Breastfeeding is never a breeze – as it is made out to be. Most first time mothers have to labour at it, just to get it right. And then there are others who give up without never really trying. For which, the reasons could be many – from stress, illness to even lack of knowledge. Like most things maternal, the best way to get acquainted is to talk to other moms who have had a positive breastfeeding experience. And once the mom and baby get the hang of it, there just isn’t any turning back.
I had always wanted to breastfeed my child, but when my daughter was born, I was just as clueless as any first-time mom would be. I had never given it a serious thought as I had assumed breastfeeding was instinctive – and I couldn’t have been more wrong. After a 12 hour long labour, with a screaming pink-faced infant in my hand, I was in no mood to get initiated immediately. But as the first milk or colostrums – as it is called – is loaded with antibodies that are good for the baby, I was advised to squeeze out a few drops in my baby’s mouth. And then there was my baby refusing to latch-on and suck, a full 24 hours after birth. I was pounded with all sorts of advice that included coating the nipple with honey, and even suggestions that I was just not doing it right. Later, I learnt that it is just this kind of pressure from all around (though done in good earnest) that leaves many young mothers unable to breastfeed their infants!
But my perseverance bore fruit as after periodically squeezing drops of milk into my baby’s mouth, she learnt to suck on her own. Then I learnt that breastfeeding works on reflex. The more your baby sucks, the more milk is produced, as it works on demand and supply. And there is no actual schedule that you need to stick to – you can feed your baby as and whenever she is hungry. But there are challenges along the way as I discovered. Once my baby learned to latch-on, I found that she would frequently fall asleep even as she was feeding. So I had to gently nudge her to keep her awake. Breastfeeding also left me dry-mouthed and thirsty and so I made sure there was water nearby before starting to breastfeed. Every mother bonds with her baby through this breastfeeding phase, I learnt, and no two experiences are the same.
Modern day living is stressful, no doubt, and it is easy to give up on breastfeeding. But whatever the circumstances, breastfeeding has many long term health benefits for the mother that we just can’t ignore. Its nature’s own way of protecting women against breast cancer and bone loss much later in life. Above all, it’s a unique bond that nourishes and protects baby right from birth to well into adulthood. And surely, its worth all the trouble!