On June 29, 2012 at 7 o’clock in the evening, my water broke while I was eating pizza with my husband. We were celebrating my last day at the office. Three hours later, I gave birth to a healthy 6 lb, 3 oz baby girl, 5 weeks early.
I’ve read many a story in which the new mother takes her baby to her chest and the newborn latches on for the first time. That was not my experience. In fact, I didn’t really get to nurse my baby until 3 weeks after her birth. However, at 2 years old, I am still nursing. Therefore, while my story is a bit nontraditional, I hope it will encourage other women to keep pushing towards their goals to breastfeed.
Like I said, I don’t remember holding my daughter right after she was born. My husband has evidence that proves otherwise, but I simply don’t remember. In fact, because she was born premature, after a short minute in my arms, she was swiftly taken to the nursery for evaluation. My husband stayed with her. Meanwhile, I was left alone with my OB.
Four hours later, I was restless in my maternity room. I still hadn’t really held my baby and I was anxious to try to nurse her. As they brought my daughter into the room, I was told that she was given formula because her blood sugar was low.
I understood, but I also knew that I wanted to breastfeed my child. I immediately asked to see a Lactation Consultant.
In the two days following her birth, I must have seen every lactation consultant on staff. Apparently, 35 week old premature babies have a tendency to be “wimpy eaters,” so breastfeeding doesn’t always work right away. I insisted that I wouldn’t give up that easily. So, they educated me on proper latch and brought me a hospital-grade breast pump so that I could convince my milk to come in even if my daughter wasn’t willing to participate. Every 2 hours, I was told to pump both breasts for 20 minutes. My milk came in quickly and I left the hospital with a 2 week supply of breast milk. And so began a 3-4 week relationship with my breast pump.
While I pumped, my husband would give our daughter a bottle. We were lucky if she took 10 MLs those first few days. We documented every feeding and every diaper. We visited our pediatrician’s office daily. Our daughter’s weight kept dropping. On July 4th, we were told to go to the Pediatric Emergency Room for a weigh in. Our pediatrician’s office would be closed for the holiday. We did as we were told and showed up at the hospital bright and early. We brought nothing more than a diaper bag. We thought we’d have a quick weigh in and we’d go home. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
Her weight had dropped again. They wanted to admit her. They even wanted to start a feeding tube. It had been hours since I pumped. I was engorged. I was emotional. I had to lay down.
We spent our daughter’s first Independence Day in another hospital room where we were monitored around the clock. I pumped. I saw more lactation consultants. They watched her best attempts at nursing. They weighed every diaper. She wasn’t losing any more weight but was very slow to gain. And she still was hardly eating. We were discharged the next day and told to follow up with our regular doctor.
By this point, I was exhausted. Thank goodness my husband could be home to help me. The whole process of pumping and then feeding her a bottle, cleaning up bottles, and keeping track of the numbers was enough to send me into a permanent nap. But, all the hours to myself gave me time to reflect.
At our next doctor’s appointment, we met with the pediatrician’s on-site lactation nurse. I remember talking to her about how most mothers feed their newborn babies. We agreed that feeding “on demand” was most natural. It was then that I decided to abandon previous “orders” to give my daughter a bottle every 2-3 hours. Instead, I would feed her a bottle on demand until we reached a point in which she was capable of latching on. I also decided that with each feeding, I would start with the bottle to document how much she was eating until she gained enough weight that it wasn’t important. Each feeding ended with an attempt to latch.
This type of arrangement lasted about 3-4 weeks. As you might imagine, I was thrilled when I was given the green light to drop the bottles completely and exclusively breast feed my daughter.
Two years later and I am still breastfeeding my little girl. She’s still a wimpy eater and I am often told that if I didn’t nurse her, she might eat better. I also have to tolerate criticism from people that don’t understand full term breastfeeding, but at the end of the day, I am doing what I feel is the best for us. It took us so long to establish a strong nursing relationship that I don’t want it to end before she’s ready.