Pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding are extremely special events in a woman’s life as they initiate her into motherhood. Today, modern medicine has helped many a woman overcome the risks associated with these life-changing events. But more often than not, too much or wrong medical intervention can sap the joy out of bringing a baby into this world, often leaving parents, especially mums, feeling helpless and deeply disturbed.
Jincy Varghese, a young mum and a software professional from Panvel, had such a nightmarish experience before she started her breastfeeding journey. Here is her story.
Could you share with us what complications you went through during your pregnancy and delivery?
Jincy: My pregnancy was smooth until I developed Gestational Diabetes in the 7th month. From then on, I kept a strict check on my lifestyle and eating habits and lost almost 5-6 kgs in my third trimester. My sugar levels came down but I still had to take tablets.
In the 39th week scan, the doctor pointed out that the umbilical cord had knotted twice around my baby’s neck and his head hadn’t engaged in the birth canal. I was advised a C-section. There was no compulsion though. But given the pregnancy stage I was in, I didn’t want to take any risks, I agreed.
The operation happened the next day. In the Operation Theatre, I was fully awake and aware of things happening around me during the operation. Suddenly, I started getting breathless and I thought I was dying. I couldn’t talk and almost lost my voice. In my later interactions with other moms who have undergone C-sections, a lot of them said they felt the same. So, I am guessing the breathlessness was the effect of the anaesthesia. My operation was over soon and I saw my baby. He had the umbilical cord twisted twice around his neck like the doctor said. I was happy to see him and hear him cry. But what saddens me to date is that I never got the chance to hold him or keep him on my chest after his birth. I got to hold him only after he was shifted from the NICU the next day.
Why was your baby taken to the NICU and what happened there?
Jincy: Since I had Gestational Diabetes, the doctors felt the need to test my baby’s sugar levels too. They wanted to monitor him for at least 48 hours post birth. That is why he was taken to the NICU soon after his birth. At the NICU, he was fed formula even though there was a milk bank in the hospital. I still don’t know why. Luckily for me, my baby was doing well and was discharged from the NICU in less than the speculated 48 hours.
What was the doctor's/NICU staff's explanation for giving the baby formula?
Jincy: To this day I still don't know why the doctors and NICU nurses opted to give my baby formula milk instead of breastmilk from the milk bank. They didn't give me any explanation. Theoretically, most doctors strongly advocate breastfeeding. (In fact, my doctor almost threatened me that I won’t get a Discharge Certificate from the hospital until I get comfortable with breastfeeding).
But in practise, they fed my baby formula milk. I believe this is because hospitals these days get milk powder for babies at discounted rates from pharmaceutical companies. A lot of parents often struggle to wean off the formula milk and switch to breastmilk. This misstep by hospitals adds to the struggles of new parents. Many parents who have been through this will corroborate.
Was the post-delivery course of action informed by the doctor in advance during checkups?
Jincy: The doctors did encourage me to keep breastfeeding my baby even though I had feeding and latching issues. What they didn’t do was educate, counsel and prepare me for the troubles and the hurdles I would face while breastfeeding. Counselling is very important, especially to first-time parents since they don’t know what to expect and may think they are the only ones in the world to face these issues when almost all mothers go through the same problems.
How was your breastfeeding journey after you were discharged?
Jincy: I did have issues during the initial days, but it got better with time. It always gets better. And today, I still breastfeed my one-and-a-half-year-old son. I will stop the day he wants me to. Not until then. He gets to decide. And since I am working mother, when I joined office after six months of maternity leave, I used to hand express while at work (it worked for me better than pumping) and my baby was fed that milk while I was away. I don’t express anymore, but I feed as per demand, multiple times in the day when I am with him and almost through the whole night, every night.
What is your advise mums to be who are going to deliver soon?
Jincy: Please prepare yourself for what happens after the baby is born. We read up so much about what to do and what not to during pregnancy but almost nothing after the baby is born. Like in my case, I thought - out comes the baby and onto the breast and kaboom! there starts your breastfeeding journey. No, it doesn’t happen like that. You will face problems. It won’t be smooth.
But things get better. You are not alone. A million moms have gone through a lot of problems (including me) and have been able to make the journey of motherhood a fulfilling and enriching one. You too will. Hang in there. Talk to your doctor. Make an informed decision. Join parent support groups like Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers. Read. Prepare. Chill. It will all be good.
How can mums empower themselves to trust their bodies and breastfeed?
Jincy: Trust yourself first. Everything else will follow. God has made us and our bodies amazingly well. Our bodies will do their job. The milk will come. There is no such thing as low supply. You think it is. It’s in your head. Stay positive. Don’t let things and people get to you. Smile. Sit back and see how your body amazes you. And trust me, it will be a remarkable journey.
You have started a petition on change.org. What is it about and what do you aim to do with the petition?
Jincy: It is when I joined a breastfeeding support group for mothers on Facebook after giving birth that I realised that a lot of mothers had gone through the same ordeal. I realised it was time for me to speak out. I didn’t want what happened to us and our baby to happen to any other parents or babies.
So I have started a petition on Change.org. It is called #RightToBreastfeed (www.change.org/RightToBreastfeed/) Earlier, while pregnant, I had started and won a campaign that got the govt to pass the Maternity Benefits amendment bill. I am now asking the Maharashtra government to make it mandatory for hospitals to get the consent of parents before feeding formula milk to newborns, especially those in the NICU. And for that, if laws need to be re-written, so be it. I believe that you believe in me and my cause and will extend your generous support until we win this.
We at BabyChakra urge mothers to breastfeed with the #BreastisBest Campaign. Extend your support to Jincy if you too believe in her petition on change.org
Also read: Foods that Enhance Breastfeeding
Explore the entire collection of articles: Breastfeeding Tips