The Trials and Joys of Breastfeeding…
(Date of Interview: January, 2011)
Brief Intro: This interview was presented to me in the form of an article, written by a sister who has truly experienced both the trials and joys of breastfeeding. She is now the mother of four little ones and her latest little bundle had brought her a world of new challenges that she has decided to share for the benefit of other moms and moms-to-be Inshaa Allah. Jaza kallah Khair sister for your generosity and May your experiences be an inspiration to other moms to never give up on breastfeeding….Ameen.
Assalaamu Alaikunn my dear sisters (especially those who are pregnant/breastfeeding)
I decided to write this because I myself breastfeed and have come across many hurdles which inshaaAllaah I would like to share so that others may benefit. Each child I nursed was different and my most challenging was my fourth- believe it or not! But Alhamdulillaah after struggle is ease and only by Allaah can ease come. I got most of my help from La Leche League councillors(which is an international organization and not limited to US/Canada) and most unexpectedly my kids paediatrician who happens to be male! SubhaanAllaah, wherever the help comes from I take because it is necessary for me to complete my duties to Allaah and my family InshaaAllaah. Be sure to read to the end InshaaAllaah because I have included some rare or rarely practiced advice which truly helps and ALOT of encouragement.
List of common problems and some ways to eliminate them InshaaAllaah:
1. Baby sucking all the time and not settling down to sleep for more than 1/2 hr. (happens from birth)- This problem can lead to dehydration and the culprits are two- poor latching and mom not holding baby properly to ensure a good latch. Even though these problems are intertwined they are separate as well. If baby doesn’t latch properly there can never be a good feed. Some babies do latch properly but because babies are new to feeding (and so are moms) they relax their hold on baby by changing feeding position and so baby’s latch loosens. So it’s a cycle which moms may not be aware of like I was.
Let’s talk about getting baby to latch. Some babies don’t open their mouths wide even though they are close to your breast. What has to be done is mom has to express some colostrum so that it lies on the nipple and place baby’s nose to smell it. Automatically he will open wide and this is when you place his wide- open mouth onto your breast (babies breastfeed not nipple feed), position his head nipple to nose and bring baby on this way he will be getting more of the underside of your areola than top which is the right way. If there is nipple pain immediately take him off and try again or else you will end up with sore and bleeding nipples which discourage moms to continue breastfeeding because believe it or not the pain will be much worse!
The cross-cradle hold (i.e. holding the head of the baby with the opposite hand and cupping breast with the hand baby’s head is closest to- this is also the method of putting the baby onto the breast initially)- is used for newborns less than 2 months old. Pressure has to be put on baby’s head so that he remains on the breast and his head will not pull away because you are controlling his head movements. This ensures proper feeding. If you relax your hand baby will relax his head thus breaking the latch and poor feeding as well as pain for you. So inshaaAllaah after a few weeks of feeding baby like this he will get the point and he will start actually burying his head into your breast to feed! Alhamdulillaah. How smart is Allaah’s creations! Some advice otherwise: if the feed is going on for more than twenty minutes on a side then it means something is wrong and baby isn’t getting full or enough. This applies for the colostrum. When your milk has come in he will need to suck to increase your supply to suit his needs which will take maybe 2 days so let him suck. And this will happen as the months pass by when he is going through growth spurts and will need more milk to satisfy his needs.
2. Dehydrated baby- the signals are orange/red spots (crystals) in diaper, not enough wet diapers and black/brown stool (for breastfed babies) which over the days do not change to green/yellow seedy poop. Dehydration comes from him not getting enough because of poor latching and we discussed this above. If these signs are there for more than 2 days then baby is severely dehydrated and you must go to the paediatrician who will assess the baby and your feeding. Baby will need supplementary milk while you will need to pump to keep up and increase your supply. This should only be for a few days until your milk is up and baby will not need formula anymore Insha’Allah. Don’t give up! It is tough but worth the struggle.
