When I conceived my daughter, my husband and I decided to operate on a shoestring budget for our pregnancy and delivery. We were keen on keeping our costs low and the gynaecologist I was consulting recommended a nursing home not far from our home. It was basic, yet hygienic. What more could we want? Without much thought, we decided to give it a go.
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Our daughter, Bhaavikashree was born via C-section on 5th February 2016. Soon after her birth, I tried my hand at breastfeeding. As I watched my maiden attempt unfolding in vain, I simply presumed that my stars weren’t aligned that day. I wasn’t worried. These were early days, after all. When I asked the nurses, they assured me that it would take up to a week for my breasts to collect enough milk for my baby. Until then, I could use formula, they said.
It was when I heard my doctor’s interpretation that I began worrying.
“You have enough milk reserves to nurse two babies,” he insisted, poker-faced.
Why, then, had the nurses proclaimed the exact opposite? Who was playing bluff? I felt like I’d been thrown into the deep end with nobody to help me stay afloat. What was wrong with me and why couldn’t I nurse my baby?
Amidst my confusion and concern, my daughter was diagnosed with jaundice and still, I was discharged. At this point, I had learned that breast milk could serve as an invisible shield from jaundice. And yet, I just didn’t know how to induce it. In a desperate bid for help, I called my sister, who cooked up a slew of home remedies to promote my milk reserves. But nope. As luck would have it, my body recoiled and my mammary ducts completely shut down. What a disaster.
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The next day, I decided to visit my gynaecologist to seek help. But instead of offering me a regular breast pump, my doctor retrieved a sinister-looking contraption from a cupboard tucked away in a dusty corner. It was a needle tube breast pump, a device used to extract milk from the nipple through a needle. Needless to say, it was excruciating and my husband, unable to witness my agony, requested her to stop right away.
On our way home that day, I relayed the incident to my sister, who decided to call a relative who had recently delivered at Cloudnine Hospital, Jayanagar. That call was a turning point for me. I was advised to visit Cloudnine for a lactation class immediately. I did, and that session proved to be my biggest blessing since the birth of my baby.
On Cloudnine, I met Sister Ruth, who helped me gently extract colostrum from my right breast in the very first sitting. She also prescribed a hand pump, a hot pack and caster oil to soothe my breast. Meanwhile, we took Bhaavika shree for a phototherapy session to begin her treatment for jaundice.
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Over the next two days, my left breast swelled to four times its original size. I felt a searing, unendurable pain that I’ll never forget. I rushed to Cloudnine Hospital, Jayanagar without an appointment and to my dismay, discovered that Sister Ruth was unavailable that day. Instead, I met Dr Shashikala Hande. She tended to me immediately, and the next day, Dr Sreedhara Shetty performed emergency surgery to remove the pus that had accumulated inside my breast.
Another surgery followed a week later. Even though the sedated haze I was in, I was adamant on nursing Bhaavika shree. And although I was initially held back because of my antibiotics, I began nursing my daughter as my medication was tapered off. I have never been able to use my left breast to nurse my baby, but my right breast has served me beyond measure.
Breastfeeding has shown me the most incredible upsides over the past one year. I see how my daughter’s immune system has bloomed. I also feel like our bond has grown deeper and stronger because while I have nourished her body, she has nourished my soul. My body was tested considerably in my attempt to breastfeed my little daughter, and perhaps if I could go back, I would have done things a little differently. But for now, I’m content knowing that my sacrifices have borne milk.
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