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May 04

Nursing battles – or how I learned empathy

I’m somewhat of a breastfeeding snob. I know this about myself, am not thrilled about it, but on the same hand, I nursed Sam for so ridiculously long and had such a hard time with most of my family, everyone thought I was insane for continuing. So I sort of earned the right to be a little defensive, a little “a good mother nurses her children.” It’s not nice, and I feel bad about it, especially after the past two days. I know now why a mother would quit breastfeeding, or stop trying. Because honestly? If I hadn’t KNOWN how good breastfeeding is, how incredibly healthy, how awesome and amazing it is to know that you have that incredible bond, how simple it is once you get past the first few weeks – if Julianna had been my first, I’d have thrown in the towel absolutely – and thought I was doing what was best for her.

Julie latched on just after birth and was nursing GREAT until midnight on Saturday night. I put some lansinoh ointment on my nipples, because she was nursing for literally hours, and they were sore. When she woke up at three – she started screaming when I put her to the breast. Screaming. And this was my peaceful, calm baby – I had never heard her cry before. By six o’clock, I was sobbing, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. And it was complicated by the fact that she had lost more than 10% of her birth weight and the visiting nurse and the pediatrician (who demanded I bring her into urgent care to get checked after hearing how much weight she’d lost) stressed that everything would be okay – AS LONG AS I WAS ABLE TO NURSE HER AS MUCH AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE. So when she started screaming thru feedings, refusing to latch on, I was panicking. And hormonal and miserable… I was devastated that she wouldn’t nurse, what was wrong with this child that she wouldn’t nurse? How would I be able to mother her, if my primary method of mothering was taken away from me? If I couldn’t soothe her immediately, if I could be replaced by anyone with a bottle – how would she know that I was her mother at all? I know it sounds crazy – but that’s where my head was. I cried all day long, as did she, because she was so hungry.

I gave her a bottle with two ounces of formula around noontime, because she hadn’t eaten in twelve hours. And sobbed thru the whole thing. My milk wasn’t in all the way, so pumping wasn’t going well, plus I was so wrecked emotionally, I wasn’t really in a position to pump anyway. I finally found someone from the LLL in the area (thank goodness for google) and she suggested that I try nipple shields. Because once Julie had the bottle, she LOVED it, and was that much more adamant that she wasn’t going to latch on.

And they work – they do. But nursing is a constant struggle, she never latches on easily or without a fight. She hasn’t had any formula since yesterday morning, and hasn’t had a bottle either. After talking to the pediatrician, he confirmed that her weight was back to a good level, and he said to just stop offering bottles altogether and if she missed a feeding or two, it’d be okay – and that she might have to do that in order to get the message that it was breast or nothing.

But what I love most about nursing is how easy and simple and loving it is. And with Julianna, at this point (and I keep telling myself that she’s only five days old, and it’ll change), nursing is a battle, she cries and fights before latching on every time. I’m confident that we’ll work thru it – and thank God that she’s nursing now, and not getting formula (she was constipated for two days – and had the worst gas I’d ever smelled). But I know now why a mom would stop trying to nurse. And I never really understood that before. Because I could so easily make the argument that it just wasn’t working with Julie, and I’d be at least half right. I’m going to get her back to nursing, we’re already there, really. I would love to ditch the nipple shield altogether, but for right now, it works, and I’m not risking rocking this boat any time soon. But this was a battle I never anticipated – and it was really, really awful.

She’s my girl though – and we’re learning our way thru this together. I’ve learned that I can soothe her immediately not by nursing, but by putting her up on my chest and whispering in her ear. I’ve learned that I can power thru her crying – and that I’m the one who decides how to feed her, and I know that breastfeeding is best and she will eventually latch on. She usually fusses for less than ten minutes, but sometimes it’s longer. She cried for an hour, off and on, earlier before finally conceding and nursing. But she loves me, and is content only when she’s being held, and I know that she knows that I’m her mother. I’m in a much better place emotionally than I was on Sunday (the day we now refer to within the family as “the REALLY bad day).

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