Monday, June 14, 2010

"The Support That Got Me Through"

When I gave birth to my daughter, it was a scheduled C-section. The doctors were concerned because she was measuring large. So at 39 weeks, I delivered my beautiful, 9lb, 4 oz baby girl. I spend about 2 hours in recovery and then was greeted with a handful of visitors upon my return to my room. I was also pretty loopy from the drugs they gave me.

A few hours later, I was clearheaded enough to breastfeed her for the first time. From the beginning, she had trouble latching. We tried...and tried...and tried. We tried it with a nipple shield, we tried without. She was starting to loose weight and ended up loosing more than 10% of her bodyweight, which sent red alerts to the nurses. Luckily, my pediatrician let me go home with her with a rented breast pump.

The day I got home was also the day my milk came in, and did it ever!!! So here I am with two boulders on my chest (sooo painful) and a baby who will not latch on to drain them! I would try to breastfeed her for about 15 minutes. She would either scream her head off or fall asleep. After 15 minutes of trying, I would then pump and give her whatever came out. I was getting a few ounces so I would give it to her in a bottle. By the time I did this all, it took about 45 minutes. When you feed her every two hours, you can imagine how draining it was. This went on for about 3 or 4 days.

Then it got worse. The stress of being home, this demanding feeding schedule and lack of sleep make it hard for my milk to let down. I would pump and pump and get maybe an ounce! So feeding became fight with her on the breast, pump what I could, feed her what I pumped and then feed her formula to make up the difference. Feeding now was taking about an hour! To top it off, since her latch was so poor, my nipples completely scabbed over. The pain would bring me to tears every time she nursed.

Everyone told me to give up. They thought I was crazy to keep this up but I was determined! I knew how important it was for her to benefit from breast milk. I consulted with an LC. I talked to anyone I knew who had breastfed babies for advice, encouragement and support. The LCs from the hospital I delivered at called me at home to check up on my progress. The best support I got was from my pediatrician, who was also an LC. She sat with me on more than one occasion and watched me nurse. She was the one who finally got her to latch and in her office is where I fed her for the first time without pumping and without her crying afterwards because she wasn't satisfied.

Each day is got better and better. She got better at latching and the scabs slowly began to heal. It was a month before my nipples could touch anything without being sore but nursing became more comfortable. She started to gain weight steadily after that first week and a half and had never stopped. Soon I felt comfortable not pumping after feeding her, but trusting that she was drinking enough on her own.

She is now 5 months and I never thought I would say this, but breastfeeding her has been such a rewarding experience! Now feeding her takes 10 minutes! She nurses until she is full, pops off and looks up at me with the most satisfied grin. I take such joy in seeing her grow knowing that I am supplying her with the best food I could possibly give her.

I am returning to work in a few weeks and I've decided to continue to nurse her and pump throughout the day. I don't think either of us are ready to give up nursing. I never thought I would be able to say that!

I look back on that first month and I can honestly that it was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I also am so proud of myself for sticking it out. I truly felt like a mother...sacrificing so much for her. I know if I had given up I would have regretted it always.

I now and will always make it a goal to lend support to any new mother who needs help getting started with breastfeeding. I think as nursing mothers we need to be there to support new mothers. I don't know that I could have stuck it out without all of the encouragement I got. I am sure there are many mothers out there who were pressured to give up if they found it difficult in the beginning and probably have regretted it like I would have. I would love to help someone else know the joy I have experience nursing my baby. It is truly one of life's precious gifts.

Kelly -29, Mom to Baby Girl, 5 months

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