Breastfeeding more delicately referred to as nursing by those who dont want to use the word breast is a journey encountered by almost every new mother. However, this natural biological process, which involves feeding an infant the mothers milk through her breast, encounters judgement and taboos at every stage. Breastfeeding in public. Breastfeeding too much and for too long. Breastfeeding too little. In encouraging and even contributing towards these judgements, we often place an added burden on mothers who are already trying to navigate a new role, biological changes, and the pressures of family and society.Every new mother wants the best for her and her child, says gynaecologist Dr Gehna Iqbal. The idea is not to force breastfeeding or formula feeding, but instead to be aware, and make informed choices that leave you feeling satisfied. She adds, Breast milk supplies an infant with all the nutrients it needs. It is a complete meal that also contains antibodies, enables growth, and can prevent childhood infections and adult ailments in the later years. Since it is easily digestible, gas and colic can also be kept at bay. If the mother is able to breastfeed the baby directly from the word go, then it is the most economical, hygienic, readily available food source at the right temperature, without the added chore of cleaning and sterilising equipment. We usually recommend six months of exclusive breastfeeding, if the mother and baby are responding well to it.She adds, However, one size does not fit all. For working mothers who cannot stay home to nurse their babies every few hours, they have to look for alternatives. The breast pump allows you to pump out the milk and freeze it. This can be warmed and administered to the child shortly after. Fathers can be involved in the process and the benefits of breast milk still reach the child. Also, once the baby starts teething after the age of six months, using a breast pump can prevent your breasts from getting sore. Another alternative is formula feeding, which can either be exclusive or as supplemental nutrition to the infant with breastmilk. You can consider this when milk supply is inadequate if your job or lifestyle doesnt permit you to provide breast milk on a regular basis, or simply if you dont feel up to breastfeeding and it makes you unhappy.According to a study presented by UNICEF, based on findings by the National Family Health Surveys, exclusive breastfeeding rates among children under six months in India have increased from 65 per cent in 2015-16 to 76 per cent in 2020-21.If youre keen to breastfeed but are unable to do so because your milk supply is inadequate, Dr Iqbal suggests the following steps:1. Breastfeed more often. The more you nurse, the more milk your breasts will produce.2. If you have extra milk, dont let it dry up. Pump it out.3. Breastfeed from both sides consciously.4. Consume foods rich in galactagogues (a substance that promotes lactation) such as garlic, ginger, fenugreek, fennel, whole oats, flaxseeds and moringa.5. Stress and anxiety can affect lactation. Seek professional help from a mental health expert.6. If all else fails, consult a lactation expert.Over the last few years, celebrities have spoken out about breastfeeding, normalising the challenges they face. Khlo Kardashian said after her daughter was born, I tried breastfeeding for weeks and weeks! For me, it was so painful, but I also was not producing a lot of milk. So I had to pump every time she was napping. I guess due to stress, my milk was not coming in. I tried and I just couldnt give her enough. So I had to go with formula.Lactation consultant Tamara Rodriguez says that breastfeeding isnt compulsory for a happy and healthy baby or mother, but a lot of new mothers want to, because of the benefits of mothers milk. Initially, new mothers may experience pain, soreness, and discomfort. Also, the breasts may not produce enough milk so your child may be perpetually hungry. Sometimes, they may produce too much milk and leak out at inconvenient times. Seek help from the nurses at your obstetricians clinic on how to latch and position the baby. They are usually well-versed in guiding new mothers through their initial breastfeeding days. Its fine if it takes a few days to settle in. Everything doesnt have to be perfect from the word go. Even if you cannot breastfeed for a few months, the initial secretion, called colostrum, is actually concentrated, rich milk. If the baby gets a few sips of that every few hours in the initial days, it can go a long way in providing nutrition. Try to avoid pacifiers. Buy nursing bras and tops to make your life easier. Dont compare your journey to other mothers friends, siblings, in-laws your body and bond with your baby are completely different.Science says that oxytocin, or the feel-good hormone for relaxation, is released whenever you breastfeed, which is a win for mothers who can do so with ease. Breastfeeding can also reduce your risk of ovarian and breast cancer, and decrease chances of rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. It is also a natural birth control mechanism.The downside is that everything you eat or drink whether a glass of wine or medication is consumed by the baby in smaller amounts. You also have to be physically around your baby all the time. There is also the added disadvantage of not being able to measure how much breast milk the baby is drinking - unless youre pumping, measuring, and administering.The bottom line is, breastfeeding has benefits; but if you cant breastfeed, dont stress. There are plenty of other options available. Surround yourself with people who support your decisions, whether it is breastfeeding your kids till theyre two, or choosing to supplement with formula from the beginning. Make informed choices that make you and your baby happy and healthy.