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Worth Every Moment

Tamara Schiff
Sammamish WA USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 23 No. 5, September-October 2006, p. 206

Our beautiful daughter, Beatrice Victoria (Bebe, as we call her), was born on November 18th, 2005 by cesarean. My milk came in fully on day four. Before that time, the nurses fed her formula by bottle since she had already lost a pound. (Her birth weight was a healthy eight pounds, three ounces). Once she had the bottle is when the challenges started with regard to the breastfeeding. Not only was I full of medication and feeling pretty out of it most of the time, I found breastfeeding difficult and challenging, something I never thought would be a problem before the birth of my daughter. I naturally thought I would nurse my child and that was that! What could possibly go wrong? After all, it's the most natural thing in the world.

In the hospital, we had lactation consultants visit us regularly. We tried different nursing positions, tubes, shields, and an eyedropper. You name it, we did it. It all seemed far too complicated. Surely it wasn't supposed to be this way. My wonderful husband, Dov, was even taping the tubes to me and trying to help feed our daughter. It became a family task and a very stressful one at that. Finally, my husband rented a pump at the hospital and we were ready to come home.

The first night home felt like a disaster. I was distraught because I wasn't able to get up easily from bed to attend to my daughter. I told my husband that I wanted to go back to the hospital where I had the nurses to help and, of course, the adjustable hospital bed. Dov cared for both me and our baby during my recovery. Although he was extremely overwhelmed, he never showed it one bit. He was up at night with Bebe comforting her while I slept and recovered. He was the one feeding her day and night. He was my tower of strength. We decided to give Bebe a bottle with formula for the first few nights and then I started to pump every two to three hours around the clock. This task became very much part of my new life. Finally, our mothers arrived (my mother from the UK and my mother-in-law from Canada) and the weight began lifting off our shoulders once we had their support and, of course, their home-cooked food!

At this point, Bebe was bottle-fed with only my milk. I felt comforted that I was able to provide her with that. Still, we decided to go for some visits with a lactation consultant to try and solve our breastfeeding issue. Why was it so difficult for us to get it right? We were told that the bottle requires a different kind of sucking than breastfeeding. Bottle-feeding was what Bebe was used to. We tried a nipple shield and it just didn't work for us. It was making things worse and what was supposed to be a pleasure became very stressful indeed.

After numerous frustrating appointments, I decided to just pump and not think about our breastfeeding challenges for a while. Frankly, I needed a break from it, and pumping had become part of my daily routine. It was also the time where my husband would keep me company. Most importantly, Bebe was still on my milk, something I was very proud of. A few weeks went by and I heard about La Leche League from my doula. She told me to contact a Leader named Kay. I called Kay and made an appointment to go to her house. Kay was wonderful and the first thing she said when she heard our story was, "Your baby is very fortunate to have such a committed and tenacious mom." She had no doubt in her mind that we would be able to overcome this challenge. Her reassurance was very comforting.

I started reading about latch-on techniques and positioning and decided to try to nurse again a few times a day using the suggestions from Kay. Since I didn't know how much milk Bebe was getting, we still gave her the bottle as usual. It was still tiring and challenging.

We were successful with a few attempts. I was excited and was convinced that we had finally figured it out, but Bebe still had trouble breastfeeding consistently. After I spoke with Kay on the phone several times and updated her on our numerous attempts at breastfeeding, she referred me to Robin, a physical therapist who specializes in breastfeeding. I was at my wits' end feeling quite discouraged. Robin listened to me for two hours before watching Bebe nurse, weighing her before and after feeding, and actually working with me on latching her onto my breast. She didn't tell me what I should do, but just gave me options while constantly reassuring me of what a great job I was doing. I started to feel relaxed by the whole situation. I kept in contact with Robin and started to nurse again, but this time only once a day. I read more about latch-on techniques and worked with Bebe to teach her how to latch on properly. I took her off my breast when she was doing it incorrectly. I felt that this was something we both needed to learn and patience seemed to be the answer.

After two-and-a-half months of pumping day and night, we finally were breastfeeding successfully. I had a new lease on life and was able to actually leave the house without having to rush home to the pump. I became that person who nurses in the lounge at the department store as if it was the most natural and easy thing in the world. We finally mastered it. I was thrilled!

Now, five months later, I'm proud to say that my daughter has been exclusively breastfed and still is, and I would do it all over again if I had to. It's our time together and it's the most wonderful thing in the world.

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