I was never keen on breast feeding. I was quite comfortable with the idea of formula. I had seen my twin niece and nephew being fed both breastmilk and formula and they have turned out just fine. Bursting with energy, sharp and extremely lovable munchkins!
In hindsight, I was ignorant of the benefits and the acute importance of breastmilk. My prenatal and lamaze classes gave me an insight into why breastfeed. How even a few drops of colostrum is nectar. How breastmilk protects the baby and its endless advantages. With so much information floating all around, my grey cells went for a rather happy jig down the alley.
However, I was still not averse to formula. Infact before my baby was born, while prepping up, I had listed down feeding bottles. Steriliser, Hot water flask et al. I was a pro at mixing formula- small, large & patiala pegs! I even called for an expensive breast pump, in case I was unable to breastfeed directly. I wanted nothing amiss.
Amidst all this planning and preparations, my sister asked me one simple question-
If you want to exclusively breastfeed, then why are you arranging for an alternative? For an option? Why do you want to be able to reach out to a feeding bottle and make formula? Why do you want to pump milk and feed via a bottle?
My Lamaze teacher looked at us in a session and mockingly questioned us, 'Do you not have any confidence over your body? Your ability? Your capability?' Ouch! That hurt!
Of course, I was confident yet hesitant enough to keep my back -up options open.
Answer was to throw caution to the wind and simply dive into EBF (exclusive breastfeeding). I read up all about it. And was convinced that it was the right thing.
Think of it-
EBF saves you loads of money which otherwise would be spent on formula, expensive feeding bottles!
EBF saves you the effort of washing and sterilising bottles a million times a day and checking each bottle, nipple, cap for any residues!
EBF ensures you travel light-hell all you need is a feeding poncho or a dupatta and you are sorted!
EBF magically burns away all the excess fats!!!!
EBF is said to aid in preventing breast cancer.
So there I was determined. I was given a new monicker- guy mata/cow/mooooo...! All in my stride!
And yes EBF made my life simple. And over the months, I realised the marked difference between EBF and formula feeding.
My sister’s twin babies would always spit out excess milk. I recall converting a towel into a cape and always wearing it. My twins would frequently be gassy. My twins unfortunately often fell sick and we had to resort to antibiotics quite early. And we could never never travel sans a huge duffel bag!
While Sabyasachi, now 8 months old, barely threw up excess milk. We have had only 4 incidences of gas. And touchwood, we have stayed away from medicines. Yes. I have seen the difference it makes. It makes me happy. I have seen my breast milk heal his eye infection. I believe in the power of breast milk coz when you feed the child you ain't just feeding but also sending out vibes, energy and blessings. So there I was enjoying EBFing my baby.
And one late evening I received a message- a mom had delivered a wonderful girl but since the child has to undergo an emergency surgery, the mother is grappling with the situation physically, mentally and emotionally. Her breast milk supply is affected. Can anyone express and share their breast milk?
I did not need to think. Ponder over. I pinged back and offered. There was simply no way a newborn 5 day old baby would be sans breast milk. A part of me cringed at the very thought of needles and tubes passing through her small frame. Lying alone in the NICU when all she wanted and needed to be in her mom’s arms. She needed it. It would heal her. Period.
I spoke with Nabonita, we figured out a time when she would come and pick up the milk, giving me sufficient time to express twice since by then my supply had adjusted to my child's demand and I didn't want to disappoint Mia, the child. And then I spoke to my husband and my mom and told them about my decision. And am glad they understood and were extremely happy and supportive! My mom started me on a 'increase milk' diet!
I gave Nabonita about 60ml and I felt guilty that it was such a less quantity. She surprised me! She said, 'Ritu, this is more than sufficient for 2 feeds!' I was dumbstruck! Really?! Coz when EBFing, you never quantify milk! I saw her smile. And we hugged. And I knew my daughter in the hospital was going to be just fine!
We continued this for a few days until Nabonita was able to feed Mia independently. And today Mia is one naughty hale & hearty Angel!
But, let me ask you- if all a newborn requires anywhere between 10-120 ml of milk, why aren't more breast feeding mothers coming forth? Why do we not want to share our milk, our energy with a child? I shared and in no way I saw my supply dip or deprive my child of his feeds. In no way, Mia caught an infection from my milk. If anything, Mia today has a Maasi and I have a daughter.
Mothers, get rid of your inhibitions! Debunk the myths! Breast feed your child and share the milk with another child in need. You are the best healer a child can ever have! Hold hands and support a mother who is unable to feed her child instead of judging her! Motherhood is beautiful when we share it with another mother. Our milk is a blessing, share it.
Read - Nabonita’s story who fed her baby with Ritu’s milk in those critical moments of her life
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