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Breastfeeding: So Natural Yet So Challenging


When I was pregnant I took a breastfeeding class where we used dolls to learn holds and the basics of breastfeeding. At the time this seemed like something that was idiot-proof. I mean women have been breastfeeding for hundreds of thousands of years, so it can’t be that hard right??

The hospital where my son was born is extremely pro-breastfeeding, but I would say almost to the point that if I had encountered more severe problems and been unable to breastfeeding that I would have felt crushed. While the benefits of breastfeeding are numerous and very well documented, I think there should be a bit more support for women who try and it just doesn’t work out for them – maybe this was just at our hospital that this culture exists…

When my son was born he was three weeks early and had low blood sugar which made necessary an ounce of formula within the first hour of his life. I was not thrilled about this as I’d been drilled on the concept of getting the baby on the breast right away, but it was for his health so what can you say? Just one of many things that deviated from my birth “plan”. (See my birth story for more details.)

He then spent the next three days with a complete lack of interest in feeding. Nurses encouraged me to try to feed him and I saw lactation consultants twice, but what I now know is that it wasn’t me, it was that he just wasn’t interested in eating… period. And if there is one thing I have subsequently learned about my son, it is that he takes after his very stubborn parents and will not be convinced to do something he isn’t interested in doing. Those three days were the most stress I have experienced since becoming a parent. Finally I was able to express some milk into a spoon and pour it into his mouth which at least made me feel better because he was getting some nutrition. Luckily a very helpful nurse was able to get him to latch before we left the hospital so I wasn’t flying completely blind when we got home.

It took about a week before we got the hang of it. I say “we” because breastfeeding really does take two. Of course, it wasn’t smooth sailing from there as I spent the next two months battling with blocked milk ducts which cause all sorts of pain. More on blocked milk ducts (what they fell like, how to manage the pain and how I rid myself of them) in a following post!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. kate C. permalink
    01/19/2012 12:24

    Oh, I was going to ask you, did they give him the formula in a bottle or using a Supplemental Nursing system? My latest was slightly LGA (large for gestational age) which meant they had to check her blood sugar too and it was also low, so she got 15 cc of formula, but using SNS while I nursed her, so she didn’t have another nipple.

    She wanted to and nursed every 2-3 hours after that for the next few days, so we didn’t have any issues.

    Anyway, what I am trying to say is that I hope you’re not blaming the formula (or yourself!) for the lack of interest in nursing. It’s more likely it’s because he was small and on the earlier side, don’t you think? (or just his personality/the way he is!)

    No, it’s not always easy…

    • 01/19/2012 12:35

      His daddy got to feed him with a bottle. I wish I had been offered the other system though. I didn’t even know about it until a month later when a friend had twins and needed to use one. Very neat invention!

      I definitely do not blame myself or the little guy. It was just hard at the time. Once we got him eating all the stress and emotion surrounding it completely disappeared. And I’m having a wonderful time breastfeeding now!

  2. Laura permalink
    02/06/2012 18:58

    Hospitals here are pro-breastfeeding too. They stick the baby on your breast straight away. And formula is not an option. I have only one friend who couldn’t breastfeed at all (inverted nipples) and she was utterly shattered and made to feel incredibly guilty by the nursing staff (twice, with both children).

    I think the main problem with feeding is lack of support. Most women are sent home before their milk even comes in. And because we don’t live in family groups like other cultures, we haven’t seen lots of other new mothers learning to breastfeed and watched their education by experienced mothers, how are we to know the pitfalls to expect? I wish someone would have told me the first time around that I would experience chafing and bleeding, but that it was completely normal and everything would feel better after a few weeks! Or that expressing milk can be VERY stimulating, and cause me to produce too much milk (hence all the other problems).

    Its also hard because every baby (and mother) is different. My two kids were very different feeders, so even though I thought I had mastered it after baby #1, baby #2 came along with his own challenges anyway!

    Its worth perservering. I miss breastfeeding now. Its been a whole year since I stopped. I guess that’s how long it takes to forget all the “bad” memories and for the golden nostalgia to set in 🙂

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