I didn’t know what to expect from this motherhood related task. I approached it with uncertainty. One year and a couple of months later, I can say with satisfaction, it was a mission accomplished successfully. I am talking about breastfeeding my daughter Myrah.
In India, where I come from, breastfeeding is a given. There are no two ways about it, mothers breastfeed. Period.
But in North America, women make a big deal out of it, not wanting to nurse, not sure if they can or should, and not wanting to put in the effort. Before Myrah was born, my husband James and I decided, if all goes well, we will have her breastfed exclusively for six months and continue to nurse till atleast she turns one.
Soon after Myrah was born, the enormity of the task and the daunting responsibility of breastfeeding dawned on me. I realized I am the sole provider for this tiny baby who needs all the nutrition she can get in the initial days to thrive and grow. It was a responsibility that sat heavy on me and a task I took to very seriously. Is there enough milk? Is she drinking enough? Should I feed her more often? Should I go by her demand? In those initial days, when one is getting used to the idea and the concept and the technique, it can get very overwhelming. There were midnights and early mornings when I got frustrated thinking she is not drinking enough or as much as is usual, and stress myself about why it is so. But with time, she and I learned, and we formed a pattern we both understood. I learnt to go by her demands, to be reassured that when she is hungry she will ask for it (and they can ask very loudly!) and she has the power of judgment to decide when enough is enough. As I watched her gain pounds and remain healthy, I trusted her more and took the task more lightly. The women at the breastfeeding clinic of the Region of Peel were a great help and encouraged me to stay on course. I highly recommend using your local community resources if you have questions, or find the task difficult.
It still remained a big responsibility to the end. It is limiting, in many ways, as much of your schedule gets centered around feeding times. It is just not convenient to feed in some places, so you would think twice about packing your bags and going out – you would rather wait for the feeding to be over to do that. But then new babies feed every two-three hours or lesser, so there isn’t much time between feeds anyway!
The most stressful part of my first year of motherhood was pumping breastmilk. It is a method of convenience, intended to give breastfeeding moms a break while a spouse or somebody else takes on the responsibility of feeding. This seemed like a very inviting proposition as I would then be free to do other things. I shopped around and Medela seemed to be the most widely used brand of breastpump. It turned out to be my nightmare. Pumping was difficult; it was frustrating and very time consuming. Unless you are one rare individual for whom pumping works like magic, you are bound to be upset about it. Medela didn’t help in anyway. While the company claims pumping is an emotional exercise, I refuse to believe that. I think it is an excuse they use to cover the inefficiency of their product. I conducted a little survey. Of the 10 or so new moms I talked to, not a single one was happy with her Medela breast pump. A couple of them had some success with it, but the rest gave up on it after a while. My persistent efforts to get help- even directly from Medela- didn’t’ pay any dividends and I soon forgo the luxury of a break from feedings.
I persevered at nursing and it paid off. I exclusively breastfed Myrah till she was five and a half months (till she started drooling at our meal table!). I continued to nurse her till she was thirteen months. No formula or powder milk. After one year, it was a smooth transition to homogenized milk which she has taken to well now.
It was a responsibility I was happy to bring to a close, knowing that Myrah is stronger for it. The path to getting there requires patience, perseverance and huge commitment. I recommend it to all mothers who are even in an iota of doubt. Just one caveat – think twice about pumping (atleast with a Medela pump)!