I thought I was prepared to bring home our baby in the days leading up to her delivery. Cody and I had attended two birthing classes, a Caring for Your Newborn class, as well as toured the hospital. We knew how to change a diaper, swaddle, and had our hospital bags packed. Our birth plan was filled out (ha!), and even though I was anxious and nervous about bringing baby home, I didn’t worry about feeding her. Our doctor had recommended we attend the ‘Breastfeeding Bootcamp’ class but because we attended the others, I felt that I didn’t need it. In fact, I didn’t read anything about breastfeeding leading up to the delivery. Not one iota of information, but yet I circled ‘Strictly Breastfeed’ on our birth plan. Talk to a lactation consultant, why? I was confident that because breastfeeding was natural, I wouldn’t have any issues with it. I had no idea how difficult the next month would be.
As soon as Josie was born the nurses took her and weighed her, cleaned her off, handed her to daddy, then to me. They showed me the different nursing positions and tried to get her to latch. Because my milk hadn’t come in yet, there wasn’t such a rush to get her to nurse. Later that evening we did have a visit from the Lactation Nurse and she helped us get a pump. At this point I didn’t even know I needed a pump! I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and full of emotions. By the time my colostrum had come in, Josie wouldn’t latch and suck. Nurses informed us that I would have to pump then feed her with a syringe. Cody and I were so exhausted from our first day with her we just wanted to get her fed and get some rest. The next day, we had the same issues. The LN came in and helped us with different feeding positions, still to no avail. Josie just couldn’t get the sucking down. We continued to feed her with a syringe-first sticking our finger in her mouth so she could get the sucking down then giving the syringe. Once she would start sucking I would take her and try to get her to nurse but she would immediately stop. I felt frustrated because I had no idea that breastfeeding might not work. Our LN of course was busy and could only come in twice a day to help us. I continued to pump and feed her through the syringe while we were in the hospital. We had to stay an extra day to try to get Josie to latch and nurse correctly. The nurses did not want us to leave before we could comfortably get our baby to eat.
Once we got home my milk had come in and I was having to pump around the clock. I tried to read so much about keeping up my supply with exclusive pumping, and it was WORK. I was pumping twenty minutes every two hours. We were still having to feed Josie from a syringe; we did this for the first week. She eventually developed a larger appetite and began to take a bottle. I was exhausted from pumping then feeding her, cleaning the pump parts, bottles, then starting the whole process over again. I thought about my goal of breastfeeding for one year and just wanted to give up; that seemed like an impossible goal.
I began to feel so much guilt as well. Guilt because my baby for some reason didn’t want me, and it made me feel angry towards her. I felt guilt because the more I tried, the more I wanted to give up, and not nurse her at all. It seemed promising if we were determined, but we still knew there was a chance she wouldn’t ever nurse.
After a month of sitting in the nursery with a screaming baby and crying myself, a miracle happened.
I would try once a day to get her to nurse, which would inevitably end in her screaming and pushing away from me. However, one day she took about five sucks. I was shocked. The next time she needed to eat I decided to try again and let her nurse. She sucked about thirty seconds. I cannot even describe the hope I was feeling! A few hours later we tried again- this time she nursed for five minutes. It was then that I knew this was going to work. The next day I didn’t even warm up a bottle; she just began to nurse. I don’t have any answer as to why she picked it up other than God answered my prayers. I didn’t try anything special, by all means I had given up. When we visited her pediatrician for her one month check up, he was amazed that she had picked up nursing. He actually called it a miracle.
I had no idea that nursing would be the hard work that it was. Looking back, I am so thankful that I stuck it out and did not give up. I had nothing against formula feeding her, but I so desperately wanted to be able to feed her myself. There were a lot of tears in the first month, and many different emotions, but I am so glad that my baby is healthy and eating well! Now, that goal of nursing for one year doesn’t seem so impossible.
I would encourage any new moms or moms to be to attend the classes, read the books, and surround yourself with a support system. The more you know the more ready you will be to nurse your baby.