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I had attended a brief session organised by my gynecologist to explain breastfeeding and its nuances, in the third trimester of my pregnancy. But experience became a better teacher. I was alien to the term exclusive breastfeeding unless my child was born. Every baby in my family as well as my husband's family was either formula fed or combination fed.
Little did I know then that I was heading on a bumpy ride deciding to exclusively breastfeed my baby.
A few minutes after my Cesarean section birth, my baby was latched on to my breast for a feed. That moment is embarked in my memory for a lifetime. The nurse reassured me I was lactating well.
The next two days while my body was still recovering from the surgery, I felt like I was only nursing throughout the day and night. It began to get the better off me. I looked at breastfeeding as a task and overlooked the beauty of it.
I decided I did not want it to be this way when I returned home, so I asked the doctor to prescribe formula. He flatly refused to do so and managed to convince me that the best gift I could give my son would be breast milk. I was amazed at how beneficial breastfeeding was for me and for my baby. And that's when I was introduced to the stubborn mother within me who would go any extent to provide the best to her baby.
When I returned home the true real challenge to successfully breastfeeding began.
Here is what I learnt from my experiences:
The most intimidating thought that occured to me often during early mommyhood was- am I lactating enough to nourish my son?
My son would feed often, sometimes every 30 minutes. He also cried a lot because he was colicky. Two most common reason to confirm that he wasn't getting enough milk.
But was that the truth?
His weight gain was better than normal perceived range and eight wet nappies a day helped me rule out the doubt that he wasn't getting enough.
What I learnt was that Cluster feeding is very normal with infants. Babies are not born with a routine, they adapt to routines as they grow. So the feed only every two hours rule appeared baseless to me. "Supply as per the demand" is my golden mantra. So feed when your baby asks for it.
Change the pattern of your thoughts, focus on wholeness and contentment, take pride in your capability to feed your baby, have faith in yourself. If there is a doubt there is help available ask for it. Why shy away from a lactation expert. Visiting a lactation expert is like going to a nutritionist for your baby.
Breastfeeding showcased my baby's love for me. I have learnt that he doesn't breastfeed only to quench his thirst or satisfy his hunger. He feeds to be close to me. It makes him feel nurtured, secure and comfortable. I cried with joy when he smiled at me for the first time while he was latched on.
I love the way he holds my hand and looks into my eyes while feeding. I love the way he randomly takes a break and smiles at me. I love the way he comfortably digs into my lap when he wants to be fed. As normal as you stopping by the roadside to grab a bite. Earlier I carried expressed milk for feeding when I was outside. But I was always paranoid - would the amount of milk be enough? Is the temperature of the milk suitable for my baby? Is the milk spoilt because of the heat? I would always fret. But now its only me, my baby and my breasts ( a nursing cover too, sometimes though!!)
I am only feeding my hungry baby and if a pervert decides to derives some pleasure out of it than I know how to deal with it. I cannot avoid feeding my baby because someone may just steal a glance of my nipples. I was always adviced by close and far off family members against exclusive breastfeeding. The reasons varied though.
But I have learnt to stand up for the decision I take for my baby.
I may have been looked upon as a stubborn, over possessive or sometimes even as a disrespectful woman for not listening to elders, but my decisions for my child are thought over. I felt like I was battling. For instance, I was considered insensitive for not giving water for six months. " How hot the baby feels but has to suffer because of his insensitive mother"
At family functions and get together, I am found, finding appropriate rooms and corners to feed, while everyone wonders what ever happened to the milk powder companies in the world.
But for me its never about MY convince and comfort, it is about providing the best and not settling for the second best.
And I want to state her that I am going to miss breastfeeding my son. . But I don't want to talk about it now shhhh there are still a few months to go..
PS- Whether you formula feed or combi feed your a baby, you are a super mom. Your decisions is the best for your baby.