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Feeding Nemo!

Valerie Trip-Mankame
Mumbai, India
From: New Beginnings, Vol. 29 No. 4, 2009, p. 25

My husband and I had planned on exclusive breastfeeding for our child. I started attending the Mulund, Mumbai La Leche League Meetings in my fifth month of pregnancy because I have known so many women who were not able to continue with breastfeeding due to a lack of support, information or conviction. I wanted to give breastfeeding my best shot possible and I learned so much at the monthly meetings. This effort more than paid off when Sam's immediate breastfeeding contributed toward stopping my blood loss after his delivery.

I had a home water birth. The birth was attended by my two experienced midwives, Lina and Elai, and all the necessary equipment was in place in case of an emergency (oxygen tank, oxytocin injections, and other medications that might be required).

After Sam was born and placed on my chest, we shifted to the bed for the delivery of the placenta. The contractions moved along with ease and it wasn't long before the placenta began to emerge. It was exceptionally large -- the largest placenta either of the midwives had ever seen, and they have done over 5,000 births between them. Because of its size, the relative blood loss was significant and so Lina and Elai felt it necessary to give me an oxytocin injection to help contract the uterus in order to stop the bleeding.

Meanwhile, we encouraged Sam to breastfeed, lying his whole length on my chest. His suckling and the kneading of his feet on my abdomen would help my uterus to contract and stop the bleeding. He obliged and latched on right away. I like to think that, in his first few moments of life, Sam was helping protect me in this way. This also led to his first nickname, "Nemo," after the fish in the movie, because he immediately perfected the fish-lips latch after being born in the water!

In fact, it turned out Sam liked breastfeeding so much that he wanted to do it almost constantly! This got my mother-in-law concerned that he was nursing so often because he wasn't getting enough milk. I assured her it was fine. She asked my massage wali to doublecheck. (A massage wali is a woman who is traditionally hired in India to provide massages to both mother and baby daily in the postpartum period.)!

On the fourth day, when my milk had come in, the massage wali checked for engorgement, found it limited (because Sam had just nursed), and declared that I had "very less milk" and should start supplementing. Between my mother-in-law and this supposed "expert," I may well have started getting concerned. Fortunately, however, I'd already learned from LLL how to count diapers as a marker for having enough milk, and Sam was producing plenty of wet and dirty diapers.!

Next day, I was again told by the massage wali that I wasn't making enough milk. I assured her that wasn't the case and went on to enjoy an excellent back rub. Two days later, at Sam's one-week check, my midwife Lina brought her scale and weighed him. He hadn't lost weight at all. In fact, he'd gained over seven ounces (200 grams), so all the family's concerns about weight gain were forgotten. My mother-in-law became a nursing convert and the massage wali stopped trying to convince me that our baby wasn't getting enough to eat. We have carried on nursing -- some days more, some days less. The nursing sessions last more or less time depending on whether Sam is just thirsty because of the heat or whether he wants a full meal, which he's particularly keen on at 3:30 in the morning.!

Yesterday was his two-week check. Our 8lb 6oz (3.9kg) baby now weighs 9lb 4oz (4.25kg). We go through enough diapers to be exceptionally happy that we opted for cloth over disposable, otherwise we'd have singlehandedly boosted the stock price of disposables already!!

Getting good information and building up a support network are important in building your confidence as a breastfeeding mother. The good intentions of those around us when based upon myth or outdated information can undermine a new mother when she's learning to breastfeed.!

I recommend getting in touch with your local La Leche League Group. I learned more in a couple of LLL meetings than I did from the seven pregnancy and childbirth books that I had purchased. Sore nipples and a cranky baby are usually surmountable objects. Being convinced that you're slowly starving your child is much tougher. Know that your body and your baby are communicating at a much deeper level than you, your mother, or your mother-in-law can comprehend. And trust the process -- once you know how to support it.

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