Priya Kathpal is a nutritionist by profession. She says, “It happened during the college years while exploring career options and interests 🙂 I must mention here that I am a big time foodie at heart. Being a nutritionist actually helps me balance things :P. I can’t really say I was unaware about so and so food effects :D”. Read on to know about Priya Kathpal’s perfect – imperfect breastfeeding journey.
Priya was working full time for a very long time before her marriage. She continued with her job for a while post marriage before she decided she wanted to work for herself. She started freelancing under the name Nutrify. After her son Kabir was born, she took a break for couple of months before returning to freelancing projects.
In her words, “Kabir’s birth introduced me to babywearing. I made many virtual friends which led to the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey with Puja, another babywearing mommy. She was the one who motivated and pushed me to start LittleWings (a baby carrier company) along with her.”
1. As a nutritionist, how easy was it to convince the doctors for immediate breastfeeding post-delivery? Did it help your breastfeeding journey?
I am one of the lucky few when it comes to well informed and aware doctors, nurses and a Lactation Consultant (LC). I say this because I hear so many incidents where doctors aren’t supportive or end up misguiding a new mom. All of them in the hospital were brilliant; I never heard words like low supply, formula etc. Nurses were extremely helpful, kind and compassionate about the whole process.
My breastfeeding journey has been nothing but a blessing since day one; or should I say first hour of my son’s birth. He latched like a pro and I was extremely comfortable too. We’ve had our setbacks, ups and downs but all in all we were and are blessed. If I have a second one, I can just hope that it begins as smoothly as with my first. But I will not push myself to breastfeed directly if it’s stressing me. I will express when required and my partner or family members can feed the baby; especially post 6 months.
In fact, I did pump once or twice a day when my baby refused to feed. He had just turned one and had taken well to solids by then. Silly me thought he was self-weaning for the day time :P. I used to pump and feed him in a sipper. This did not last long and we got back to our crazy nursing sessions soon. 😀
2. How did you tackle the myths that you were subjected to?
Myth: If the baby cries even after feeding, it just means you don’t have enough milk to keep him satiated.
Even though I was leaking left, right and center, I knew that my supply is not a problem. Yet, there were times I would fall in the trap of “oh the baby is crying because he is hungry. But wait, you just fed him right? You must not be producing enough!!!”. After all, as a first time mom (FTM), I was vulnerable and would doubt my knowledge. This was the point I started reading beyond what I was taught and knew. Gaining more knowledge on the topic and reading similar stories helped me bust the myth.
Joining breastfeeding support groups came quite late to me that was after a couple of months. I say late as I’ve seen people joining the groups much before giving birth to the baby. Technically, I did not look out for support groups. Spending a lot of time reading about baby care while I was at home led me to these specialised groups. I was thankful that I came across them. It meant that I could read and share with people who can empathise. I could learn from others experiences, make mistakes and will not be judged.
3. What are the challenges that you have faced and overcome?
I used to leak a lot during the first few weeks. It did settle down with time only to come back in the later months. I don’t know if the right term for it would be oversupply or something else. Even at about 8-9 months, if Kabir didn’t feed for about 4-5 hours, I used to feel extremely heavy. My breasts used to get as hard as a stone, would be dry, and sometimes bled or leaked. Constant hand expression was the only source of relief. It used to be very painful; my hands started hurting and I also developed a condition known as De Quervain’s tendinosis. It was caused by a combination of factors including constant hand expression and of course holding the baby for long.
At about 10 months post-partum, we took our first international holiday. By the end of it, Kabir fell extremely sick. He stopped feeding and both of us were miserable. We had to administer ORS to him forcefully which took care of his hydration to an extent. I had no choice but to keep expressing and discarding as he was still not nursing. By the time I reached Mumbai, my breasts were at the worst possible level in spite of my constant trials of expressing. Next morning, I called my masseuse who helped me during the initial months. She told me she can just try massaging and relieving but it may require medical intervention. To be honest, it was extremely painful but I don’t remember an ounce of it as I was constantly taking care of Kabir. And I didn’t have the heart to leave him and go to the doctor. Thankfully, the masseuse was very good and did her best to help me. By this time, Kabir started feeding a bit which added to my relief mentally and physically.
