When I decided to exclusively breastfeed Niya I had one goal in mind: I’d give her the best nutrition possible for the first six months of life. I knew it would take time, and sacrifice and I wondered if it would take a toll on my body — more specifically, my weight (I’ve always been thin). But I decided to go ahead and see how things would unfold. I can’t say it’s been an effortless experience. I’m happy though for the life lessons I’ve learnt along the way.
Be comfortable in your body
The first time I had to feed Niya outside the home or hospital was at the doctor’s office. It was her first checkup after I’d been discharged from the hospital. She was crying. Really crying. The thought of having her wait extra seconds while I tried to put on a cover was excruciating. I fed her without. The fact that the other persons in the room were my sister and a female intern made it an easier choice.
Since then I have breastfed in public with varying degrees of anxiety. With and without cover. In front of women and men. In taxis, bathrooms, airplanes and a Western Union, on rare occasions. I’ve learned that as a mother, my body is more than my body. I’ve learnt to just focus on that fact and remember I’m nurturing my baby in the best way I know how.
Patience today bring joy tomorrow
When I was pregnant, my mother-in-law (and others) warned me about sore nipples. They’ll crack and maybe bleed. She gave me some advice about what to do to prevent it which involved the use of oils. I’ll admit, I only did it once.
Well, on day three of breastfeeding my nipples were bruised. Pretty bruised (but not bleeding, thank God!) Niya was having problems latching and I was still trying to figure things out myself. Even though I had to wince during every breastfeeding session during those first days, I stuck with it. Within days the soreness was gone and eventually Niya figured things out. A relief for both of us.
Decide early before it’s too late
I decided to exclusively breastfeed long before she was born. I even put it on a crib card. But then there was a problem. Even though I was feeding her every 2 hours, one of the nurses told me she might need to take formula because she hadn’t peed and she couldn’t be released until then. I kept nursing her.
Because I’d decided from early that I was going to breastfeed her exclusively, I was less easily swayed and thankfully things worked out. I was also able to work on establishing a good supply as my body responded to the frequency on the feedings and produced just the right amount of milk for Niya.
One of the biggest challenges earlier on in breastfeeding was the time and effort it took. I even had a chart to track everything. It was exhausting.
The thing about breastfeeding is that it’s not just about putting a nipple in a baby’s mouth. There are breast practices and like any other endeavour, it takes time to master. I was using my chart to keep track of which breast I last fed from, the duration of each feed and the time of each feeding. I used this chart in correlation with another chart for her wet diapers.
After about two week of this, I decided to just go with the flow and fed on demand. That way I could be flexible and not get anxious about forgetting to make notes at night when all I wanted to do was sleep.
This too shall pass (when you get the help you need)
This goes along with the patience thing, except I really believe it’s more than patience. In the first week, I was just getting used to holding my baby. I still hadn’t mastered the cradle hold or football hold or whatever else they call those breastfeeding positions. My muscles were sore, and even though I didn’t have any major breastfeeding problems, I can think of so many negatives that could have clouded my mind. But I had family and friends to ask questions, and get the help I needed.
Like breastfeeding, some things in life may come with unexpected challenges or maybe, life itself is just exhausting. It makes sense to get help, especially professional help where possible.
I’ve been very blessed to be able to exclusively breastfeed Niya. Things have been pretty smooth and she is surpassing expectations. She is so full of personality and is already finding it easy to make friends. Will send you another update soon 🙂