When I was expecting my daughter people had warned me about sleepless nights and constant fatigue that is a part of every new parent’s life. Personally for me, being able to breastfeed my newborn properly was the most difficult issue to handle as a new parent. My daughter was unable to latch properly and for the first few weeks after her birth she was largely formula fed. I felt inadequate.
It really upset me as I had never heard anyone talk about challenges with breastfeeding before and thus assumed it was something that was just naturally going to happen on its own. I had faint memories of my aunts and elder cousins feeding their babies in rooms full of many other women but do not remember any discussions about the lack of supply or correct positioning and latching. We were young to know and I guess such matters would have been quietly fixed with a ‘jugaad’ (a simple workaround) such as giving top-up milk.
My midwife said that getting the baby to suck on your breast frequently was important to build up the milk supply. So I ended up having my daughter sucking on my breast for hours and still ending up hungry at the end. There was help available from lactation consultants and midwives but I was already quite disgusted with being taught to breastfeed by a variety of people every couple of days. At that time I felt that something was either wrong with me or I was simply not trying enough.
I read online that a few mothers had tried breast pumps and were able to extract and store milk sufficient for weeks. My husband brought me an electric pump as well but it was not worth the effort. In fact, I felt worse as I was able to pump very little quantity that was not sufficient for one feed, forget weeks.
My body was tired after a long labour, my brain half-dead with sleeplessness and the added self-imposed stress of ‘cracking’ BFing . But I was adamant and after some very painful and teary weeks, my daughter and I got on with breastfeeding.
Later on, I learnt from friends that they had similar issues as well, as if it were a unique problem of our generation. A close relative who happens to be a neonatologist (a doctor who cares for newborn babies) joked that while her own research and dissertation was on the benefits of BFing her own experience with her daughter was a failure. Another elderly one confided how her milk supply did not build up (in those days almost 30 years ago) because of not being fed complete meals until a week after delivery due to cultural reasons.
Clearly, breastfeeding might happen naturally for a lot of mothers but others may take time getting used to it. Simply knowing this can take off unwanted stress that new parents go through as they grapple with a newborn in their new lives.