Shruti Kanchan is an Engineer in Electronics. She also holds a Post Graduate degree in General Business Management from Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneshwar (India). Shruti has been working in the Telecom/IT domain since the past 10 years. Before her twins were born, she worked with Capgemini. She is currently associated with Tata Communications. She says, “It is true that only a good boss can help maintain a healthy work-life balance. And I have been lucky in both the companies”. Read on to know why Shruti Kanchan thinks that weaning is more difficult as compared to breastfeeding her twins.
1. You read up a lot during your pregnancy. So, it seemed like you were prepared and all set to welcome the precious ones.
From the time I conceived my babies, I read up a lot on pregnancy, baby care, massages, diapering, vaccinations; everything but breastfeeding. Without an iota of doubt, I knew I was going to breastfeed. I was under the notion that it’s going to be easy. I just need to get the babies to latch and we are sorted. When I missed the antenatal breastfeeding class (I was advised complete bed rest), it dint seem like a big deal. I was under the impression that breastfeeding is just going to happen and no extra effort is required. Boy I was wrong!
I had a planned C-section in the 37th week as one of the twins was a breech baby. My gynaecologist did not want to take the risk. The surgery was smooth. But due to the drowsiness and withering pain, I could just manage to give the boys a quick kiss. My anxiousness to feed my twins set in when I was surrounded by family and relatives. All of them exclaimed how tandem feeding is impossible and I would have to give them powder milk. Also, my breast milk wasn’t going to be enough for two. The general notion is since the mother’s milk is going to be divided into two, it won’t satiate their hunger. But the rebel in me was determined to prove them wrong.
One of the twins latched on like a pro (I call him a milky monster). The other one had a shallow latch. He was also suffering from jaundice which made him sleep a lot and his latch was weak. The Lactation Consultant (LC) came in the next day to help us correct the latch. We were amazed when she explained and showed us how tandem feeding is possible. She emphasised that at a given point, none of the two should cry in hunger. The gynaecologist walked us through the rest of the information; thus began our beautiful breastfeeding journey with my milk monsters. I love calling them that. My husband, mother-in-law (MIL) and aunt were my pillars of support from day 1. They took care of one baby every time I was busy with another.
We have had our share of colic, sleepless nights, spit ups and more, multiplied by two. But what keeps me going are my LC’s words that continues to resonate in my mind. She said, “Your body knows that you have twins; it will nourish and nurture them and cater to their needs. You need to trust your body”.
My doctors have been extremely supportive at every step. I don’t think I could have come this far without their help and guidance. Dr. Neelima Bapat, gynaecologist, is a pro-breastfeeding doctor and she diligently conducts antenatal classes at her maternity home for Breastfeeding. My LC, Nilima Gurav gave me the confidence and made me believe that breastfeeding my twins is possible. Their pediatrician, Dr. Geetanjali Puthran, always appreciates and tells me how proud she is of me that I continue to breastfeed my twins.
2. You truly are blessed with an amazing support system in the form of your doctors and family. I am sure it does help a lot in the journey.
Yes, I do consider myself blessed. I feel breastfeeding is not just a mother-child relationship. It’s a beautiful team work by the entire family that stands by the mother and child(ren). Till date, my husband, inlaws and parents have been supportive of my decisions. They stand by me and my breastfeeding goals.
I would also like to mention my best friend Ambika; she has been very instrumental in my breastfeeding journey. An exclusive pumping mama to her twins, Ambika guided me at every step from my pregnancy days. She added me to a support group on Whatsapp. There, I was introduced to Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers (BSIM) on Facebook (FB).
My boss at work has also been understanding and supportive for my needs to pump at work. There was no way I could have pulled it this far by myself. Now, at 17 months, we are only marching ahead. They are right when they say it takes a Village to raise a child.
