Isa is 6 months old today which means, I have been breastfeeding him for six month. Except for a minor glitch during the first few days where he had to be fed with a few ounces of formula milk, I have been feeding him fully with breast milk.
6 months of breastfeeding might not sound fantastic, but for me it is a huge personal feat – a triumph which exceeds most of my other personal achievement thus far.
For me it is a journey of me teaching myself to be selfless. Yes, I was this selfish creature all my life but the past six months has brought me into a situation where I have put others before myself. Only when I became a mother that I’ve actually embraced this – even marriage somehow fails to do so.
So in commemoration of this first milestone, I am jotting down some useful lessons I’ve learned, some of them the hard way:
- Nobody really masters breastfeeding straight away – which is true for both the mommy and the baby. Both of you are learning, and learning takes time. The painful part will be over, I promise you.
- You need a nipple cream. Full stop.
- The first few weeks might be so maddening that you might be pushed to think that your life is really about feeding the child. Isa nursed every hour in my case. It doesn’t help that the newborn barely recognises you, or actively responds to you. It won’t feel much like bonding time until Isa actually starts looking into my eyes and smiles.
- In reference to the point above, the advice normally given to mommies that feeding time should be seen as a special bonding and relaxing moments is true, especially once maternity break is over..You can now say ‘Sorry, I can’t do the dishes because I’m nursing my child.’
- A nursing pillow might be a VERY helpful item. Like seriously. At least for me.
- Buying expensive breast pumps is useless if the mother is lazy to pump. Common sense, but need to be reaffirmed.
- Breastfeeding ( and able to do so exclusively) does not entitle to you to be smug. It doesn’t give you the license to belittle others who don’t or couldn’t. Even if you think breastfeeding is best, (if you are a Muslim) in Islam it is highly encouraged, it is not a sin not to.
- The right positions to breastfeed are only useful to follow when the baby is small. It won’t apply anymore once he is a bit more mobile, when he himself chooses how he wants to breastfeed. More often than not it is freestyle. Isa can nurse while he’s lying on his tummy nowadays.
- If you suspect some oppositions from your close family, equip yourself with knowledge on breastfeeding beforehand, especially the ‘how’ and ‘why’. E.g. Why shouldn’t we give the baby plain water? How do we know he’s full when he’s still crying?
- In my case, during the first week, I had a can of formula milk on standby. It gave me some peace of mind. My nipples were sore and bleeding at certain points, and it gave me the assurance that if I were unable to feed Isa due to the pain, he won’t be left hungry in the middle of the night. In the end, we only used it for one (failed) feeding using syringe because he cried non-stop one night and I was in pain. The can is still in my kitchen, unused. Some said having no formula milk (even as a Plan B) will motivate you to not succumb to the temptation of supplementing breastfeeding with formula, but it worked differently for me.
- Family support is of utmost importance. Educate your husband. Invest in pre-natal classes. Get him to read babycenter.com or whatever resources you trust. Read to him if he’s too busy or lazy to read himself.
- Breastfeed won’t guarantee a sick-free child. But it helps, later if not now.
- Being an expressing mom when you get back to work is challenging. It is not a primrose path. It makes you hungry, it makes you dizzy – at certain times. Be mentally-prepared. Be efficient.
- To fully breastfeed might not be cheap, especially if you have to go back to work and pump. Some equipments are needed. You might save by not buying formula, but you still need to spend some. It is not FREE.
- I did not start working with a thousand ounces of breastmilk stock in a deep freezer or something like that. My son nursed every hour during the first two months, and I somehow believe that getting enough rest is more important to quicken my recovery. I only managed to stock up once I returned to work. While there were moments I wish I could have pumped more and stocked-up more, I managed to breastfeed this far.without problems like engorgement. I suspect that was partly because I did not pump frequent enough which often causes oversupply of milk. I produced just enough. Don’t push yourself too hard on stocking up. Find a balance. I have seen many cases where these eager moms have to resort to throwing away their expired frozen milk.
- Eat a lot and worry not about your weight.
That’s it. We’ll see if I could get to 1-year milestone formula-free!