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Finding My Way

Emily Christie
Cumming, GA, USA
From New Beginnings, Vol. 26 No. 1, 2009, pp. 11-12

At my baby shower, an acquaintance mentioned that breastfeeding was harder than you'd think, but she had done it for a year. I wondered what could be so hard about something so natural. Hadn't we as a species done this from the beginning? I thought it was going to be easy. Not only was I wrong, but I was woefully unprepared for just how wrong I was.

My pregnancy was very uncomfortable and complicated. At exactly 37 weeks, my water broke and labor began quickly. I had the natural birth I wanted at a local hospital. I wanted to hold and breastfeed our daughter right away, but the pediatric nurses swooped in and told us her blood sugar was "critically low." I got to see her for a few minutes and then she was whisked away to the nursery for sugar water. My husband stayed outside the nursery window until she was reunited with me in the recovery room almost two hours later.

We tried nursing. My daughter did not seem interested. I was tired. We rested. In the middle of the night she woke up screaming. I did not know what to do. I panicked. I tried nursing again, but we were both clueless, so I gave her formula. I felt alone and helpless. The next day our pediatrician came and told me that I could feed our baby my colostrum from a spoon. We tried this, but it did not seem enough for her.

We called the hospital lactation consultant and arranged an appointment. She came a couple of hours later. She told me that early babies often have latch-on issues and that my nipples were flat so we were in for a difficult journey. She stayed for two hours as we tried various holds, waking my daughter with a cold rag. We were both exhausted and I was in tears after the lactation consultant left. At least she had brought a breast pump. I pumped enough for two bottles. I finally felt better knowing I could make milk for my baby. After another couple of unsuccessful visits, she left us with a parting gift, a nipple shield. This little device allowed my daughter to latch onto my breast for the first time. I was excited! Finally I could breastfeed my daughter. Finally there was hope that we could do this together.

The lactation consultant warned that we should not use the nipple shield for very long. After two days, I called the hospital lactation consultant line and discussed the nipple shield issue. I was told that I should stop within the next day or two. When my husband got home, I told him this news, half laughing and half crying. We called the pediatrician and she said to use the shield for as long as we needed to. After a couple of sleepless months, my daughter finally latched on without the shield. Things got much better after that.

When my daughter reached about six months, I almost gave up nursing because she was teething and was biting me. I was crying. My daughter was crying. I didn't want to give up, but it hurt! That is when I discovered the La Leche League Web site and, through it, my local LLL Group. The Leader, Gigi, gave me some tips on how to deal with my daughter's biting. She encouraged me to unlatch her when she was done nursing so that she wouldn't bite, and she suggested that I give her something to teethe on. She also encouraged me to attend a meeting, where I met like-minded mothers, asked questions, and learned far more than I expected. I left feeling supported, encouraged, and happy to know others with whom the ups and downs of nursing could be shared: latch-on difficulties and successes, drunken milk smiles, biting, plugged ducts, mastitis, the milestone of shirt-lifting, and the first request for "na-na."

I became a member of LLL shortly after my first visit. Our 20-month-old daughter is still a frequent nurser and I am planning to let her self-wean.

I am proud to be the first person in my family in at least two generations to breastfeed my baby.

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