My buddy KLZ posted about her journey with breastfeeding last week, and as promised, here is my story, too.
I took the breastfeeding class around 24 weeks pregnant, along with 3 other couples. Three. We used fake baby dolls to practice positions with our shirts on. Because there were so few people in the class, we all got a baby doll to practice with, even the men. (I have nipples. Can you milk me?) (Meet the Parents…Anybody?)
The lactation consultant meant well. Bless her heart, she really did. She told us that the only people who needed fancy electric pumps were busy lawyer-type workin’ women who needed to pump quickly so she could go back to her important business, confirming that this particular consultant was rooted firmly in the 1950s. She told us there was nothing so easy, so natural as breast feeding. She said we should just pull our babies up on our chest the second they popped out and let them latch. Easy peasy. So easy a cavewoman could do it.
And I wanted to do it. I wanted it so much. Not for any doctor, any family member, any friend. I wanted to do it for me and for my baby. Also? A little bit for my bank account. But mostly for the benefits it could provide for the both of us.
When my friend had her baby in early October and then had difficulties breast feeding, I told my husband that she must not have knew how to do it. She would have benefited so much from a class. I mean, nothing prepares you for a real, live baby latching on like a fiberfill baby with a plastic head. She should have read books, I said. She should have tried harder. She gave up too soon.
KLZ brought it up casually in an email exchange and when I told her I was planning on breastfeeding, she opened up and told me her story: her little one wouldn’t latch, but she toughed it out and pumped and fed and he got it.
I had a friend at work who was big time pro-breast feeding. She was very encouraging and offered to give me “tough love” if I needed it. She told me that if I wanted to give up, she would either give me a pep talk or she would tell me that I gave it the ol college try but it’s not for everyone. I told her I wanted the pep talk and wanted her to hold me accountable for my decision, even if it was hard.
And honestly, I didn’t think it would be hard for me. I mean, I got good grades in school. I taught myself all manner of things, like Adobe Photoshop and HTML. I have a Master’s Degree. How could something this natural be difficult for me?
Let me tell you right now, neither Mother Nature nor babies care about your Master’s Degree.
So Baby Blogworthy came barrelling out and they put him up on my chest, just like the class suggested, and he acted like my chest was McDonalds and he was expecting a steak dinner. In other words? Not interested. Later on, some doctors came in and asked if he had latched on yet. I said no and the doctor said, “Oh, it’s easy, just shove it in his mouth.” IT’S EASY. IT’S EASY.
One hundred bucks says she’s never had a child to experience breastfeeding.
I had trouble all day, all night, all morning. Lots of nurses rushed in and out of my room and they all had advice. Pry his mouth open. Hold him like a football. Put a pillow under your arm. Put a pillow under your back. Rub his feet. Strip off his clothes.
We asked for the lactation consultant several times and finally she stopped in. She spent two hours with us trying lots of thing, then referred us to another lactation specialist who could provide support outside the hospital. Two days later, we had our first appointment with her and found out Baby Blogworthy lost more than a pound and she wasn’t comfortable with that. She told us that he had a weak suck — a “sissy suck” — which sometimes shows up in babies who are premature (although, clearly, he wasn’t premature). She told me to try to latch every time, but if he refused, pump and feed him from a bottle. It wasn’t ideal, but it was a stop-gap measure until he figured things out. We scheduled an appointment for Monday.
She also gave me her phone number and told me to call her if I needed her — it would probably be a long weekend for me.
Breast feeding was hard for Baby Blogworthy. He didn’t get it. It was hard for him. I mean, a week earlier he was happily swimming around having food pumped directly into his stomach. No sucking, no clothes, no coldness.
He screamed. Oh, did he ever scream. Like baby murder screams. I was tired and only really was holding my son while he was screaming, so naturally I thought he hated me. I couldn’t figure it out — clearly, he was hungry. Clearly, I had plenty to feed him. He was hungry and didn’t know how to get from point A to point B. It was frustrating for him and for me.
That weekend was hard for me. The feeding after the appointment, he absolutely refused to latch. There was no having it. I called the lactation consultant in tears and told her what was going on, so she suggested just pumping and feeding him from a bottle until we could get into the office again. So I pumped and fed him from a bottle, sometimes at the same time. I tried to get him to nurse each and every time and he never wanted to. We went from screaming because he wouldn’t latch to screaming because we couldn’t get the bottle ready fast enough. We couldn’t win for losing.
It was then, sitting in the nursery with a hungry child while I pumped, that I thought of KLZ and her little guy and had so much hope.
I had my next LC appointment and she gave me some other tools and tips to help him. I approached breastfeeding with a renewed spirit. We continued a nursing attempt, pumping and bottle feeding for another week.
One morning in desperation I turned to Twitter with my problem. I found the most amazing group of resources: Liz , KLZ, Nichole , Angie, and a host of others who had lots of advice. It’s when the #burgerme hashtag was born (and I still think about that every time I have to hold my boob in the shape of a burger.) They even offered to Skype with me during a nursing session so I could see them feeding their own children. Their kindness brought tears to my eyes, but this time they were tears of joy.
A couple weeks later Luke looked me right in the eyes and gave me a look that said, “Ok, Mom, I’m ready.”
We’ve been nursing like a pros ever since.
Breastfeeding was hard. Super hard. It was also more rewarding for me than I could ever have dreamed. The time I spend feeding and snuggling my son, even in the car when we’re out running errands, even at 3 am while I’m laying in bed, I wouldn’t trade for anything else in the world.
It’s not for everyone. It’s hard, it’s exhausting. You’ll doubt yourself even when it’s going well. There’s no way to measure the ounces. You’ll obsess over how many wet diapers your baby has. You’ll weigh him on your cheapy scale every day. And if you decide you can’t do it, that’s OK too. Your baby is still going to thrive, be healthy and go on to do amazing things.
But if you stick with it, at the end of the day, you’ll look into his eyes, feel his little hands on your skin and his body pulled tightly against yours, and you’ll fall in love over and over again.
And if you need help, your friends on Twitter will be there for you.