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My baby is unable to latch on for breastfeeding, so I had to feed her by expressing milk. This was exhausting and stressful, but dealing with the guilt helped me to be a more relaxed mother.
It’s 3 am in the morning and I am awake for expressing breast milk. My baby is sleeping beside me and this is my usual time to express milk. I am not just expressing to relieve engorgement, but this is my daughter’s next feed. My daughter never latched for breastfeeding since birth, and I have been an exclusively expressing mother for last 8.5 months now.
When a woman is pregnant, she thinks that pregnancy is difficult. I always thought that labour is the real hard part and that half the battle will be won after I successfully deliver my baby. I always imagined a rosy picture of a calmer me and a calmer baby while breastfeeding as it is a very natural process and is also easy for many.
Unfortunately, things were not so easy for me. My daughter never latched since birth and loads of efforts were taken to solve this issue. I had a natural birth and also had a skin to skin bonding with my baby, and waited for her to naturally latch, without any luck. I live in Australia and the midwives took extra effort to refer me to different people. We both even spent a few days at a centre where lactation consultants tried to help my baby learn to breastfeed at every feed. But nothing helped and I still had a baby who refused to latch.
The initial few days were stressful as I did not know what was happening. I had to squeeze and pump colostrum in the first 2 to 3 days after birth to feed my baby and she looked unsatisfied. I did not know anything about expressing and I had to look for breast pumps roaming in the shops just 2 days after my delivery. I knew that I had to be relaxed to have an easy let down while expressing milk, but that was the most difficult part – to be relaxed. That’s when you need support from people. What saved me from burning out were my parents and my husband, who were present by my side to help me physically, emotionally and mentally.
And then begun an exceptionally tedious routine of expressing, sterilising bottles, and feeding, everything times 8 in a day. And then in between feeds, I would try to take my baby to the breast to see if she miraculously latches. I was stressed, I would cry, I would scream, I would be angry at myself and my baby and I would be guilty of not being able to breastfeed. I felt like a robot who was doing this act of ‘bonding’ very methodically and mechanically.
My mother took up the role of bottle feeding my baby to take some load off me, and that was a huge relief. There was a final try with the lactation consultant at the 6th week where she concluded that my daughter will not latch as she is not taking any effort at all. She explained to me that I should separate myself emotionally from this problem and not feel guilty as I had done everything I could. She said that I should stop expressing if it is stressful and time consuming.
That hit me hard, and I thought that I did not want to give up trying. I was lucky to have a good supply of milk, and decided that I will express and feed my baby until I can. And then I started a strict schedule, not with the stress I had earlier, but with a whole heart and a relaxed mind.
It is very different to exclusively express to feed your baby not just for the body, but also your mind. It felt as if it was always a time to express no matter how soon I had last expressed. Every single episode of expressing would make me feel like I can’t do this anymore but to see how fortunate my baby was to be getting breastmilk kept me going. I started feeling more relaxed as time went and this helped to have a quick let down and also increased the supply. The same routine of expressing, feeding and sterilising 8 times a day 8 became less daunting and I started getting habituated to it.
Its been 7 months since my baby is getting my breastmilk, and I feel proud that I didn’t quit. I was very close to doing that but I did not. Every additional day that my baby got the breastmilk has been a bonus.
I have expressed not just in the comfort of my home but also on flights, in the car, in shopping centres and airports. It has not been as easy as wearing a nursing shirt, carrying a stole to cover myself and breastfeed whenever my baby is hungry. For a mother who exclusively expresses its very frustrating to carry the gear and milk storage equipment wherever one goes. I feel like I have accomplished a big task.
I would be lying if I say that I have completely gelled with this routine. There are still times when I feel frustrated with this regime. I have had mastitis, milk blisters and sore breasts making me feel like its time to stop. But looking at my baby’s satisfied eyes as she feeds on the milk is priceless.
Today when I look back, I have no regrets or complaints as to why my baby never latched. In fact, she introduced me to a very determined, and a stronger version of myself. I learnt that it is okay to feel like a failure sometimes, but what matters is how you bounce back. It taught me how strong willpower can be. It taught me that I am not weak if I ask for help from my near and dear ones. It taught me that I must know when its the time to stop pushing myself and that its okay to be kind to yourself even after becoming a mother.
It’s now time to switch off my laptop and go to sleep, as I need to wake up in few hours to express again.
Image source: pixabay
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