Kira shares her story of persevering through tremendous difficulty in order to successfully breastfeed her now 10 month old son. Kira blogs about being “a modern woman with old fashioned tendencies” at Just Like June.
My son was born in a flurry of medical intervention. My plan for a natural birth was undermined by my body’s inability to keep consciousness and I ended up with a traumatic last minute c-section after 36 hours of heavy back labor. I had been sick with pneumonia the whole time I was pregnant and spent my first day after giving birth in a state of psychological shock.
My maternal instinct was in there somewhere though and in the midst of my completely claustrophobic drugged out state I forced a nurse to sit and hold my son to my breast. He was too exhausted to really latch, but he tried and I felt better for it. I live a relatively organic lifestyle. I don’t eat meat, I cook and bake from scratch, I buy locally, believe in karma, and am good to my family. I wanted to give my child the best beginning in life and always planned on breastfeeding. Women in the previous generation of my family breastfed for 6 weeks because that was the recommendation when they gave birth. I’m not sure where this arbitrary time frame came from, but that is what was done. I knew that I definitely wanted to go longer than 6 weeks and after my terrifying labor and delivery, I felt even stronger that I needed to give my son something natural.
Unfortunately my milk took three full weeks to even come in. I spent night after night, hour after hour with my son at my breast but he would scream with agony. After a visit to the pediatrician and the lactation consultant, I was told that supplementing with formula was necessary because I didn’t have milk and he had gone from 8 pounds 4 oz. to 6 pounds 13 oz. So, we put him on formula, 2 oz. after every breastfeeding attempt. I ate oatmeal, drank fenugreek tea and eventually, at three weeks, my milk came in. We spent the next three weeks pumping after every breastfeed trying to get my milk supply up. Finally, at 6 weeks, we quit the formula and went exclusively on the breast. Two weeks later we had an appointment with the pediatrician and my son was putting on adequate weight. I had finally had success with breastfeeding and I felt wonderful!
I went to a breastfeeding support group and the lactation consultant saved my breastfeeding relationship with my son. She was, and still is, one of my biggest supporters. She helped me to latch correctly, learn to nurse lying down, and how to safely co-sleep so that I could get more sleep as well. The most difficult part of nursing, for me, was conflicting viewpoints from family and friends. They were trying to be helpful so I wouldn’t feel like a failure if it didn’t pan out. But, having a friend like my friend Stacy who openly said “You can do this” was way more helpful than wishy washy statements about formula if it didn’t work out.
We don’t have a routine when it comes to nursing. My son is still nursed on demand, even though he eats solids. I respect his need to nurse throughout the night, nurse to sleep for naps, and to nurse when he’s hurt, scared, or sick. I understand now that breastfeeding is much more than a nutritional choice, but an emotional bond that my child has with me. I plan to extend well past a year and even though there are days when he’s stuck to me like gum on the bottom of a shoe and I want to scream, I’d like to let him self-wean. I’d like to allow my son to live his complete babyhood and wean when he is emotionally ready. The worst advice I ever got was from my mother and that was to put him on a schedule. It wasn’t her fault though. We were formula fed after 6 weeks and a schedule for a formula-fed baby makes sense. She didn’t realize the benefit of nursing on demand and that formula-fed and breast-fed babies had markedly different needs. That was actually one of the hardest things I had to deal with in regards to nursing. She would insinuate that I nursed too often, but in all honesty, she had no idea what she was talking about and it wasn’t her fault. All she knew is what she did and this was different.
My best advice for women who are thinking about breastfeeding is to get together with other breastfeeding moms, don’t be afraid to ask questions and know that just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. Breastfeeding can be hard. It can be exhausting and sometimes (especially when you get a biter) it can hurt. But, it shouldn’t. It is a wonderful experience, a loving bond, and a natural and fulfilling way to give of yourself to your child.