Dominic and I had a very rough start when it comes to breastfeeding. When we went to his three day check up, we found out that he lost over a pound and that he had not been nursing properly. I think that was quite possibly the worst moment of my life (save the loss of our first child, Ellen). As a new mom, I thought it was supposed to be one of those things that would just be natural. I had seen vids of babies literally start nursing right as they are placed on momma's chest after birth. When we were in the hospital many nurses watched Doc breastfeeding and seemed to think everything was fine so naturally, I thought it was going fine. None-the-less at that 3 day check up, Dr. Karen sat with us for at least an hour, maybe two and tried to help us. She realized that his chin was slightly reccessed and it was making it hard for him to latch. Not only that, but he was sucking on his bottom lip and just couldn't keep it out of the way; he had been doing it for months in utero, you can even see it on one of his ultrasound pics. Poor Dominic tried so hard but quickly became too exhausted to try again. She recommended we go see Judy, a local lactation consultant, and then come back tomorrow. She also told me to pump and cup feed him every two hours, day and night as well as try and get him to nurse.
Judy was also at a loss with how to help him, she gave me some tips but said really that I was doing everything right, "just keep trying and hopefully he will get it". Since I only had a manual pump, Judy was nice enough to let me borrow her automatic which attached to my pump, thank God for that. Judy and Dr. Karen both asked me how committed I was to breastfeeding and I responded "100%". They knew it was going to be a hard road.
Geoff, Dominic, and I returned home and I immediately began pumping to get some food in my poor little guy. I set my alarm and cup fed him every two hours (at least) for the next week as well as tried to bring him to my breast. There were a few times when I really thought he had it, only to not have it again next time. It was a long week. When Dominic was sleeping, I was pumping and when he was awake we worked on latching. Every day we visited Dr Karen to make sure he was gaining weight, and he was. As day after day went by and he still wasn't getting it, I began to wonder if I needed to invest in my own pump. Was my baby going to be breastfed from a bottle?
I can't tell you how many rosaries I prayed that week. I was pleading with mother Mary to help me and was offering all my pain up for my little guy. Every time I prayed, I knew in my heart he was going to get it; I just needed to be patient. Although it was hard to keep my resolve when some close to me asked at what point was I going to start formula. But as long as my milk supply was good (it was) and Doc was getting enough milk (he was) I was going to keep going until he got it.
That Saturday I sent 2 hours in Judy's store as she watched Dominic try and latch on. It was exhausting for all of us. After hour one, poor Dominic was drained and took a nap. When he awoke we tried again. Hour two came and we were discussing our options. We tried a nipple shield and that didn't work, so we were talking about where to go from here. I could tell she was beginning to think he wasn't going to get it. Again I prayed for help. Judy said to me "let's try just one more time". I'm sitting there holding my precious newborn son in my arms, and watched as he latched on and began to eat. Tears welled up in my eyes and Judy just watched in amazement for a couple minutes. Finally she broke the silence, "he got it." I will never forget what it felt like. The latch was terrible and it hurt so bad, yet I didn't care because finally he was nursing. And he did indeed just "get it" because he never had problems latching again. I still had to supplement by pumping and cup feeding in addition to nursing for another week just to play catch up.
I was so grateful that he was nursing that for months I ignored his bad latch. I felt as long as he was eating, I could deal with the cracks and the pain. And it was terrible pain. Finally about month three, he learned to open his mouth wider and then it was smooth sailing. He nursed exclusively for 7 months, and I loved every second. Now at almost a year later he still loves to nurse, and I love it too. I've been asked how long I will breastfeed for and to be honest, I have no idea what to answer is. Doc could decide tomorrow that he is done so I'm taking it day by day.
So that is my breastfeeding story. As I was reflecting on it today, I was also thinking about why I enjoy breastfeeding so much. This is what I came up with. I love that I get to nourish my child. I love that it is good for his health and builds his immune system. I love that it is something only I can do for him. I love it because it comforts him and helps him to relax. But most of all, I love it because it is our quiet cuddle time together. When he was young and other people were holding him, I missed him not being in my arms; but soon enough I was able to snatch him away, just the two of us, and nurse him. When I was overwhelmed at work, how soothing it was to have that time to relax and look into his eyes. And now, when he is so full of energy and is constantly squirming to get down and run around, I know at least a few times during the day I will get to hold him in my arms and he will be calm and relaxed...well most of the time.