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New Motherhood

Julie S. Nathanielsz
Newfield NY USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 24 No. 3, May-June 2007, pp. 116

Four days into motherhood and all was well -- for the most part, of course. I was tired, sore, and still a little bit in shock. But this felt negligible. My baby was happy and healthy, nursing was going great, and my husband and I were reveling in the amazing being that was our new daughter.

On the day my milk came in, full breasts, topped with cabbage leaves to cool the heat, stuffed my once generously sized nursing bra to its capacity. No doubt about it -- I was a full-fledged nursing mom.

That night, things got a little complicated. When Angelica started crying, I snuggled closer, offering my breast as I had done all day. She started to latch on, but then shook her head and pulled away. What was wrong? Over and over we tried: she crying, me offering my breast and trying to get her to nurse. But no, that was clearly not what she wanted.

Thus began several nights of distress as new parents tried to figure out what was wrong and how to help our little girl. No amount of swaddling, skin-to-skin contact, dancing, massaging, holding belly down, rocking, or loving did any bit of good. We read and talked to a few people. One by one we ruled out a variety of possible problems and came up empty-handed.

I knew that it couldn't be a nursing problem because during the day Angelica nursed like a trooper. She was contented and doing fine. Come nighttime, though, she would begin crying, refuse my breast, and eventually wear herself out and fall into an exhausted sleep.

Eric and I were exhausted and worn out from worry, frustration, anguish, and lack of sleep. I felt that I was somehow letting my baby down. If I was a good mother, wouldn't I immediately recognize what was wrong? Each day I grew more demoralized and upset.

As I look back at those days, I can now (21 months later) have a good laugh. It was really only a span of four days or so, but it felt like an eternity when I was in the midst of it. Luckily, we kept thinking and reading, and this led to the solution.

One evening, Eric was cuddling Angelica and letting her suck on his finger. He commented how her suck was slightly weaker in the evening than during the day. I nodded, and kept reading. I was deep in Our Babies, Ourselves by Meredith Small, taking in the breastfeeding chapter. It begins with lactation consultant Diane Wiessinger, MS, IBCLC, using a balloon to demonstrate how hard it is to "latch on" to when round and full. When slightly squeezed, however, the oblong shape of the balloon is easier to "latch on" to. A full, round breast is hard for a baby to latch on to, but if the breast is squeezed into an oval shape, it is easier for a baby to latch on successfully. I fell asleep with this example etched in my brain.

Suddenly, I awoke with the answer! I put together Eric's observation and the information in the book. Clearly, Angelica was more tired at night, she had less strength for nursing, and so she couldn't latch on properly. I was starving my little one every night! No wonder she was crying so hard. As soon as she awoke, I gently cupped my hand around my full breast, pressing it into an oval shape as I brought her head toward me. Voila! She latched on and was nursing in an instant.

No crying. No head shaking. No pulling away. Grateful, slurpy little grunts met my ears and a big grin spread across my face. Contentedly, I snuggled in with Angelica, and breastfed her.

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