Karthika is a doctor with MD degree from Philippines. She has done her Post Graduation in Clinical research and Fellowship in Paediatrics. A crafter and photographer by heart, Karthika is also a Pranic healer.
She was working in a clinical research based company before pregnancy but had to quit due to health issues during pregnancy. Post-delivery, she does free online consultations for both adults and children, but does not prescribe any medication online. When her baby was around 4 months old, she started her own business in stationeries, crafts and quirky products, named Haute n Kewl.
1. Your baby was diagnosed with IUGR (Intrauterine Growth Restriction). How were the initial days of breastfeeding?
I was admitted at 35 weeks and advised C-section at 36weeks as my son was diagnosed with IUGR (thankfully brain sparing). All of a sudden, I developed some heart issues and went into emergency C-section. My baby was then admitted to the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) as he was born premature with IUGR and was fed formula from day 1. I could see my son only after 36hrs post-delivery. In the meanwhile, I tried to pump milk but luck wasn’t in my favor.
But when I met him for the first time, he latched on like a pro. He was in the NICU for nearly 3weeks. I visited the NICU at regular intervals to nurse directly. At all other times, I was trying to hand express so the nurse could give it to him in my absence, if required.
I haven’t really thought about my second one but in case it does happen, I would strongly request the doctors for immediate skin to skin and breastfeeding.
2. A lot of women have had to deal with non-supportive doctors and nurses post-delivery. How was your experience?
I delivered in quite a well-known hospital. What really worked to my advantage is that I worked in the same hospital and it was easy to choose my doctors. In fact, my son’s paediatrician is quite supportive of breastfeeding and advices all his patients to follow the WHO recommendation to breastfeed for a minimum of 2 years.
I had even gathered a lot of knowledge and information while working with one of the best paediatricians in the city. He had done his specialisation in UK and the advice that he got there and passed on to me was – Unlearn what you know, so that you can learn something new. This has been the most helpful advice ever. I have not seen or learnt so much from any other doctor.
3. How did you overcome the challenge of eliminating formula and moving to exclusive breastfeeding?
The only challenge I faced during our breastfeeding journey is to get rid of the formula.
He was on formula + BF in the NICU and the same was continued after he was brought home. But I was determined on changing this. It was a little difficult to start with as it meant nursing round the clock and hardly slept or ate. I will also give my son the credit as he dint seem to like formula too. Three weeks, and we were back to exclusive breastfeeding. That was enough to help me forget the tough times.
4. How has your support system been? Since you are a paediatrician, have you been spared the unsolicited advices and myths?
My biggest and strongest support was and is my husband. And my parents who trusted my decision and have been my helping hand at every instance. I also owe it to the Facebook support group – Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers (BSIM). They follow a couple of things that I have studied too and it has only increased my trust in them. Reading the posts there gives you the hope and strength.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been spared the advices and myths. In fact, I have been showered with them and then have been questioned for not being taught the same. I am always left shocked and rolling my eyes.
The advices I received were just out of this world. I am going to mention a few because I want first time moms reading this to know that these are JUST myths.
** Don’t let your husband watch you nursing; else your supply will go down.
** Give water to an infant less than 6 months to avoid dehydration in summer.
** Start solids by 4 months as your baby is small (due to IUGR) and your milk is not enough.
** If he is crying too much, let’s give him some juice or Cow’s milk.
**Do not feed for more than 15 minutes at one go or else your son will not sleep well.
**Don’t breastfeed him too much or else he will be a mamma’s boy.
While all of this irritated me, I knew what I was doing. I had my studies and research to back me.
5. Did you have Post-partum depression (PPD)? How did you overcome it?
There were times when I was very low. I used to overthink everything and end up crying in the bathroom. My son kept me going. I realized, in order to be sane, I had to remove time for myself. I started my own business, going for walks, joined a dance class, participated in a 3km marathon and met friends once in a while. Of course, my baby was with me wherever I went, but I continued to live my life and not confine myself within the 4 walls of my room. It made a lot of difference. It made me feel better.
6. In reality, how difficult is breastfeeding? Did you want to give up?
I have not faced any difficulties as such. It has been painful when he bites. Frustrating, if I am in the middle of something important or can’t find a place to sit and feed him. Although, I have learnt to nurse in my carrier now and that is a boon. I always feed on demand. I have had thoughts of giving up during growth spurts because that means nursing round the clock. But I keep reminding myself of the benefits and it keeps me going.
My son is 15 months old now. I aim to feed him till he completes 2 years. After that, I would like him to self-wean whenever he is ready.
7. As a paediatrician, how do you spread awareness about breastfeeding?
I think the previous generation requires a lot of awareness. I started with my mom and aunts. I explained the benefits and how to go about breastfeeding. I am very sure the information will be passed on to new mothers and other families. When I come across any mother who wants to give up on breastfeeding or wean off, I counsel them and advice not to stop before 2 years.
It is sometimes difficult to reach your doctor at odd hours and if it is not an emergency, I turn to the BSIM group and have asked others to do the same. It is important to take advice from the right people and they know their facts and have it backed with research. I have added a lot of friends to the group too.
8. What would you advice moms who are having a hard time breastfeeding?
* Trust in yourself and your baby. Preferably, avoid all other advice except that of your doctor.
* Join the BSIM group on Facebook for support. When in doubt, ask the experts (Docs/Lactation consultants), or in the BSIM group. Posting in any other group or asking anybody else will lead to mixed opinions and you will end up more confused.
* Find a breastfeeding friendly paediatrician
* Keep yourself well hydrated
* Always make time for yourself, especially for eating, sleeping /napping. There’s no harm in asking for help from your family. Your health and mental status is very important too. It has direct effect on breastfeeding.
* Read up as much as you can. You can never be fully prepared when it comes to babies but it is always better to have some information handy.