When I found out that I was pregnant, I read a lot about breastfeeding.
The ideal positions to hold the baby, the right latch, hind milk and fore milk, the works. I even went for a class and had a very qualified nurse show me how to feed an imaginary baby when I was around 28 weeks along.
Nothing. I repeat, nothing, could have prepared me for what I experienced.
Towards the end of my pregnancy, due to high blood pressure, it was decided that the delivery would be a cesarean section. I was despondent; one of my main worries was that my milk may not come in. I had also seen research that milk supply maybe affected in women with PCOS.
After my son was born, he was brought to me in the recovery room and he was able to drink a bit of colostrum that the nurse helped me express. I was overjoyed. He seemed to know how to suckle and I thought my milk was on its way to coming in.
Once the medicines wore off, my pain increased exponentially and it became difficult to feed the baby sitting up. The nurses were wonderfully helpful in guiding me. It was extremely challenging for me to get my son to latch every time. It was a lot of frustration and crying from both sides, every single time it was time for a feed.
After struggling to feed the baby for a few days, the daily weight checks showed that he was losing more weight than the doctors like to see. A lactation consultant came to see me and although she encouraged me to continue breastfeeding, she also insisted that we supplement his feeds with formula. Breastfeed first, then give him 30 ml (calculated as per his birth weight) of formula every feed.
Here, in India, they encourage you not to introduce a bottle until breastfeeding is well established in order to avoid nipple confusion. The alternative is either a bowl and spoon, or a pal ada (pictured below). The nurses gave him formula using a syringe for a few feeds till we got the pal ada too, but it isn’t recommended.
(Source : http://www.indiasendangered.com)
It was a very difficult and stressful time.
Initially, the nurses would feed the baby formula with the pal ada, but later, my husband and I had to learn how to do it. The pal ada is made of steel and the pointed end seemed sharp for our son’s small little mouth. But it never seemed to hurt him or bother him, except that he would get excited to drink milk and it would end up spilling here and there. He would spit up the formula as well and since we never knew how much breast milk he was getting, it all came down to his weight gain as per the scales.
Finally, he crossed the weight gain threshold and we were able to go home. Meanwhile, breastfeeding started becoming progressively more painful for me. It reached a point where I was in excruciating pain every time my son latched to drink milk. Usually it would go away once he started drinking, but those few seconds were unbearable. I was in tears whenever it was time for a feed. Nipcare (lanolin ointment) was my best friend for weeks, though it didn’t help much with the latching pain.
At around the 3 week mark, some how one fine day, the pain just went away. I don’t know if he got better at suckling, I got better at latching him or my nipples got used to breastfeeding, something clicked and breastfeeding started becoming a lot more comfortable. I was still supplementing with formula and it was a troublesome affair as he was getting older to keep him still and get the formula into his little mouth.
I wanted to move onto exclusively breastfeeding him, but I was unsure whether he was getting enough from me to stop the formula. I needed help and support.
To be continued