Welcome to the third edition of breastfeeding stories from our readers. These memories are shared by breastfeeding moms, who like myself wish to spread the word to new moms that breastfeeding can have its challenges, but it is worth practicing, seeking help, asking for support and looking for answers.
We all know the benefits of breastfeeding, but we do not instinctively know how to successfully breastfeed. We need help, advice, support and guidance – even if it is our second, third or fourth baby.
Please let us know if you have a breastfeeding story you would like to share – we will link back to your blog, if you are a blogger. This series will be featured every Monday until we run out of stories!
I have two older heart healthygirls that I nursed until 2 1/2 and 3. The first was so difficult to nurse!!! She’d scream until letdown, then scream until it was time to nurse again. We ditched schedules, we ditched pacifiers, we ditched bottles. They all made her scream! Until we hit six weeks. It was like a switch, all of a sudden she could latch on with ease, she got the hang of working for the milk, it all became second nature overnight!
Then comes little miss #2. I’d nursed her big sister until 5 months pregnant so I was feeling pretty much in the nursing grove. This one had no problems. Easy latch, nursed right away, peaceful bliss. Until about week three when my milk came in so much she started choking in it. She had to latch on wrong to stop the downpour, so I started getting really sore, then bleeding and torn up. I had to go back to our beloved Lactation Consultant in tears because I thought I had this nursing stuff down pat. A few weeks later, after nursing laying on my back and re-teaching my 4 week old how to curve her tongue while nursing, we were back on track!
Then, 7 years later, we got pregnant again. This baby girl was not diagnosed in utero, so we had a blissfully ignorant pregnancy. I had my water birth, nursed her several times in the delivery room. All was perfect… Then all hell broke loose. She was transferred to our children’s hospital at 5 hours old, I was discharged right away and followed her.
There was no nursing her once we got there as she was NPO (medical term for “withhold all oral food and fluids”) until we knew the plan for her. In fact, she stayed NPO for five days. Five days of pumping every two hours round the clock. Five days of watching my newborn cry for the comfort of my breast. Five days of being told over and over that heart babies don’t nurse. Then her surgery came, and we were in the mess of recovery, being told over and over we’d be there for 4-6 weeks so she could learn to eat again. Then the chest tube came out and it was time to try.
She passed her sucking exam by the speech department so we tried some pumped milk on a paci. She LOVED it! They wanted a bottle to measure how much she was getting, but I insisted that we try nursing first. Our nurse very insistently explained that I’d long termed nursed two other kids before and that I knew how to do it right. Docs agreed, very reluctantly, to give me two days. If she wasn’t gaining, we’d supplement. I had the Lactation Consultant in there pretty much 24/7. It was hard nursing a newborn again after so many years, plus the added stress of a post op newborn. We struggled with positions that wouldn’t hurt her, we struggled with my letdown under so much stress, we struggled with latching on.
The docs were not comfortable with my on demand nursing, I had to record how often and for how long she nursed at each side. There was little delineation between nursing sessions! But, she was gaining, a little. Finally on day two, the Lactation Consultant reached into her pocket and said ‘this is my last trick, if it doesn’t work I’m not sure what we’ll do’. The dreaded nipple shield was a life saver. She latched right on and nursed so much she threw up! But then she got the hang of it. The docs were amazed by her growth with no supplementing. At discharge, just 5 days post op, the Lactation Consultant came in and said she had our growth chart taped on her office wall for other heart moms to see that, with perseverance and on demand nursing, heart babies CAN thrive. Then we all cried!
I am very aware how lucky we were. I know now that perseverance wasn’t the only reason we are still nursing at 22 months. But I do hope that the docs changed their attitude a little about routinely telling heart moms that nursing is not possible/advisable.