Maliha Sayla, is an obstetrician who has spent much of her career reiterating to patients the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby. Yet despite this, when it came to breastfeeding her own children, she found it incredibly difficult.
“I breast-fed my daughter, Safiya, for only one month, and my son, Haider, for only one week. I was a breast-feeding failure,” Sayla wrote for NPR. Sayla went on to explain that her difficulties occurred immediately and that her first child Safiya wasn’t able to latch on, despite trying to breastfeed her every two hours.
This led Sayla to pump her breast milk and supplement it with formula. But being a fourth-year university student made it difficult, so she decided to pump exclusively and feed her daughter with a bottle. She pumped every hour in an attempt to increase her supply whilst studying and relying on her mother-in-law for help.
But this routine quickly became exhausting and above all, frustrating for Sayla. “Every minute the pump was attached to my body, Safiya was not. I could not enjoy the bonding that breast-feeding was supposed to offer and even began to resent Safiya for not being able to latch on better. I decided to stop pumping, and exclusively feed formula. While I felt relieved to live a more normal life, I continued to mourn the fact that I never experienced what it felt like to breast-feed my child,” she wrote.
When Sayla fell pregnant with her second child, her son Haider, she was convinced she would do better this time. She was convinced she would succeed. But sadly when she tried to breastfeed for the second time, she faced the same issues. Haider would spend hours on Sayla's breast but only feed for two minutes.
That is when she began to develop concerns for her son's health, when he began to show signs of dehydration. She took him to a pediatrician, who advised her to consider using formula. Sayla then adopted the same technique she had previously used with Safiya.
"Haider did start showing signs of improvement, but feeding him occupied every moment of the day. My husband and I had to send Safiya to my mother's house because we could not manage to look after her while trying to succeed at feeding Haider. We banned visitors, mostly because I could not manage to get through an entire hour without crying," Sayla continued.