After 9 months of pregnancy, immense pain during child birth, at times even a C-section, lochia and lack of rest and sleep…women have to face the next challenge of feeding her baby. Most say breast milk is the best for baby in fact this is what I kept hearing from my midwife, my mother-in-law and in my antenatal classes months before my baby came into this world. It seemed like everyone was trying to convince me that it was what is best for me and my baby. Being pregnant for the first time and having no past experience with babies, the concept of breastfeeding had been drilled so much in my mind that it was the only thing I wanted to do and thought bottle feeding to be a sinister thing for a baby.
We often hear phrases like “breast feeding is the most natural thing” and “breast feeding comes naturally to mothers, there’s nothing to learn in it”. Wrong! When my baby was born she refused to suck on my breast for three straight days. I was so exhausted after the laborious birth but still wasn’t getting much rest since I had to express milk and feed my baby through syringes. The nurses at the hospital were so concerned that they called in a lactation consultant and made me stay an extra night at the hospital. Thankfully after 3 days, she learnt how to suck and I was allowed to take my baby home. However this was just a start to the breast feeding challenges I was soon to face.
Be it breast engorgement issues, breast milk leakages or latching problems I think I experienced it all. However it never brought my spirits down. I was so excited and in love with my baby that I didn’t mind waking up every 3 hours at night to feed her. My nipples were sore at times and at time my breast were so heavy and full that they kept leaking and hurting. Breast massages to expressing milk in the middle of night…who knew breast feeding had so many challenges. A friend of mine (whose baby was born on the same day) had an even more disastrous experience. Her baby wouldn’t latch on at any cost. She visited three lactation consultants however it was of no use and she ended up express feeding her baby. It’s been 9 months and she’s still expressing. Like me she was so sure of only wanting to breastfeed her baby that she spends hours to express milk just so she doesn’t have to give formula to her baby. She’s feeding her breast milk through bottles just to give herself the mental satisfaction of breastfeeding her baby. The length we mother go to!
There were times when I had to go out for a little baby shopping and I used to leave my baby with my mother with expressed milk. Though leaving her always made me jittery. I always had those thoughts that the milk might not be enough and my baby may need more. I’d keep flooding my mother with calls every 15-20 minutes to see if all was well as formula milk was a no no option for me.
Trouble started when I started going out for social gatherings. My daughter refused to feed in one go and I used to be locked up in a room the whole time trying to feed her. Mothers who used to bottle feed their kids used to look down at me with pity and I started wondering if I had made the right decision by exclusively breastfeeding my baby. My mother too started coaxing me into buying formula milk since she felt that it would provide better nutrition for the baby and would also give me some break. I decided to give it a go the day she turned 3 months. Unfortunately I was in for a surprise!
Ever since mum had gone back, I had stopped expressing milk and feeding it by a bottle since I was with my daughter 24/7 and there was no need for a bottle. Plus I was too lazy to get into the sterilizing bottles and pumping milk routine. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise then that my daughter refused the bottle, be it expressed milk or formula milk…she just wouldn’t take the bottle and cried every time I tried to give it to her. I consulted various nurses and experts for help…from getting my husband to try the bottle to keeping her hungry for a stretch to even wearing my husband’s shirt to mask the scent of breast milk but nothing seemed to work. My daughter used to throw a tantrum every time she was offered a bottle. There were days when she used to drink 10mls after a lot of singing, soothing and force but then it was the same crying and absolute refusal. And so I continued with exclusive breastfeeding hoping that things would get better with time.
This wasn’t the end of the challenges…the toughest one was my trip back home. A flight from New Zealand to Pakistan – a total of 24 hours of flight time with two stop overs. Crossing fingers we embarked on the long journey with our 4 month old! They were the most horrible, hardest 24 hours of my life, something I can never forget! My daughter who was used to being fed in a quiet room would latch off and start crying every time there was a slight noise in the plane and it was of no help that we were seated right next to the kitchen for a bassinet seat. Things were difficult for me too since I am not comfortable in feeding in public so my husband used to hold a sheet to shade us from view and it didn’t help that she kept latching off again and again. Towards the last 9 hours of the flight she wouldn’t sleep, she wouldn’t feed and all she did was cry. She stayed hungry for straight 9 hours but still didn’t take a bottle (I had kept it in my bag as a back-up plan). At the end of the journey we were exhausted and she had lost a few pounds due to the constant crying and hunger strike. I still shudder when I think about that time!
9 months and I am still breast feeding! Sure it has gotten easy with time however there are still challenges! 9 months and still bottle feeding mothers question my sanity and decision! 9 months and still my daughter craves for breast milk at night! 9 months and still my daughter loves falling asleep while having her feed! 9 months and I still seclude myself to a room to feed in private! 9 months and I still feel pangs of hunger during night when my daughter has had her feed! 9 months and I still fear losing my milk when my daughter has a blocked nose and wouldn’t feed properly!
I used to take breast feeding as a natural thing never giving a second thought whenever I heard someone say she’s busy feeding her child. Now I realise while breast milk may be the most natural thing…breastfeeding is not! It’s an art! It requires time! It requires effort! It requires sacrifices!
About the Author:
Hina Nafe: I was born and brought up in Pakistan and am currently a practicing Chartered Accountant at one of the Big Four Firms in New Zealand. Besides accounting and numbers, I enjoy writing. My other writings can be found on: http://www.hinasworld.com/