How I became an accidental lactivist

Well, actually, I breastfed my son for 18 months. And the reasons for me were not the ‘My son will be healthiest this way’ or ‘formula is a curse second to none’. I had been mostly formula fed and thought myself to be pretty healthy. The reason was that it was a struggle for me in the begining, that I won. And once I won it, I loved it. And when I left my son in the care of my mom at three months, this was something I was doing for him that was unique – no other caregiver could do.

See, I was not naturally well endowed in the chest region. So before I had the baby I was sceptical if I would be able to nurse him at all. I was sceptical about everything – from a lactation consultant to not giving formula.

When the nurse handed my baby to me, I could not even think of feeding him. I was so hungry myself after hours of labor, and yet nauseus at the same time. When he latched on, I had no mommy epiphanic moment, just a lot of latch on pain. And this continued the first week or so. I kept feeling he wasnt growing. I hunted up whoever I could with questions, including the usual ‘Is my baby getting enough?’. I talked to my cousin in Alabama – yes, she had nursed her daughter for 14 months. But, I reasoned. She was a stay at home mom and she was quite naturally endowed.

Instinctively I began to relate to moms who had given formula. The bottle was just there! And as a mom, I needed every moment I could get, why nurse? I called my aunt in India, who I admired. She was a highly reputed gynaecologist. And a working woman. She said ‘There is no mom on earth who does not have enough milk for her child’ she said. I had no intention of believing her. I was a first, I thought, I dont have enough. Of course I dont. Wasnt my baby not gaining enough?

A doctors visit. The pediatricial was strict.  My son at one week had a runny nose, caught from my mom who was visiting from India. ‘Breastfeeding is the best thing you can do for him’ she said.

I was just so confident that I did not have enough. I was tired, I was malnourished, whatever – excuses. I dont know why I was so confident I would fail.

Talking with my aunt did one thing – a drop of doubt set in about my own abilities.

Then I called up my old friend in London. She was an executive at a bank. The archetypical working woman, with a one year old. She was from a top b-school. ‘No no, dont stop nursing’, she said, ‘I nursed her for 10 months exclusively and I still nurse her’.

I was flabbergasted. A working woman?

More doubt on my own inabilities.

And then many many women who had written on different websites – thank you for your support, and for writing.

And then he started gaining good weight. Maybe it was the belief in myself. That replaced the disbelief that did it.

And then I became so confident that any mom can do it, to the point of I think irritating all my to be nursing friends.

It continued. And continued. When I went back to work, it was tough to keep pumping. But it was also my link during my work day to my son in daycare.  At six months, my husband said ‘ Well, now we can stop’. I had been waiting for the six month mark. But by now I loved it.

So I kept going.

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