3. What are your thoughts on people always telling a new mother that she isn’t making enough?
It is clearly a myth unless there is a diagnosed medical condition. People fail to understand that breastfeeding is a beautiful act of nature; it is a simple demand and supply rule. The more the baby is on the breast, the more the body produces milk to meet its needs. A crying baby is not always a sign of hunger. Lot of moms have nursed triplets, so it definitely shouldn’t be hard to nurse a single child or twins. A lot of misinformation leads to chaos in a new mother’s mind and she begins to doubt herself.
It is important to meet a specialist or join specialized support groups to bust all kinds of myths. Two groups that I swear by is BSIM and its sister group, Breastfeeding Support for Moms of Multiples India (BSMMI). I would have given up long back had it not been for these two support groups. All the lovely members, peer counsellors, moderators and Admins helped me with all my doubts and queries. My other sources of information have been the La Leche League International and the Kellymom website. It is literally like the breastfeeding bible.
4. When you went back to work, how did you manage to meet the nutritional needs of the boys?
I started pumping around two months post-partum. Mainly because I used to nurse and sleep with one baby while my MIL fed the twin with expressed milk. I got the much needed break and sleep; and the boys also got accustomed to the setup.
I went back to work when they were around 6 months and hence pumped every 2-3 hours at office. I stored them in Pron Go Plus cooler bags. The ones that are typically used by diabetic patients to carry their insulin vials. These bags are easily available on Amazon. The ice packs that came with the bag is used to store the pumped milk. There is enough space to keep the pump and its parts too. It is an excellent bag; it kept the stuff cool for around 10-12 hours in the humid Mumbai (India) weather!
My company converted a meeting room into a pumping room and I can’t thank them enough. My boss has been equally supportive and never had issues with my pumping breaks. I used to sit down with my laptop and pump to not let my work get hampered. I was provided with the flexibility to work from home. This further helped me in taking care of my babies in spite of joining work.
Whenever I was at home, I continued to nurse them on demand from evenings to mornings and through weekends.
5. Although you have had a great support system, I am sure you have come across your own set of challenges.
I am a Type A personality. I lived a much disciplined life – Woke up at 6:00am and slept by 9:30pm; a stickler to time and routine. But the moment my babies were born, I suddenly felt like I lost control of my life. This is probably what every new mother goes through. But for a compulsive person like me, it was very difficult to cope. I had major bouts of postpartum anxiety and depression. The twins mostly tandem fed in the initial days followed by cluster feeding for long hours. I remember tandem feeding once for 5 straight hours. I felt like almost all the air, bloody and energy was sucked out of my body; with barely any sleep and being voraciously hungry and thirsty. My outbursts were mostly on my husband and family. Thank God everyone just stuck on and never gave up on me.
6. Most mothers are asked to begin weaning as early as 3 months. Do you feel the heat too?
There have been times that I have wanted to give up myself. It’s like a crazy love-hate relationship. A part of me wants to run away. But when I’m away from them at work, I yearn to get back and nurse my milk monsters. Breastfeeding is all about determination; more mentally than physically. Engorgement, sore and cracked nipples, sleep deprivation, fatigue and so much more can bog you down physically. But there is nothing that can beat the determination to actually do it. Now that the bubs are 17 months old, people are behind my life to wean them. They think the boys won’t eat solids well (which isn’t true) or that I should be getting some rest now. Like that is even possible irrespective of breastfeeding.
The boys and I are determined. We aim to nurse to term (self-weaning). For me, the idea of weaning is more difficult as compared to breastfeeding.
7. You are truly an inspiring mother. How do you do your bit to spread awareness about breastfeeding?
Whoever I cross path with, I ensure to educate them and quote the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation; especially to the ones who are not pro-breastfeeding. When I joined BSIM, there were a lot of members who helped me every time I hit a new low. I had to give back what I got from this lovely forum and began helping mothers with their struggles; trying to make a difference in whatever little way I could. I was extremely happy when BSIM gave me the opportunity to be a peer counsellor and then moderator. In addition, I am the admin on BSMMI too.