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Do not get me wrong. There is a lot of awareness about what TO DO to help a mother breast feed…..What I do not see is what NOT DO which can make the mother anxious and wary resulting in decrease or total stop of lactation. I wish I had realized this earlier….but my postpartum depression paralyzed me to such an extent that the mere fact that I have survived in it-self is a big battle won.
I had two premature babies – born at 32 weeks – outcome of an emergency C-section owing to my highly fluctuating blood pressure. At the time this happened I was so unprepared that I had neither the capability to deal with myself nor the awareness how to handle my premature tiny, weak and fragile kids whom I conceived and delivered after years of battling with infertility. Some of you may connect the dots if I tell you that I narrated my battle with infertility in the blog “The Empty Chalice”.
Since it was an emergency, I could not fly back to my home nor could my parents be in Bangalore immediately. Even after the birth of my babies, it was next to impossible to fly back to base as the babies needed medical intervention every now and then since they were extremely delicate. The place where I come from, had several challenges - lack of good hospitals and non-availability of doctors were the primary reasons to hinder me from going back to my mom’s place where my confusion, my PND, my lack of connection with my twins immediately after their birth and many other things would have been accepted and counselled more kindly. Since they were not – I would attribute the difficulties around non-lactation mainly to the stress, depression and the anxiety which took a toll on me.
However, without straying from the topic any further, I would like to summarize my findings in the following few points and urge MILS, SILS, FILS and mainly the husbands to give the new moms guidance and time, love and nurturing so that she is not just physically rested but also mentally calm and most importantly happy.
#1 – She doesn’t have her MOM around her and she is looking up to you to give her the support and mentoring. Be a little kind. Do not expect and hope that she will know everything from the first day. It takes time - a lot of time. So please bear with her.
#2 – MIL – It is obvious that you have brought up your children and may be you have done so single handedly as the husbands in the previous generation did not always participate in child rearing. We know that and hence we are here with you so that you can guide us. But please do not make it feel like a competition of some kind where you are the born winner and we are a complete failure right from the start. This is not about your victory over us. Not everything is a competition.
#3 – Let her sleep without making her feel guilty about it. We know it’s our in-laws place and still now in an Indian scenario you would want the DIL to help around the house even if you have 10 helping hands. BUT THIS IS NOT THE TIME. Remember, the more you let her relax and let her hair down – without making her die with guilt – the more are the chances that her lactation is better which ultimately benefits your “Khandan ka Chirag”.
#4 – Husbands – Please do not come home only to ask if the babies have been fed, and how much breast milk was pumped out and fed. Your wife is dying to get your attention. She is feeling confused, paranoid and at a loss with almost everything. More so cause she is not at her own home but in the place where she will be judged most. Be there with her. You are the pillar of strength that she is currently searching for her.
#5 – Food is important for milk supply. But then there is only so much that the mom can do as a human being. Do not make her eat what she cannot eat only for the sake of increasing milk supply. It will leave her feeling used and redundant.
#6 – We are looking up to you as our role model. But please do not use this temporary indisposition as your opportunity to take control over your son and grand-children and having the ultimate say in everything that is there to be. We will not oppose anything that you have to say for we have put our trust in you. But at least ask us our opinions for courtesy’s sake. DO NOT overrule everything that we say just for the sake of showing who the BOSS is.
#7 – Other members of the family – Please do not be a silent onlooker. You need not do it in front of us. But if you do have a conscience bite – it would do us all good if you can voice your opinion and amend things which would be for the best. Further, new mommy would only be more grateful and happy that someone truly cares.
#8 - Please do not go on calling your relatives about details that we are uncomfortable in sharing. Volume and frequency of lactation is a very private affair. We understand that you are close to your relatives but we are not. Give us that space and respect.
#9 – Do not go GAGA about how the baby falls asleep at the blink of an eye when he/she is with you. Or how you manage the reflux issues deftly while the mommy cannot. You are not the MOM. She is - no matter how fidgety she is at this moment she will overcome this chaos and soon start having a grip. Till then, do not steal her thunder at the drop of a hat.
#10 – Last but not the least – In some unfortunate scenarios such as mine – there is zero compatibility between the 2 sets of parents. Their coming together probably have always made things worse and there are chances that there is nothing that can change history – not even the joyous occasion of the long awaited arrival of grandchildren. However, for the time-being it is in everyone’s best interest to keep these issues aside and let the new mom interact with her mom freely irrespective of the soreness and bitterness. Remember, at this time no one else is more important than the mother and child.
A mentally and physically relaxed, well rested and calm mom will always have a higher probability of having better lactation as opposed to an exhausted, depressed and lonely and helpless mom. I will forever regret not being able to breast feed my kids as I would have liked to. I hope no one suffers as I had.