11 July 2017
It’s been six days and I still feel a part of me missing! I craved for a full night’s sleep for the past two years and when that night came last week it was not at all peaceful. I woke up missing all those sleepless nights. I can’t believe what IT has done to a mother who reluctantly started doing it, and then said it will just be for a maximum six months, one year….IT is our (my son’s & mine) BREASTFEEDING (BF) JOURNEY.
My son is 21 months old now and I had thought weaning him off his precious “NAANAA” (that is what he calls the breast milk) would be an impossible task to do. Now I know why they say kids are like God. I wanted to touch the two year mark and at times also thought about child-led weaning. But somehow off late the sleepless nights were taking a toll on my health and my moods. Thus I prepared myself mentally for a couple of weeks and kept saying the same to him lest he understood. There is no right time for weaning off par the initial six months; it totally depends on the mother-kid duo. I am at my mom’s place for a while now, so with all the support around I thought it should be a doable task!
On Wednesday, 12th of July my maid applied an herbal green concoction on my nipples which had a pungent smell. She told me it’s totally safe even if he licks it and I knew I could trust her blindly (she has been with my family for twenty years now and is like my elder sister). That afternoon we told him a story that the ‘NAANAA’ is hurt, smelly and not clean. So he should stop drinking it. He listened very carefully. Then when he saw the green thingy he made a very sad face and said ‘’CLEAN.” My heart melted and my hands reached for the towel to clean it and feed him. But I controlled my emotions. I told him even if I clean it the smell will not go away. He observed for a while, touched but the smell was a very unpleasant one even for my adult nose! He cried a bit but then as if it all made sense to him he said “ NAANAA GAAYAA” (wounded) “BEDA”( don’t need) “DIRTY” “CLOSE” “AAMELE”( I shall drink later) . I was flabbergasted – with a tear and a smile! The next three or four days it was the same repeat story but on a lower scale. One complete day he did not even ask for it. He mentions it very rarely but then as soon I repeat the story he says “BEDA”. I never imagined weaning off would be so easy for him. If I knew maybe I would have continued for another few months! In fact it was tough on me physically (fever and acidity) and mentally. A heartfelt thanks to my mom, dad and maid for the last one week.
I miss that intimate bonding time with him. But glad that I have 21 months of memories to cherish forever!
My BF journey started like most other first time mothers’, not really knowing a lot and quite unprepared for the first few weeks of challenges like lactating, latching, comfortable position, wearing the right feeding bra, how long to feed, to time the feed or not, to feed from both the breasts or one at a time, burping techniques etc. As I gradually learnt to deal with all these, a bigger question arose – The baby isn’t putting on weight, do you produce enough milk to suffice it’s growing hunger?
I have had sleepless nights over this question and my son did really scare us with his weight issues for the first few months even though at birth he was a healthy 3.25 kgs baby. Only with time I realized that it had nothing to do the quantity of the milk I produced, a lot more to do with some of the family genes from the husband’s side of being lean but very healthy and active. It is the most stupid question one can ask a breastfeeding mother and the mother must be stupider if she bothers answering such a question or even giving it a thought. Trust me at times I have chosen to stay stupider because of some of the idiotic women folk who talk nonsense about these things without understanding the body science. The formula milk companies must have used this question and such women/men as their marketing aids when they started off. How did babies’ generations before us survive without formula if all the mothers doubted their supply?
Here I need to thank a Facebook group called BSIM (Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers). I have been a silent reader of this group but it has helped me immensely throughout my journey. It’s one of the major reasons for me to have come so far in this journey in spite of blocked ducts, blisters, baby weight issues etc. The other reasons are my gynaecologist, my son’s paediatrician and of course my husband and family.
After we crossed the initial hurdles, both of us have enjoyed the journey thoroughly even though at times it tested our patience, endurance and my tears. There was a stage when I was comfortable feeding him only in a sitting position on a chair and then we did it standing, sleeping, squatting, in the room, hall, restaurant, feeding rooms, bathrooms where there was no other option, car and the list is endless. Well, in a mosque too! I live in Doha, Qatar (Middle Eastern country) where there are no feeding rooms in most of the malls/restaurants/public places. I took the liberty of discussing this issue with a good Qatari friend and she said I could go to a mosque/prayer room (there is one in every vicinity). That is where all the ladies go irrespective of their religion and nobody objects it. I was overwhelmed by this openness. Then came the acrobatic phase along with the drinking, then the biting and then the naughty toddler. The most easiest and convenient part of BF is no bottles; no sterilization, no preplanning and you can BF without any stress/effort when you travel, when you are tired and when the baby is tired/cranky/sick.
Oh yes! The question lurked in my head and I was reminded time and again by some people, ‘What if he never leaves it? What if he gets too used to it?’ My sister in a very jovial manner once said he might become like Robin ( Vale of Arryn) from Game Of Thrones! Trust me the right time will just come when both of you are ready.
When it is over, you will wish if you could go back in time to feel their warmth, closeness, smile, and happiness, the content look in their eyes, cuteness and naughtiness. This natural physical act not only strengthens the bond but also relaxes the mother.
From my experience, just a few pointers to new mommies or to be ones
1 . Enjoy pregnancy but give BF a forethought – attend post natal classes.
2. Initial few weeks are challenging for both you and the baby, just hang in there but don’t give up
3. Never ever doubt your milk supply. Love your breasts and treat them well
4. Don’t set a deadline to stop it. Continue it until you feel like and both of you have a choice of doing it. Please turn a deaf year to people who say it’s of no use continuing once the child turns one.
5. Remember breast milk is the most precious gift you can give to your child – so the longer the better! ( why precious – stronger immune system, better IQ etc Google the rest as my article is already very lengthy!)
We are truly going to miss it….
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS – My BF journey wouldn’t be possible without these people:
1. Of course my Son – Anav
2. Dr. Sonia Mandappa (Gynaecologist) – for her support & guidance whenever we needed it. The best part about her she answers all your questions and even the silliest one with a big genuine happy smile.
3. Dr. Madhu Patel (Paediatrician) – for everything but more for never endorsing formula until really necessary and emphasising on the importance of the second year of breastfeeding.
4. Lactation Consultant Ratna – for her support during the first few days.
5. Facebook group BSIM
6. The Qatari Friend
7. Aasawari Deshpande – a good friend for her valuable tips
8. My dearest hubby
9. My mom, sister, dad, aunties and the extended family.
10. My maid, Dakshaini – especially for her age old herbal weaning technique
Lastly, thanks to all the people who told me to stop at six months or at least by one year – their ignorance challenged me to continue and prove them wrong!