Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Breastfeeding: a story of supply and demand

Before baby was born, I, like many women I'm sure, had a paranoia that my body wouldn't produce milk. Add to that my in law kept telling me she was squirting milk by the time she was 6 months pregnant and why hadn't I, I was starting to worry. Well, the nurses at the post natal hospital were so awesome. They gave me very good guidance and in the end, they were right- every woman can make milk, it's all a matter of supply and demand. If your baby demands it properly from your breast, the milk will come.

Here's my own story and I'll follow this with some good references that I like to use when I had breast feeding issues. When baby was first born, she was able to latch properly on my right breast. My left breast or rather, my left nipple was too big for her little mouth so the latch was not proper and hence, colostrum was not properly demanded from that side. After the first night, baby lost almost 10% of her birth weight which I've read is normal but the nurses were a tad worried. As was I. Baby seemed like she was always hungry no matter how much I put her to my breast. And given that the left side didn't have a proper latch, my left nipple was in major pain.

Long story short, since I missed one night of proper latching and thus, proper demanding of milk from breast, there was a worry that my milk production would lag on that side. So the nurse brought in a breast pump and I pumped my breast for 10 minutes after every feed to make sure that even if baby wasn't sucking properly, at least, I was giving my body the right signals regardless. For baby, we supplemented with a bit of formula after every feed just to ensure that she was full.

How did I feel? Like a total failure! Not only did I have an unplanned C-section and thus I felt like my body failed to deliver a baby naturally, now I couldn't even feed my own baby. Add to that, I was dying of fatigue from literally 2 days of no sleep and counting and I was in pain from surgery. So yeh, lots and lots of negative feelings.

Thankfully, the nurse was right. On the 4th day, as soon as I came home, my breasts started to leak milk and plenty of it. I still had my left nipple issue but even though it hurt like a b*tch, I kept sticking it in baby's mouth and eventually, her mouth grew big enough to latch properly :) Baby has been gaining good, solid weight ever since. And I've kept the nurse's advice at heart- it's all about supply and demand. If you keep demanding it, your body will supply it.

Which is why some people's strategy of breastfeeding during the day and doing formula at night doesn't make sense to me. You're essentially telling your body you don't really need much milk so, it shouldn't be a surprise when your milk supply dwindles and it has nothing to do with your body's abilities.

Anyhow, that's my two cents on breastfeeding. Here are the resources that I found really helpful:

- the nurses in post natal care at the hospital !
- my local Leche League meeting. I had problems of forceful let down due to a bit too much milk and baby was essentially choking when she would feed. My friend recommended that I attend a meeting to get some tips. I was hesitant as I'm not a fan of sitting in a circle and having group therapy like discussions about my issues. In the end, she persuaded me to go and I'm really glad I went. It's good to know that you're not the only one with issues and getting help in person with people who know their stuff is alot more helpful then reading forum upon forum of information.

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