Q:

#breadtisbest #breastfeeding

Breasts and its exposure is a sensitive yet controversial subject today. We have read about and probably some of you have witnessed the ‘Maaruthurakkal Samaram’. The title of my post is suggestive of this, but that is not what I intend to discuss here. Mine is a more personal take and experience on breastfeeding: the vital responsibility that comes along with motherhood.

As promised, I will be discussing some myths involved as well. Many young mothers out there have been at the receiving end of the same, but here again, this is my personal take. Anyone is free to object and opine on the same.

Having left behind two-three weeks of looking after my newborn child, I was still new to the many nuances that involved childcare. During the initial days, I had to spend almost a week at the hospital as my baby had to undergo phototherapy after being diagnosed with neonatal jaundice. During the days spent at the hospital, all I did was feed the baby whenever she was awake which was something that happened every half to one hour of sleep. My only concern at that stage was to keep my baby hydrated and well-fed so that the yellowness in her eyes and skin would be removed via her urine and excreta. I remember vaguely my mother-in-law and at times my mother throwing a shawl over me everytime;I was feeding. And believe me; feeding the baby was my biggest challenge as I was just getting the techniques on track- techniques like holding the baby the right way, ensuring she could latch on to my breast and keeping her from falling asleep so that proper intake of milk happens. In between this juggling act to be covered in a shawl was something I disapprove of. So I would keep pulling it off and continue with my moral responsibility.

Scene 2: After a week-long haul at the hospital I was finally at home and was eagerly waiting;for some well-deserved rest. After all its no small reason why it is termed as ‘labour pain‘ having experienced the half day long contractions before the delivery. I had heard about an extensive postpartum care with hot water oil bath, restricted food, and confinement. Mine was no different story. My mother keeping in mind my well-being and going along with our traditional method hired an aunty who was responsible for bathing my baby and also giving me the required oil-massage-bath. I dreamed of this being a very soothing experience but believe me from day one I had a totally different opinion about the whole 40-day confinement period. To begin with, I did not enjoy the bath at all. The oil massage was too quick with only oil being applied over the body without any soothing massage, the water scalding, bland food and stringent rules on how to walk, sit, sleep and even talk. I was not supposed to talk loud. I should not be crossing my feet or sit in my comfortable position. To top it all, I was asked to cover myself completely while feeding my child. The aunty would say ” Always wear a shawl when people are around you, even your own family members” (including my mother, father, aunties, and husband). Whenever she sees me feed the baby she would say, “hey cover-up, drape a shawl over your shoulder, your breasts should not be visible. If someone sees you feeding the baby with breasts being visible the milk will dry up.” Maybe most women would be scared when they hear of breast milk being dried up and cover their breasts while feeding at least with fear. But I could just not control my laughter when she said these things. She would scold me for feeding openly and repeat the same every day. One day I finally burst into laughter fits and asked her, “how will my breast milk dry up when someone just looks at it? Aunty, please. But I do not believe in all these. And I will feed my baby anyway that I’m comfortable in.”

The one thing that anyone and everyone did when they came to visit the baby was to ask me to cover myself while feeding my baby. This really irritated me and I felt the need to cover-up or not was supposed to be my choice and not a compulsion. I had my own ways of doing it and I continued my openly feeding style.

Scene 3: Now it’s past 3 weeks and the baby and I still had to get used to each other’s ways of feeding and being fed. It was a few days before she reached her one-month milestone when her feedings began to turn really difficult. Most of the feeding sessions for over a week lasted for only a few seconds. She would latch onto a breast with great difficulty, would gulp in a few sips, and cough profusely. It looked like;she was choking. This was always followed by inconsolable cries which ended in her sobbing off to sleep. Knowing my baby was sleeping hungry tightened a string over my heart. But I had no choice. My baby would just not feed at a stretch and would regularly cry. The feeding sessions turned out to be more of a war-zone scene and not a mother-daughter bonding emotional scene as I happened to read in most of the motherhood related articles. These days were equally daunting for my mother as she was the one looking after both of us through the day. From her experience of having fed babies (my mother has two kids: my younger sister and I) she suggested various ways of breastfeeding my baby, but all in vain. My baby behaved the same. She would suck twice, pull off from the breast, cry loudly and choke. It was during one such feeding session when her cry became more of a repetitive shrill, like she had seen something really scary, that my mother threw a temper tantrum. She made me responsible for this sudden behaviour change in my baby and said that as I would feed my baby openly without paying heed to the advice from elders, my baby refused to drink milk. It’s the evil eyes. She confirmed. Even from the hospital, you fed her without caring to cover. The same from home. You are not bothered when people are in the room and you feed without waiting for them to leave. She went on to explain that my next-door-neighbour used to feed her baby well hidden from others views. My mother told me that even when she had paid a visit to meet my neighbour’s baby, she pulled her chair away from the group of people in her room, sat facing the opposite direction and fed her baby- well hidden from the prying eyes of the onlookers.

