Breastfeeding is one of the most hotly debated topics among mothers, doctors and researchers. Organizations such as WHO and AAP recommend exclusive breastfeeding for newborns for at least six months. Due to multiple physical, financial, cultural constraints many women are not able to breastfeed while some may consciously choose not to breastfeed. For all those who have gone through the process of breastfeeding or are planning to do so in future, here is my take on the stages that women go through.
Stage 1: Overwhelming- Age 0-3 months
Though everyone assumes that breastfeeding is a natural phenomenon and should not be a cause of worry or anxiety, the reality is far from it. A new mother is overwhelmed by multiple changes around her. She has just gone through the pain of delivery- normal or assisted hardly matters as both have their own set of problems. It is also common for women to suffer from Postpartum Depression. And on top of it, she is expected to breastfeed the tiny little creature every two hours. Now the baby can neither support its head nor latch properly. So initially it takes multiple efforts to adjust your posture for sitting and holding the baby. It also takes time for the demand and supply to be established, pores on the nipples to open or sore nipples to heal. In some cases, women do not lactate immediately after delivery and are often subjected to questions from friends and family - ‘doodhaaya?’ All this combined is overwhelming for a mother to say the least. The thought that runs through many new mothers at that time is- “Óh God, can’t take it anymore, Kill me now.”
Stage 2: Delightful- Age 3-12 months
While for some it is love at first sight with the baby, for some mothers it takes some time in establishing this bond. Breastfeeding is one of those enabling factors. Once you get in the routine and are in a better shape both physically and mentally, you will actually start enjoying breastfeeding. The baby will become more social and will be spending time with his/her father and probably grandparents and nanny too. You will start looking forward to those periods of the day when it is only you and your baby. Baby even while breastfeeding will maintain an eye contact with you, hold you, smile at you and also start playing with you. Also, by this time you would have established when you can use breastfeeding as an instrument to calm him down or make him sleep or just keep him engaged for 5-7 minutes. I am currently in this stage and really enjoying it.
Stage 3: Confusion- Age 12 months+
There are multiple schools of thought on by when a baby should be weaned off. Some parents prefer to wean off the baby completely by 9mo-1year, some continue to breastfeed for as long as 2 years. Again you get myriad counsel around this- “feed as long as you can, it is not just nutritious but comforting for the baby”, “it is just in your head, baby doesn’t need to feed after 1 year, you are not doing any good for your baby” and the most common and annoying “baby is becoming obsessed- you need to take him off immediately”. We would suggest that you take your time in weaning off the baby and do it when both you and your baby are comfortable. You need not be under undue stress but instead of procrastinating, make a plan and stick to it
Most mothers spend their time in one stage while stressing over the upcoming one. My advice is to enjoy each one to the fullest. This is an exclusive experience that you are fortunate to have.