I knew I would breastfeed long before I knew I was pregnant. A good friend had nursed her three children and still nurses her two year old. Seeing how healthy her children were, how convenient it was, and how special nursing time was for both mother and child, I couldn’t see why anyone would not want to breastfeed. Plus it’s free!!
Finally, at age 31 and after 10 years of marriage, I was pregnant. I worked only part time, and spent a lot of time on the net reading about pregnancy and breastfeeding. So I considered myself well-educated about things like latch-on and nipple confusion. I also found a pediatrician who was very supportive of nursing and of stay-at-home moms, which I plan to be as long as we can afford it! Nothing could have prepared me for the difficulties that lay ahead.
Eight days before I was scheduled for a “planned” c-section, I went into labor. At 9:48 that morning, Gregory Jr. was born. All seemed well in the OR. I saw him weighed and measured and foot-printed. His APGARs were 8 and 9. I went off to recovery, and Daddy and baby went off to the nursery.
After a couple of hours, I was brought to my room and anxiously awaited my son being brought to me so I could nurse him. My husband came to my room and told me that the baby was having trouble breathing and had an abnormal blood count, so an IV had been started and tests were being run. The baby was expected to go to NICU, but his breathing became normal after a few hours, so he was sent to the well baby nursery where he was given antibiotics for a suspected blood infection and his breathing was monitored for a few more hours. In that time, he was given one bottle of formula and one bottle of sugar water. I was very upset by this since everything I had read said not to let your baby be given a bottle or pacifier or they may have nipple confusion. At 8 pm, he was brought to me (and allowed to stay with me) and he nursed well.
The next day, however, my nipples seemed to collapse whenever he tried to latch-on. My nurse came in and found me crying while trying to nurse my baby. She called in a lactation consultant who was an angel! I was given breast shields to draw the nipple out, and she worked with me and my baby to teach both of us what we needed to do. But my son didn’t seem to want to work that hard for his meal, so we ended up pumping (almost an ounce) and feeding the baby with a very small tube taped to my pinky for the baby to suck on. With my pinky, I would teach the baby how to suck properly. Once seemed to do the trick. By that evening, he was latching on well, and nursing for nearly 10 minutes per side every 2-3 hours.
On the 4th day, we were being sent home. Before we left, a nurse from the nursery told us that he had newborn jaundice that required some monitoring. We were to return to the lab the next day to be sure it was not getting worse. My husband brought our son back the next day for the blood test. That afternoon, the pediatrician called us and said that it had gotten much worse and that a home health nurse would come out to hook him up to a bilirubin light to treat it. Each day a nurse would come out to take blood and weigh the baby until his blood counts were normal. This was expected to take two or three days. My most important job was to be sure that I fed the baby every two hours so he would remain well hydrated and gain weight.
What I wasn’t told was that the jaundice would cause the baby to be very sleepy and to lose his appetite. The two hour schedule became a nightmare because it often took up to 1.5 hours to get him awake and have him nurse for a 10-15 minute period (our goal). He was also not gaining weight and even lost two ounces one day. The pediatrician wanted me to offer the baby one ounce of formula after each feeding, suspecting that I didn’t have enough milk. But I knew that was not the case. We did end up having to pump and let him have a bottle of breast milk since it was easier for him, and it allowed us all to get some rest.
After a week, his bilirubin level had come down enough to be taken off the light treatment, as long as I took him outside for some sun every day. I was so glad to be able to take my baby outside! But I was very afraid that since most of his feeding had been by bottle, he would not return to breast. His appetite and alertness improved very quickly, and he went to breast very well. I was very relieved.
At his two week check up, he was still below his birth weight. The doctor questioned me about my milk supply. I assured him it was plentiful. I was having to pump excess milk between feedings, and my breasts leaked quite a bit. So we were told to return in one week to check his weight, and that if it hadn’t increased enough, I’d have to supplement with formula. I felt like all of our hard work was just destined to fail.
I refused to give up. I reread the information I had been reading during pregnancy, which included a lot of stories of other women’s troubles and how they dealt with them. I got a lot of support from this site. And I must acknowledge my wonderful husband’s unending support as well. He would operate the manual pump and tried to keep me in good spirits. He would encourage me constantly, and together we would praise and encourage our son as he nursed. He would remind me to relax, and when I would relax, the milk would flow and our son would nurse very well. And when we returned at three weeks to check his weight, he had gained an entire pound!
My son is now 5 weeks old and is growing before my very eyes. He eats very well, and we both enjoy our nursing time. He eats every 2.5 to 3 hours, 3-4 hours at night. If there is a point to this story, it is that any hurdle can be overcome if you are determined to breastfeed your child. Even if baby can’t or won’t nurse, he can be fed breast milk in a bottle. I am not special in any way. If I can do this, anyone can. And it is so worth the effort. Now, it is very easy. Little Greg knows exactly what he is doing. And I don’t have to deal with bottles or buy formula or listen to him scream for a few minutes while I fix a bottle. I just bring him to my breast, and he does the rest! I had planned to nurse him for a year, but now I’m sure we’ll nurse until he doesn’t want to anymore!