My journey to motherhood started the moment I became pregnant. I read many articles on the Do and Don’ts. Watched numerous YouTube videos of antenatal exercise, labour, delivery, hospital bag, breastfeeding and it’s accessories i.e. breastfeeding pillow, electric pumps, let down silicone pumps, breast shells, cups, nipple cream, breast pads and what not. In short anything which eased my child’s arrival into this beautiful world and our journey after. When it came to feeding preferences, I was sure of only one thing: I would go to any length to breastfeed my baby. Although I was a bit sceptical that my body would supply enough to feed my baby I got some hope from antenatal classes that I would have to work hard initially but it was possible.

Finally the day came and after a very quick smooth delivery my little munchkin Viraj came into our life 🙂 I felt wonderful, ecstatic and more over very energetic to feed my baby. We did skin to skin and he latched pretty well. A very helpful midwife helped me hand express and took out those golden drops of colostrum in a small cup and fed my baby. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to see this; it made me hopeful that I would be able to breastfeed my baby. Little did I know that the same night my baby would be admitted to the Neonatal Unit (NNU) due to jaundice and low blood sugar.

For the first 2 days, Viraj was combi fed with formula and very small quantity of hand expressed colostrum. After 3 days in NNU an Infant Feeding Specialist saw me with a syringe full of colostrum and asked me if I knew about pumping. She also told me that there was a milk expressing room and I was ecstatic to see 45ml after the first pumping session. And this started my pumping journey. I pumped after every 4 hours and saw a pretty quick increase in my supply. I was very sad about not pumping earlier however within 2 days my baby recovered and we were discharged from NNU with a feeding schedule.

Being a first time mum I glued myself to the feeding schedule. My husband somehow managed to buy a pump on my discharge day for exclusive pumping and we continued to feed baby Viraj with a bottle instead of direct breastfeeding. After our experiences I was too nervous to rely on breastfeeding. I was scared of his blood sugar going down again so I decided to give him bottles and I could ensure he was getting enough.

I also just thought “in my mind” pumping was easier than direct breastfeeding for both me and Viraj and it was the best of both worlds. How I wish someone had given me a slightest hint on how wrong I was!!

The first 6 weeks went pretty well in terms of Viraj’s weight gain. Viraj started off being underweight at 2.4kg at birth and quickly came up to the 25th percentile. We were happy as everything else was pretty smooth. I used to pump every 4-5 hrs and me and my parents used to bottle feed Viraj. Pumping at midnight was always a pain though! At 10 weeks my parents left and now the real struggle starts.

Feeding Viraj and taking care of myself was not an issue. Pumping became the biggest bane of my life. Sitting alone and washing plus sterilizing pump parts every time effectively meant double the work because I also had to now feed the baby the milk I had expressed. To add cherry on top my pump broke, borrowed my friends single pump but now I spent 1 hr every

pump session. I would sit alone pumping, the time which should be spent with my baby was gone on this stupid pumping machine instead.

I started regretting my decision. Why did I think pumping and bottle feeding is easy? NO IT’S NOT. Hats off to those who do it due to unavoidable circumstances. But my biggest regret was that I did it intentionally. My worst nightmare were those early mornings when I woke up full and at the same time Viraj was also hungry. I can’t tell you how frustrating it was that I had milk and he was hungry but I couldn’t directly feed him. It had to be pumped first and then given via bottle. What the hell did I do to my biggest gift from God which was the ability to breastfeed? I had plenty of milk yet I couldn’t feed my baby:(

Now came the “brilliant idea”. Let’s try direct breastfeeding. I tried once a day however he would scream and refuse to latch. Unfortunately bottles were his best friends by now. I went to Hillview Children Centre Breastfeeding Support group. The Infant Feeding Specialist saw my latch and answered my queries. She told me that his latch was good and babies at this age are efficient feeders and can have their full feed in 10-15 mins. This gave me a ray of hope as Viraj used to latch for 10 minutes sometimes. She also told me to try nipple shields and paced bottle feeding plus a slow teat which mimics the breastfeeding flow. Screaming doesn’t always mean that Viraj doesn’t like being on the breast; it can be due to any reason. Maybe Viraj is tired or a bit lonely! Maybe he needs the comfort and closeness of being held close for a breastfeed.

I also joined some amazing breastfeeding support groups on Facebook and asked for suggestions to bring my baby back to breast. One kind soul called me and gave me valuable advice which worked for her child. Most important of them all was not to force the baby onto you but play with him and let him come to you. Start with dreamfeeding at night. Wind him often. Do lots and lot of skin to skin during daytime and when he is about to sleep he will come and latch on his own. Perseverance and patience is the key 🙂

At the 11th week I tried all the above and to my pleasant surprise I could see the results in the very first week. Viraj would latch for 15 mins a day progressing to twice, thrice a day. By the third week I was giving bottle and breast and by the 15th week my baby was exclusively breastfeeding to the point that he refused the bottle completely. Finally 4 weeks of hard work had paid off. There was a feeling of accomplishment after all that I had gone through. YES! I DID IT 🙂

The only thing I was worried about was weight gain. The biggest surprise was still waiting, Viraj had jumped up to the 50th percentile in his growth chart. WHATTT! Am I dreaming? Is this for real? I seriously regretted all my missed moments of breastfeeding. I wish I had done some research on breastfeeding along with labour and delivery. I realized how little I knew about breastfeeding.

Viraj (now 5 month old) my little boobie monster feeds much better as he controls his feeds. He has found his lost love and is happy, content and sleeps 8 hrs straight at night.

My whole experience broke some myths. I now know that:

1. Bottle feeding is not easy.

2. Breastfeeding can be easy!

3. Formula fed/ bottle fed infants do not gain weight faster.

4. Babies can latch well and breastfeed very quickly getting a good amount of milk 5. Night feeds are not easy with a bottle

6. I got more sleep when I was breastfeeding :

Now I know it can be a struggle to establish a breastfeeding relationship but once it settles then it’s certainly the easiest and best for both mum and baby 🙂

Good luck ladies for those tough initial days but just hang in there. I will sign off by saying that with perseverance and patience bottle to breast is certainly possible 🙂

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