Of all the plans I made for my future daughter, the one thing I most wanted to do was breastfeed her. It’s something I thought would come naturally! I have the physical endowments necessary to do such, and I envisioned her immediately latching on to my breast in the delivery room, thus beginning our lifelong bond.
This was not the case.
Initially, the staff did not want me to nurse her because they were going to check her blood sugar to see if my gestational diabetes had any effect on her. Several hours after giving birth I was given the ok to feed her but she was uninterested in feeding. She was uninterested for a full 24 hours, which had me extremely concerned.
The next day she began puking up large amounts of froth. The nurses told me that this was mucus and amniotic fluid that was typical in the stomachs of c-section babies. Problem was? Mine was not a c-section birth.
In any case, I was told that the puking was a good thing, and several hours later it had dissipated. A lactation consultant came to visit and showed me the football hold, got the baby latched on (she has a lazy latch, I was told) and then ordered me a breast pump to use in the room to help get the milk flowing, since my milk had not yet come in.
That evening baby and I struggled yet again and the nurse came in to help, got her latched, and was off again. The next day another lactation consultant came in with more help.
All in all I left the hospital with a very rudimentary idea of how to breastfeed, and the promise that once my milk came in everything would be better. I was unconvinced, but hopeful. I was also armed with some pre-mixed formula
It took almost 3 days from the time I got home until my pitiful colostrum began to turn to milk. Still, every feeding was a battle that usually ended with her screaming and me in tears. There were days when she would latch for a couple of minutes, and then there was one epic night where she nursed nearly continually from 9 pm to 4 am. I was sore, exhausted, crying, and desperate for some sort of relief.
My father came back to stay for a few days around the time she started nursing somewhat normally again. That lasted for a day or so and then she started refusing my breast completely. I was devastated by this.
My husband and my father both encouraged me to just give up on trying to breastfeed. Formula is there for a reason, they said, and it was more important to feed her than to breastfeed her.
Intellectually I understood this, but my heart was broken. I felt like a complete failure. I was strapped to a pump or my daughter nearly 24 hours a day trying to keep her fed by my breast and all she did was scream. I was in physical and emotional pain, and was no longer enjoying my beautiful baby girl. I could barely even look at her. I cried for hours on end: in bed, in the shower, while pumping, while trying to breastfeed, while bottle feeding her formula.
The colostrum had turned to milk, but that hadn’t been the magic bullet I had been promised.
So breastfeeding, the thing I KNEW would be easy, was ruining my relationship with my daughter. I decided to offer her the breast occasionally, but pump as I could and bottle feed her both breast milk and formula. I’m hopeful that eventually breastfeeding will “click” for her and we can nurse.
It wasn’t easy to get over this hurdle mentally. There was a lot of crying, and my father and husband were both at a loss as to how to help me.
So what did? Penny did.
One evening my husband was walking her around the house showing her things out the patio doors. I walked by the two of them and swooped in to drop kisses on her cheek, and as I walked away she reached out for me.
“She wants her momma,” my husband said.
So I took her in my arms. It was the first time she’d shown a preference for a specific person, and it was ME, her momma. I wasn’t just some large human taking care of her, I was the one she wanted.
We may never breastfeed again, but we WILL have a special bond.
* * *
Giving up on breastfeeding wasn’t the worst thing. At her 12 day old pediatrician appointment (she was born on a Sunday so her appointment was before 14 days) she was back up to 1.5 oz above her birth weight and doesn’t need to be seen again until she is 6 weeks old.
I can look at her now and enjoy her beautiful face, kiss her and snuggle her. Even when she screams I am so in love my heart feels like it might burst.