Finally, baby has arrived. The last few weeks of the trimester have been restless for me as I eagerly anticipate the coming of the little one.
The first part of the 360-day challenge is to recover from the normal delivery and to establish breast milk. I do not need to write about the benefits of exclusively breastfeeding. Breast milk is the best. It is unfortunate that in my last two pregnancies, I was not informed enough nor prepared to exclusively breastfeed. So I started off with mixed feeding. Mistake no. 1. Fortunately for my second child, I was able to get back on track when I later decided to exclusively breastfeed.
The best way to get started is to be well-informed about breastfeeding and to prepare for it. During the 9 months of pregnancy, I have been reading and reviewing a lot about taking care of a newborn, including breastfeeding.
I am fortunate that my hospital implements a very good program that supports breastfeeding. This starts with the skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth. This establishes that bond with my baby, whose senses are tuned in to respond to mama’s unique smell and feel of bare skin. The hospital also requires rooming-in of baby with mama (no nursery ward!), which starts at the recovery room. Thus, I was able to continue skin-to-skin contact with my baby (a.k.a. kangaroo care) during recovery and I was able to breastfeed for 20 minutes barely an hour after delivery.
Direct Feeding on Cue/Demand (No bottles!)
The more we nurse, the more milk is produced. One of the key ways of establishing a good supply of milk is to nurse frequently. How frequent? Generally, it is advised that we should direct feed on demand, i.e., when baby signals that he is hungry. Experts also advise against the use of breast pumps during the first few weeks in order to establish baby’s requirements. Further, direct feeding has been known to be the most effective and efficient way of extracting milk.
With this knowledge, I was ready to feed on demand. However, during the first 24 hours after birth, my doctor and the nurses on duty keep on reminding me to feed baby every 2-3 hours. Apparently, baby likes to sleep all the time, perhaps also as a result of the effects of epidural during birth. So, generally, I would wait for baby’s cues, which should come every 2-3 hours. If baby goes without nursing for more than 3 hours, and he does not poop or pee as well, that is a bad sign. So the first 24 hours has been about monitoring baby’s diapers and check whether baby poos and pees enough. That also meant waking up baby to nurse him every 2-3 hours.
Finding the Right Position and Establishing the Latch
Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world. So, it should be easy, right? Wrong. I was lucky that baby had no trouble latching during our first feeding session. However, as the day progresses, baby and I had difficulty finding the most comfortable position and establishing a good latch. A good latch is key so that milk will flow easily and the process will not be painful. Baby’s mouth should be wide open (fish lips) and should cover the areola, not just the nipple. Easier said than done. I’ve watched countless youtube videos showing this process. However, they never show how to deal with a very fussy baby impatiently waiting for his meal. He likes to cover his face with his two hands, making access to his mouth difficult. Plus, he gets so mad and cries his lungs out when his first attempts at latching (did I mention he didn’t like to open his mouth wide?) failed.
Indeed, it takes persistence and perseverance to exclusively breastfeed. The initial challenge is finding the most comfortable position (Breastfeeding Positions) and ensure baby learns how to latch properly (Latching Correctly). Incorrect latching leads to pain and nipple soreness. Further, it does not lead to efficient milk flow, thus hampering milk production. It was frustrating trying to establish a good latch. At some point during the first few days, it took some 20 minutes of struggling and failed attempts before baby opens his mouth wide for a good latch. I was grateful that nurses in the maternity ward were all trained to assist mothers in establishing good techniques to ensure a sustainable exclusive breastfeeding practice. The hospital also had a lactation unit with qualified lactation consultants on duty in case mother and baby need help.
Journey to Wellness
As the first few weeks unfold, I find myself recuperating and taking care of the new baby. This includes resting and sleeping in between feedings and eating the right food. As I recover, exercises will be reintroduced and hopefully I can get back to my regular yoga asana practice as soon as possible.
Wish me luck!