3. Pain on the sides of breast (under arms) while feeding or after a feed. If there is no redness or hard spots then there is no reason for concern. This pain is due to the milk ducts expanding to accommodate milk so there is muscular pain. This pain will pass inshaaAllaah after a week or so and it may or may not come back for the growth spurts when baby is sucking more. If however the pain is not going, you have redness on your breast and fever as well as hard spots then it’s time to go to your doctor, you may have mastitis (infection of the breast) and will need antibiotics. InshaaAllaah this is no reason to stop
4. Blocked duct- just a hard spot in breast which is painful and baby struggles to feed on that side i.e. cranky baby; this is because baby isn’t getting milk from that breast because a duct is plugged (with I don’t know what exactly but it is a component of milk?). You have to get that plug out. Some ways are as follows:-
– take a bowl of bearably hot water and immerse breast in it for about 5 minutes(until breast softens), then start massaging in an outward motion with thumb or fingertips gently to try to get the plug to come out. This will take time! but you have to get it out or else it will develop into mastitis.
– take a hot shower and massage again the same way as describe above.
– As soon as you try the above feed baby- his sucking is powerful enough to get that plug out and there is a way to feed him- place his chin to the site of the plug so if the plug is on top of your breast you will need to lie down and baby will be upside down against you feeding! Get the picture? So apply this method according to where the plug is InshaaAllaah. This is what I was told by a lactation consultant and it worked!!! Alhamdulillaah. Why? ever notice that if your breasts are filled to harness and baby starts feeding the underside of your breast softens first? I believe it has to do with the massaging of the tongue since the tongue is that which produces the sucking motion.
– cold cabbage leaves- this has worked for some women who tried it. Steam cabbage leaves until softened and cool in cold water and apply to the breast for a while. The coolness helps the pain and somehow gets the plug out. It is said because it causes the ducts to dilate whereas heat causes it to inflame and constrict- this is the claim for women who the coldness of cabbage leaves worked for. So heat for some and cold for some 🙂 Try first whichever you feel comfortable with and switch method if it doesn’t work. Please remember- PATIENCE. These are all time consuming but must be done because of the pain and risk associated with blocked ducts.
5. Your breast milk is decreasing and baby is taking more and more formula (for those whose babies are dehydrated and those who supplement)- This may be a signal to you that your milk isn’t enough and you’re not producing enough for your baby. You are right but you will be wrong to tell yourself that you won’t be able to breastfeed any longer. In order for your supply to increase then you must feed the baby more and longer! When babies suck a signal is sent to your brain that your breast needs to produce milk so the signal is sent to your breasts to produce more milk. This is natural, how Allaah created us to feed our babies. So, stop giving baby so much formula or stop it altogether and start sitting down with lots of water/milk/juice and high protein foods and veges so that your body will start producing high quality milk and let your baby suck! This will take days but in the end, when your supply is right you will not need formula or to sit for hours feeding. InshaaAllaah. Do not think your breast are too small and therefore you are not producing enough- this is also very false, ask any A/B-cup mom. As long as you see lots of poop and p’s then be assured baby is getting enough!
6. Baby is crying at the breast (possible wriggling or just crying)- Automatically some mothers think their baby is allergic to their milk or the baby doesn’t get enough. Well know this- Babies will not be allergic to breast milk, not yours or anyone else’s and yes maybe baby isn’t getting enough. Just above we tackled the ‘not enough’ problem. As for the other possible problem it could be gas which is why he is wriggling. So give some probiotics(a friend informed me of this. Easily bought in capsule or powder form from health stores/pharmacies) and give Oval or gripe water or fennel water or simple warm water to baby. This will ease the gas for the baby to feed InshaaAllaah. If it is neither these two things then go to your paediatrician for baby’s assessment. If baby is gaining weight then he is feeding sufficiently and there is no need for concern- you simply have a colicky baby! This will pass when baby is 3 months of age InshaaAllaah. So bear patience InshaaAllaah and do not give up. Also some babies NEED burping more frequently so this could be a huge cause of him crying at the breast. So burp him well (I suggest you learn how to properly burp the baby) and then offer the breast again and keep doing this frequently InshaaAllaah at each feed.
7. Baby wakes so frequently to feed and mom ends up sleep-feeding baby- As a result mom is under-rested, nipples can be sore and mom is cranky. The best advice I ever got was to WAKE up, sit and feed baby, put baby in the crib and both of you sleep happily till the next feed InshaaAllaah. A hungry baby will feed for maybe 10mins each side and fall right back asleep. A sleepy/hungry baby is more difficult. A trick is also to feed baby a lot during the day. Somehow they seem to be full at night and will sleep longer InshaaAllaah. Every baby is different and some will truly need long feeding at night. In that case for the first few months tired mom will have to sleep feed baby until baby is more mature and can feed properly and then sleep properly. But I tell you, when you sleep-feed baby you run the risk of getting him accustomed to your bed and he will refuse the crib later on, so if you awaken in the night when he’s next to you crying to be fed, sleep-feed and when you wake again and he is asleep, transfer him to the crib InshaaAllaah. Some babies do not need burping if you lay down to feed, others do. If baby is wriggling and fussing, then he needs burping.
