Dia Jadwani is a practising Certified Lactation Counsellor (LC), in Ahmedabad (India). She is an Electronics and Communication engineer with a Masters degree in Engineering Business Management from Warwick University, United Kingdom (U.K). While in London, she also got the opportunity to work for a year at the International Digital Lab. Dia married in 2010 and switched jobs from being a homemaker to a manager at her husband’s hotel. She was a visiting lecturer at the IIPM University before turning into a full-time mom. At present, she’s content with her new designation; a full time mommy and a part time LC. Read Dia Jadwani’s journey to know how her willpower and perseverance kept her going.
1. Dia, although you had a great start to your breastfeeding journey, the bumps were just around the corner.
My breastfeeding journey began on 26th June 2014. The start was actually miraculously easy. My baby latched on to me beautifully with very little help of a loving nurse at the hospital.
When it came to breastfeeding, the hospital (doctors and staff) appeared to be supportive. Well, they even had a box of formula ready to feed the baby. They emphasized on how it was normal to be given to the baby in the first two days post-delivery. The hospital completely lacked the means to counsel a new mother. I was told that it would take few days for the milk to come in. There was nobody to teach me how to latch and its importance in the following days. I was unaware of what to expect in the coming days.
I clearly remember how scared I was to leave the hospital with a new-born. Although, she latched on well, I was still scared. I did not know what I was supposed to do or what was expected of me as a mother!
Very soon, we met with our line of hurdles; severe engorgement on the third day to De Quervain disease, baby blues (mild postpartum depression (PPD)) and mastitis at 18 months. I could not even lift my baby when I was suffering from De Quervain. It felt like I had seen it all.
I was a naïve mother with no knowledge of anything related to breastfeeding as I didn’t read much. The only thing I knew was that I had to breastfeed my daughter for the first six months. My mother and cousin (brother) asked me to do so. And I did it. I live in a nuclear set up and that kind of helped me take decisions without any outside interference.
2. That sounds really rough. How did you motivate yourself to keep going?
I struggled due to lack of sleep during growth spurts. I would be up from 1-5 am just nursing, but I wouldn’t budge. And I exclusively breastfed her for six months. Then came the unwanted advice by well-meaning friends and adults to wean her off breast milk by around the tenth month. I even bought formula (1 kg pack) to introduce at 8 months, which eventually got dumped.
Something didn’t feel right so I began educating myself about breastfeeding. I started reading and even posted my queries in various Facebook support groups. That led me to a wonderful group, “Breastfeeding support for Indian Mothers (BSIM)”. I got answers to my queries by asking and by reading several posts in the group. I realised so many mothers are nursing their 2 and 3 year olds. It motivated me to go beyond the stipulated breastfeeding timeline made by our society. BSIM changed everything for me in a positive way. It helped me breastfeed my daughter much longer than I had anticipated and I even found a career in it.
3. It is very rarely that we come across a mother who has not been subjected to weaning advice. Do you fall in the rare group?
There were so many people coming in with unsolicited advice that it was becoming difficult to function. I was bombarded with several myths. Eat more ghee and drink more milk to make more milk! Nurse only after an interval of 2 hours else it would cause gas to the baby. I wasn’t allowed to nurse after washing my hair. Basically they just wanted to let the baby cry I guess! If the baby demanded milk frequently or fed for a longer duration I was told that I wasn’t making enough. Looking back, I realised that people love to make a new mother’s life difficult instead of providing actual support.
The one myth that affected me the most was feeding at intervals, an advice given by the paediatrician. I believed the doctor as Vihaana (my daughter) was already a colicky baby. I still remember putting her through a difficult time where she would cry and I would watch the clock. My mother had to drive some sense into me when my brain had actually stopped functioning. She reasoned with me and asked.“If you do not feed her then how exactly are you planning to make her quiet? Do you want to start formula? Does your doctor know how to stop a hungry baby from crying when all other methods are exhausted?” That struck a bell! From then, it was only nursing on demand even if it meant just after a gap of 15 minutes. And that was the last time I ever took advice from a paediatrician about breastfeeding. I just followed my instinct as I understood that there was nothing better available than a mother’s own milk.
