When I was first pregnant I was optimistic about giving my daughter the best start in life. I would breastfeed. I took classes, read books and thought I was prepared and wouldn’t my natural motherly instincts figure it out anyways?
I had a very quick natural labor and delivery. She was a healthy baby and when she was placed upon my chest, I assumed she would latch on and start nursing. She didn’t. The nurses at the hospital offered me no assistance while the lactation specialist, only stood at my doorway with pamphlets. After leaving the hospital I hoped I could figure things out at home. I was spending all my time trying to breastfeed, yet she kept losing weight. It felt hopeless. One stressful night of her crying I broke down and gave her a bottle of formula. All those free formula samples they gave me at the hospital were just sitting there. It was so easy giving her bottles; Dad could feed her, she was happy and gaining weight and so the decline of breastfeeding began. My milk began to dry up and I was left with guilt and sadness. I felt like I had failed at breastfeeding, but I had a happy, growing baby so I went on with Motherhood.
When I was pregnant with my son two years later, I was surrounded by women who gave birth at home or in birthing centers. I became close friends with Moms who breastfed their children into toddlerhood and was both shocked and enlightened the first time I saw a Mother tandem nursing. I chose to have my son at a different hospital that was recommended for quality of care and breastfeeding support. Once again I delivered a healthy baby naturally. Immediately he latched on with the support and assistance of the nursing staff. My son never left my side the entire time I was in the hospital and I never saw a single formula sample either! I was off to a good start.
However, when we went home I once again had trouble nursing him adequately. I immediately sought out help. I visited my pediatrician, a lactation specialist, and a breastfeeding support group. I also purchased a top of the line breast pump (insurance covered). For seven weeks I pumped and nursed nonstop, trying to increase my milk supply and help my son gain more weight. I was determined to make it work.
After a year of exclusively breastfeeding my son I felt like I had reached my goal. I had persevered through the initial struggles and sought out the help I needed in the difficult beginning stages of breastfeeding. I couldn’t think of any good reason to stop breastfeeding him at age one or two or three. I didn’t completely wean him until he was four years old. He and I share a special bond because of this. Breastfeeding is not always easy. I can relate to those Moms who struggle with it. Thankfully, I can now relate to those Moms who succeed at it far beyond what they expected to do!
Image Credit: Nancy Markey