Long before I became pregnant I had decided to breastfeed. As an undergraduate and later graduate student in preventive health, I had read many studies on the benefits of breastfeeding. What I did not understand at that time is that it is not always as easy as it seems.
My pregnancy was thankfully uneventful. As my due date approached, I read a few articles about latching on, positioning, etc. but didn’t do much else. I didn’t buy any nursing bras, buy any special pillows, nursing shields, etc. I didn’t think it was all that complicated. Anyway, my due date came and went. Ten days after my due date, we were so anxious that my husband and I asked for an induction. After 12 hours of labor with pitocin induction, my beautiful, healthy 8 lbs. 7 oz baby boy was born. As a first time mom, and after being so involved in labor, I was shocked at this small pink thing laying on my stomach. So that is what the thing was about! We were in a birthing suite so he was weighed, and checked out right there in the room. When he was laid on the warmer, he became so quiet, I was afraid something was wrong. But the nurse assured me that he was just content.
Within an hour of my son’s birth, I put him to my breast. He opened his mouth took the nipple and then just laid there staring at me. It was such a wonderful moment to snuggle my beautiful son close. My milk had not come in but he would put his mouth around the breast as if he knew it would not be long. The nurse asked if I wanted the baby to room in with me or stay in the nursery during the night. The exhaustion I felt clouded my idea of what that meant. I wanted the baby in the nursery so I could get some sleep. But two hours into my trans-like sleep, I was awakened by a nurse holding a crying baby up to me. Oh yes – breastfeeding will be an around the clock activity – I had forgotten. Numerous times during my 24 hour stay the nurses (some of whom are lactation specialists) would come running down the hall at the sound of a screaming baby – my baby. He was hungry, and I was trying. Thankfully the nurses helped me try different positions, the football hold, laying down, and finally I found a position that worked for both of us in the cramped, small birthing bed.
When we got home, we were surrounded by loving family, none of whom had breastfed. When our son became hungry, my husband and I would lay on our bed while I attempted to nurse. My husband would put drops of formula on my breast to get our son interested. My husband was as committed as I was to make it work; he was wonderful. Once or twice I would hear my mother say, “The child is starving, just give him this formula the hospital gave you!” But being the stubborn person I am, I was going to breastfeed my child!
Two days after discharge, we went for our first pediatrician visit, and our son had only lost 4 ounces! By his two week visit, he had surpassed his birth weight and was up to 9 lbs. 3 oz.! I felt confident and knew at that moment that it would work.
Today Jakob is 9 months old, weighs a hefty 23 lbs. 2 oz. and continues to enjoy breastfeeding.
To make breastfeeding successful, you need to have support from your healthcare providers in the hospital and out, as well as from those who will be with you when you get home. Our hospital has a home visitation program for new moms where a lactation specialist will come to your home to help. She was instrumental in answering any questions I had and assuring me that I was doing the best thing for my son.