It was pretty straight forward. The decision to breastfeed. Not the actual breastfeeding! As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I knew that I would be breastfeeding the baby. It’s pretty much the norm in the Indian culture, and I grew up with women around me who all breastfed their babies, including my mother. I thought (and read) it to be the most natural process, yet the more I looked into breastfeeding, I found there are instances when it gets pretty difficult. I couldn’t believe this. I mean all the ladies I have seen seem to make it look so easy. Just pop your baby on and let it suckle right? …. Wrong.
A few minutes after my delivery, the nurse offered Baby Z on to my chest and there it suckled for the first time. For that whole day, and for another two days, it was so easy. I was ecstatic! This was so simple and I was feeling no pain whatsoever! I couldn’t believe my luck! However, after that the pain slowly started to creep in as Baby Z began to cluster feed.
The pain was starting to become unbelievable. I tried to find answers through the internet about whether Baby Z’s latch was all wrong. Perhaps I could minimise the pain by cradling him in different ways. I would try faffing around by doing the rugby hold one minute and the cradle hold the next minute. All this was to no avail. My nipples began to bleed and the pain trickled out of my eyes, in the form of tears. How could this be nature’s way of nurturing young ones?
After about a week, there was a day when Baby Z would simply not stop crying unless he was breastfeeding. I could not understand it at the time, but it was him cluster feeding and trying to build up my milk supply. At the time though, I couldn’t bear the pain of feeding him again and again, and I was trying all the things in the world to make him quiet. In the evening, we eventually took him to the doctor. He immediately came to the conclusion that Baby Z must be given formula milk as supplement because he was simply hungry. We bought a tin of formula, and I watched my husband feed Baby Z with a bottle for the first time. Baby Z glugged it down so fast and finally seemed content.
I was happy that Baby Z was finally a happy baby but I couldn’t help feeling that I had failed. My milk wasn’t enough for my baby. Nature seemed to have got it wrong in my case. My main duty as a mother was now being done by a store bought mixture of powder and water. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well that night.
The next morning I came to the resolution that I would take help from the formula, but still be the main provider of milk for Baby Z. Slowly, over the next few weeks, the baby bottle and formula was a distant memory and I was once again exclusively breastfeeding my baby. The pain was slowly fading away, and there was no more bleeding. I did almost get mastitis a couple of times, but I would remedy it as soon as I thought it was beginning. Even though it wasn’t full blown mastitis, my lord was that a different kind of pain all together!
Around the three month mark, I noticed one day that I was doing what I had seen all the other ladies do. I popped Baby Z on and he breastfed, without me wincing in pain or it feeling unnatural at all! I was so happy! Since then, breastfeeding has truly been a dream! I was determined to make it work and it makes me happy to know that I could give Baby Z all the best start that I possibly could.
Baby Z is eleven months now, and the bond we share when he breastfeeds is irreplaceable. It is the only time he will let me hold him and be so still! I love watching him in such a peaceful state as I stroke his arm and admire his long eyelashes (Daddy’s genes, not mine!). Those rare quiet moments where I get to immerse myself in all the love I have for this little man. I can’t quite believe that this is the same boy that would nestle into me so snuggly. Now his legs hang off even as he tries his best to inch closer into me, as if my body will envelop him and he will be inside me once again.
Unbeknown to him, I will slowly start to wean him off breastfeeding in a month’s time as he turns a year old. My goal was to breastfeed him for a year, and once I have reached that I know that I will be happy in the knowledge that I have achieved my goal. Another factor is his teeth. Now that he has four teeth, I am prone to bein bitten some times and it is not at all fun (eventhough he thinks so). I do not want to revisit the breastfeeding pain that was there at the beginning, and would like it to end on good terms for both of us. I plan to wean him off breastfeeding as gently as possible, so that he barely notices it and also so that my body is gently coaxed into it’s normal self.
However, it makes me sad. Sadder than I had expected. I had spent so much time learning how to breastfeed that I didn’t pay much attention to the fact that it would have to end some day. Apart from the initial glitches, breastfeeding has been such a great experience. Am I selfish for not wanting to let him go. Will he still hug me when I stop breastfeeding? Will our mother-son bond suddenly dissapear? Will he remain his healthy happy self once I stop breastfeeding him? I hope all the above answers are No!
My dear boy, I am going to miss our snuggles, the warmth I feel from you and the endless love that pours out of me for you. I am so proud to have come this far. We will together bid farewell to this chapter in our life in a months time, and I know we will have to let go of many other things as you grow older, bolder, stronger and bigger. Just know that your Mummy is always here to give you a tight cuddle.
Note: Although breastfeeding was my choice, I am in no way undermining mothers that make the decision to bottle feed. Each mother should be able to make their own decision on how to feed their baby, and this is mine. I also researched into the benefits of bottle feeding and would have loved on some occasions the independence to not have Baby Z attached to me all the time. Those moments I am very much jealous of mummies who bottle feed.
How was your breastfeeding journey? Did you face many challenges? Feel free to share your views in the comments section below!