Mothers play so many roles in our lives. From giving us birth, to being our first source of food, to nurturing us into reasonably good human beings; they give us many reasons to owe our lives to them.
So this Breastfeeding Week, we are celebrating mothers who remind us of the sacrifices and the hardships they undergo to provide us with the best in the world.
Through a series of positive breastfeeding stories, we’ll bring to you life journeys of inspiring women who prove that you don’t need a superhero when you have a mum.
One such story is that of Shoba Agnetha Seetaram.
A single mum of two, this childhood enrichment teacher overcame many challenges to single-handedly raise her precious little munchkins. Shoba now shares her personal breastfeeding story with theAsianparent to inspire and educate first-time breastfeeding mums.
Positive Breastfeeding Stories Begin With Love
Kimberly at birth in 2010. | Image courtesy: Shoba Seetaram
Shoba’s breastfeeding journey began in 2010 when she became a first-time mum with the birth of her daughter Kimberly (who was breastfed till the age of three). Just a year later, her son Christian was born (he was breastfed for five-and-a-half years till 2019).
With both little ones on the breast, and her now ex-husband barely around, Shoba’s motherhood journey started with many ups and downs.
“Honestly, it was tiring as I mostly raised my children alone. But rewarding as feeding time meant time to rest, put my feed up and bond with my child. I went back to work when my girl was three-months-old and son was two-months-old,” she shares.
Adding, “Being able to work and have my children with me at work helped a lot. I could feed them in between classes as I did the feed on demand style so they didn’t have a fixed milk schedule.”
The Biggest Challenges
While from the outside it looked like everything was under control, Shoba had to deal with her fair share of challenges too.
Her former mother-in-law was new to the breast milk process and language was an additional barrier. Teaching her to thaw the milk was another roadblock.
To add to this, Shoba’s mum was new to this as well, and quite upset too that she couldn’t bottle feed her grandchildren. The children latched on exclusively, so the bottle was out of the question.
Plus, Kimberly was a biter and it was a painful experience for Shoba as she struggled to stay latched. “My daughter couldn’t seem to get herself to hold on to the nipple. I had to for the longest time shove the boob in place and she would bite on it to stay latched, which was very painful,” she explains.
She had also decided to continue to exclusively breastfeed her son Christian because he suffered from gag reflux and so didn’t start solids until 19-months-old. “I tried six brands and nipples. It was a no go,” says Shoba.
Incidentally, Shoba was able to produce enough milk to keep her babies well-feed and exclusively on the breast.
Exclusive Breastfeeding Was The Golden Mantra
Kimberly at the age of four months. | Image Source: Shoba Seetaram
“My daughter fed from one side for as long as she wanted. I pumped the other side. And I just kept alternating from there. I found it easier to pump after a hot shower and after feeding one side as my boobs were ready to release milk so I had more to pump out. Most times I could pump half to full bottles,” explains Shoba.
“By the time my daughter was three months and I went back to work half day, I had frozen 170 bottles of milk. My mum had to buy a new freezer,” she quips, as she shares one of her many positive breastfeeding stories.
“I knew all along that I didn’t want my children to have formula at all unless I had no choice. I also knew that I wanted to breastfeed them for as long as possible. Plus, I believe in prolong breastfeeding and attachment parenting, which both go together hand-in-hand. So I made sure there was more than enough to last. I did the same with my son but I stopped after a month as he just refused the bottles and only wanted directly from me,” she says.
How Shoba Managed To Produce Milk
She adds that she was able to manage so much milk because she started taking milk supplements and eating food to promote milk supply a month before delivery.
“I took a walk around the orchard to familiarise myself with the different mother’s rooms. Knowing where to go to be comfortable. If a mum is not comfortable feeding openly in public, unlike me, it’s helpful,” the mum explains.
And as it turns out, exclusive breastfeeding was a blessing for her two little ones as well as for Shoba.
Breastfeeding Turned Out To A Blessing For All Three
A newborn Christian Eli in 2014. Image Source: Shoba Seetaram
While her children were able to get the goodness of breast milk, Shoba managed to save money on formula.
“Knowing how much money I saved on formula was a big plus. Not having to carry bottles and formula and water wherever I went. My bag just had diapers and an extra set of clothes. It was light and easy to move around. I could and would just sit anywhere and feed my child,” she explains.
Much to her relief, Shoba was also able to find the right support outside of home.
Finding Support At Work
As a childhood enrichment teacher working at Julia Gabriel Education, the mum found support and encouragement from fellow colleague mums, who were also pumping and breastfeeding around the school.
“Watching parents of our students breastfeed their children in our classrooms and around the centre gave me the encouragement that it was totally normal and possible. I had advised on which pump was the best, types of feeding,” says Shoba.
“I listened and took it all in and applied whatever that suited me and my child. Not all advice fits one mum nor child. Each birth and child is different,” she said, talking about her positive breastfeeding stories.
Advice For New Mums: Don’t Share Your Stress With The Baby Through Breast Milk
Shoba with her all grown-up children. | Image Source: Shoba Seetaram
Having seen and done it all, Shoba has some sound advice for first-time breastfeeding mums.
“It’s completely natural,” she says. “Women have been doing it for years. In fact, centuries ago it was the only way to feed your child. Now there are options.”
She also advises, “Talk to other mums. Feed together with other mums. Gather as much information as you can before giving birth and use what benefits you and your baby.”
“It’s not a one size fits all,” she says, noting, “If you really can’t breastfeed and your body really can’t do it then it is okay. It doesn’t make you less of a mum. It’s not in your control.”
“But if you can, stick it out and it will all settle and get much easier as time goes and the benefits of breastmilk and the bond is amazing.” She adds that the only thing to remember is to be stress-free.
Because as it turns out a mum’s stressed body will tense up the milk flow as well, and the baby can sense this stress-energy and stress out too.
Yes, that’s a lot of stress in one sentence and there should be none of it in a new mum’s life and definitely not in your baby’s food.
As Shoba points, “It is a whole body and environment feeling. So calm down and relax. Take the lead from your baby. It doesn’t need to be scheduled.”
“My children are 11 and 7. I totally miss breastfeeding,” she signs off.
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