I didn’t anticipate loving breastfeeding. While pregnant I knew I was going to do it, but I felt emotionally neutral about it. Attending a breastfeeding class at the hospital was informative and helpful, but nothing really prepared me for the heartache and triumph that has been nursing Baby Lamb.
For those of you who don’t know my birth story, I initially did not want a medicated childbirth because I had read all about how the medication could potentially interfere with breastfeeding success. Enter polyhydramnios, cue the pitocin and epidural. I’m ok with it. I got a healthy baby out of it. Thankfully, I had a really awesome experience at Tripler Army Medical Center’s Labor & Delivery Unit. The doctor who played catch immediately put Liam on my chest and my awesome L&D nurse was quick to yank little bug’s hands out of his mouth and make sure he was in a good position to find my breast. The lactation consultant, such a saint, she visited within hours of Liams’ birth to make sure he was latching and then again before we were discharged. In addition she taught me how to hand-express colostrum and syringe/finger-feed him if he needed a little jump start.
So when I left the hospital with my 2 day old baby, I felt fairly confident. Tired & sore, but confident.
And then I was back 2 days later in the LC’s office nearly in tears. Liam had ‘failed’ his weigh-in at the first & second well-baby checkup. Feedings were short and it didn’t seem like he was actually latching. He had lost nearly 15% of his birth weight. They were discussing things like admitting him, pumping and storing breastmilk until he had ‘caught’ up by drinking formula, discontinuing breastfeeding altogether…. Not what I had planned. At all. I was engorged, exhausted, in pain, and crazy-emotional. I wanted to know that my Baby Lamb was going to be ok and that I could do a good job. I hadn’t wanted to go to the LC because I was so tired and had run out of ibuprofen but my husband insisted. What good man, he knows my heart so completely and knew that I would regret not going.
The LC who is still obviously my hero gently assessed the situation. She literally guided my hands and taught me how to get a better latch for Liam’s “unique pistoning-action” when he suckled. She told me to pump for 20 minutes after each feeding and to use that milk to supplement rather than rely on formula. Basically that woman saved us a lot of money and heartache. The sound of my newborn son gulping and swallowing is still a very emotional one in my memory.
I don’t remember a whole lot of Liam’s first month… Mostly because I adhered to a strict regimen of only staying awake long enough to feed Liam, pump, eat, and go back to sleep. It did take a long time before I could get Liam to latch without a lot of coaxing and assistance. I bought the book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche International and have now read it multiple times both for information and for assurance. Breastfeeding isn’t easy. But it’s been so worth it. And because my husband made me take that elevator from Pediatrics to the LC’s office, I feel like I’m becoming a success at it rather than a failure.
Mostly I feed Liam in his room, sitting in a chair that faces the window so I can see mountains and ocean or read a book. But sometimes in the morning I’ll bring him in bed with me (my secret indulgence!) and just watch him eat while we lay in bed together. I watch his eyelashes flicker over his cheeks and listen to his breathing and swallowing noises. I brush his hair with my fingertips and touch my nose to his forehead. It’s such a beautiful, precious bond. Liam likes eye contact now and sometimes he’ll stop feeding entirely when I smile at him. He’ll slowly stretch his mouth into a huge grin before remembering what his job is and then literally dives back onto the breast. Pretty much every time I feed him I think to myself: Wow. I really love this.
Now we feed in restaurants, walking through the grocery store or mall, on the beach, on a redeye flight across the ocean. I almost don’t remember the anguish of not knowing how to ‘do this’. We’ve only been doing this 5 short months but I feel like I’ve learned so much about my own body and my baby.
My hope is that if you’re reading this and you’re struggling, that you’ll take heart. Don’t give up. There’s always something to be done and somebody to help you out. Any tears shed in the middle of the night, any hours spent pumping to keep your supply up, any strange comments from people who notice that you smell like syrup from all the fenugreek you take…. It’s worth all of it.