At a stage when I was overcome with extreme exhaustion from childbirth, sleepless nights and the pains of the healing stitches, such an observation from my mother angered me. I tried explaining to my mother that it was my neighbour’s personal choice to keep breastfeeding private which is why she resorted to such means. I also told her that I was never going to cover when feeding my baby and if it is problem to others they may always choose to turn their heads and walk off. Of course, my intention is not to expose, but only to feed my baby right. I also told her that I do not believe in the superstitions of evil eyes and milk drying up. To this, she questioned, “Then why is the baby not feeding properly. What is the reason for her sudden change in behaviour?” I had no reply to this, but I was pretty much sure that the reason was not being open about feeding the baby. That night with great difficulty I managed to crawl to bed and sleep- one reason being that my baby kept us up late till night and the other reason being my disturbed mind coupled with the feeding behaviour of my baby. Not losing hope in my beliefs and principals in life, I decided to research on the topic online. I read profusely comparing articles by experts on the topic. After a few hours of Google search, I knew why my baby behaved so.

Armed with the new knowledge and the happiness of having deciphered my baby’s feeding behaviour, I looked out for the right opportunity to enlighten my mother as well. Now there could be various reasons why babies behaviour changes over the weeks. She is quite new to the world and just learning how things happen. She did not have to work hard for food when in the womb, and this new technique of sucking at the breasts to the fill the stomach was adventurous enough. Some babies also suffer from a gassy tummy termed colic which could be another reason for the erratic behaviour and mood swings. But what I found out about my baby was different. Over breakfast, I tried explaining it to my mother.

“Mom, I really don’t think the reason why our baby fights hunger and refuses to feed is that I used to feed her uncovered. I happened to read that it could be because of an oversupply of milk which is called as a fast let-down. During this, the milk from the ducts in the breast comes out with great pressure, almost like a jet of water. Now the babies do not have a well-developed food pipe and they are not able to control the intake of milk at their pace which is why they choke. And because they choke they are scared about sucking and so pull off the breasts or even completely refuse to feed. So, mom, the solution I read for this is to try an upright position to feed the baby, more like in a sitting position. Another method is the mother lying flat on a bed and letting the baby suckle from the top. In this way, gravity will help in reducing the speed of milk flow. A third tactic is to clamp your breasts with two fingers (like how you hold your fingers when you are in the scissors position while playing ‘stone-paper-scissors’) and then guide the breast to the baby. This will also decrease the rate of flow of milk. Let’s try it, mom.”

With this newly acquired information and describing it to my mother, I felt empowered. I knew I had given my mom enough reason to let me choose my own breastfeeding style. I knew from that moment that she would not be carried away by what others opine or by superstitious beliefs, but instead, let me make my own decisions when it comes to the well-being of my child. In spite of this, I still listen to others views and respect it, though I follow my own techniques in child care. My mother still gives me suggestions and advice but never tries to impose anything on me.

Today, when I have my relatives or friends visit me, I still get taunted for openly breastfeeding. I smile through their comments and continue feeding my child in my way. My baby too enjoys it when I do not cover my breasts while feeding her. She hugs it, explores and happily breastfeeds at her own rhythm and pace.;I;once tried using a nursing bra, but it did not work as my baby refused to feed on half-covered breasts.

I believe that everyone should be given their;freedom to choose how to feed their baby. I have fed the baby from public places like restaurants and hospitals, but choose my own comfortable method of feeding. All you need to feel is a sense of fulfillment and pride in being able to cater to your baby’s needs.;So whether to show or not to, is your personal choice.



very well written, did you write this>

Priya Iyer Priya Sood must read this!


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