My breastfeeding journey started nearly six years ago. I look at that number in shock! I remember my first pregnancy like it was yesterday. I knew even before I was carrying him that I wanted to breastfeed. I read books, searched online and thought it would come naturally. I imagined holding my baby to my breast like I saw in photos. I had a birth plan and couldn’t wait for my little one to arrive. I saw his kicks and felt movement and knew the love of my life was growing inside of me.
I remember sitting in my OB’s office that day. At every appointment I stressed my desire to have a natural delivery, c-section free. That day he scared me. He said, “your baby is getting too big and you need to come back for an induction tonight.” I should have questioned him more, but I didn’t. That night, my husband and I nervously headed to the hospital. That was the start of an unpleasant induction with a baloon catheter, water breaking when it was my turn, epidural when it was my turn and 5 hours of coached pushing by a nurse when I hit 10 cm. Tears streamed down my face as I was wheeled into a c-section.
I didn’t see my baby for what seemed like forever. I sat alone, in a cold and eerily quiet recovery room. I watched my nurse doing paperwork in my chart. My baby was brought in dressed like a burrito with just his face sticking out and handed to me. I looked into his little face and he was sleeping. After a few minutes the nursery nurse said “it’s time for him to go back” and took him. I wondered when breastfeeding would start. Tired from anesthesia I slept. I awoke to a crying baby coming in through the door. “He’s hungry” the nurse said. I awkwardly placed him to my breast. Was I doing it right? I didn’t realize that baby would be floppy and need some support on his body and head to latch. I looked at my husband and said “I need a third hand!” After a few tries we got it!
Luckily, he was a champion nurser. He loved to nurse and I was thankful something was going right. After two days I received a visit from the pediatrician. She looked serious. “His biliruben is high and he needs to be under the lights. I’ve ordered him formula to help flush it out of his system.” I sat tired, in terrible pain, wounded and in shock with no advocate. I was alone in an uncomfortable and cold hospital room without my baby. I tried to walk spider-man style, holding onto the hospital wall, to the nursery to see him. He was laying in an incubator wearing a mask under UV lights. I couldn’t hold him. I cried as I hobbled back to my room. This went on for days.
I looked forward to my baby returning every two hours. When he arrived, he had a sun tan and was placed in my arms to breastfeed. “Do fifteen minutes on the right and then fifteen minutes on the left.” I watched the clock and switched my baby as the nurse instructed. I didn’t know that timed nursing and switching was bad practice. The nurse returned and questioned me about how long he nursed and on which side and wrote on a clip board. Then, she whisked him off again. I sat alone and waited. I was never offered a pump or told that I could give breast milk instead of the formula the doctor ordered. I was short on knowledge and advocacy.
Soon, I developed nipple pain. I tried to slather on the lanolin nipple cream they gave me and didn’t even know that natural nipple butter existed. I noticed cracking and even bleeding. Suddenly latching became very painful. I made a fist and bit it so hard that I made teeth marks. I did this every time he nursed and repeatedly asked to see the lactation consultant. When she finally arrived she stuck her head in through the doorway and said “Looks good to me” and left. I thought I must be doing something wrong. I thought I had failed completely.
I couldn’t wait to get home and rest in my own bed. The hospital mattress was very uncomfortable, I kept sliding down and it was digging into my rear end. In addition, the nurses checking on me 24 hours a day was exhausting. A different face would come in every so often and press very hard on my incision. “I’m sorry but I have to do this” one said. I stood in the shower and bawled. I tried to shower and change into my nursing bra and clothes. I walked out of the bathroom, still dripping blood to a room full of well meaning visitors. I thought, “why would anyone be visiting me now?!” I dripped blood all the way to my bed and got some help putting my legs back in.
When I arrived home I called the only person I knew who breastfed, my sister-in-law. “Keep putting him to your breast and you’ll make milk” she said. I looked at the formula the hospital gave me, with zero instructions, and cried. This was my worst nightmare. I had failed as a Mom. I failed at delivery, I was failing at breastfeeding and I was tired and in pain. My Mom offered to give the baby “a few bottles” so I could rest. I couldn’t do it. “You were formula fed and you turned out well” she said. So, I nursed constantly and I tried to fill out the timing sheet the hospital gave me. I was parked in bed. Seventeen minutes right side, eighteen minutes left side? Impossible. My son nursed constantly and I thought I was starving him. I thought I was starving my baby instead of buckling and giving formula.
I searched the internet and found my local La Leche League. I left a message on a stranger’s answering machine and was so happy to receive a phone call. I explained how my baby nursed nonstop and my latch trouble. “It should look like fish lips when he nurses.” This made sense to me and she calmed my fears about the constant breastfeeding. “Your baby’s stomach is tiny and breast milk digests fast, just keep nursing.” I was relieved and as soon as I could I got to a meeting. I was educated on nipple confusion and the realities of breastfeeding. This was my start down the right path of breastfeeding. It was the beginning of a nearly 6 year long nursing “success” including breastfeeding in public, breastfeeding a sick baby and breastfeeding through pregnancy 3 times.
When baby number two was due I had a different OB. When I told her I was nursing through my pregnancy she simply said “Wow, good for you.” I followed her instructions and I waited to go into labor, I stayed home as long as I could and when it was time to go to the hospital I had a wonderful nurse sitting bedside who kept repeating. “We’re going to be patient, we’re not going to push until you can’t stand the pressure and need to push.” That day my son was born via VBAC. I talked to God out loud my whole delivery. “Please let him come out God, please let him come out.” My second 9lb baby was born and this OB would deliver two more 9lb babies of mine. He had a sign on his bassinet that read “No binky No bottle, I’m a breastfed baby!”
Each time I went to the hospital I took new knowledge with me. I corrected nurses with bad breastfeeding advice and started cosleeping right away. Laying on my side, nursing my newborn baby we both rested and he nursed nonstop like I knew he would. Why didn’t someone tell me these things ahead of time? I try to spread the word, so to speak. I tell friends, family and you! Newborn babies nurse constantly, get a hulu subscription some good books and arrange to have help with chores. The house may become disorganized, learn to cosleep safely and get a good baby carrier!! Before you know it baby will be crawling and eating bananas.
My story is just one example of why advocacy and education are so important. I’m thrilled to host this giveaway for MILK Infant feeding conference. MILK is a gathering from the creators of MommyCon. This year it’s November 11-12 in Orange County California at the Hilton Orange County. Living in Pennsylvania I imagine this side of the world is sunny (see cartoon sun below)! This conference is for parents, parenting professionals and educators. There is an amazing list of sponsors and companies -plus- impressive speakers.
I’m thrilled to share my story and give one lucky reader the chance to win this prize pack including two passes, a Fairhaven health kit including Breast Milk Trays, the Best Breast Pads Ever, Organic Nipple Nutrure balm (lanolin free), and this amazing sunny Hybrid Fitted diaper from Purple Unicorn Shop. Enter to win this prize pack below valued over $300 and thanks for stopping by.
Enter the giveaway below and remember that you can use my coupon code STJEL16 for tickets for MommyCon 2016 events including MILK Infant Feeding Conference and get ready for MommyCon 2017 where my coupon code is MAMABANANA17.