Sinduja S with Kayalvizhi. The Learning Curve: Breastfeeding Journey
Breastfeeding Journeys

The Learning Curve: Breastfeeding Journey

A doting mother to Kayalvizhi, her 2 years and 3 months old, Sinduja loves to bake and read; her companions to get through difficult parenting days with ease. She says, “My kindle was and is still my savior during late night feeding sessions, growth spurts and cluster feedings. Sinduja is a software professional for 7 years and is absolutely rocking the balance between work and home. Read her successful journey to the top of the learning curve.

1. Sinduja, you seemed to have prepared yourself for breastfeeding in the few months leading up to your delivery.

I have always seen my cousins feeding their kids. So my initial knowledge about breastfeeding was that it is a natural process and milk secretion will begin as soon as the baby comes out. I had no idea about the complexities surrounding it.

Luckily for me, my close friend Manju added me to a Facebook support group, Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers (BSIM), when I was 5 months pregnant. Since I have a passion for reading, I just started reading through the various documents in the group. This played a major role in my breastfeeding journey.

I got to know that WHO recommends breastfeeding exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months and with solids for a minimum of 2 years. The posts from other members regarding issues they face created awareness for me. I learnt about growth spurts, cluster feedings, nipple pain, engorgement, etc and also got to know the various myths associated with feeding. This was all in total contrast to what I had originally known about breastfeeding. Based on the information provided on the group, I knew I had short and flat nipples and I learnt the deep latching techniques to prepare myself.

“I concluded that breastfeeding is an art which has a learning curve associated with it; to be mastered by the mother and child.”

2. Wow, that’s just truly commendable! So did all the knowledge and preparation help when it came down to actually breastfeeding?

Apart from a few hiccups, it was a pretty smooth journey from day 1.

I had an induced vaginal delivery using vacuum and had an epidural as well. I started feeding my daughter within 2 hours of birth. Luckily for me, she latched like a pro from the beginning and I also had a good supply. In spite of all this, she had lost more than 12% of her birth weight. So, a ‘namesake’ Lactation Consultant (LC) from the hospital checked and advised me to use a nipple shield. Since I had already read about the cons of using a shield I refused to use it.

Due to neonatal jaundice, they kept my daughter inside a phototherapy glass box . They asked me to give her top feed (formula) with my pumped milk since she was not gaining weight. They also prescribed galactogogues. Though I knew pumping wasn’t advisable in the initial days and galactogogues may mess up my supply, the mom in me refused to budge. Instead I continued to give her my pumped milk as a top feed and fortunately she started gaining weight from the next day.

We had another setback when she stopped pooping from the time she was kept inside the phototherapy box. Everyone constantly kept saying that the jaundice will reduce only when she poops. They gave her anal stimulation. She pooped once bringing down the jaundice level leading to our discharge. But the struggle was after we got home. She wasn’t pooping and that is when I began to doubt my supply. Thankfully, there was no pressure to give formula.

I went to a certified LC, Swati Jagdish, in Coimbatore (India). She helped me understand how breast milk works with babies easing my tensions. Coincidentally, my daughter started pooping regularly from then.

3. You went back to work when your daughter turned 6 months. How did you manage to continue breastfeeding?

Nothing would have been possible without my awesome support system – my parents, sister and husband. They were all equally involved in taking care of the baby and all I had to do was nurse her.

When I came to Bangalore (India) after 6 months, my mom accompanied me and continues to stay with us as I have a full time job. I had flexible working hours and I could choose between working out of home or office. Till she turned 11 months, I pumped once in the morning which was sufficient for 2 feeds. I would be home for lunch by the time the pumped milk got over and continued to work from home. Since she had taken well to solids by then, I slowly increased my hours at the office. Till she was 15 months, I pumped in the mornings and then transitioned her to cow’s milk. We breastfed directly when together.

4. A solid support system does make a whole lot of difference in a breastfeeding journey. But there came in a point in your journey when you had nursing aversions. How did you overcome it?

Things were going good until we hit the 18th month growth spurt. She demanded to be fed every 5 mins when together. While some days went well, some days were really rough. At one point the nursing aversions were at its peak. I ended up staying longer hours in the office only to avoid breastfeeding. Honestly, I was on the verge of quitting but kept telling myself that this is just a phase.

The online support groups were my savior. They gave me the necessary push to carry on. And just like that, we crossed the big milestone of nursing for 2 years. And I take pride in saying that we haven’t visited a hospital even once for anything other than vaccinations in these 2 years. All thanks to the immunity built through breastfeeding.

Things are a lot better now and she understands when I say I can’t feed her as I’m tired. The journey has become a lot more enjoyable now because of her small talks during feeding sessions. And we don’t plan to wean any time soon.

5. How would you describe your experience of nursing in public (NIP)?

I have never used a nursing cover; just lifted my top and fed. Every time she asked for it, she was fed. The place did not matter. If I dint find a convenient place, I would just sit by the road and nurse. My family is very supportive of NIP, so I never felt any awkwardness. In India, nobody turned to give us a look of disapproval. In fact, people offered a room or comfortable place to sit.

6. How do you think new mothers must prepare themselves?

Don’t give into peer pressure. A mother of a 10 month old was shocked to know I nurse my 2 year old. Her husband’s friends weaned their babies at 5 and 6 months and he thought that was the right thing to do and pressured his wife to do the same. She learnt more about breastfeeding when I explained to her. After that incident, I educate all pregnant mothers of the importance of breastfeeding.

My biggest advice to all new moms is to be well informed about the importance of breastfeeding and nursing to term. This knowledge will give you the strength to stand up for your baby.

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

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