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The Best Thing

Angi Jones
Monticello IL USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 23 No. 5, September-October 2006, p. 205

When I found out that I was pregnant with twins in January 2005, many doubts went through my mind. Will I go full term? Will my babies be healthy? Can I handle two more children? I already had two! But never did I think, "Can I nurse two babies?" I have never had a supply issue, so I knew that there would be enough milk.

My daughters were born at 35 weeks at healthy weights (five pounds, six ounces and five pounds, seven ounces). When I woke up from my emergency cesarean (one baby was in a double footling breech position), the first thing I wanted to do was to feed my babies.

It was at this time that my husband had to tell me that Cecilia had a birth defect. She was born with a lymphatic malformation, which is a weakness in the lymph system resulting in swelling internally and externally as lymph fluid accumulates in the weakened area. Lymphatic malformations can impinge on nerves, causing temporary or permanent nerve damage. Cecilia has a lump on the back right side of her neck. When I first tried to nurse her, we realized that she had some nerve damage. The right side of her lower lip sagged and she could not control it. She was unable to form a seal on my breast, and therefore, she was unable to latch on. After many tears (I was thinking that she would never be able to nurse), I nursed her twin sister, Anastasia, and started pumping. Pumping and nursing Anastasia brought my milk in during their third day of life. Cecilia received my pumped colostrum and a little donated milk via a tube in her nose.

By the time we left the neonatal intensive care unit at five days, Cecilia was taking all her feedings from a bottle. It broke my heart to feed my sweet baby with an artificial nipple. It was not supposed to be that way. My husband fed her most bottles when he was home because it was just too painful for me. I'm proud to say that all the milk in those bottles was my milk

Every feeding, except the middle of the night ones, I would put Cecilia to the breast hoping that she would latch on. One day when she was about three weeks old, she latched on. I couldn't believe it! The nerve damage had been temporary and she was healed. Most importantly, she was nursing. She had her first full feeding from the breast. That first nursing session was amazing. I just stared at her little lip that she now controlled and I cried.

Cecilia and Anastasia will be one year old this month and you would never know that she couldn't nurse at birth. She is a healthy baby who nurses often, eats tons of food, and climbs on everything. She shows no signs of weaning anytime soon, and I pray that she continues to nurse for a long time. Because of her lymphatic malformation, she faces a life long battle with swelling and pain, multiple surgeries, and other treatments. At least I know that I am doing the best thing I can do for her. I'm breastfeeding her.

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