Vanessa Pinto, Sag Harbor, New York, USA
Newborn weight loss: getting back on track with breastfeeding.
None of the mothers in my family or my husband’s had ever breastfed. They disapproved of my desire to do so, explaining that it was too exhausting and telling me stories of women they knew who had tried and failed to make it work. I believed there was no one I could ask for words of encouragement, so I kept my intention to breastfeed quiet.
As the due date approached, the worry that my baby might not be able to latch on flooded my mind occasionally. I even underlined my desire to exclusively breastfeed on my birth plan. I remember as a child I had strongly disdained pacifiers, spitting them out immediately, and I did not want my daughter to have one either. After 16 hours of labor and a natural childbirth, I held Sarah in my arms. Just minutes after the umbilical cord was clamped and cut, my daughter and I began our breastfeeding adventure.
I was unable to tell whether my baby was getting enough milk or how long she should breastfeed and did not appreciate the importance of nursing from both breasts. The first morning, Sarah fell asleep after an hour and a half on my left breast. The nurse said I should not allow that to happen as she picked up my baby and wheeled her away to be examined by the pediatrician. I continued to nurse her all through the second day and night. She seemed satisfied and slept peacefully between feedings. The day of her discharge Sarah had lost over a pound. Once home, I nursed with extremely sore, bruised nipples and held her for hours, allowing her to rest in my arms in between feedings. I felt it was the right thing to do. I felt most comfortable holding her and I knew she was content in my arms. I wanted to make sure she was getting the proper nutrients and antibodies that my body was providing.
Four days after her birth, we discovered Sarah had lost another half-pound and required formula supplementation. I was given no other alternative. It was clear she was desperately hungry as she drank from the bottle. “She’s a bottle baby,” the medical assistant exclaimed, just before Sarah spit up all over her.
The devastation I felt is beyond words. How painful not to be able to provide milk for Sarah myself. Whenever I was alone I sobbed uncontrollably. This feeling of sadness and stress transferred to Sarah. She absorbed my sadness and it became such a challenge to comfort her and gain control of my emotions. It was even worse when I tried to latch her on and she pushed herself away. My breasts were sore and engorged. Pumping milk was painful. I slept with cooling pads across my chest for relief.
I did not want to give up. I attended a La Leche League meeting with my mom and openly discussed the challenges I was facing. The moms greeted me warmly and assured me I was doing the right thing by staying positive. They offered guidance on increasing my supply that included lots of time for practicing latching Sarah on without getting discouraged if she didn’t; increasing my oat and wholegrain intake, massaging and pumping through my clogged milk duct, and pumping every three hours. My mom listened attentively and stood by me throughout the entire learning process. She later admitted how much she had learned at that meeting, including that I was entitled to a breast pump on my insurance.
It took about two weeks to increase my milk supply substantially, and I was able to accumulate a stored supply of refrigerated milk too. One day as I was attempting to comfort her while my husband went to prepare some powdered formula, I was elated when she latched on well and I could feel the warmth and pleasure my own body was providing for her. I realize now that I know Sarah’s needs better than anyone else and that trusting my own instincts was the best thing I could do for my daughter and me. I did not give up on breastfeeding, which greatly helped to dissipate my baby blues. When Sarah and I make eye contact during nursing sessions, I feel we comfort each other.
After maintaining patience and positive thinking throughout the learning process I am now witnessing the benefits of nursing in Sarah’s smiles and gleaming eyes as I hold her in my arms.