How has breastfeeding helped me as a mother? It has helped me to never give up.
Every mom knows that there are two versions of her, who she is now and who she was before children. In my case, early breastfeeding was not easy. I had had a very difficult last trimester and a planned cesarean birth(my son was breech). Not an easy start to motherhood. Then, after nursing for three days in the hospital, I went home with my baby. He had jaundice and a bili-blanket. We had a visiting nurse who came the first day we were home and said all was well…
The next day (our second day home) we had another visiting nurse who did not trust breastfeeding. She informed us that our son was dehydrated to the point of almost needing the hospital and that I would have to pump out 4 ounces every two hours to give him by bottle. We compromised on giving it to him by syringe. However, she gave us a very small syringe. We had to give him about 75 syringes full per feeding. It was ridiculous! Of course, my milk was in but I couldn’t pump out that amount (4 ounces every two hours). It was the weekend and my son’s doctor was on vacation (naturally)! I was frantic!
We had to supplement with formula. I simply couldn’t reach anyone who could tell me that I didn’t need to supplement with formula. (My LLL Leader couldn’t diagnose and neither could my doula — it isn’t in their scope.) So I basted my baby with my milk and formula all day and night long.
The next day, my son had passed all his meconium poop, which was good. But he would no longer latch on to my breast. The first visiting nurse (the first nice one who believed in breastfeeding) came back that day. I was so angry I refused to see her. She weighed Simon and he had gained 7 ounces in one day! We obviously over-fed him. However, he was not dehydrated in any sense. She was satisfied when she left.
But that second nurse who I have tried to forgive many times, had left me with a severe problem. Simon would not latch on to my breast to nurse. He rejected me in favor of the syringe. He had imprinted on it as an easier source of food.
Next came the 8 week-long struggle. I went to lactation consultants who helped us. I tried every piece of nursing assistance such as nipple shields, nipple shells, the breast pump, the supplementer, and so on. I had a three-step feeding system. I would try to get him onto my breast, then I would give him the supplement of formula plus my pumped breastmilk and then I would pump for next time. During this I was also recovering from my cesarean birth. Each feeding led into the next feeding. Days led into night and that led into days…
It was more difficult than it sounds. By far! I wanted to give up so many times. But I knew that as a doula, I would never be able to help mothers succeed with breastfeeding if I gave up. I also really wanted to succeed for myself and Simon too!
We got advice for me to take Simon into bed for three days and do nothing but nurse. His doctor had told me this would be OK and he had gained enough to miss a few feeds. He was just turning 8 weeks old. I knew I couldn’t pump forever. So I did it. I envisioned endless crying while he rejected by breast over and over again.
The first time I placed him on my breast, he cried and cried until he fell asleep. I fell asleep too, thinking this was the beginning of the longest three days of my life. When he woke up again, hungry, I tried to latch him on. This time he said to himself, “Breastfeeding? Of course I know how to do that!” and he latched right on and nursed. I was so overwhelmed! Even though I was hunched over and in the wrong position, I refused to move an inch. He nursed!
I thought, well that was once. But from then on, he nursed and it was his very favorite thing in the world. I spent those days in bed because he nursed almost continually (except for my bathroom breaks) the whole time.
And that was the start. He nursed for about three and a half years, give or take. By that time I was so proud of what we had accomplished. Nursing became easy, not a constant struggle with baby and equipment. Those eight weeks seemed long at the time, but were short in the context of our whole nursing relationship. And as for breastfeeding and mothering? It taught me never to give up on something that really matters. Never Give Up!