As an expectant mom, I derived inspiration from the women who had carried, birthed and breastfed before me. My sister stood out as a model mom who had checked each of those boxes and naturally, I intended to follow her lead. When Johann was born on 5th February 2016, I was prepared. But my body wasn’t. My breasts were producing little or no milk and it wasn’t until two days later, after we were discharged, that I really began to panic.
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I had begun to notice that Johann was not passing urine at all; his diaper was perpetually dry, a sign that I had learned was associated with malnourishment. I was aware that my breasts were not on their best behavior, but they were costing my baby his health. I knew that there had to be a better way. On 8th February 2016, when Johann was three days old, I trooped to Cloudnine with my baby in tow. I had to get help. For me, that came in the form of Sister Ruth.
Ruth guided me through a range of latching techniques that instilled a sense of confidence in me. Of course, it wasn’t an overnight victory. Nowhere close. It took two months of laboured progress to reach a stage where Johann was content on my breast. I operated on meagre quotas of sleep during that period, my stress fuelled further by Johann’s frequent cries. But even through those difficult times, I never resorted to formula. I tried everything. I strove to squeeze every last drop of milk out of my breast. I even bought a breast pump, because of which my nipples became cracked and sore. For the first three months, this became a way of life.
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I desperately clung to a delicate thread of faith. In time, under the guidance of Sister Ruth, my milk reserves grew and Johann came to accept my breasts as a source of complete nourishment. Despite the hurdles, I exclusively breastfed him until he was six months old. Today, he is one-and-a-half years old and I still nurse him on-demand. Sometimes, I rewind to my early days as a new mommy and I wonder how I survived. It was stressful, but I was raised up by a wonderful support system. My mother would stay up well past midnight, lulling Johann to sleep when he was uneasy. Sister Ruth buoyed me up when I felt defeated. My family stood by me at every stage. I don’t think I could have done it alone.
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I had no idea how hard breastfeeding could be before I became a mommy. But I suppose every new mother has her own path, each one just as beautiful. This here, was mine.
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