Elvira Germaná, Madrid, Spain
Translated by Gina Nigro, Seville, Spain
I so wanted to have a third child, and at age 45, my wish came true. My previous two experiences of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding were smooth and easy. I had no doubt that things would be the same the third time around. I gazed at my belly and marveled at the miracle of life. I talked to my unborn baby and told him that his mother would be “older,” but full of love for him.
On October 31, Hallowe’en night, I planned to go out with some friends. My simple costume was a wig, and as I was putting it on, I noticed that I had completely wet my pants … I realized that my water had broken! I was still four weeks away from my due date. On top of that, just like my wig, the water was somewhat greenish.
So there I was at home with friends while my partner was out of town. As my friends took me to the hospital, I called my partner to tell him to come quickly so as not to miss Hector Ernesto’s arrival. Once at the hospital, it was confirmed that my baby had indeed passed a stool. My friend Vero stayed by my side until my baby’s daddy arrived. He looked even more exhausted than I, after having driven for so long.
Fortunately, my 36-week-old baby arrived safely after almost nine hours and I enjoyed the birth immensely. That is, all except for the final pushing part that was so intense. I worried I wouldn’t be able to stand it. In the end I did, and daddy woke up to welcome our baby.
36 weeks and 2.7 kilos, I put him to my breast and he began to nurse, everything seemed fine. In the morning his siblings came to visit us and we were all so happy!
Since everything was fine, my near-term baby and I were released to go home. However, I understood what it meant that he had arrived early, before he was fully ready for breastfeeding.
He seemed to sleep all day, even during feeds, and at three days postpartum, I noticed pain in one of my nipples during feeds. I thought to myself, “OK, I’m an LLL Leader, I should know how to wake him up and make sure he opens his mouth well, and how to make sure that he takes in enough milk.” Well, yes, I should know, but also I should know to stay calm and confident, and thank goodness I trusted in the process.
I did everything I would’ve recommended to a mother asking for help. The laid-back breastfeeding position worked wonderfully, the rugby position was helpful, and also feeding with lots of skin to skin to keep my baby more interested. I also did breast compressions when he seemed sleepy at the breast, to keep him suckling and to help him take in more milk.
Breast Compression: This technique can help your baby to breastfeed actively and take more milk. 1. Hold your breast with one hand—thumb on one side, fingers on the other. 2. Wait while your baby breastfeeds actively (his jaw is moving all the way to the ear). When he is no longer swallowing, squeeze your breast firmly. Hold it squeezed until he stops nursing actively and then release. 3. Rotate your fingers around the breast and repeat step 2 as needed on different areas of the breast. Go gently—this should not hurt. When breast compressions no longer keep the milk coming, then switching breasts can help. Sometimes a mom needs to switch back and forth between breasts to keep the milk flowing until her baby is full.
I read and re-read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding many times, and always found new ideas: a different way to wake him up; ways to get him to feed a bit more when he was sleepy; and ways to get him to open his mouth more so as not to hurt me. Breastfeeding was going well, although not as smoothly as in my past two experiences.
Looking back, I remember those days as a time of tranquility, peace, and tenderness. I think about mothers who lack good information, who think that breastfeeding hurts, and don’t know that adjusting positioning can help avoid cracks on their nipples. I think about mothers of sleepy babies who don’t know how to wake them up, and mothers who face other challenges that could easily be overcome with good information and support, but whose dreams end in frustration without this help.
During the early days with my third baby, I felt a special connection in my heart and soul with my LLL colleagues and with all of the mothers whose breastfeeding wisdom has been passed along. I want to express my gratitude to all who have contributed to my beautiful breastfeeding experience of my precious near-term baby boy.
Eidelman, A. The challenge of breastfeeding the late preterm and the early-term infant Breastfeeding Medicine 2016 11(3): 99-99.