My son was born at 14:35 on a Thursday. I only know this because it was written on his ID band of which I still have and I kept safely. I had the longest and painful labor; so long by the time, it was all over, I couldn’t tell whether it was during the day or at night.
After having labor pains for two days, only on the third day that a doctor discovered the baby was too big to come out through natural birth. My pelvis was small for him to maneuver futher down also he was getting tired of trying, then an emergency cessation was ordered to be done.
Subsequently, all the sweating, the twirling, cursing, and praying; anesthesia was injected and five minutes later I heard a cry; my baby was finally born. I became a mother that day. It was a beautiful day and a precious moment. We named him Langelihle; which means a beautiful day. A day he made me a mother. A day I will forever cherish.
Not even a day as a mother, I crumbled and cried
When the documentation and measurement taking was done with, I was transferred from theatre to a postnatal ward, that’s where I held my baby for the first time.
The first thing I noticed other than his epitome, he sucked his cute little fingers meaning he was hungry. The nurse said, “he seems to like food, don’t make him wait, give him the breast.” As a midwife, I have helped many mothers with breastfeeding their babies but to me, that first breastfeeding attempt was such a hassle. I was told to lie down flat on a bed for 6 hours until the anesthesia was off my system; while on the other hand baby Langa wanted to be fed. Now, this was a problem, I thought to myself. How was I supposed to feed a baby whilst I must lie straight-flat still? Somehow no one cared how I was to do it just that it needed to be done. But then that’s just how motherhood and womanhood are, everything that needs to be done must be done, the how is not of importance.
Breastfeeding my baby for the first time was uncomfortable, painful, ticklish, and challenging. The most challenging part of the hospital was the uncomfortable position I was on when feeding him. I had to feed him mostly whilst laying flat as per doctors’ orders, no pillows to be used.
Later that day, the struggle of trying to put the whole nipple on his mouth whilst laying flat was beyond imagination. He had just woken up hungry from sleep. There was no nurse around to assist me with him at that time. I attempted to push my nipple into his mouth and he continued to grasp it with fail. I started panicking as he got frustrated by this trial and error with grasping the nipple. It was too big for him. He began to cry hard. I then tried to plead, soothe, and calm him. His loud cry made my head dizzy. I forcefully pulled myself to the side so as to position him correctly but my legs would not move, they were still paralyzed.
It got to a point where I felt tears threatening to pour down my cheeks and eventually they did. We were both now crying. He wanted to feed real bad, and I was so defeated, frustrated, and hurt to see him cry like that. But I never gave up trying to feed him. We both cried, and we both kept attempting to get it right. Eventually, after countless tries, he grasped my nipple hard, holding it tight and sucked hard. I was so happy I couldn’t care less about the pain. My baby was feeding.
Things I enjoy about breastfeeding
- The mother to child connection
Scientifically, a strong bond is said to form when breastfeeding your baby. I can attest to this fact. Feeding time eventually became my favorite time with my son. I really enjoyed watching him suck my breast while he appeared so happy and carefree; somehow with fulfillment. My best part is how he would focus on my face like he was trying to make my face out and memorize it. Breastfeeding gave me a peaceful moment with my baby. A moment to know the smallest things about him, like how when I massage his month with my breast he would pout and smile in response displaying that one tiny dimple on his left cheek.
2. The right moment to observe the baby
When breastfeeding, a baby is in their most calm state. This gives you the opportunity to really observe your baby physically and emotionally. Physically you will check for any abnormalities that might have not been there when assessed at birth or were not noticed such as skin scars, rash and birthmarks, and any skin color that is not normal either blue or yellow which suggests anemia or jaundice in babies.
It is a perfect time to look for any deformities such an extra fingers, ears, squinting eyes, color of their eyes, yellow sclera which suggests jaundice. Observe for muscle weakness, is the baby still grasping the nipple well. Can the baby grasp your finger when you put it in on their fingers?
