**Each Friday, starting Nov 7 and for the next 7 weeks, we will be posting a new blog post about breastfeeding and several different journeys our team has experienced.**
I’m the kind of person who researches everything. Research makes me more comfortable. So, when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter the research began. I was determined to breastfeed since ‘Breast is Best’! It seemed like a no brainer with one exception: I had never in my life seen someone breastfeed. My brother and I were formula fed, as were any babies I had ever been around or babysat. This was uncharted territory but I am hard-headed and stubborn so I was determined to figure it out.
A week before my daughter was born, the big tornado hit Moore and I made the choice to donate all the formula I had been given as free samples – I had received six cans in the mail and it seemed like that might get a family through until they could gather money to replace what they had lost. Also, it was removing my last possible crutch – sure I could buy more – but there was none in the house to easily fall back on.
When the nurse laid my daughter in my arms for the first time I remember thinking, “Okay, I read to try to get her to latch immediately!” But as I tried I remember the nurses telling me it wasn’t necessary and that babies don’t latch that quickly. I wish I knew then what I knew now, so I could have called for a Lactation Consultant and kept trying. I tried for 24 hours as nurses and the pediatrician reassured me that this was normal. Finally, once she latched, it seemed so awkward and not quite right. I couldn’t tell if she was getting any milk but once again everyone assured me she was fine.
A few days later, not long after leaving the hospital, we went to dinner with my husband’s parents. I was still struggling to get her to nurse as often as recommended but she seemed content and slept most of the time.
Suddenly things changed- she started crying on our way home and didn’t stop for 8 hours and would not nurse. Finally we went into the hospital only to find she was jaundiced and would need light treatment. The ER doctor said it was because she wasn’t getting enough milk. You’ve never felt so guilty as the moment that someone tells you that you aren’t feeding your child enough to keep them well.
Once we returned home, a BiliBed was delivered for her light treatments and I charged the Medela Freestyle electric pump I had bought and it became my new best (breast?) friend.
My husband returned to Afghanistan and I pumped exclusively for the next several months with occasional thoughts of trying to get her to latch crossing my mind. It would be so much easier to not carry a bag of pumping supplies, frozen milk, and ice packs along with the diaper bag everywhere I went. However, any attempts were just frustrating. I was beginning to feel very down about the whole thing – as if I had somehow failed. No one else made me feel that way, it was just the fact that I wasn’t reaching the goal I had set for myself. What I had pictured in my head was now replaced with bottles, pumps, flanges and tubing. We went in for her two month check-up and the nurse asked, “Are you breastfeeding or formula feeding?”
“Well,” I fidgeted awkwardly, “I’m pumping.”
She laughed and looked me right in the eye and said, “So you’re breastfeeding. It’s the same thing.”
I can’t express how relieved I felt. It was the same thing – why hadn’t I realized that?
One day I received a package from Operation Shower – a charity that sends a Baby Shower in a box to wives that have spouses deployed while they are pregnant. Inside was a small package called a “Nipple Shield.” I had never heard of such a thing so I immediately looked it up. That little piece of plastic became the answer to my prayers. Not long after, I was able to get her to latch – just in time for The Big Latch On actually – and throughout the following months she learned to latch without the shield and eventually we could go days without using any pumped milk. I continued to pump though and donated to a few other moms who were having a hard time, as well as storing some for ourselves.
Through this entire journey, I did find out my daughter was lip tied and tongue tied, causing her to be unable to latch correctly without help. I learned to accept that it wasn’t my fault.
When I got pregnant again, my milk quickly dried up so we used the freezer milk – helping us reach our goal of one year of breastfeeding. Our journey was anything but conventional, and I have learned so much along the way. I find myself now just days away from having Baby #2 and I hope and pray each day that we have an easier breastfeeding relationship this time. I have met a Le Leche League leader and Lactation Consultants who will be there to help me if he is tongue tied and lip tied like his sister. I have learned to ask for help this time. However, I will have my pump and nipple shield on standby – just in case.