Friday, February 24, 2012

The decision to breastfeed, a natural but not always so easy choice.

When I first became a mom the decision to breastfeed was an easy choice. My mom had breastfed both my sister and me as infants and it was kind of like the decision that I had made about college. My parents went to college so naturally I would go to college. I grew up thinking that breastfeeding was just what every mom did. As new parents, trying to be as prepared as we could be, we took a breastfeeding class that our hospital
gave. From the class it looked easy enough and I thought that my unborn son would just magically latch on and stay there with no problems.

If any of you have gone down the breastfeeding road before you might be chuckling to yourself right now. Needless to say, I was definitely in for a big surprise when my son, Buggie, was born. From the get go he could not figure out how what he was doing on there. While we were in the hospital I required help from the nurses at every feeding. They did the syringe with sugared water again my nipple while I desperately tried to help him figure out what to do. It was beyond frustrating and I felt like a complete failure. My right nipple would not come out from his sucking at all and because of that he just couldn’t latch on that side at all. I dreaded the end of every two hours because I knew that it meant I’d have to feed him. I held onto hope that maybe after a day it would get easier. It didn’t.

The days dragged on. Each feeding was the same; a battle trying to figure out what I was doing wrong that this wasn’t working. I wanted to give up. I had to give up; this wasn’t working and the natural thing was to give up. My husband wouldn’t let me. In our marriage I’m the peaks and valleys person and he’s the steady as a rock person. I needed someone like him in my life to make me realize that it had only been a few days.
If anything, he said, we’d go to a lactation consultant before throwing in the towel.

During all of this a home health nurse had come to visit our house to see how things were going. The night before her visit was our worst night ever. Buggie had discovered that he was hungry and my milk had yet to come in. It was the first time my husband and I looked at each other during the two hour screaming jag with expressions that said, “Why on earth did we do this?” I showed the nurse my nipple problem, which I thought was the root of this horrible evil happening between me and my breastfeeding struggles. She told me to try a nipple shield so that Buggie would have something hard to suck on.

I went out and bought a nipple shield and then Googled it after I had used it for a few days. The stories I found were so discouraging. I felt like an even bigger failure because I needed to use this. Why would my body not work the way it was supposed to? It was made to feed my child so why wouldn’t it work!? I read things about the nipple shield like it decreased your milk supply and your baby would be worse off by using it. No wonder I felt so terrible. I really thought that I was doing a terrible thing to my son by having to use it. He wouldn’t latch on without it though.

So we made the appointment after three weeks to see a lactation consultant. She was wonderful; caring, compassionate, sympathetic, and non-judgmental. I sat in the room nursing my son with the nipple shield on sobbing over what a horrible mother I thought I was. She looked me in the eyes and told me that it wasn’t my fault at all. She said my son was a disorganized eater – he couldn’t figure out the rhythm of sucking, swallowing and breathing. She also informed me that the nipple shield was not a bad thing. It was helping me to be able to feed my son. The most important thing was that he was still getting my milk. She also informed me that many of the studies that had been done on nipple shields were outdated.

I left her office feeling encouraged and like I could do this breastfeeding thing. She gave me a plan to continue using the nipple shield on both sides and showed me how to make sure that he was productively sucking. When I felt comfortable I could remove it and try letting him nurse on his own without it. I tried it after a few weeks from seeing her and his latch was all off kilter. From then on I used the shield until one day, while out and about, he became hungry. I wasn’t planning on him being hungry and I didn’t have my shield. So there I was fearful that he wouldn’t be able to eat and so not ready to experience that melt down that would inevitably happen. Boy was I wrong. At 12 weeks, Buggie and I were able to breastfeed just the two of us without any training wheels. I nursed him up until his first birthday and it was such a blessing in my life.

I hope if you’ve been struggling with breastfeeding that you’ll find some hope in my story. Stick with it even if it’s hard. And seek help if you are struggling. Lactation consultants are gifts to nursing mothers everywhere. They’re angels for the work they do and the love they extent doing it.

Elizabeth (aka Bert) Anderson married her college sweetheart in 2005, and started her journey into motherhood in 2008 with the birth of her son.  She started blogging in 2009 as a way to keep track of her thoughts on being a first time mom, especially her struggle with postpartum depression, and as a way of reaching out to other moms who are struggling with the same things.  This June, Bert had another first in her motherhood travels - a little girl!  Even though she's newly a mother of two, Bert maintains that no matter how many children you have you will always be a "first time mom" because there's a first time for everything!  Visit her blog, at FTM. Bert is a contributor for She Thinks Media.


Mickie said...

I needed this today. Feeding my little girl has been frustrating and especially bothering me today. I used lactation consultants with both of my children and they are indeed a gift!

myricksl6 said...

I nursed my son for almost 2 years. The first couple months were a nightmare, BECAUSE no one had told me about shields! I just gave birth to my daughter on the 22nd and again was going through the nightmare of latching issues with my nipples. One of the nurses had given me a shield instead of a plastic guard so I was frustrated and discouraged because of a bunch of the communication issues I had been having with the staff. But I digress! So after a visit from the in home nurse Hubby suggested I should try it and see what happens... It has completely changed my nursing experience!!!! I'm not trying not to scream in pain when my baby latches on, she's not continuously latching and unlatching because she can't get enough nipple, and best yet my nipples are healing!!!! This shield has been a blessing beyond my dreams and I look forward to every nursing session now! I just wish I had known about it 5 years ago with my son!

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