The South Asian Mom's Guide to Breastfeeding at Weddings

When Amira was born, I made it a goal to try my very best to breastfeed her. I would nurse her and also gave her bottles of breastmilk. She took the bottles without any trouble. Then, one day at a friend's Mehndi party (an event South Asian couples have before their wedding ceremony), Amira wouldn't take the bottle of breastmilk. She cried the moment it touched her lips. I tried everything to get her to drink from the bottle: I had someone else try to give her the bottle. I tried giving her the bottle. I made sure the milk didn't get spoiled and checked the temperature. I even checked to see if the lipase was the issue. Nothing. Everything was fine with the milk and the bottle, but Amira absolutely refused to drink the milk from it. She wanted to feed from me no matter what.

Thankfully, my mom was also at the party and was able to help me out. It was the first time I ever nursed Amira in a public setting, so I needed the help! It was also the first time I went to a large party after having a baby (she was 2 months at the time and my recovery was a bit difficult), so I already felt a little overwhelmed, self-conscious, and physically drained. I put on my nursing cover over my shalwar kameez and was somehow able to feed her Alhamdulilah. It was uncomfortable for Amira with all the beadwork on my dress (Pakistani dresses are beautiful, but not nursing friendly usually) and it was difficult for me, but I was just happy she was fed and felt much better.

For the next few weeks, Afroz and I tried feeding Amira milk from the bottle, but she continued to refuse it. Somehow, she developed a preference to feed only from me and nothing but. I felt grateful for the blessing of being able to breastfeed her, but I worried about what I would do when I was out and about. I had so many wedding events coming up and I needed to figure out an easier way to nurse her in fancy Pakistani attire. I didn't want to get custom dresses made or buy new ones, so I had to figure out how to breastfeed in the dresses I bought for the weddings.

Here's what I came up with when figuring out the best way to nurse in formal South Asian dresses while attending wedding events:

Lena Boutique

1. Less is more.
Wear elegant dresses that have a little kaam (beadwork) on them. Holding your baby will be much easier if the side you hold her on isn't loaded with beadwork. Your baby will be more calm and comfortable without beads and embroidery itching and scratching their skin. "But I need to look fancy for this wedding. I need more kaam on my dress!" The cut and form of the dress are what make it look elegant. Many people think wearing shalwar kameez and lenghas with loads and loads of kaam make them fancier, but in reality, less kaam and a well fitted dress will make you look much better. 

I wore the dress above for my friend's wedding. It was so comfortable and taking care of Amira was so much easier during the event. I rolled it up and used a nursing clip (mentioned below). For similar dresses, check out Lena Boutique on Instagram. 

Breastfeeding Nursing Clip
Breastfeeding Nursing Clip

2. Make sure the dress has buttons, a zipper, or is easily rolled up.
Most Pakistani dresses don't have a zipper or buttons in the front. If you can make a custom dress with buttons or a zipper, go for it! I had a dress with a zipper made for Eid and it made my life so much easier whenever I had to nurse Amira. If you can't get a custom dress or have already have a dress you really want to wear, try it on beforehand and make sure you can roll it up easily. Then, clip on a LatchPal Hands-Free Nursing Clip. This thing was a life changer for me! Half the struggle of breastfeeding in Pakistani dresses is holding the dresses up while nursing, so this clip holds up the fabric while your little one nurses comfortably. Just throw on your nursing cover (I love my En Babies 360 cover) and then put on the clip on the neckline for your shirt, roll up your shirt, and clip the fabric up. You can then focus on your baby and not on keeping your top folded up! It also works well for any other clothes that don't have buttons or zippers. Buy it on Amazon here.

3. If you feel more comfortable feeding your baby in private, see if there's a little room near the women's restroom with sofas or ask the bride/host in advance if you could nurse in the bridal room.
For one of the weddings I attended this summer, I was able to nurse Amira in the bridal room. The bride was a close friend and was completely fine with me going into the room during the party. If you don't know the bride very well, ask someone from her family or friends (if you can) if it's ok for you to borrow the bridal room for a few minutes. The room is not being used during the main event and is usually empty once the bride is done getting ready, so don't hesitate to ask!

