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Baby Number Three

Melanie Clark
Greensburg PA USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 23 No. 2, March-April 2006, pp. 65-66

I fully expected not to have any problems breastfeeding my third baby since I had already successfully breastfed two babies. I had no problems with my second, and I figured that any problems I had with my first were because I was completely inexperienced. Breastfeeding two babies made me a pro (or so I thought).

When I had Samuel I could not wait to put him to my breast. I have been so grateful to feed my babies this way; just thinking about it fills me with emotion. I know that I have given my babies the best possible nutrition.

He seemed to nurse well that first time. I remember saying "Oh, he took right to it." I had fully expected him to. However, the second feeding was not so good. I began to have trouble getting him latched on correctly. I was not sure why, but I figured it was a temporary problem. It seemed as though he just could not get it right. His lower lip was curled in when he nursed. I was not able to get that lip to come out the way it did with my other babies. I had several nurses and a lactation consultant observe and they all had different opinions. I was so discouraged and disappointed. I was sure that I could get it right eventually.

Within 24 hours, my nipples were sore, cracked, and bleeding. That morning around 2 am I tried yet again to get Samuel to nurse and I could not do it. I was exhausted, crying, and depressed. My baby cried in protest at not getting the food and sucking that he needed. I thought for the first time ever, "I don't know if I am going to be able to breastfeed my baby!" I had to call a nurse to help me get him latched on. I could not believe that after successfully breastfeeding two babies, I had to have someone help me get my third baby onto my breast. I felt like such a failure. I felt humiliated.

I dealt with this for two days in the hospital. Even though Samuel did not latch on correctly, the nurses and doctors were not terribly concerned because, according to his output, he was getting adequate nutrition. The lactation consultant sent me home armed with nipple shields, ways to ease my pain, an invitation to a support group, and a follow-up consultation.

Unfortunately, things were not much better when I got home. I was in excruciating pain. Every time I saw that little mouth headed for my nipple I cringed and I even avoided it, causing my newborn baby much dissatisfaction and crying. This, of course, added to my feelings of despair. I was in so much pain, I couldn't tolerate anything touching my breasts or even touching me. I was tired, cranky, and didn't want anyone else around me. I wanted to escape and go back to the hospital where I could be taken care of.

Nevertheless, I kept going and often reminded myself that it was a temporary situation. I wanted more than anything to feed my baby my milk. I think that the cause of our problems might have been his small mouth. I just hoped that as Samuel got bigger, his mouth would get bigger, too, so he would be able to breastfeed successfully.

I endured the pain and discouragement and remained hopeful that it would end. When Samuel was about two-and-a-half weeks old, breastfeeding stopped being so unbearable. Samuel didn't seem to change the way he sucked, but the cracks in my nipples had healed. His output always showed that he was receiving enough milk, however, the pediatrician was concerned about his weight. She suggested that if he did not start to gain by the following week, she would recommend supplemental feeding. This idea was completely unacceptable to me. I did not want to give my baby formula. In fact, I wasn't even sure I wanted to give him a bottle at all. My other two children never received a bottle. Still, I had to accept that I might have to supplement. After all, I wanted what was best for my baby. I would do whatever I needed to take care of him and see that he received all the nutrition he needed.

I had confidence that Samuel and I could get it right. I fed him every two hours day and night for as long as he wanted. Even though I no longer had cracked nipples, breastfeeding still caused me some discomfort. I applied cold vegetable bags in between feedings to ease the pain. I took hot showers often, which seemed to make me feel better, too.

When I went back to the pediatrician five days later, Samuel had gained one-and-a-half pounds. He exceeded the required amount. We did it! I was so relieved. I knew it was just a matter of time and practice. After that, Samuel continued to thrive. Even though he learned to latch on using the "munching on" method, he did finally learn to take enough breast tissue into his mouth to nurse without hurting my nipples.

I successfully breastfed Samuel until he was about 16 months old. I weaned him because I was pregnant and thought it would be for the best. I enjoyed my breastfeeding journey with Samuel even though it was difficult in the beginning. I am glad we were able to work through the problems. I know that I have a healthier baby for it.

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