instead. He continued to nurse before nap and bedtime (and night wake up) till he weaned. Towards the end, it was down to exactly 3 feeds, 1 each before nap and sleep, 1 at dawn.
We would read books at bedtime, and then he would feed to sleep. All attempts at getting him to wean were unsuccessful (we had to attempt night weaning because of carries), so we left it to his choice. At some point after his 4th birthday, he had a very large and painful ulcer near the lips which interfered in latching. He was still going strong at 4 years with no signs of quitting, and within 5 days was weaned.
I continued to read before bed and he slept in the same position as before, minus the breastfeeding. At dawn, I patted him back to sleep. He stopped napping the day he refused to feed. So, with a combination of stopping breastfeeds and stopping the afternoon nap, he started sleeping for about 10 hours uninterrupted. I was also working on night pee training.
An illness warrants a visit to a doctor; similarly take breastfeeding difficulties to a LC.
4. Indeed a beautiful journey! How was the beginning with your daughter?
I found out that I was pregnant around the same time that he weaned. So it was pure luck that I didn’t have to worry about nursing through pregnancy or weaning or tandem nursing. I continued to sleep with him, till he started jumping on my tummy to wind down. We used a queen sized bed so my husband slept in another room to give us space. After a few weeks into pregnancy, I switched places with my husband. We continue the arrangement now, I sleep with the younger and husband sleeps with the older.
Pregnancy was smooth apart from horrid nausea. I delivered a girl on a Friday in January 2017 at about 8 am. She was born in a VBAC (Vaginal Birth after C-section). As soon as I was sutured and given leave from the labour room, within 20 minutes after birth, she was breastfed. She was jaundiced, didn’t demand feeds, and preferred to sleep when swaddled. The latch was shallow. I was feeding a 4 year old before the pregnancy so maybe my perception was skewed. I figured out a pattern where I would strip her down to change diaper then nurse back to sleep. We saw very few pee diapers till after discharge.
5. Did it get better after you got home?
I think there was no pee for over 24 hours. But the doctor was not worried. He asked us to wait for 36 hours and keep feeding. After discharge, I stopped using diapers and fed before the 2 hour mark. Pee count improved in a day. I kept following the same pattern for few weeks. Then baby would feed and sleep on my shoulder while being burped. I knew about babywearing this time, so started wearing her at 15 days.
Latching improved after 2 months, and slowly baby stopped refusing feeds; would feed whenever I offered, and then started demanding feeds. She is going strong at 19 months. There are signs of developing carries. So I might have to work on night weaning after the current growth spurt is done with.
6. How comfortable were you with nursing in public (NIP)?
Personally extremely comfortable, however to avoid conflict with the spouse, I try to use a secluded place to nurse and try using a cover. I have never used a washroom though, and the cover is mostly rejected. Baby wearing has been a great assistance to NIP pretty much anywhere.
7. Who has been your biggest support?
I had joined Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers (BSIM) around the time my son was 2+ years (in 2014). I credit this group and another called ‘Ask the Village’ for improving my knowledge about breastfeeding, thereby giving me the confidence to continue feeding an “old” child. It also helped me gain enough knowledge to work with initial breastfeeding issues with my second without assistance.
8. I am sure your experience is going to inspire a lot of mothers to nurse to term. What would be your advice to mothers who are facing difficulties in breastfeeding?
Please see a recommended LC. Look for correct resources – La Leche League and Kellymom are good resources to begin with for common concerns. Learn to distinguish genuine issues from perceived low supply.