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Nursing through Stress

D. Melanie Walsh-Fraser
Stratford PEI Canada
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 23 No. 2, March-April 2006, pp. 62-63

When I was pregnant with my first child, I prepared myself by reading all I could about pregnancy and childbirth. I was determined to have a non-medicated delivery and, thankfully, my wish came true. After Elliott was born I was amazed he was so alert and ready to breastfeed! He latched on well right away and nursed almost constantly during our short hospital stay.

Once we arrived home, I grappled with feelings of exhaustion. While new mother blues set in, I tried to cope with Elliott's crying. Even though I was nursing on demand for as long and as often as my son desired, he seemed to cry often and sleep little. I remember calling my local La Leche League Leader and a lactation consultant for support. The best advice I ever got was to lie down with my baby to nurse. Why hadn't I thought of this before? Sadly, I realized that in my preparation for delivery, I hadn't read enough of the right books about breastfeeding, so my friend loaned me a copy of THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING. As I read it, the clouds seemed to lift. Rather than micromanage every aspect of my child's nursing and sleeping, I needed to relax and get to know my baby. Instead of reading parenting books, I needed to read my baby. Once I did this, things seemed to get easier and responding to my baby's cues became second nature.

Unfortunately, I couldn't attend La Leche League meetings because the time conflicted with my part-time private teaching schedule. However, I frequently went online to the LLL Web site for information and to gain support from other mothers' stories.

When Elliott was a happy 15-month-old nursling, I discovered a lump in my right breast. My doctor advised that I go home, wean my son, and come back in six weeks for tests. In shock, I went home and cried. Elliott and I had worked so hard to establish this loving connection. He was an intense, high need toddler whom I couldn't imagine weaning. I called a lactation consultant who insisted that weaning was not a necessity in this situation and that ultrasounds and mammograms could be performed on nursing mothers. She brought me printed material from the LLL BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK and recommended that I not delay in returning to my doctor to ask for further tests.

Armed with conviction and my LLL information, I went back to my doctor, who ordered the ultrasound and mammogram. As I waited for test results, I found the stress and anxiety to be agonizing, but nursing my son comforted me. The tests revealed a solid mass and my surgeon recommended removal. He understood how important breastfeeding was to me and did not suggest weaning. I was concerned that surgery would affect my ability to care for and breastfeed my son, but everything went unbelievably well. The lump was removed under general anesthesia, and I woke up in the recovery room feeling great and needed no pain medication. Soon after, I returned home and nursed my son right away on the affected side with no problems at all. My recovery was speedy and breastfeeding continued with no difficulties. As it turned out, the lump was a lactational adenoma, a benign growth in the breast of a lactating woman. I was so thankful that I hadn't blindly followed my doctor's recommendation to wean, but sought a second opinion. Elliott nursed happily until he weaned himself at 21 months old.

Now as I nurse my baby daughter, Ellen, I look down at the scar on my right breast. It's a constant reminder of how my son and I maintained our nursing relationship, even in the face of a potentially serious condition. And recently the simple act of breastfeeding Ellen has been a comfort for me as we deal with the loss of my dear mother-in-law. Long stressful visiting hours at the funeral home were made bearable as they were punctuated with meeting my daughter's breastfeeding needs. When Ellen was five months old, I attended my first LLL meeting. I regularly attend monthly meetings and am so thankful for the vision and mothering model this organization promotes. I have learned so much from LLL Leaders, publications, the Web site, and other mothers. I thank La Leche League for supporting me and my family through the stresses of mothering and life.

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