My breastfeeding experience spanned a continuous 5 years and 9 months.  In this series I’ll share my breastfeeding story, with all of its ups and downs, for the purpose of inspiring and encouraging both new moms and those who are years into their breastfeeding experience. 
 My oldest son was born after 46.5 hours of labor.  Back labor.  When his little sunny-side-up face finally appeared in the world, I was both exhausted and relieved.  His APGARs were great and they handed him to me all bundled up, nothing visible but his squishy face.
The nurses asked me if he would be breast or bottle fed and recorded my response.  I did not attempt to feed him immediately.  Other than staring at him, I really didn’t know what to do with him.  He was calm and quiet–much like he had been in utero.
When our visitors and all of the nurses finally left us, I made my first attempt to feed my son.  It did not go well. He latched and immediately fell off. Over the next two days in the hospital, he latched for more than a couple of seconds only two times.  What I’d discovered after the epidural wore off (I’ll talk about my misguided, but fortunately successful labors and deliveries in another series someday.) was that my tailbone had been broken during delivery.  I couldn’t sit up!  Learning to properly hold my baby, much less correctly nurse him, had been made nearly impossible.  The lactation consultant showed me various holds, but without the ability to sit up to nurse, I felt the lessons were useless.  I only wish I had learned to nurse lying down much sooner.  I didn’t even consider trying that until our first night at home.
The coming weeks were very difficult for me.   His latch was horrid and within days, my nipples were raw, bleeding and burning.  By the end of his first week of life, I had mixed the formula samples given to me by the hospital in fear that my baby was not getting enough to eat.  I would cry in pain when I nursed and told my husband many times that I didn’t think breastfeeding was going to work out.  I knew it was the best way to feed my baby–although I didn’t yet know why, aside from the fact that it was natural and how our bodies were designed to function–but I was having second thoughts about continuing the torture.I checked out several breastfeeding books from the library within days of coming home from the hospital.The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding was one of the first books I read and it was eye-opening.  Although I read several books within a couple of days on the subject of breastfeeding and am sure that I garnered information from them all, the La Leche League publication is the one I remember as the breastfeeding book that set me on the right track.  More than anything else, it taught me to relax.

I also found several breastfeeding message boards online that were integral to changing my breastfeeding experience for the better.  Within those message boards, I discovered a parenting practice called “Attachment Parenting” that, once I finally embraced it, changed my views toward my baby and myself positively and permanently and opened my mind to view the world in a much different way that I had been raised to see it.

Still, those first six weeks were extremely difficult.  I was so desperate to stop the pain and to give my son as much breast milk as possible that I considered exclusively pumping.  That option never panned out because when I attempted to pump, so little was expressed that I knew I could never do it without also using formula.    And the more I read about formula and its inferiority to breast milk, the more determined I became to not rely on it for feeding my son.  In addition, his bottle latch was even worse than his breast latch!

At my son’s two week check up, the pediatrician determined that he had thrush, which partially explained my battered nipples.  Because my son was still latching on and falling off seconds later, I was very concerned that he wasn’t gaining weight.  I was supplementing with at least four ounces of formula per day, both grateful for its existence and sad that I needed it at all.  To my surprise, his weight was right on target!

Eventually, the thrush cleared and I learned to nurse while lying on my side and my baby begin  to stay latched for longer and longer with each nursing session.  In the meantime, I continued to supplement with formula and pumped breast milk.  Once the pain of nursing began to subside, I became relentless in latching and relatching my son during nursing sessions.  He’d latch and fall off over and over.  Over and over, I’d relatch him and lay very, very still until one day I realized he was staying latched for 5 full minutes at a time.  This time I cried tears of joy instead of tears of pain and desperation.

By the time he was six weeks old, I was no longer relying on formula supplementation at all and thought of pumping exclusively was  long gone from my mind.  My son was nursing for forty minutes at a time, every 1.5 hours and was repeatedly falling asleep at the breast.  I gazed at his milk drunk face and prayed prayers of gratitude that I was able to have this beautiful experience and that it was getting easier day by day.  Who knew that something so natural, so essential would be so excruciatingly difficult?  I was glad that those weeks were behind us.

Now it was time for me to return to work.  Although I was only planning to work part-time, my absence from my baby would ultimately create another breastfeeding hurdle for us to jump.

My Breastfeeding Story Part 2 pin

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