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Keep on Flying

Donna Constant
Pendleton KY USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 19 No. 9, July-August 2002, p. 128

My first child was due to arrive just a few weeks after my 35th birthday. I knew I wanted to breastfeed because of the example set by my best friend from elementary school. Robin, a La Leche League Leader and mother of four, had had natural childbirth and nursed all of her children. I never saw anyone breastfeed before Robin, and the closeness she appeared to have with her children was what I wanted for myself. Since Robin lives in another city, she gave me the phone number for my local LLL representative. The month before I was due to deliver I went to my first meeting. Even though I had read everything I could find on natural childbirth and nursing, I was glad I attended the meeting before delivery because I knew I had support if things did not work as well as I hoped.

On November 14, my husband and I headed to the hospital with our birth plan in hand. I am very fortunate to have a husband who believes in me enough to agree to be with me during the delivery. We made it through with flying colors. Evelyn was born after a short six hours weighing seven pounds, 11 ounces. She latched on right away but I did not realize she was incorrectly latched on until my nipples became sore. She liked to just have the end of my nipple in her mouth instead of getting a good latch on my areola.

We kept starting over until we figured it out. Even though I had specifically requested no pacifiers, bottles, or formula, Evelyn was given a bottle of formula just an hour prior to discharge. It was given, I am sure, because they had kept her in the nursery too long for the last of her tests. She was returned to me, a mother whose milk had just come in, with a "got formula" mustache.

When we arrived home I called to get a breast pump so I could prepare for my eventual return to work. By the time it arrived the next day, Evelyn and I had worked our way through the toughest part. I still had so much milk that we woke in a pool every morning and I developed a tendency toward plugged ducts.

When I returned to work Evelyn was four-and-a-half months old. Before I had her, I thought I would breastfeed for a year. After four-and-a-half months I couldn't imagine ever ending our nursing relationship.

My job as a flight attendant has its own challenges and here I was headed to work with my pump and battery pack. Fortunately I had enough reserve milk for Evelyn while I was away and I found a way to store the milk and bring it all home from my trips. I have pumped in aircraft lavatories, hotels, and flight attendant lounge offices. On a three-day trip I would bring home a half-gallon of milk. I continued to have problems with plugged ducts and even went to the hospital on a layover in Columbus, Ohio, USA with mastitis.

Through it all Evelyn and I maintained a wonderful nursing relationship. The first thing I did when returning home from a trip was to sit down and reconnect with my beautiful daughter as she nursed. Her huge grin as she looked up at me said it all.

When Evelyn was 16 months old we found out we were expecting again. Evelyn nursed through the entire pregnancy. I met opposition within my family, and my grandmother suggested best times to wean as noted by the Farmers Almanac; however we continued with the encouragement of my LLL friends. On November 9, Anna was born at a whopping nine pounds and was a natural at the breast. When my milk came back in Evelyn looked up with a great big grin, licked her lips, and said, "My favorite, mmmmm!"

I have just returned to work and Anna, at five months, is growing and thriving. She prefers her mother to the bottle but has not had any transition problems. The first words out of Evelyn's 29-month-old mouth each day are, "Nurse, Mommy?" and I gladly oblige. Now I am pumping a half-gallon of milk again on two-day trips and I have two beautiful, healthy, and confident children to show for the effort. At an LLL Group meeting not long ago one of the mothers admitted she initially doubted I would be able to keep flying and keep up a nursing relationship since so much effort was required to pump and store the milk. I told her nobody ever told me it couldn't be done, so I just did it.

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