I don’t know why, but one of my main goals with this pregnancy was to be able to nurse successfully at the end of it. To me, nursing just seems like the right way to go, and although it can be quite challenging at times, I feel like the effort is worth it.
When I had Zoe, back when I was only 18 years old, breastfeeding seemed like a really strange and uncomfortable concept. I mean, I was barely even an adult when I had her and telling me to use my boobs to feed a baby was just about the same as recommending that I begin sitting on my head while eating dinner. Weird. But, because my mid-wife and doctor said I should give it a try, I did. I think I might have tried once or twice, but it was just not something I was confortable with, so we used formula. I didn’t feel bad about it at all, and honestly, I still don’t. She did just fine with a bottle and I was confortable and I guess that’s all that mattered.
My second child, Landon, came along when I was 24 and a little bit wiser. I’d been working in daycare for several years before I had him and had quite a bit more experience with babies and children. Being a daycare employee meant that I had to take lots of childcare related classes and such, so I gained a bit more knowledge about breastfeeding and child rearing through them. I decided before he was born that I would give nursing a bit more of a chance than before, and that if I didn’t like it, I would use the bottle as I had with Zoe. No harm, no foul. Just after giving birth to him, the nurse asked me if I was going to breastfeed and when I said yes, she handed him right to me. I can remember feeling pretty uneasy with everyone kind of looking at me, waiting for me to whip my gown up for him to eat, but I did it…and man did it hurt. The nurse was really nice and helped me to adjust him and gave me a few tips, and then kind of just left me to it. I think it was probably 6 months before I really got the hang of it, and we did use some formula as well. I felt very accomplished when I hit the one year mark but at that point I decided that that was enough. He was ready as well, so it was an easy transition for both of us.
Almost two years ago when Harper came along I knew that I was gong to breastfeed him as well. I was very confident that it would be easier than with Landon just because I’d had experience. I was so prepared. I had my breast pump, cover-up, leak proof pads, maternity bras…you name it, I had it. Once Harper was born, I confidently informed the staff that I’d be nursing him and to please not give him any formula. We started off pretty shaky because I just couldn’t get him to latch on comfortably, but I was so determined to nurse that I decided to just work through the pain. There was cracking and bleeding and severe pain, but I didn’t want to give up. I readjusted him, tried different ways of holding him, tried pumping with not only my pump but then also with a hospital grade pump I rented from his pediatrician, and even spoke many times with a lactation consultant…but, nothing worked. Not too long after having him I also got mastitis, and that pretty much ended it all for me. I couldn’t get even an ounce of milk when I pumped and Harper was growing more and more agitated. Every appointment we went to, his weight was decreasing. The doctor was concerned about his weight loss, and I was scared to death I was going to end up starving him, so after a lot of tears (on my part) I decided it was time to go with formula. It took me awhile to get over it and I felt like such a failure. I mean, I had been so ready and so sure of myself, and then when it didn’t work out, I was pretty crushed. I don’t think anyone could understand what I was so upset about, but I just felt like I wasn’t able to do what was “normal” and “expected” and I felt like I had let my baby down. I knew in my heart that he was fine and that giving him formula wasn’t the end of the world, but it just wasn’t the way I had wanted things to work out.
So, here we are now with baby number 4, baby Dakota. Since my delivery wasn’t vaginal like the others she wasn’t handed to me the moment she was born to nurse. Once I woke up and was ready, the nurse told me to go ahead and let her try to nurse. I was so nervous! She latched on without any problem though, and I couldn’t believe that it wasn’t painful! I was thrilled! Throughout that first night and next day, every few hours, she would nurse and seem pretty content, but even though everything seemed okay, I just couldn’t help but be worried about her not getting enough food. The second night in the hospital, Tony had to be home with the kids so it was just Dakota and I. I had been nursing her off and on all night, and she was fussy and seemed uncomfortable. That was all it took for me to start doubting myself and around 2am, I called the Mel, my assigned nurse,and asked him to bring me a bottle.
*I need to go back here just a minute to talk about Mel, the male nurse who seemed to know everything there was to know about breastfeeding. When I was first taken into the room I’d be in until discharge, he was my RN. I’d never had a male L&D nurse before so I was a little surprised by him, but I figured he was as good as the women, so I didn’t let it bother me. I was really surprised though when he started talking to me about nursing and giving me all the hints and tips he knew like he’d nursed babies before himself. He was a father of 4, and he’d helped his wife with her nursing troubles, so he really did know a lot.
When Mel came in, he didn’t have any bottles with him and I was about ready to freak out on him. But, he came in, sat down in the chair across from my bed, and told me to tell him what I wanted. I told him I really wanted to nurse but that I was pretty certain Dakota wasn’t getting enough because she was so fussy and not sleeping at all. I told him all about my experiences with the other kids, mostly focusing on Harper, and told him that I didn’t want to have to go through all that again with Dakota. He listened and then told me we’d make a game plan. He told me we’d try pumping and continue to weigh and monitor Dakota throughout the rest of my stay, but that if at any time I still wanted to give her a bottle, he’d go get me one. I agreed, and he went to get the pump. When he came back, he brought the pediatrician that was on duty in to talk to me as well as to examine Dakota. The pediatrician told me she thought I was doing fine with the feedings and that Dakota looked great. Hearing that made me feel a lot better. Mel finished setting up the breast pump, showed me how to use it and then left me try it out on my own. He told me to call him once I was done and that he’d come in and put whatever colostrum I was able to pump into a syringe to give Dakota at her next feeding. I wasn’t able to get very much out, but seeing it in the bottle made me realize that she was indeed getting something and it eased my mind even further. From that point on, I decided I was going to give it all time and see how things worked out.
When I got home from the hospital I had to take Dakota in to see her pediatrician because he doesn’t work out of the hospital that she was born in. When we went in to see him, he checked her weight and she was down to 7.00.05 pounds. I was NOT happy to hear that. (She started at 7.11.00) Her doctor said she was still at that early stage though where it is typical for them to lose weight and to come back the next day to do a weight check. I thought that sounded reasonable, although I still worried she’d starve before we got back, so I agreed to come back the next day at noon.
Waiting to go to the doctor that morning was tough. I was so anxious to see what her weight was going to be. (My milk had come in the night before, and even though I knew it, I still wasn’t convinced that she was getting all she needed to grow.) I nearly jumped for joy when we weighed her and she was 7.01.05! So much relief flooded through me and I finally felt like I could relax a little.
Tomorrow she is due back to the doctor for another little check up and again I’m anxious to see what her weight is. Not scared/anxious, more curious/anxious this time.
Wish us luck!