Penning this on my Day #6 pp (post partum). As many of the mothers can imagine, I'm also being SO "beautifully" reminded of the gruesome (is there a better word? Throw in please!) effects of the initial days of breastfeeding. Nature is exceptionally clever and wise (as if Nature needs my approval..) in such a way that it makes the Mothers forget these days in no time. Ahh, what a blissful forgetfulness! Had it not been for that, the humanity will not survive I guess.. Coming back to track, why am I writing this now? Can't I just wait like any normal mother would do, keep mum and go along with the flow pretending it's all good and beautiful? Aren't mothers supposed to bear all these indescribable difficulties and not talk about it? That is exactly why I choose to speak and write about this - before everything feels so magical and heavenly, before the breastfeeding nirvana kicks in, before I migrate to that transcendental zone, I want to pen this when the agony is real, raw and extremely unpleasant.
Soo, it's a customary question to any woman who just gave birth: "Are you getting any milk?". Most of those q's will have a sympathetic tone and the presumption that the woman is not producing milk or her body is not capable of that or she is not a "good enough" mother for God to bless her with milk or so many (useless) use-cases like that (I know many of you will agree with me!). And the unfortunate part is that the intention of that question is not to soothe the woman who is already going through IT ALL, but to somehow blame her for something which she has not much control on. And the tone and method of questioning will vary depending on the relationship you have with that person. Hilarious, right?! Most of the new moms' genuine answer to that would be "$#@&*# Leave me alone, please?"
Back to track again.. most of you (non-mothers) might have only perceived breastfeeding as one of the most magical experience between a mother and the new life, and don't take me wrong - YES it IS! But there is this phase where it is inexpressibly painful, horror-inducing and extremely uncomfortable. There may be some TMI below. Please proceed only if you are brave-hearted, lol!
Since a major specialty of my profession involves guiding moms-to-be throughout their childbirth journey, I hear stories and concerns and questions on a daily basis (oh yeah, did I tell you? I got this opportunity to guide one of them while I was lying on the hospital bed, just hours after giving birth.. Productive utilization of time!). One of the real concerns of mothers is about surviving this initial phase of breastfeeding. Unfortunately, not all mothers are able to get through and enter the breastfeeding "heaven" (if I may call so). Some of you must be wondering what is the big deal.. The deal is that the most sensitive area on your body becomes RAW literally over a couple of days or for some, over a single day! It cracks, chips, the raw layer is exposed, becomes sore, hardens, hurts like he** and for many, it becomes blistered and bleeds. AND it's just the beginning.. We could normally give rest to any area of the body which requires healing. But a new mother CANNOT give rest to the process of breastfeeding (if she plans to breastfeed her baby going forward). With the baby needing to be fed every couple of hours, the problem worsens quickly. For some, it leads to infection and are forced to stop feeding. Other alternative is to pump which has it's own challenges at this initial point. Nothing can match the natural suckling of the baby and the relief you get from that (don't underestimate the power of that teeny tiny mouth!). When I say relief, I mean relief after going through excruciating pain. The whole process is wired on demand-supply basis. If there is no demand (baby suckling on the raw area), there is no supply (milk production - the answer to the above sympathetic question!). It's not just a matter of morality or about being an ideal mother. The milk has to somehow flow out or the outcome is an exaggerated pair of rock hard breasts ready to burst with the continuous flow of milk that is being newly produced by the mother's body. Hormones at work!! If there is no outward flow, then begins the fun part - breast engorgement - "Say Helloooouchhhh Motherhood!!" YES it HURTS. HURTS SO BAD, you might have to use the same breathing techniques used for labor contractions while feeding. Contractions are "easier" in a way that they only last for a max 90 seconds, here it hurts throughout the feeding period which may last for 15-20 min or more depending on the baby. A BIG OUCH! To put it in a very honest language, it is a "necessary evil" to bear all that horrible pain and discomfort and still feed the baby to survive this short phase and enter the paradise of breastfeeding. Till then, the mother is going through unexplainable pain, agony, panic and trauma.
The situation varies for every mother. It may not be this bad for some, for some even worse. But more or less, most of the mothers have to go through this initial phase. What she needs the most is the unconditional support from her partner and close family/friends. The next time anybody feels like asking a new mother: "Are you getting any milk?", remember that it is a complicated interplay of hormones and physiological/psychological processes. In addition to the more obvious factors like diet, sleep etc, a woman's state of mind, her stress level, her emotions, how safe and supported she feels - all have a big role in the process of milk production and sustenance of that process. She doesn't need your sympathy, but your well-informed support. She doesn't need your curiosity or "feeling bad", she needs her space. She deserves utmost respect, care and understanding from her loved ones - for being who she is - a Mother (say no more!)...