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Don't Give Up

By Ebony Brown
Bronx NY USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 22 No. 6, November-December 2005, pp. 245-246

On November 17, 2004, after an emergency cesarean birth, I gave birth to my little Queen. Queen was 32 weeks and 5 days in gestation when she was born. She was three pounds, one ounce.

Because of complications during pregnancy, I had to give myself a blood-thinning medication by injection every day. During the chaos of my preterm labor, I learned that, because of the medication, I would have to be put to sleep for the surgery because of the increased risk of hemorrhage or surgical complications.

At the time, I wasn't thinking about what the early labor and emergency cesarean would mean for breastfeeding. In fact, I didn't see my daughter until the following day. She was admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Because I had lost my son, Demitrius (born on January 25, 2002 and died on January 27, 2002), while he was still in the NICU, it was hard to go there, but I was quite anxious to make sure Queen was okay. I was looking forward to breastfeeding because my milk came in after Demitrius died and I never had the opportunity to feed him.

I quickly found out that I couldn't nurse Queen. She was too small and had to have a feeding tube. I was crushed, but at least she was alive and well. I pumped every three hours for 15 minutes and spent every waking moment in the NICU.

After a few days, I noticed that I had pain during urination; I was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection. After trying several different medications, I was placed on a medication that I was told was unsafe for breastfeeding babies. Before I began the medication, I pumped enough milk to last for two days; that way, I could slowly reintroduce Queen to my milk. I took the medicine and continued to pump and discard my milk.

During the time I was being treated, Queen graduated from the feeding tube to taking a bottle. The goal was for her to gain weight and take all of her feedings by bottle. It took about a month, but she was able to meet the goal. The day of her discharge was my husband's birthday and the same day I was able to give her my milk again.

I had only about four hours to try to get her to latch on. Because the lactation class is given right after birth, I didn't remember anything. All Queen knew was the bottle. She refused my breast. I was hurt, but I didn't let that stop me. Once we were home, I continued to pump every three hours, even in the early hours of the morning. I was determined to find a way for her to breastfeed. I contacted the hospital to see if they would offer me another free breastfeeding class because this time I could bring my daughter, but they said they couldn't. They did suggest I have a consultation with one of their breastfeeding consultants at the fee of almost $150. Because I had quit my job to stay with Queen, my husband and I couldn't afford to pay that amount. I already had bought a professional breast pump for almost $300! It took some searching, but I finally found La Leche League.

Queen and I traveled more than an hour into Manhattan to the same hospital where she was born to attend our first LLL meeting. I heard some great suggestions, even though no one in the Group shared my experience.

They suggested I keep Queen close to my breast, skin-to-skin, at all times and offer her the breast before feedings and before she got really hungry. I tried everything and started to grow tired. But I kept on.

I noticed she was more playful and willing to try during the early morning (especially during her 3 am feeding), so I would offer her the breast first, feed her, put her to bed, pump for the next feed, try to sleep, wake up, offer her the breast, give her the 6 am feeding, and repeat. Queen was almost three months old, and during one 3 am feeding, she latched on! It surprised me because I was getting used to her playing on my breast and then screaming for her "real" food. But, she wasn't satisfied after breastfeeding.

She had gotten into a routine where she was used to drinking almost five ounces of milk quickly and easily. The breastfeeding seemed to wear her out because it took longer to empty my breast than to finish a bottle. I was worried I wouldn't know when she was full, as opposed to being tired from sucking, so I continued to pump, but only to make sure Queen had enough to eat. After breastfeeding I would top her off with a bottle of my milk.

I found an LLL Group that was only 20 minutes away and decided to continue attending meetings. I was so happy when I was finally able to breastfeed, just as the other mothers always did during meetings. During the last meeting I attended, I had to pump with a squeaky manual pump and bottle-feed Queen.

My LLL Leaders thought I should encourage other mothers by sharing my story with the readers of NEW BEGINNINGS. To mothers who have babies in the NICU or whose babies have trouble learning to breastfeed or encounter some other breastfeeding challenge: don't give up!

In the hospital, they told me that if Queen didn't latch on within 72 hours after birth, she wouldn't breastfeed. Now I can laugh at that statement. With hard work, perseverance, determination, willpower, and support from LLL (and nearly three months), we showed them!

I'm happy to report that Queen is now seven months old and much in love with her "ninny." She will not accept a pacifier and will drink from a bottle sometimes, but she definitely prefers the breast! It seems like the complete opposite from when she first came home.

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