For another wedding, there was a little room with couches attached to the bathroom, so I was able to nurse there. They also had the changing table there, so it was really convenient! You can also call the venue in advance to see if they have a private room you can use, so you know exactly where to go right when your baby is hungry. Before I attended a bridal shower, I called the venue the day before and they told me the perfect spot to nurse Amira when I got there. I felt so much more calm as a new mom who had just started attending parties with an exclusively breastfed baby Alhamdulilah.

4. Always remind yourself: Don't feel ashamed for nursing your baby in public, even during a wedding reception.
I could feel myself turning red the first time I had to nurse Amira during the Mehndi party. Feeding at a mall or restaurant was one thing, but during a wedding party with a bunch of judgmental aunties...no way! I felt like all eyes were on me, even though I wasn't flashing anyone and was very private about it. In reality, no one was looking at me. I was overthinking it and nervous for no good reason. Be confident and even if anyone says, "Why can't you do that somewhere else?" or "Why can't you just give her the bottle?" respectfully explain that breastfeeding is completely normal and that the baby won't take the bottle at this time. Keep your response short and simple and do your thing, because nothing is more important at that time than feeding your baby.

I worked so hard to keep my supply up and breastfeeding was going so well Alhamdulilah for both me and Amira. I wasn't going to give up just because it was a little more work for me and made some aunties feel uncomfortable. While looking in the mirror at home, I practiced nursing her with a cover and the nursing clip. I purposely went out with Amira and nursed her at the mall, restaurant, etc. I got her used to the cover and got myself used to doing it in a public setting. It wasn't easy at all, but it's possible! You can do it too! You'll overcome the anxiety just like I did. Trust me.

Disclaimer: Fed is best! If breastfeeding isn't working out or you prefer formula feeding your baby, do your thing. Never let anyone tell you that either option is bad. You know what your baby needs more than anyone else.

Hospital Packing List

If you're expecting for the first time like I was, chances are you're looking up hospital bag packing lists on Pinterest, blogs, and generally online. Some of the lists I came across while packing were extremely excessive, while others made it seem like I didn't need to pack much at all. If you're expecting, please know that while your time in the hospital may be short, at times it will feel long. And in the few days that you're there, you want to make sure you have exactly what you need. Nothing more (because having too much stuff is annoying in a small hospital room) and nothing less (because it gets frustrating when you realize you left something at home that you really wish you had).

I thought I'd share what I packed in my bag and what I actually used and didn't use. It'll be another list for you to skim through and will hopefully help you create your own packing list. It's important to be organized in advance when your due date is just around the corner. Have your bags packed early and also make a list of last minute things you may need to grab. Last minute things include your toothbrush, face wash, deodorant, hairbrush, etc. Make sure your husband knows where the last minute list is, since there's a good chance you'll be in a rush to get to the hospital. I ended up getting induced, so Alhamdulilah I was able to casually walk into my apartment, grab a few extra things, have some lunch, tidy up, and head to the hospital. I definitely wasn't expecting that, but hey, you really never know what's going to end up happening!

Images: Pinkblush, En Babies, Target, Amazon, Sephora, Old Navy

Images: Pinkblush, En Babies, Target, Amazon, Sephora, Old Navy

WHAT I PACKED IN MY BAG:

  • Nursing-friendly pajamas (Pinkblush PJs are perfect!)
  • Nursing-friendly tops (to wear at the hospital and to go home in)
  • Easy to wrap scarf (I'm hijabi, so this was a must. Jersey scarves from Haute Hijab are convenient, because ironing and scarf pins aren't needed!)
  • Pants that fit you while you were about 6 months pregnant
  • Maternity leggings (Liz Lange for Target leggings are so comfy.)
  • Nursing bra
  • Nursing pads
  • Nursing cover (En Babies nursing cover has great coverage.)
  • Boppy pillow (I didn't bring mine, but I wish I did.)
  • Lanolin cream
  • Flip flops
  • Shampoo (Either buy a small travel bottle or pour into a travel-sized bottle. Do the same with other toiletries.)
  • Body soap
  • Face wash
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Towel 
  • Hairbrush
  • Hair ties
  • Makeup (After you take a shower and put on some makeup, you'll feel so much better. Trust me.)
  • Lotion
  • Underwear
  • Heavy overnight pads
  • Perfume
  • Deodorant
  • Socks
  • Phone charger
  • Camera
  • Lens
  • Camera battery
  • Camera SD card
  • Snacks (Dates, trail mix, and granola bars.)
  • Folder for hospital documents
  • Extra large bag to take gifts down to the car (The huge IKEA ones are perfect for this.)
  • Travel prayer rug
  • List of du'as (I kept them saved on my phone)
  • Small gift or box of chocolates for the nurses (Nurses are amazing and they deserve gifts and words of gratitude for all they do for you at the hospital!)

