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A Great Teacher

Summer Baber
Troutdale OR USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 23 No. 6, November-December 2006, p. 252

The most important thing that I have learned about breastfeeding, I learned from my baby. While I was pregnant I knew I would breastfeed, but for some reason I didn't feel the need to research it ahead of time. I saw all the books and wondered how there could possibly be that much to talk about.

I figured if a woman had breasts, then she would just breastfeed -- simple as that! I think this is typical of women in American society, and it's unfortunate because a lot of difficulties might be avoided or more easily overcome if more women had basic breastfeeding knowledge before giving birth. Fortunately for me my baby knew more than I did! And more importantly, I was able to listen to him.

When my son was born, I had a labor and delivery nurse who helped a lot with breastfeeding. She got me started and I felt fairly confident when I left the hospital. However, this confidence ended the moment I was wheeled out the hospital doors.

After we got home, my son was not latching on correctly and my nipples became very sore and cracked. I went to a lactation consultant who just told me to keep trying. My son wanted to latch on his way and I had to keep taking him off my breast to get him started again. If you met my son as a baby you would know right away that this was no easy task. He cried for hours at a time and we were both so frustrated that things weren't going as they should.

Panic set in as I began to worry that my baby wasn't getting enough to eat and that I wouldn't be able to continue breastfeeding him. I was afraid that my stubbornness about supplementing with formula might be starving my son. I felt as if I was at the point of having to choose between my desire to breastfeed and my son's health.

Because I had done no research, I didn't realize how easy it would have been to determine that he was getting enough milk and that it was my discomfort that was the only issue. Needless to say, it was very difficult and time seemed to stand still. Looking back, I can see that it was a very short time in our life, but at that moment it seemed as though it would go on for an eternity. This feeling of a never-ending struggle coupled with concern for my son's health overwhelmed me. I wasn't getting any sleep and I was at the point of complete exhaustion.

I borrowed a pump from a friend in the hopes that my husband could give our son a bottle while I rested. My son, however, knew he needed me more than anything and refused. I needed rest and pain relief and my son needed nourishment. At this point I felt as though I only had one more chance at breastfeeding so I looked inside myself for answers and did what my heart was telling me loud and clear -- listen to your baby! I decided to ignore all the advice I had been given and listened to my baby for the answer to our problem. His behavior told me: "I need to be close to you all the time and I need to nurse when I want for as long as I want."

At about this time I received a copy of THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING from my stepmother. I read every word and felt as though I had found the support I needed to continue listening to my baby.

In our society, we are often told that we can't sleep with our babies, that we have to put them on a schedule, or that they will be "spoiled" if we pick them up when they cry. My heart was telling me that this was wrong, but I didn't have the support and acknowledgement that I needed until I read THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING and found LLL.

When my son was four weeks old I began sleeping with him in my bed and nursing him while lying down. During the day I carried him in a sling or in my arms. Our whole world changed. Breastfeeding became easier and my son was happier. We were finally doing what we were meant to do. My son nursed for over two years and is now an active, healthy five-year-old who gets to snuggle with me while his little sister nurses.

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