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Salvaging My Nursing Relationship

Sherrie L.
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 16 No. 4, July-August 1999, pp. 122-123

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.

It seems like only yesterday that my beautiful daughter was born. I waited an eternity in anticipation of her arrival and spent the last four weeks of my pregnancy on almost complete bedrest because I was diagnosed with Pregnancy-Induced Hypertension.

When I reached 38 weeks gestation and my blood pressure kept climbing, I was scheduled for induction. I was excited and well prepared for my baby's birth. I had done lots of research and had decided on midwifery care. My husband and I had taken childbirth classes and I had the services of a wonderful doula. My labor was drug-free except for the pitocin to induce labor and the drugs I was given to prevent stroke and lower my blood pressure, which was dangerously high. It was a difficult and exhausting labor, but in the end I had a healthy and beautiful baby girl. She latched on right away and I was sure there would be no problems breastfeeding.

The next day I checked out of the hospital, and by the following day, it was as if my world had come crashing down around me. My beautiful baby refused to nurse. When I put my breast near her she screamed violently. I tried to express and got only a very little, very thick colostrum. I was tempted to give her a bottle of formula, even though I was very committed to breastfeeding. I knew about the dangers of nipple confusion, but did not know what else to do. My sister suggested calling La Leche League. I was hesitant to call complete strangers and ask for breastfeeding help, but I was also desperate and willing to try almost anything to salvage my nursing relationship.

When I got a Leader on the phone, through the tears, I could barely choke out the words to explain my difficulties. The Leader on the other end was so calm and understanding. She asked me lots of questions and was able to coax me into a less agitated state. She suggested that if I did need to supplement that I consider using a supplemental nursing device. This device delivers milk to the baby through a tube taped to the breast, so that nipple confusion can be avoided and the mother's milk supply can be stimulated.

When the home health care nurse arrived, she immediately diagnosed the problem. The medication I had received to control my blood pressure during labor, magnesium sulfate, is known to cause dehydration and delay milk production (Halderman 1993). My baby was frustrated with getting nearly nothing, so she had begun to refuse to breastfeed. The nurse suggested that I drink copious amounts of clear fluids and then discussed supplements for my baby. I popped right in with a question about the nursing supplementer and the nurse was very surprised. She said this was a wonderful solution, but she was not even going to mention it because many mothers refuse to use it. To many mothers it seems awkward, so they would rather just give a bottle. She wanted to know where I heard about it and I told her from La Leche League. The nurse told me this was a wonderful organization and she highly encouraged me to attend some meetings. My milk finally did increase on day six and I continued to use the supplementer for only a few more days. It was awkward, but it did the job.

I attended my first LLL meeting when my daughter was four weeks old. At La Leche League, I found many like-minded mothers and support for my parenting style. My daughter and I became a well-established nursing couple with the guidance of mother-to-mother support. Thank you to La Leche League and all the volunteer Leaders who so generously donate their time and energy to help mothers nourish and nurture their babies at the breast.


Halderman, W. Can magnesium sulfate therapy impact lactogenesis? J Hum Lact 1993; 9:249-52.

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