I was going to try to have a line or title of a song as the subject for every blog; however, I think that must come to an end today. I can't think of a song that has the word "breastfeeding" in it, so I will just have to break the tradition.
Breastfeeding. Some people decide to try it, others don't even bother. It works for some, it doesn't for others. Why is it such a big deal? While I was pregnant, I assumed I would breastfeed. "Breast is best," right? Our bodies were made to feed our babies, so it just makes sense. It's free, convenient, and a healthy start for your newborn. While I was in the hospital I started preparing myself for the fact that Graham could be born before he had established the suck /swallow reflex. This meant it would take some time before he would be able to try breastfeeding. I knew that would involve pumping, but I still underestimated the difficulty that would later come my way. When I thankfully made it to 36 weeks, I no longer anticipated difficulty with breastfeeding because the suck/swallow reflex was established at that age.
Well life did not go exactly as I had planned on January 24th. I had a c-section. Graham had to go to the NICU. And breastfeeding.....well it just didn't seem to work. You would think it is the most natural thing in the world to feed a baby, but for some, it just doesn't play out that way. I wasn't given the opportunity to nurse for a few days while Graham was still being closely monitored. Finally, I got to try breastfeeding. Despite my awkwardness, Graham nursed for about 15 minutes the first time we tried. I was thrilled. And I just assumed that nursing was like riding a bike. Since he had done it once, he would always be able to do it. I was mistaken. Graham and I got released after a week in the hospital and he still wasn't nursing. A typical feeding would look like this: I would try to breastfeed. Graham would cry and scream for several minutes. I would cry for several minutes. Graham would refuse to latch on. I would give him a bottle. I would pump. I would try to breastfeed. Graham would cry.....you get the picture. It wasn't working. I went to see the lactation nurse 1-2 times a week. I took supplements and a prescription to help my milk supply, but Graham only latched on a handful of times. After 4-5 weeks of diligently trying, I surrendered. To prevent my baby from starving, I gave him formula. Yes, I said it, FORMULA. I expected the lactation nurses to rebuke me for quitting, but they instead encouraged me and told me they completely understood. They said it was most important that I bond with my son and if I was too stressed over breastfeeding, then it wasn't worth it. So I just quit. Feedings were much more enjoyable, but I was still saddened to think that I failed at breastfeeding. It seems trivial, but even looking at the cute "hooter hider" my sister bought me, made me sad because I knew I wasn't going to be able to use it.
After going off some medication that made me exhausted and gathering my sanity after a difficult pregnancy and delivery, I felt reenergized and decided I wanted to try breastfeeding again. Three weeks after giving up on breasfeeding, I let the lactation nurse know my plan, I rented a pump, and I pumped for a week about every 2-3 hours. Then one day I tried nursing. I couldn't believe it. My eight week old baby decided he wanted to nurse! We went to visit the lactation nurse and she weighed Graham before and after a feeding. Guess how much milk he got? Zero. Nada. Nothing. He nursed for 15 minutes and got absolutely nothing! The nurse encouraged me to keep trying and over the next week my supply returned and Graham started actually getting some milk. It wasn't much. But even if he was only getting an ounce or two, it was something! My nurse was amazed. I had succeeded at relactating. She said it was a miracle. I myself thought it was a miracle too. It was similar to what mothers do when they want to breastfeed their adoptive babies. Somehow my milk came back. I still have to give Graham a bottle every time I nurse, but I don't really mind it at this point. I'm just glad he will breastfeed....at least for a few minutes at each feeding!
There are many more details to my breastfeeding story. I never knew there were so many medications and devices you can use to help with nursing! I think I tried them all. But what if I had given up on breastfeeding? Would I have been a failure? I think not. I gave it a really good shot and it was quite miraculous that it worked the second time around. It is ridiculous that I still feel like I need to hide the formula in my diaper bag! There were people I didn't even know who were trying to tell me why I need to keep breastfeeding. I just wanted to yell, "Yes, I know breastfeeding is best. Thanks for reminding me. I cry every day because I can't nurse my baby. You don't know my breastfeeding story. And by the way, is it really any of your business?" Thankfully I was mostly surrounded by people who were very supportive during a difficult time. Graham gets lots of delicious formula every day and I don't think he is going to be sick or stupid because of it. I was just noticing how sweet it is when I give Graham a big ole bottle of formula. I hold him in my arms. He takes a few gulps, he looks up at me, he smiles, and he just seems so thankful that I am feeding him. If he doesn't care where his food comes from, why should anyone else?