8. Mom needs to go back to work and thinks she has to stop breastfeeding baby- firstly I will not argue with any woman who says she needs to work when her baby is 3 months because the money isn’t enough which her husband earns. By Allaah, Allaah has already rationed out our sustenance and will never leave His slave in poverty but we are so accustomed to a high standard of living and i mean accustomed to “drinking our tea with evaporated milk rather than plain milk” (catch my drift) and this applies to everything we consume or believe we need so of course the money wouldn’t be enough! We need cable when in essence we don’t even need a TV. But to each His own and the one who believes that Allaah’s laws and the example of the prophet (salla laahu alaihi wa sallam) is beneficial and applicable in ALL times and not just 1400 yrs ago will always have enough and be able to fulfil his/her duties with ease InshaaAllaah. Anyway, moving on, I had a friend in university who was 20yr old single mom who had a baby and she used to frequently go to the bathroom to pump (with a manual pump) because she believed in breastfeeding her baby. She wasn’t muslim or from the East, she was a non-practicing caucasian from Atlanta. Her sister worked from home and would feed the baby the breastmilk for her to go to school. It is true that you will need a support system or babysitter. Trust me, if
it worked for my friend it will work for you InshaAllaah. You will need to pump weeks in advance so that there will always be milk handy while you’re at work pumping and you will need an insulated bag with ice pack to keep the milk until you get home- a fridge or freezer is even better! It’s not as difficult as you believe inshaAllah, its just like feeding your baby!
Concluding, I have personally experienced each of these problems (some I may have forgotten so they are not included) and I have had moms ask me what to do since they think I’m am expert but I’m truly not and all my experience from breastfeeding has come with the help of others and ALOT of patience. If a mom truly wants to breastfeed her baby for the term appointed by Allaah then surely she can do it. I also know a lot of moms who give up at the first sign of trouble with preposterous excuses. Let me tell you, I am a jealous mom and seeing my baby drinking formula pains me and seeing my baby need to drink formula and his face twists with disgust pains me more. I truly believe that if a mom wants the best for her baby she WILL sacrifice and breastfeed him and use no excuse.
Breastfeeding comes naturally for some, for others including myself it is challenging but truly worth it in the long run. Also know that with every difficulty there is good in it for the believer as our Prophet Muhammad (salla laahu alahi wa sallam) said and after every difficulty is ease as Allaah says in His holy book- twice in the same ayah. I made ALOT of duaa to Allaah (always be specific in your duaa- any duaa) and I asked Allaah to increase my milk, to help me feed my baby and above all else I believe this is why I overcame these hurdles. We turn to Allaah last but truly we need to turn to him first and supplement(no pun intended) with the advice of those qualified and by qualified I mean those with experience and not only those with certificates. As I mentioned above- a man (paediatrician) helped me nurse my baby simply because he saw his wife breastfeed. And lastly patience. It is sooo easy to give up and tell yourself you are insufficient for your baby, but in truth it is the opposite. You are sufficient for your baby and you can do it. You will see, months down the road his feeds become short and you enjoy the time with him as well as that self satisfaction that you struggled and succeeded InshaaAllaah. So take my advice- Don’t give up, look for help and bear patience, everything with the Help of Allaah. And as more encouragement I know moms who breastfeed twins! Alhamdulillaah.
Also dear sisters, come and ask me, I will not know everything nor will I know the solution to each problem but I will find it for you and please go to http://www.lalecheleague.com . This is a great source of help and will need to go through more than one article to find something which works for you but the help is there. Alhamdulillaah. JazaakunnaAllaahu khairan for reading and more importantly helping yourself.
Please share this with the women you know and believe would be able to benefit InshaaAllaah.
Sincerely, Your sis’ in Islaam, UmmuYahya Sultana.
You can contact me at:- firstname.lastname@example.org
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