One of the few things about becoming new mothers would be deciding the mode of delivery for the child and the brand of milk the child took. There would be people with very purist thinking on what they wanted.
I had opted in for epidural c-sect. I had weighed my pros and cons, and decided that I would not like to go through hours of labour and only to experience an emergency c-sect surgery. I reckoned I would go berserk if that happened to me. Besides, I analyzed my odds. Huge baby, unlikely to deliver early… so I had elective c-sect for both occasions.
I was also climbing up and down the bed by the second day, resumed exercising by the 6th week, and breastfed exclusively for very long.
Correlation between mode of delivery and breastfeeding? Zero.
I would not talk about if breastmilk or formula milk was better. After all, I grew up on formula milk and I thought I did fine. So did so many of our peers. I only wanted to discuss about how to make breastfeeding work.
In our era, I thought the biggest challenge of breastfeeding was returning home from hospital to inexperienced elderly folks who would nag till death about whether the babies were famished from lack of milk.
The challenge of breastfeeding was not limited to techniques, to physical problems (such as inverted nipples) and strategies. The biggest challenge was the support.
1. Start latching the baby on demand in hospital. Make sure your lactation consultant checks on you daily and that you have the buzzer by your side during breastfeeding. More often than not, we are afraid of holding the baby wrongly and not latching correctly. Ask for a nursing pillow if the hospital provides one, or bring your own (can check ‘My Brest Friend’). These 3-4 days’ of lead time in the hospital is critical because (a) you have professional help around you (b) notify the body of upcoming demand (c) babies only need colostrum in the first few days.
2. Get a nursing pillow. It saves you all the aching limbs. You can place a swaddled baby on the pillow, kick back and watch TV or whatsapp.
3. Drink 3 liters’ worth of fluid (soup, tea, etc). Do not take danggui; recommended to take papaya & fish (advice by TMC Parentcraft). There is no need to take any supplements or nursing tea.
4. Latch on demand. By the 4th or 5th day, your milk supply would have kicked in. Be ready to nurse once per 60-90min during growth spurts – usually at Week 1, 3 etc…
5. Left 15min, right 15min. Right 15min, Left 15min. Always rotate for the same amount of time so that you do not end up with lop-sided boobs. Do not exceed 30min per session, and if you really needed to, 5min extension on each side. You cannot do Left 20min, right 20min because there is NO GUARANTEE that the baby will complete the second half of 20min. You will end up with more supply on one side and less on the other. If the baby is really hungry, wait till the next hour for a new cycle as this will increase more let down (aka supply).
6. Get the right nursing bra. Do not buy until you have started nursing to get a better idea on the cup size. This is because the wrong nursing bra can be too small and cause milk clogs. That is absolutely the MOST PAINFUL thing ever.
7. Sleep more, stress less. Fatigue and stress (ie. worry about lack of milk) will reduce supply.
In gist, be hardworking. As long as the baby latches correctly, a nursing mother will always have sufficient milk for her baby. Remember, it is not the quantity that counts, it is providing sufficiently for your baby. If the baby chooses to drink less, your body will produce less milk.
As most books and consultants advice, breastfeeding is like Economics’ Law of Demand and Supply. If your customer (the baby) demands for 100ml of milk, your body will produce that 100ml of milk by the 2nd or 3rd day. If the baby undergoes growth spurt and demands for 150ml of milk, the baby either latches longer or more frequently, the body is aware and will produce 150ml of milk.
Biggest no no – if you want to breastfeed exclusively, you have to nurse ALL NIGHT FEEDS. If you do not nurse at night, there is no demand at night, so the body will never produce milk for night feeds. Similarly, the more you supplement with formula milk, the less you latch the baby, the less milk your body will produce. Hence, it is not true that some mothers do not have milk but they may have lesser milk than they wish for due to stress or fatigue reasons.
Lastly, babies are smart. In breastfeeding, babies need to work for their milk. During the first few minutes, when they suckle, they do not get milk. Only after the letdown will there be milk. If they are exposed to bottle feeding, they know that there is an effortless way to get milk, do you think they will still latch? It is not about nipple confusion, it is about choosing the easy way out.
My advice – have zero expectations. Things seldom turn out the way we want, so take it easy. If it happens, it happens. It does not always have to be au natural.