Breastfeeding allows you to notice a change in behavior in your baby such as when your baby feeds for a short period of time than usual, which tells you that your baby is not feeling well. You get to feel their skin if they’re getting a fever and are going to get sick.
The most peaceful moment I would get with my baby was when it was just the two of us feeding him at night. I used those moments to communicate with him. I would talk and tell him everything. I would sing to him my favorite songs which he enjoyed very much(still does) even though I am a horrible singer. Breastfeeding moments were for me to convey love and warmth to him.
Things I did not enjoy about breastfeeding
- Cracking Nipples
Baby Langa loved to feed. I think I should rephrase and say my baby fed more than normal babies do. Sometimes I would not be lactating well and he would suck hard still. This leads to sore and cracked nipples. There were so painful; I even at times wanted to quit breastfeeding because of the pain. But my child really enjoyed breastmilk, my heart wouldn’t let me take away something he loved that much.
2. Over lactation
Have you ever been in public and you look good and snatched like you haven’t now given birth to a baby. You are walking in the mall feeling yourself, then you go to the bathroom to pee, whilst there you check yourself on the mirror to freshen your face look only to notice that your top is damp on your nipple area? This has never happened to me, to be honest, but it does happen to most women who are breastfeeding. The only time I felt embarrassed by over lactation was when I was breastfeeding Langa in town and while he was feeding on one breast, the other was dripping milk. Literally the worst day! I didn’t have any breast pads with me. I didn’t have an extra top on his diaper bag for me to change. I just had to stand tall and take ownership of the patriarchy that women with newborns are mostly not the cleanest. My look was definitely ruined.
3. Public Stares
I’m not sure why this is a thing because breastfeeding is normal but people stare at you when breastfeeding in public. I don’t get why you should hideaway and go to a private place when you want to feed your baby their healthiest food, that’s just weird. People would give me that look like” oh you are just going to pull out your breast like that” but yes definitely! because this breast is a source of food for my baby. It got really awkward as people especially men would stare. It made me so uncomfortable as would feel sexualized at times.
I know most people don’t want to breastfeed because of the stares when feeding in public. I get their segments, but we should be resilient and feed our babies with pride, and anyone who thinks its inappropriate can just go off the cliff.
If you have decided to breastfeed your newborn I want to say congratulations Mama, below are few tips that might be helpful for you and your baby:-
•Drink rooibos tea and warm fluids to increase your lactation so your baby can have enough milk. I used to also cook for me the maize meal cereal, it also really helped.
•Always have breast pads on the baby’s diaper change bag. You never know when you might need them.
•The more you breastfeed, the more milk you will have. It is best to alternate your breasts so your baby feeds equally on both of them or the other will overflow with milk and lead to back pain.
•For cracked nipples, go to your nearest clinic or pharmacy and get zinc and castor oil ointment it is quick for repair. You can also find other nipple creams at Clicks stores, they are affordable there.
•Nipple hygiene should be done before and after every feed. Keeping your nipples hygienic is of benefit for the baby to prevent mouth sores and thrush. Use a clean facecloth to wipe your nipples clean.
• Never limit your baby on the amount of milk you give them. Your baby will alert you when they are full. They will stop sucking the breast. Do not feed your baby with an estimated time of when they should be full. You should feed as much as your baby requires and remember all babies are different.
The benefits of breastfeeding
• Reduces costs because it’s free.
•The healthiest milk or food for the baby on their first six months, as it has all the nutrients needed by the baby.
•It leads to a good growth development of the baby.
• Breast milk fights germs which may cause sickness in babies.
Special message to YOU, Mama
To all my beautiful Moms, especially the new ones, I want to tell you that I’m proud of you. Odds were against you because motherhood is not easy but you buckled up and pulled through, I celebrate you. Stay strong and resilient but mostly enjoy motherhood. You are special and a superhero to your baby, treat yourself as so.
Happy breastfeeding week and Women’s Month to you all!!!