She is a Mother to 3+ years old girl – Samaira.
Hi Akansha, please give us a short introduction about yourself.
Born and brought up in Delhi as a bindaas and friendly girl, I am currently working as a Senior Consultant at Deloitte, a Big Four audit and professional services firm. I got married in 2016 and delivered a baby girl in October 2018.
What were your breastfeeding goals when you started off on your breastfeeding journey?
During pregnancy, I read about how breastfeeding is a natural next step to delivery, I read about Golden Hour but since my gynaecologist never discussed any post-partum plans with me, I thought that Golden Hour / Breast crawl is a practice followed in foreign nations. Alas! I was only focused on having a healthy diet and having a normal delivery during pregnancy.
Cutting to the chase, breastfeeding did not come naturally at all to me. For the first 1.5 days, my daughter was exclusively formula-fed, and I did not raise any concerns because I thought that the doctors knew best. Post that, the hospital completely refused to give me the formula and asked me to exclusively breastfeed. The nurses and LC helped me latch the baby. But it was painful, but I was told that it gets better with time. Due to all the pain, I thought EBF for 3 months is good enough a goal for me, and that was my only initial goal.
Were there any breastfeeding challenges you faced when you began your parenting journey?. Do you want to share a few with new mothers? And it will be great if you can share how did you overcome those challenges?
A shallow latch for the first week, non-stop nursing sessions and not being able to bathe, sleep, eat because the baby constantly demanded to be fed were the major challenges I faced. That’s when a friend of mine introduced me to BSIM and I realized most of these issues could be solved through a deep latch. I saw a number of videos on getting a good latch, and we finally attained that. After that, things were quite manageable.
What is the message or a piece of advice which you want to send across to mothers who may be in a similar situation as yours?
- Read about breastfeeding a lot before delivery.
- Talk to your friends, peers who have delivered in the past couple of years and listen to how hard it can be, but know that it is manageable
- Consult an LC when you face any issues, don’t wait it out too long assuming that it gets better with time
What kept you going during the difficult times?
BSIM was my major source of power, honestly, all through my journey. Other than that, of course, family (esp MIL and my mom) let me make decisions about feeding my baby while also ensuring that I was well-fed myself. They both also stood by me when well-meaning people suggested introducing formula so that baby can stay full longer. This just said, let Akanksha do as she deems fit.
Wow, it’s great to have a support system. Do you remember any specific fun time that you would like to share?
Seeing my baby milk drunk while nursing to sleep, seeing her smile as she fed, were so satisfying and magical! I remember that when my MIL used to come back from the office, my daughter was usually nursing at that time. As soon as she saw that grandma has come, she would unlatch, give her a smile and go back to nursing. My MIL used to say that the lioness (my daughter) gets back to her den after giving a glance 😀
Thanks a lot for sharing your experiences.
We believe you also resumed employment after maternity leave. We want to know more about your pumping at work and continuing nursing at home journey.
Well, here are a few questions specific to pumping at work that may help mothers who are already in a situation such as yours:
- How difficult was resuming employment? Emotionally and practically?
It was quite difficult. I had multiple thoughts about extending my leaves, quitting my job, but I also wanted to get back to work and be in the baby-free zone to get back to my life. Everyone in my family assured me that they will be there to support me, in whichever way I deem fit.
I was however determined to continue breastfeeding through pumping while at work. Everyone thought it would be quite difficult, and I would give up in the first few weeks or a month. They even suggested formula in case of emergency. To keep them at peace, I did buy a can of formula and gave it once a day for 4-5 days. They were happy my daughter accepted it. But I also built a stash to make sure that they didn’t have to use it. I then religiously pumped thrice a day at work to make sure it was never used 😀
- Was your child more attached or clingy when you came back home? Many mothers resuming employment experience this.
She was very happy to see me once I was back, but she has always been a happy baby and kept playing nicely with my parents while I was away. Most of her naps were on time, and she was happy to take expressed breastmilk in my absence.
- Did your child reverse the cycle?
Nope, she continued her routine irrespective of whether I was at home or at work.
- Did you experience any dip in expressed Breastmilk supply and if yes, how did you compensate?
There was a dip at around 10 months. Changing pump valves helped to a little extent. Other than that, I used to pump one time over the weekend if I felt that the stash was getting reduced. I made sure there were at least 3-4 packs extra left other than her daily demand for breastmilk. This was to tide over the growth spurts or solid rejection phases.
- How was the weekend schedule like? Did you pump or nurse?
I pumped on weekends only if I felt that the stash was less. Else, only nursing directly. While this led to slightly lower output on Monday, I made up for it by pumping longer on Monday.
