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The Best Decision I've Ever Made

Lise Baldwin
Albany Auckland New Zealand
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 22 No. 2, March-April 2005, p. 58

My breastfeeding life began almost four years ago with the birth of my first child, Paige Brianna. While I was pregnant, I joined La Leche League, attended monthly Group meetings, and read everything I could about breastfeeding. I was determined to make it work.

After 63 hours of labor, my daughter was born. I was happy that she latched on and nursed efficiently. She weaned herself at two-and-a-half years old when I was in the early stages of my second pregnancy. I'm not sure why she weaned, but I was proud that she made the decision on her own. The weaning was short lived, however, when our lives took an unexpected turn a few months later.

At 20 weeks of pregnancy, my unborn son was diagnosed with a neural tube defect. He was going to have spina bifida. From the beginning of the pregnancy, I felt as though something was wrong, but the diagnosis was still a shock. I'm healthy and had been taking folic acid for three years. I knew that there was nothing I could have done to make my baby "healthier" and I came to the conclusion that he came to us for a reason. He was my baby and he would be perfect.

Of course, there was a lot of stress around my family and me. We were dealing with the uncertainty of my unborn child's health, I had severe nausea, and we moved from Bermuda to my homeland New Zealand in order to provide the best possible medical care after birth. In the middle of all of this, Paige decided to "unwean" herself. I'm sure she was just as anxious as my husband and me. I could not deny her the comfort and closeness she found through "milkies." She continued to nurse every so often until Jaden Connor was born.

Jaden's birth was painful and lasted for about 27 hours. Because of the wonderful experience I had breastfeeding Paige, I was determined to breastfeed Jaden, too. It seemed ridiculous not to breastfeed him—he would be facing a lot of health issues throughout his life. As expected, we faced challenges immediately following his birth. Jaden had several anomalies that hadn't been detected in utero, including an imperforate anus (no anal opening). He couldn't nurse until an emergency colostomy was performed one day later. He had to be fed through an IV and all I could do was cuddle him. During this time, I began to pump to save the valuable colostrum and to get my supply going.

On day two of his life, Jaden underwent a five-hour surgery to close his spine and have the colostomy performed. I was prepared for the fact that breastfeeding wouldn't be very easy at first because we had a delayed start and Jaden had received anesthetic and medication during his surgery. As soon as he awoke in the recovery room, I put him to my breast and he latched on quickly to taste my milk. For the three weeks that Jaden was in the hospital following his surgery, I remained close by so we could breastfeed often and perfect his latch-on. I was thrilled and amazed—he was doing so well!

Jaden, now eight months old, is still my little breastfeeding champ. He's had a total of five surgeries to date and will have at least three more in the coming year. Being able to nurse him through these hard times has been a blessing. He is thriving and surprises his doctors at every visit. So far, after each surgery, his need for pain medication is very minimal. I credit this to my milk. Through our breastfeeding relationship, Jaden knows that I will always be there to provide comfort and security.

My beautiful children add so much joy and fulfillment to my life. Breastfeeding has been a way to intensify the bond between us. Choosing to breastfeed is one of the best decisions I have ever made.

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