I hadn’t given much thought to breastfeeding before I had my son. I had always presumed it would be an organic process that just flowed as a sequel to childbirth. I had no reason to question this assumption and I suppose at the time, I was more focused on the elements leading up to my delivery; the labor, the pain, the usual paraphernalia.
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My doctors had estimated my due date as 5th June 2015, but my baby could hardly contain his anticipation of entering the world. On 26th May that year, I experienced severe abdominal pain and upon reaching the hospital, we discovered that Tanmay’s heart rate had risen dramatically. Although I had been scheduled for a natural delivery, a C-section was now inevitable, given the scenario.
That day, my battle with breastfeeding began. Almost immediately, my nipples became sore and inverted. To this day, I don’t know whether my challenges were rooted in my premature delivery or if my body was inherently programmed to produce lower quantities of milk. The bottom line was, I just wasn’t producing enough. For the first three days after Tanmay’s birth, my little boy was fed formula from a bottle and because it was the first form of nutrition he was introduced to, he embraced it immediately. I was devastated that I wasn’t able to nourish my child myself. We all grow up believing that everything is supposed to happen a certain way. For me, this was one of those things. Only, my body apparently had a mind of its own. So here I was, a frantic, frenzied new mom out to do anything to get her breasts to produce milk.
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I met Sister Ruth on Cloudnine shortly after my misadventures with breastfeeding began. Ruth recognised the look of desperation in my eyes and immediately suggested that I try a breast pump. She also prescribed a handful of medications to boost milk production in my breasts. Not long after, almost magically, my milk started flowing. Of course, by this time, Tanmay was quite happy with his bottle; he’d never known any other way. It took me time, effort and energy to wean him from the breast to the bottle, a process that most mothers perform in reverse. Oh, the irony!
I was adamant to make up for lost time once my milk supply became regular. I visited Sister Ruth at least twice a week, wanting to be assured that I was doing things right. Was my milk flow adequate? Was my baby latching on properly? What could I eat to augment my milk production? I had a million questions, and Sister Ruth was my brilliant bank of answers. She was caring and patient, empathetic and encouraging. She was just lovely. She coached me through this daunting new phase, teaching me positive signs to watch out for: the significance of a wet nappy, for instance. I met her regularly until my son was five months old and she taught me how to tailor my feed and my nutritional intake as my child grew. I remember one instance specifically when Tanmay was five months old. He was about 100 grams underweight, and in my mind, that was a cause for concern. Sister Ruth drew up a list of foods I could eat to grow my milk reserves. She helped me bolster my body and as a result, Tanmay gained the requisite weight.
I’ve known new moms in my circle of friends who have abandoned breastfeeding because of the challenges they’ve faced along the way. I was told that moms who deliver early via C-section often do not start producing milk until their scheduled due dates. But I was resolute and stubborn, and I’m glad I was. I’ve been breastfeeding Tanmay for a little over two years now, and I’m glad to say that he finally favours the breast. As he grows though, I know that I’ll have to wean him back to the good ol’ bottle.
Talk about life coming full circle.
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