4. Tell us a little more about the obstacles you faced during breastfeeding.
The initial months were based on gut instincts and no support. And I admit, I made mistakes along the way. As most new mothers, I doubted my supply when my daughter nursed like a new born through growth spurts. I dint even know this term back then and ended up having supplements to boost my supply. Religious intake of the supplements for a month led to engorgement and plugged ducts due to oversupply. I immediately stopped the supplements and had to resort to the pump to relieve myself. It was only when I joined BSIM and became a LC that I understood that when one nurses on demand. There is no need for any supplements. Breast milk works on demand and supply.
I have also had to go through mastitis, sore nipples, and feeding through sickness, which I thought was difficult too. But it gave me happiness as I was doing the best for my child.
If at all I have a second child, things would be no different. I will breastfeed him/her with the same passion as my first one. The only difference would be the perspective of everyone around me. Family, the hospital or anybody else won’t be able weigh in their advice considering I am a LC now.
5. In spite of nursing your baby on demand, when did you reach a point of re-lactation?
Soon after my daughter hit 6 months, she started rejecting the left breast. I stopped offering too as I was more comfortable with her nursing from the right. Although her rejection was because of my preference which I realised later. It was all smooth for another 6 months and not once did I feel she wasn’t getting enough. I thought only one breast was enough to nurse her.
The only problem I struggled with due to nursing from one side was fitting into clothes. One breast looked like a watermelon and the other like a lemon. Also, I figured that to nurse my kid for 2 years, she has to nurse from the other side too. Thus began the process of re-lactation. I pumped regularly from the left side and also offered it to her during dream feeding. She was uneasy but I was determined and kept at it. In her 14th month, Vihaana was teething and bit into the nipple causing severe pain. The wound required antibiotics. If it wasn’t for re-lactating from the left side, I can’t imagine the mess I would have been in. It was then that I understood nature’s reason for providing a woman with two breasts; not because one is insufficient to feed, but if something happens to one the other is available. That’s the beauty of breastfeeding and I am in awe of it.
6. You weren’t very comfortable with nursing in public (NIP) in the beginning. How did you overcome the resistance?
NIP didn’t come that easily to me. I got the much needed confidence after I joined BSIM. The pictures of many moms NIP and sharing their stories inspired me. It was then I changed my attitude towards the same and there was no looking back. The search for nursing rooms stopped. I nursed her on demand anywhere with a nursing cover and she would be happy. I have travelled extensively with her with family and friends and nursed confidently. Many of my unaware friends also opened up to this idea because they couldn’t shut me up about it. My NIP experience in Singapore and Thailand was better. Even if a part of my breast was exposed, there were no glares or stopping to look at what I was doing.. I can’t think of something like that in India. Even in Oman, a conservative country where I had to be careful to not expose, it was a great experience. Since the first hiccup with NIP, I have nursed my daughter almost everywhere. From the bedroom to the toilet (because she demanded it while I was doing my business) to the bath to trains to planes to restaurants to cars to hotel reception areas to Gurudwaras to Vaishno Devi gufa (katra) to Goa/Phuket/Oman beaches to swimming pools, phew!
7. During your journey of 3.5 years, you have experienced instances when breastfeeding was a saviour. Have you gone through nursing aversions?
I have enjoyed breastfeeding but yes, I have had phases where I just wanted to quit. It was mostly during growth spurts or teething phases that she wouldn’t leave my breasts for hours together. Especially the ones after she turned 18 months. I could go on only because of an advice I got from a lovely lady, Adhunika Prakash (BSIM Founder). She said, “One should never make weaning decisions on a bad day”. I have had severe nursing aversions in the last year. The thought of ending breastfeeding on a good note for both of us kept me going.
