Breastfeeding is considered to be one of the most natural and beautiful aspects of motherhood. A cherished moment of intimacy between a mother and a baby cementing their bond. But is it the easiest aspect of motherhood?
Not really. Contrary to what popular media would like you to believe, breastfeeding is not a simple linear process for everyone. Through the breastfeeding journey, a mother must worry about – cracked nipples, babies latching, producing enough milk, supplements to increase supply, pumping, clogged milk ducts, engorgement, to name a few. But the more you worry, the less you’ll produce. And the less you produce, the more you’ll worry. It’s a vicious unending cycle.
Once the baby is born, the mother starts producing small amounts of milk known as Colostrum which is pale yellow; this foremilk is rich in immunoglobulin and differs in consistency from the regular milk that the body produces after the initial two-four days. The baby, during this period, feeds every forty-five minutes to an hour and drinks minuscule amounts of this milk.
I found myself worried if these trace amounts were indeed enough for the baby? It is – the baby’s stomach is the size of a pea at this point. And if in case you don’t produce milk at the get-go (as it takes some time for it to come in), you can always supplement with Formula. That is why Formula exists. Instead of beating yourself up about not being able to care for your child, concentrate on recovery.
There is so much guilt associated with breastfeeding. Are you doing it right? Are you doing it enough? How long you do it for? The answer is simple. Whatever works for you and your baby. I know mothers who’ve pumped seven times a day in order to feed their baby because it just didn’t latch on. Other mothers who’ve never breastfed because they never produced milk. And some who’ve continued to feed well past the baby’s second birthday. It is all highly personal and endemic to you.
When baby A was two months old, she went on a nursing strike that lasted for seven days. She refused to nurse when awake, and the only time she would feed was when she was half asleep. I pumped several times a day and stayed up all night because I had to anticipate when she would get hungry and nurse her while she was still drowsy. That was the most challenging week, made even more difficult my incessant worrying that the strike would never end, and it would be the end of my breastfeeding journey.
What I didn’t realize then was that my mental health and sanity were more important. Even if the worst were to occur and I couldn’t feed baby A anymore, I would have found a way to feed her regardless. Breastfed, Formula-fed or a combination of both – you’ll see that a happy, stress-free mommy makes for a better parent.
Thirteen months down the line, baby A still feeds despite being on four solid meals a day. I could stress about weaning her off, but I know better now. It will all happen organically and in its own time. This much I’ll say, though, keep that baby full. You wouldn’t want to witness the temper tantrum of a hangry infant.
Fed is best.
Devanshi Shanay Shah is a bookworm. She is a Master’s in literature and writing from the University of Cambridge. A voracious reader, she has an appetite for fiction and poetry. Mother to one-year-old Ayesha who doesn’t give her much time for any of the things mentioned above. But yes, she manages to work on her debut novel.