This is continued from My Breastfeeding experience: Part I
It is very difficult to know exactly how much breast milk the baby is getting from you and whether it is enough for him. One way to know is by using a breast pump and seeing how much milk you can get in fifteen minutes or so after a feed. But, this is also not a very accurate way because the way a pump drains breast milk is said to be not as effective as the way a baby suckles. Another way, is to see the baby’s weight gain per week, but for that, you need to experiment by stopping the formula first to see if it makes a difference.
At around 3-4 weeks, my son started fussing quite a lot more than usual when I would supplement his feeds with formula. He would wriggle around so much that I was scared the ‘pal ada’ would hurt him. He started spitting up a lot more as well. But he would still drink whatever I gave him, so I had no idea whether he was still hungry after breastfeeding or not.
I just want to say, that I have nothing against supplementing with formula or with exclusive formula feeding. It was just growing to be such a difficult task to avoid using a bottle to formula feed that I wanted to shift towards just breastfeeding if possible. The immunity that my son would receive from the breast milk was also on the back of my mind. That being said, a fed and happy baby is always the best, it doesn’t matter how.
The first thing I did once I felt myself that my milk had increased, was to visit a gynaecologist and a paediatrician for assurance.
The gynaecologist told me after checking that it did appear that I had sufficient breast milk. She told me to try exclusive breastfeeding and that the baby would eventually learn to enjoy breastfeeding over the formula. She said that the formula was “less work” for the baby, but the immunity received from breast milk cannot be replicated in formula. She prescribed Galact granules (basically asparagus root/shatavari) to have with milk twice daily. I had already been taking Lactare tablets from the first week as well. Once I started Galact, I stopped Lactare because they are essentially very similar and honestly, the taste of Galact is much more agreeable.
The paediatrician was also very supportive. She said that breast milk really “comes in” at the 3 week mark and will only increase as per the demand made by the baby through feeding. The more the baby suckles, the more the body produces. It is a pure demand and supply response. She suggested adding some foods to my diet to improve milk supply. Some of the foods she mentioned were:
- Green leafy vegetables especially spinach
She also insisted that I drink atleast 3 litres of water as well as a few glasses of milk a day. For a full list of galactogogue (foods which are said to increase milk) please see here. Oatmeal was part of my breakfast every morning with almonds and honey.
After talking to these two doctors, I found some confidence to move towards exclusive breastfeeding. The paediatrician suggested gradually shifting to lesser amounts of formula. For example, I had been giving the baby 30 ml formula after every breastfeeding session (10-12 sessions per day since infants drink milk every 2-3 hours). I started giving him 20 ml formula after every feed for a few days and then 20 ml every other feed and so forth. Whenever it felt like he was hungry and fussing after a full 45 minute feed, I’d give him formula.
It was definitely a lot of self doubt and perseverance One thing that really helped was that we bought a digital baby weighing scale. I carefully noted his weight gain per week and tried to never let it fall below the recommended rate. Slowly, I could see that he was gaining weight adequately just from my milk. By 6 weeks, I was no longer supplementing with formula.
If you are a first time mum, breastfeeding may come as a surprise to you. I remember being overwhelmed by how difficult and painful it was initially. It is also long hours of sitting or lying down just feeding the baby and nothing much else. It really isn’t easy even without the complications of low milk supply.
What helped me get through the days of long comfort feeding was to distract myself. Once the latching pain subsided, I started browsing the net on my laptop or smart phone while breastfeeding. It really saved my sanity quite a bit. In long lonely hours of the night, youtube videos kept me company.
When I shared my feelings, those days, everyone told me things would change and get better. It is hard to believe, but it does change. Nothing lasts forever. My son definitely doesn’t feed for an hour at a time now, it is more like 15-20 minutes unless he’s comfort feeding. Since he’s much more active and aware now, he definitely doesn’t let me browse the net or look through my phone while I’m feeding him and I must admit, I miss that!
My son is now 5 months old and is still on just breast milk. It wasn’t and still isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. But I am happy that I could do this for him, and the thought of weaning does tug at my heart a bit.
I will be updating my breastfeeding experience in this space as my son grows older and his needs change. I hope you will follow me on my journey and let me know about yours too 🙂
Featured image source: https://www.fitpregnancy.com/baby/breastfeeding/20-breastfeeding-benefits-mom-baby