They say ignorance is bliss but freshly descending from new mommy bliss this mommy begs to politely and vehemently differ. I love reading, so you won’t be surprised to know that I split my pre-partum maternity leave into sleeping (or more like tossing, turning and snoring between bathroom runs), obsessing about good parenting – by reading about baby sleep schedule baby development, raising an empathetic being (you get the gist..) and I added in some fantasy fiction in a last-ditch effort to cling to some sanity.
Earlier when someone had asked me if I could picture myself breastfeeding I had merely shrugged. I don’t think of myself as baby crazy and so breastfeeding was just something to be done. Truthfully I had never really given it much thought. So it skipped my reading list. And why not? After all I was as prepared as needed. Sore nipple cream featured in my baby registry, I had some nursing bras and I had dutifully called my insurance ahead of time for the free Medela breast pump. This mommy-to-be had everything under control… or so she thought.
Cue in dissonant music notes….
Day 1 post-delivery, in the hospital, my baby could latch on and suck. He was getting all the healthy colostrum he needed from me. I was a proud albeit sleep-deprived breastfeeding mommy. Nothing to worry yet, even though his weight was falling. Everyone (read nurses, family, friends, strangers on internet) said this was expected.
Day 2 his weight had fallen more than 10% of his birth weight. This is when nurses panic or rather make you panic. Put him on supplements till mommy makes enough milk. Suddenly “I” wasn’t enough for my baby boy or so I felt. This feeling was something I had no notion of how to deal with.
Day 3 onwards till week 1 I broke my unwritten rule of not sharing how I was when someone asks, “How are you?”. To friends, family, colleagues and even those long-forgotten acquaintances, I said, “All is good but am not making enough milk.”
Baby shower took on a new meaning as the shower of blessings turned into a deluge of suggestions. Fennel, Fenugreek tablets, teas, homemade tonics, all featured in the list. Since everyone repeated these same key elements the must work right, I reasoned? I had it all, in every variant, while pumping every 2 hours, as recommended by the lactation consultant.
Pumping milk itself felt a completely bizarre bodily experience. The dejection seeing the little milk that graced the bottles afterwards is something I sincerely wish you don’t ever have to go through. The suggestions weren’t a magic elixir after all.
Week 2 onwards came a secondary layer of food items. Lactonic, lactation cookies, papaya, sabudana, ragi, bajra, dalia, oatmeal, protein, nuts, dairy. Oh wait.. no dairy since it leads to a gassy baby. Hydration. Each one of these I gratefully heard, followed and impatiently waited.
Through it all I had some soul searching conversations. If you keep hoping for the milk to increase then doesn’t it cause more stress which is counter productive? The stark difference between acceptance and giving up. And many more.
I tried eating and drinking while pumping. Meditation. Visualization. Even though my baby had gained back his birth weight post-partum depression suddenly was real and not something to roll eyes over.
Well-intentioned folks stressed on how normal all this is. Not enough milk. Formula-fed babies do just fine. Logic told me I was actually giving my pumped milk, the quantity of said gradually increasing as well. So my baby boy was definitely fine.
Only my ego and emotions weren’t fine. Having lived a life with the inherent certainty that I can put in more effort, brains or a new strategy to get desired outcome, producing enough milk seems to be something that I have limited control over, and this is hard to come to terms with. Specially when for some inexplicable hormone filled reason being able to produce enough milk is something I desparately wish for.
It is not all dire. My pumping sessions are now more reasonably spaced out. I have bought myself some nice hands free pumping bras. My milk supply has definitely increased steadily and I must be doing well enough emotionally to be able to write all this right?!!
I don’t usually give advice but this mommy is making an exception. Be kind to yourself. I sincerely hope and pray that if you are reading this in a time of need, my struggles help you accept more gracefully and peacefully whatever your body is producing for your baby.
Thank you lazywiz for being kind to me when I haven’t been kind to myself.