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Breastfeeding is one of nature’s biggest miracles. Just imagine, you are able to sustain another human with what your body produces! Simply amazing! However, this beautiful experience can be traumatic for the mother in the first couple of weeks. The anxiety about whether her baby is getting enough nourishment and why her baby keeps crying, why the little one doesn’t seem to be latching on the right way, sore nipples ( maybe even cracked), heavy and painful breasts, and not to forget overzealous well wishers trying to convince her she doesn’t have enough milk… whew, it can all be quite overwhelming! It’s a wonder if she doesn’t crack up in the initial days and keeps at it with perseverance.
Breast milk is perfect food for the new born, and contains the exact proportions of nutrients that the baby requires. Babies who are breast fed are known to have fewer infections and better immunity than those who are on formula.
There are many women who start off thinking that they want to breast feed but do not succeed. In my opinion, most women who give it a fair shot, are successful. My experience with breastfeeding was not easy to start off. I was tired as I was hardly getting any sleep with the demand feeding (every two hours!!) and was in pain with sore and cracked nipples. I almost gave up in the very first week Here are a few tips that helped me get over the initial hurdles and successfully feed both my children.
It is very common these days to have a lactation consultant, visit you after the birth of your child to help you feed. I did too. She rattled off all about the different feeding positions – Football hold, cross cradle hold, cradle hold and side lying. I of course, was still reeling from the whole giving birth experience that nothing really registered. I just mutely nodded to whatever she said. I was advised to use a pillow under the child to raise him to a higher level and sit straight to not put any strain on my back. It was only a week later, when I was gifted a feeding pillow, that I reaslised what a boon it was. Although a football hold or cross cradle is advised for newborns, I was most comfortable with the cradle hold, supporting the baby with a feeding pillow below, and leaning against pillows propped up at my back. See what best works for you and your baby and stick to it.
You must understand that the whole breastfeeding concept is as new to the baby as it is to you. They take a little time to get the hang of it. I was told at the hospital that when you touch your breast to the centre of the baby’s lips, the baby will open his mouth wide, and latch on, by taking much of the areola in his mouth. However, the reality with both my kids is that they just refused to open their mouths wide enough! One lactation consultant actually told me to make the kid cry and then make him latch on when his mouth was wide open, and also to pull him off forcefully using my finger if he latched on wrong. Sounded pretty brutal to me. Since I didn’t have a heart to do that, I ended up with sore nipples as both my kids were nipple feeders initially.
This was one of the biggest turn offs to breastfeeding for me. Within the first week, I was at wits end. My nipples were sore, cracked and extremely painful and I was almost giving up. The doctor prescribed a medicated cream, but I was not comfortable with it. It had to be wiped off before every feed, and I felt that it left behind a smell and taste that the baby did not like. One thing that works is applying a few drops of expressed milk on the nipples and letting them air dry. But this was not an option for me, with the steady stream of visitors constantly coming to see the baby. My ultimate saviour was a cocoa butter based Nursing Butter. As it was made of natural ingredients, it did not need to be washed off before feeding and it helped me heal quickly.
It is very common to have full and hard breasts in the first few days post delivery. It apparently happens because the baby isn’t suckling adequately and the supply and demand of milk is yet to be established. Wearing a supportive feeding bra helps to a great extent. Also buy some disposable breast pads to handle any leaks. When all else fails, take a hot shower, trust me it really helps alleviate the pain.
Breast feeding coach
Seek out and listen to family and friends who have successfully breast fed, and don’t get discouraged by others. Every new mother needs somebody to help keep her spirits up. In my case, it was my mother. Like all new mothers, I worried that I was not making enough milk. Also I was in so much pain, that my husband suggested we opt for formula for a few days until I healed. Close relatives and well wishers, suggested to move away from breast feeding, as it would give me more freedom (baby wouldn’t be dependent on me) and I would get more sleep ( they said formula fed babies slept better and anybody can feed while the mother rested). My mother did not let me give up. She gave me plenty of fluids to drink – water, milk, butter milk and juice, and stayed by my side though the night feeds. It is very important to be surrounded by and listen to people who support your decision.
Patience and Perseverance
Although everyone assumes that breastfeeding is a natural phenomenon, the reality is far from it. It takes a lot of patience and perseverance to succeed. Stay positive and do not give up until you have given breast feeding a fair shot. Ultimately, it was only in the second week that my body healed, and the baby learnt to latch on properly. I expected breast feeding to be a breeze the second time around, as there was only a six month gap between when I stopped feeding the older one to the second being born (my kids are closely spaced). However, it was the same challenge for the younger one to learn her latch as well. I religiously used the nursing butter after every feed, and it did not let me down. Keep away from formula in the initial few days and do not get discouraged. Sometimes hands-on assistance makes a lot of difference. A friend of mine, who almost gave up breast feeding, survived thanks to her lactation consultant who acted as her coach. In fact, she and the baby enjoy it so much that she continues to feed her little one at one and a half years.
Breastfeeding is a beautiful way to establish a special bond with your baby. Holding them in your arms while you feed them, and making eye contact is a lovely feeling. As they grow older they will even play with you and respond to you during feeds. It is an immediate soother when they are sick or upset and comforts them immediately. Enjoy every bit of your breast feeding experience as it one of the exclusive privileges that motherhood brings.