There is hardly anything I can say to convince you that breast milk is the real elixir – it’s practically the only thing that gives a new born enough nutrients to lead a healthy life.
The first milk, or colostrum is also called “Liquid Gold” for the same reason, it’s extremely precious not only in terms of money, but for the value it holds for life. Don’t start remembering Bollywood dialogues on this one now (“apni maa da doodh peeya hai toh“)
But jokes apart, breastfeeding is an experience only a mother can enjoy and that makes it more sacred and precious.
The first 2 days of my daughter’s life are not so clear a memory as I was still recovering under the effect of pain medication after an unavoidable C-Section, but I do remember staying awake all through the 1st night, as if I was guarding the most precious treasure of the world.
I remember taking her gently in my arms and trying to do the most natural thing – nursing.
The hospital staff was nothing short of a group of angels watching over both of us. But Day 3 seemed to jolt me back to reality, my daughter kept crying and refused to nurse!! Due to combination of little sleep, hormonal fest and the expectations of a new Mom, it was like floodgates opened and I sobbed inconsolably – was I failing my daughter already?
The nurse on duty hugged me as she took my daughter in her arms and explained to me that there was nothing wrong. I was experiencing breast fullness and my baby was too young to be able to nurse. This was a fairly normal phenomenon and the solution was really simple – express some milk till your breasts feel soft again and you baby can nurse. Voila… but it sounded easier than done.
Expressing milk was a pain, literally, but it did go away soon enough. I was able to express just enough of the “pehla garha doodh” for my darling – the colostrum. There were instances when I could not feed my baby and hospital helped us with donated breast milk from human breast milk bank. I was greateful for, in my heart I was thanking generous mother who had donated her breastmilk.
Once home, we had another hard first-day with our little one, all to ourselves with no Nurse to assist and it seemed like the night would not end. I needed to express again to feed my daughter and didn’t have the needed equipment.
So, weird as it may sound, my husband had to rush out to buy a breast pump, and am I glad he did! It was a life-saver and a life-changer for us. I now had the freedom to ensure my daughter had the best nutrition she could possibly get – breast milk.
Also read : Foods that help increasing breastmilk
Though I nursed her directly almost always, if for some reason that was not possible, I could pump and feed her with a bottle. We took a conscious decision to keep away from Formula as long as possible, thanks to the over-exposure to details on I continued to exclusively breastfeed her till she was 4 months old and then started formula milk. Now that I think about it, had I planned well, and stored my expressed milk better, I could have avoided that switch even longer. I saved myself a lot of expenses on formula, but more than that, I am happy that I gave my daughter the gift of health.
Most Dads feel left out when their wife and child spend endless hours in bed together, oblivious of their presence. I am happy that my husband did not have to go through with that. Expressed milk gives the Dad an opportunity to feed the baby & engage in real time bonding. So now Daddy dearest can also feel a part of the early days, and it’s not a restricted Mommy territory any longer! And it’s a much needed break for Mom’s, what with constant feeding demands of the little one that leaves her with no sense of time, individuality and privacy.
Finally, let me share a few of the lesser known facts about breast milk:
- Most mothers can make more than enough milk for their baby (or babies!). Indeed, having too much breastmilk is common. If a mother has a low milk supply it is usually because her baby is not feeding often enough.
- Breast size has nothing to do with milk production and nearly all shapes and sizes of nipples and breasts are fine for breastfeeding. Wearing a bra does not restrict lactation.
- Breast milk is a living substance, so complex that scientists are still trying to find everything that is in it. It contains antibodies, growth factors, living cells, and enzymes to help digestion. The proteins and fats in formula are very different from those in breastmilk. Formula does not vary from the beginning of the feed to the end of the feed, or from day 1 to day 7 to day 30. Your breastmilk is made as required to suit your baby and changes to match your baby’s needs as he grows.
- With very rare exceptions, a mother will actually protect her baby if she continues to breastfeed when she has an infection. By the time the mother starts to show symptoms of an infection (eg fever, cough, diarrhoea, rash or vomiting etc) her baby has already been exposed to the bug. She will have produced immune promoting factors in her breastmilk, which will help to protect her baby from getting sick. If the baby does get sick, he will be less sick if he keeps breastfeeding.
- In most cases a breastfeeding mother does not have to worry about what she eats. There are only a very few nutrients that affect milk content. Even mothers who have a very limited diet will usually make quality breastmilk for their babies.
- Colostrum is a natural laxative to help eliminate bilirubin from the body. This serves to lessen the incidence and severity of jaundice if the baby is nursed frequently the first several days after birth.
- Factors in breast milk influence the gut microbiota, which in turn sets up the immune system to have fewer chronic illnesses later in life
Ok, so now that I have your attention, let me request all Mothers, do not deny your baby the first gift of nature after life, and the best you can ever give her.
I also know that a lot of women experience “leaking breasts” due to heavy lactation, and most of this gets wasted. May I make a humble request that you consider donating this milk to Human Milk banks? You could save an infant a lot of pain and heal the heartache of her mother who is unable to nurse for some reason.
I don’t have words to express & explain how much it would mean to that family. I am also a promoter of every mother’s right to safe & respectful option to breastfeed her baby wherever needed, in a decent manner. But I know it may not always be practical, so breast pump to your rescue ladies!! Do not shy away from this small investment for your baby’s health and your peace of mind.
Gayatri Kapur Prasad is a well known Mom to all Babygogo app community. She has been one of the early Moms who joined in the app community. She loves to help fellow Moms and Dads with her well researched answers.