- How crucial is support from the employer?
It is a total game changer! I cannot imagine how I could have imagined doing all this without a pumping room (which was created on my special request), access to a refrigerator in the pantry that only the admin staff had access to, and overall support from my employer.
- How crucial is support from the Family/Child’s alternate caregiver?
It is quite crucial. I have heard many stories about how the mothers wish to pump while away at work, but the alternate caregivers don’t agree because they feel that stored breast milk will lose nutrition, or that they will have to do extra efforts to make sure it thawed well or does not spill, etc.
- How did you manage to pump along with the schedule of work?
My first pumping session was right after reaching the office (9 am). Since I used office transport, I was one of the very first people to reach the office. I went straight into the pumping room to get started on pumping so that I can have some breast milk before taking any work-related stress. I used to watch stand-up comedies or any light-hearted shows to make sure I was relaxed and happy. My next pump was right before lunch (12.30 pm), and the last one was around 4.30 pm. I reached home at 7-7.30 pm and nursed directly after that. And yes, I had spoken to my manager about pumping, so she knew. Luckily, she was a mother herself and did not raise any eyebrows or question me over it.
- Can you answer these specific pumping/ expressing questions often asked by mothers too:
How often should I pump when exclusively pumping as per age? Until 1 year, pump once every 3-4 hours at work. Post that, if you still wish to continue, you may pump once in 5 hours, or whatever works for you. I reduced pumping sessions after my baby turned one. I stopped pumping completely at 13 months.
How long should I pump for and when? Pump until breasts are empty (when you get only a few drops per minute. After pumping, hand express until you feel your breasts have been emptied well.
Do I need to pump at night? If you have enough stash, and you are nursing directly, then it’s not required. I never did.
How much milk should I be producing? As per demand. I used to produce anywhere between 300-350 ml in almost 10-12 hrs that I was away.
How can I make this process easier? Watch light-hearted shows while expressing, don’t stress, and drink 2-3 glasses of water before pumping. And learn the wonderful art of hand expressing. It will give you at least 10-30 ml even after pumping.
What does one do when there is a dip in expressing output? Change pump valves, drink plenty of water, eliminate unnecessary stress, and remember, “Every Drop Counts”. It is OK if your baby needs 100ml, and you can only get 50ml. This 50 ml is powerful too! Every drop is magical.
- Here are a few specific Offering Milk questions often asked by mothers:
How should the milk be offered? If kept in the freezer, thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Once thawed, consume within 24 hours. Or, you can thaw directly in warm water as well. It is your choice if you wish to heat it or give it as-is.
How often? On-demand. Mine used to take right after waking up, after lunch, and after waking up from an afternoon nap.
Storage tips: Breastmilk storage bags worked best for us as I could write the date, time, quantity etc. on it, and it was easy to determine which milk was the oldest and needs to be given first. It also took less space in the freezer. You can store it in the refrigerator, but make sure it doesn’t get moved around too much and is not placed in the refrigerator’s door compartment, as cooling there is less.
How should the milk expressed be stored? In the refrigerator or in the freezer. At work, if you have a refrigerator, use it. If not, keep at least 4-6 ice packs and transfer them to the freezer or refrigerator once you are home
What about Re-heating: Never. Just heat once if required
How should it be reheated before offering: Offer at room temperature. If you wish to heat, heat in a bottle warmer or put a breast milk storage bag in warm water. Never heat on a gas stove. Before offering, check the temperature by putting a drop in the back of your palm.
When struggling with the emotional aspect of pumping. What can I do?
Any other information you feel would be useful for other mothers on a similar journey.
Know that it’s only about a few months. What kept me going through 7 months of pumping was thinking that a part of me is still there with my baby (through breast milk) even while I am at work. Also, the thought that Exclusively Pumping (EP) moms have it so much harder, if they can do it for years, sure, I can pump thrice a day for a few months.
Thank you so much for answering all specific queries, too. Now finally,
How did you find out about BSIM? A friend introduced me to the group after she found out I had delivered.
What role did BSIM play in your breastfeeding journey? It’s been my source of power, my venting place, my happy place, my constant through my journey, and stays so after weaning too. I have had such a fulfilling journey, made friends for life, and had a strong sisterhood. Ever thankful to the group and its members. Most importantly, it gave me a chance to take up Lactation as a profession, for which I am indebted.
Thanks a lot, Akansha for sharing your lovely journey and also answering many specific questions. This will surely help mothers joining work back and wondering how to manage to breastfeed alongside.