IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant)
Biodynamic Craniosacral Practitioner
Breastfeeding turned out to be challenging. Other than knowing the benefits of breastfeeding, I had little information, but I was determined, having my sister, Nikhath Tahseen, as a source of inspiration. I had witnessed her difficult start to breastfeeding and I felt her perseverance running through me. I feel strongly that if Zaara had been allowed to stay close to me after her birth, breastfeeding may have been established earlier. Medical procedures should be geared more to facilitate mother and baby togetherness. Her rapid heartbeat may have been calmed by just laying her close to me but instead we were separated for 26 hours and she was given a pacifier.
For three weeks I struggled through pain at each nursing session. I had no idea if this was how it was supposed to be. Then I found La Leche League International on the Internet. This was the beginning of a new chapter of my life. Leader Averil Martin was a source of great comfort and support. More than any technique or corrective measures I implemented in the following days to nurse Zaara, the fact that I had someone who would just listen to me made all the difference. A first lesson of mothering— patience, perseverance and loving guidance.
With a low milk supply, feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, I needed to give Zaara formula to supplement her feeds. However, by six weeks, I was finally getting comfortable at nursing. My sense of achievement was great as Zaara was now exclusively breastfed. I pumped frequently to substitute breastmilk for formula milk in the bottle, while I struggled with improving her latch.
My effort to increase my milk supply was constant. In conjunction with nursing on demand, I tried herbs and pumped after every feed. All my efforts paid off and finally I stopped pumping as Zaara got better at nursing. I continued taking fenugreek seed tablets that I made myself and asparagus granules (Dabur’s Shatavarex—Ayurvedic medicine). Zaara gained weight slowly but steadily. All along my mother was a big support. Although my mother had not nursed her babies for more than a few weeks, she believed in my determination. She stayed up several nights to take care of me and Zaara.
My gratitude to her is deep and I feel blessed to have her as my mother. She has taught me perseverance, dedication and unconditional love. With time and closeness, I learned to recognize Zaara’s cues of hunger, when she needed comfort or when she was overstimulated. I better understood her needs and pre-empted them. Besides calming my baby instantly, breastmilk is her first aid kit. I have used it as a decongestant for clearing a stuffy nose and as eye medicine for a bruise. If I ever sense an onset of a rare tantrum, my best bet is nursing. Nursing has given us more opportunities to gather special moments every day between us as a family. I consider this a unique gift. Few things will match my sense of accomplishment when I see how sensitive and smart Zaara is growing up to be.
My husband, Dan plays an important role. We were surprised by the changes to our lives when Zaara was born. I left my employment, choosing to be at home for Zaara and letting Dan care for us all. The supporting role of the father is as deserving of respect and appreciation as that of the mother is in nurturing the baby. I still remember the night after Zaara’s birth vividly. As I lay on the hospital bed feeling groggy and almost paralyzed, hearing Zaara screaming her little lungs out at the NICU, Dan stood beside her, touching her and providing all the comfort he could. Back at home, he sat up at night while I grappled with nipple shields, syringe feeding and a hand pump. He would encourage me to pump when I felt I could no longer do it. I have always appreciated his patience and understanding. He has put up with average meals, managed with undone laundry and coped with stress at work and at home. Even today Dan wakes up most nights to see if Zaara and I are comfortable. We have grown together and appreciate the benefits nursing has had on Zaara’s health and on us as a family. Our transition from a couple into becoming parents has been beautiful.
As Zaara grows from infancy into childhood— at a much faster pace than we had anticipated— I have begun to understand how the love that we share will help me guide her and set limits. For the first few months Zaara needed to be held close constantly. Nursing gave me the closeness to understand Zaara better. This I see as a stepping stone to understanding her developing needs. I remember holding her all through her naps and most of the night for several hours at a stretch. Although many around me mentioned this might become a compulsion or a bad habit, I knew I was fulfilling her need. My understanding was right that when a need is met consistently it soon outgrows itself and, sure enough,
Zaara did stop needing to be held while sleeping. I still carry Zaara around sometimes in a sling while I go about my work at home. I have begun to understand Zaara’s need for closeness increases at the onset of overstimulation, feeling unwell or tired, or just when she wants to be held close. As Zaara looks coolly at us before she decides to dig into a socket or put something in her mouth, being right there to distract her or taking time to explain at that moment matters so much and seems better than constantly parroting, “No, No,” which might only impair her little exploring senses. Once I had a meltdown when I was overtired. Zaara nodded as if to tell me, “Don’t cry mama.” I was awestruck and enlightened by the complex interaction that goes on between a mother and her baby during nursing.
An innate bond exists between the mother and baby, seeded early in the womb and it is significant enough to cause intense pain of separation due to a miscarriage. Nursing has provided that healing touch for the pain of my miscarriages. The deep intimacy feels so soulful. A beautiful smile comes on my little one’s face when she snuggles close for some quiet time with mama. It’s almost like falling in love—a heady experience. My family seems surprised but also happy to see how connected Zaara is with me. They were impressed that she really listens to me. I realize my hard work toward parenting my little one with loving guidance has made such a huge difference in our lives. Zaara requires reassurance, guidance and redirection and nursing gave me a head start. I feel so humbled by this little achievement and recognize that this is just the beginning.
This was a difficult story to tell. Painful memories crowded my mind in this journey of becoming a mother but one strong emotion emerges and promises to stay—my desire to help other mothers. Although my grief over my miscarriages, aspects of my pregnancy and early nursing remain unresolved I have drawn inspiration from LLL Leader Averil Martin and Ruth Malik, co-founder of Birth India. They inspired me to work hard to accredit as an LLL Leader and now it suffices my soul to hear several nursing mothers say, “Thank you for your help. You made a difference in my life.” This is just a beginning. There is still a long journey ahead in which I hope to touch many more lives and empower mothers with support and information. "