In fact, I even tried to wean her when she turned a year old when my mother suggested (well-meaning) so. While Vihaana had taken well to it, I suffered from an emotional turmoil. After 4 days of continuous crying, I aborted the weaning process. The reason why I am sharing this is to highlight that breastfeeding holds emotional importance for the mother and child. It’s necessary for both of them to be ready for the weaning process. Do not indulge in it just because somebody else thinks it’s the right time.
Breastfeeding has helped both of us get through some tough times; me being sick, Vihaana banging her head at 10 months, getting through the hand foot mouth disease at 15 months or a stomach bug at 19 months. Breastfeeding helped to calm her down and make it easy for her. She nursed like a newborn on those days. And I was happy in the knowledge that at least she got nutritious food that healed her too.
8. Breastfeeding indeed is a lot more than just a meal. In the initial months, you suffered from PPD. Did it affect your breastfeeding journey?
I cried for several hours in a day for no reason at all. But I would still long to hold my baby in my arms and nurse her on demand. After 4 hours of continuous sleep, I waited for her to wake up in the wee hours of morning to nurse. I would be up to have a look at her sleeping face. PPD started fading at about 3 months but I was and still am an anxious mom. Surprisingly, the anxiousness was never related to breastfeeding. Even the baby blues never affected my decision to breastfeed or hampered our relationship.
I would enjoy her smiles and giggles during our breastfeeding sessions. As she grew, her smiles turned into laughter and she would hold the other breast or my fingers while nursing. When she became a toddler, she would run to me on seeing my bare breasts just to take a sip. Today too, she wants to love and kiss her dudu (her name for my breasts) whenever she gets a glimpse.
The love that I receive by breastfeeding is beyond words. The whole experience has been life changing for me, both as a person and as a mom. My determination, willpower and perseverance is at another level. Till then I did not know I had these qualities. I am a much more confident person now. I love this new me, all thanks to my darling daughter.
My strongest support system throughout has been my husband who has a similar parenting style to me. He has never interfered with my feeding decisions. I want to thank my staffs (ever changing) who were there from the time my daughter was born till date; they helped me with household chores so I could attend to her.
9. It does make a lot of difference when a mother receives support. What drove you to become a LC?
I had several problems during my entire journey. But those who helped were less as compared to those who pushed me towards formula. This drove me to become a LC, to outnumber such people. I started answering queries on BSIM and providing the support to mothers that I got during my difficult times. On completion of my LC course, I was invited to be a peer counsellor and then a moderator on BSIM. It was a proud moment for me to join the group of ladies who are selfless; who despite their own life struggles are working together for no monetary gain, day in and day out. Apart from BSIM, I work in collaboration with a pregnancy class and take free workshops on breastfeeding. I work part time as a counsellor and do home and hospital visits too along with phone and skype counselling.
10. Kudos to you on your thoughts to become a LC and to give back all the support you received. You are in the process of weaning. How are you doing so?
My daughter is 3.5 years old now and nursing. She started drinking top milk only after she turned 3. I am taking the weaning process slowly and I believe it will take a few months. She would probably wean when she turns 4. I arrived at the decision of weaning due to my growing nursing aversions in the past few months. Also, her latch got weird which hurts me. I believe in gentle weaning methods although it does involve a few tears. I keep talking to her about how I want her to stop nursing now and that it hurts mumma’s dudu. Sometimes she understands and sometimes not. The nursing frequency has gone down a lot now. I want to end it beautifully and take an entire day’s break which I haven’t in the last 3.5 years.
11. As a LC, what is your advice to mothers who face various obstacles through their journey?
Breastfeeding is actually easy if you have the right information and support at the right time in the journey. Most women who fail to do so despite of their wish to breastfeed are rarely to be blamed. They are misguided and made to doubt their bodies. If you ask me, breastfeeding is more to do with willpower and determination than milk supply.