4. I’m so sorry. That sounds like a really terrible situation to be in. Did you ever feel like giving up? Tell us a little about your support system.
Oh boy!! A lot of times, and I still do. After all I am human and have come to accept that it’s okay to feel like this. I’ve resorted to screaming, fighting with my partner and parents at the drop of a hat (face palm). They were at the receiving end of my frustrations cropping from breastfeeding demands. With time, I realized that nursing like a newborn and aversions both don’t last too long. I just need to let them pass by taking cues from Kabir and it’s easier on everyone. So yes, I’ve become a bit wiser that way ;). I am now okay with just trying to do the right things but not pushing too hard.
My whole family and close friends have been extremely supportive in the journey except. Although a few of them thought I should take a chill pill as they felt I was too pro-breastfeeding :P. It will come as a surprise that my biggest support comes from my father. I could never see this side of him when my sister delivered 11 years ago. She was not able to feed for long due to work commitments, unawareness about pumping and other things. I don’t think my father was well read about this topic at that time. But 2 years ago when I delivered, his most loved topic for post-retirement reading was health, food and similar.
5. That indeed is amazing to know. Times are changing I believe and more people are coming in support of breastfeeding. But that unfortunately still does not stop the different weaning advices thrown at us.
Yes, almost everyday someone tells me that it’s high time I wean my boy because his teeth will ruin or he doesn’t eat well because I still breastfeed. So when I started getting this unwanted information, I started with reasoning and explaining. A lot of times it worked and a lot of times it led to arguments. With time, I decided I don’t owe any explanation to anyone about this choice. So when not needed, I just listen, smile and move on. But when I see someone is misinformed, I provide the right information and leave it to them.
6. When you nurse in public (NIP), locally and internationally, have you found people to be receptive?
I was always pretty okay with feeding in public, though people around me used to be a bit hesitant. I started with using a stole which very soon graduated to a 2-tshirt method. There was no looking back after that. I’ve fed at almost every place possible; malls, restaurants, airports, flights, waiting for a train in Hong Kong, crowded queues, just about everywhere. I just sat down and did what was the most natural thing to do. I was surprised to see a lot of people being supportive of it here in India too; especially when one is confidently doing it without thinking twice.
7. You and Kabir have successfully completed 22 months together through various ups and downs. How far do you see yourselves going in this journey?
I am really not sure when I plan to wean him totally. I am really hoping he self-weans when the time is right for both of us. At numerous occasions, I’ve thought why am I not weaning him. The answer that comes to mind is I really don’t know how. I strongly believe in gentle and attachment parenting so taking any steps to wean just doesn’t sound right to me. Recently, I’ve started dropping his day feeds as he was getting too dependent and was avoiding other fluids and solids. Also, this was not allowing me to step out of home without him often. So far he’s taken to it well, no major tantrums or crying too much so we both are happy 🙂
8. It is not an easy decision for every mother to allow the child to self-wean. I know you have been doing your bit in spreading awareness about breastfeeding. Tell us a little more.
I am part of many support communities, scientific and non-scientific groups, also I own a nutrition related page. I am very active on all these platforms and make a point to correct any wrong information that is floating. Simple or silly, I help new mothers with a lot of and all their queries. I motivate them to hang in there if they feel lost and like a failure. I’ve come to empathise with new mothers at a very different level now that I know what it is to be a mother.
Breastfeeding is a journey that has many obstacles; some face in the beginning, some during and some when they come to an end. Although natural, it’s challenging and every breastfeeding mother deals with a lot. Even those who cannot breastfeed for some reason. To add so much information right and wrong does no good to so many. I haven’t met a single mother who has passed this phase without a glitch. It could be as simple as dealing with a non-supportive environment or could be major complications.