Breastfeeding Journeys

Set small targets & watch years go by!: Breastfeeding Journey

Dhanya M.A is a post graduate and worked for 5 years before conceiving her first born. She continued working outside home for another 6 years till her 2nd was almost 1. She then took a 2 years break and got back to work last year. Dhanya is a very active member of the Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers (BSIM) facebook group and with other members, organizes events and gatherings for mothers and families to spread awareness about breastfeeding.

1.You have two lovely daughters. We would like to hear about your breastfeeding journey with both of them.
The first time around I had no clue. Nobody told me what I might face. It was taken for granted – that it would just happen and be smooth! Reality was far from it. I struggled for almost 1.5 months hurting at each feed and not getting the right latch. Then we struggled with Cow’s Milk Protein (CMP) intolerance. During this period, the only thing I was sure of is that I wanted to breastfeed her exclusively for 6 months and continue till at least 2 years. I was particular I wouldn’t opt for artificial milk, unless there is a medical need to.

My older self-weaned at 2.5 years. Though she was the one who decided to stop, looking back, I now feel I did contribute to her stopping in some ways. I wasn’t aware of not dropping feeds before the 1 year mark or to feed on demand till 2. So I guess I did end up encouraging her to wean, which I regret now.

Surprisingly, it still wasn’t smooth even with the second one even though I had read a lot, when it came to the real thing I still had my struggles but at least I knew to visit a lactation consultant right on the 3rd day. I also got a lot of support and encouragement from the BSIM group. I dint drop feeds till she was past 1. I did not stop the night feeds till she was past 2. Today, we continue to feed and I don’t care when she will stop. She will listen to her body to stop when she no longer needs it.

It has always been comforting through all the growth spurts, milestones, teething, sickness, new surroundings, new people – BF solves it all 🙂

2. You went back to work when your first child was 7 months. How did you manage when the baby is nursing on demand and has just started solids? She would still need breastmilk, right?
I always nursed lying down so that was a big relief. With my first born, I wasn’t aware that I shouldn’t drop feeds till 1, so she was mainly on solids for the 8 hrs that I was away but after I returned she would direct feed every 2 hrs. She didn’t wake much at nights – 1 or 2 feeds max at night. She also fed before I left for ​work.

With my second, I returned to work when she was 3.5 years. So it’s only before bed feeds now. She still feeds like a baby when she is sick sometimes. I think learning to nurse lying down makes a big difference. You can rest while the baby’s feeds continue un-altered.

3. How difficult is breastfeeding? Did you ever want to give up?
I will not build a rosy picture. It’s very tough the initial few weeks but having someone to help with other chores, someone you can talk to, someone who will support you makes it much easier. Once you and your baby have got the hang of it, it’s pretty smooth. There are periods of craziness – during growth spurts, teething etc but without BF, these phases are more difficult to deal with.

I cried and I cursed around growth spurts but somehow the thought to give up never crossed my mind! I am thankful for that.

4. Most mothers are asked to wean as soon as the baby turns a year old. Your younger daughter is 3.5 years and you both are doing awesome! Have you had the pressure to wean? Do you think it’s going to be difficult to wean her later?
I don’t believe things said very easily. I like to read up and do my own research before I reach a conclusion. I have had people tell me to wean before 2 years as it will be difficult later. Of course they do wean! I have never known or heard of a breastfeeding teenager :).

Self-weaning occurs between the ages of 3-7. Most wean when they lose their latch once the milk teeth fall.

But thankfully I have had to hear all of that only the first time. Now, I think they know I am not going to listen to them. And my family has been very pro-BF too. My hubby is very encouraging of BF even in public. He believes BF has made a big difference in the health of our kids.

5. A lot of paediatricians suggest timing the feeds and to not nurse before a gap of 2 hours. Is it really necessary to set limits for nursing babies – younger or older?
Don’t watch the clock for a baby younger than a year old. Watch your baby instead. The initial few weeks they are feeding round the clock and that is normal. It is important to nurse on demand to set the supply. We started setting limits after she completed 1 but I was still feeding on demand mostly – at least 4-5 times a day. At around 2.2 years, I followed the Jay Gordon methods to night wean. She herself ended up dropping feeds and we are down to 1 feed now. Even those she sometimes refuses. There are days when I am tired and I refuse (explaining to her why) and she understands and there are no tantrums. I think it gets easier as they grow, because they understand when you explain. If I simply refuse without a reason, then a meltdown is guaranteed.

6. How is your experience with nursing in public?
With my older, I have nursed outside but I always looked for a private place to feed but with my 2nd I have fed her everywhere – park, bus, on the street, malls, restaurant. Babywearing helped feed her discreetly. There are other ways too like a nursing wear or the 2-tshirt method that helps to feed discreetly. But really if you are comfortable, then just pop out and feed – you don’t need to do it discreetly.

7. Thank you Dhanya. Your journey has been quite informative and I am sure a lot of mothers will gain from your story. Would you like to say something to the new mothers?
When I was pregnant the first time, although I read a lot, I dint read on breastfeeding. The second time, reading and interacting with moms on the BSIM group made me passionate about it – to help other parents and speak out against the society’s attitude. I would suggest new parents – both mothers and fathers to join the BSIM group and also read up articles on reliable sources like Kellymom and La Lecha League.

In case of sore nipples, latching or any such issues, please meet a lactation consultant immediately. Do not wait hoping things would get better.

There are foods like methi and oats that help in increasing breastmilk. But really the best way is to
1. Feed frequently. 2. Empty the breast often. 3. Eat healthy and drink lots of fluids.

The first few months can be quite depressing. I went through it too. Get as much support – friends or family and as much help. Don’t hesitate to get medical help if you feel the need for it.

Lastly, follow your instinct. Follow your baby’s cues. Your baby knows the most about BF. She/He is the only one who can tell you when and how much she/he wants to feed. The first few weeks are difficult but that too passes – hang in there. Set small targets for how long you want to feed and before you know it, a few years would be down! Get your information from reliable sources and find a BF-friendly paed.

Sapna Krishan | Breastfeeding Advocate | Mompreneur (nursing products) | Blogger | Motherhood | Parenting |

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