WHAT I PACKED IN MY BABY'S BAG:

  • Hat
  • Mittens
  • Going home outfit
  • Beautiful swaddle set for first photos at the hospital (Absolutely love Milkmaid Goods.)

WHAT MY HUSBAND PACKED:

  • PJs
  • Shirts
  • Jeans
  • Toothbrush
  • Deodorant
  • Book (Randall Munroe's "What if?" kept our minds off of the waiting.)
  • Magazine (Car magazines are Afroz's favorite.)
  • Headphones

I hope this helps any future moms out there! For the experienced moms, what's something you packed that you think was a must-have at the hospital?

Amira's Nursery Nook

It seems like not too long ago Afroz and I were living in the city, preparing to move to the suburbs after he got a new job. It was a fresh new start for Afroz and a continuation of my work with INKMADE from my new home studio. We found a decently priced apartment in a wonderful neighborhood close to Afroz's job and were excited, but sad to leave our old apartment near downtown Chicago. Just before we started packing our boxes to move out, I found out I was pregnant. We were ecstatic and our mindset now shifted from thinking of just moving to a new place to thinking about the home our baby girl was going to live and play in for the first time.

It just so happened that our new apartment had a huge master bedroom. We realized it was perfect for the baby, since there was enough space for a crib and changing table. I knew I wanted to keep her in the room with us. It would be easier to keep an eye on her and feed her at night. I didn't really think of a specific theme for her nursery nook. I just imagined something simple that blended into our existing master bedroom furniture, but also had a playful touch of color. 

After measuring the area next to our bed, we realized we had exactly enough room for a crib, changing table, and a Diaper Genie to sit right next to each other. All of the furniture came from IKEA. It's simple, affordable, and we love it!

I keep most of Amira's everyday clothes, blankets, bibs, washcloths, toys, etc. right under the changing table. All of her dresses and nicer outfits are hanging in a closet. I also have her diapers, wipes, lotion, baby oil, and creams on and under the table, easy to reach whenever we need it. We also put up two shelves above the table to hold some boxes of some of her shoes, socks, headbands, and books. I also put up a guestbook map that my friends and family signed during my baby shower. It's nice to read their thoughtful words as I'm grabbing a book to read to Amira.

One of my favorite things in Amira's nursery nook is her mobile. One of my friends gifted it from my registry and I'm so glad I added it on there! She absolutely loves looking at the little hot air balloons move and listens attentively when the song plays.

I put some more baby shower goodies on the shelf, as well as some props from a maternity photo shoot we had a while back. I honestly didn't plan exactly what I was going to put on the shelves, but it all came together pretty well. The storage space is useful and there's also room for a few cute props for decor.

Afroz and I are big on making the most of small spaces. We love living in an apartment that has just enough space to be comfortable and not crowded. I'm sure in the future we'll eventually move to a bigger space as our family grows inshaAllah, but for now, we enjoy our cozy apartment and love Amira's little nook in our master bedroom.

SOURCES

Crib: IKEA SUNDVIK
Crib Bedding: Babies R Us
Mobile: Target
Changing Table: IKEA GULLIVER
Changing Table Baskets: IKEA BULLIG
Shelves: IKEA LACK Wall Shelf
Shelf Storage Bins: IKEA KUGGIS
Frames: IKEA RIBBA
Art Prints: Rifle Paper Co.