Breastfeeding has been immensely rewarding and yet extremely challenging. It didn’t start off smoothly and even 3 months later there are still complications. I persevere not out of obligation but out of love. It is comforting, relaxing and a bit amazing to feed her the way nature intended. A strong bond has formed between us that I don’t think would be there otherwise. Convenience also plays a hand; it is just so much easier to grab Elly and nurse her than it is to go through the process of making a bottle.
As recommended, I started breastfeeding Elly in the recovery room directly following the c-section. Despite help from 2 nurses and 1 husband, Elly struggled to latch on longer than a few seconds. In the hours and days following her birth, Elly learned where the milk came from, how to latch on and how to let me know she was hungry. We didn’t get it right all the time but enough that good habits were starting to form. Yet it only took a few wrong positions to cause cracking and bleeding. Two weeks passed before I felt like I was on the road to recovery. Unfortunately, I soon contracted thrush and things became quite painful again. Medication to rid the yeast and lots of lanolin cream eventually sent the pain packing for good. Yet, the problems didn’t end there.
At 5 weeks of age, Elly decided that she no longer wanted to lay on the Boppy pillow. She had taken a preference to the cradle position and would accept little else. Ask me how long it took me to figure that out. The Boppy pillow is now just used to help Elly sit up on her own.
At 6 weeks, she demanded with her new found voice that pillows of all sorts be retired. I was going to need to build up my arm strength. This is also about the same time that she fell in love with a walk and nurse combo (nursing while I walked around the house lulling her to sleep). Thoughts of me creating a monster raced through my head, but everyone insisted I couldn’t spoil a newborn.
At 3 months, Elly abruptly stopped nursing on my left side. Worried that Elly wouldn’t get enough to eat, I hired a lactation consultant. (For those in the Pottstown area, I highly recommend consultant Amy Owen). After assuring me that Elly would get all the nutrition she needed from one side so long as I continued to nurse on demand and did not cut the sessions short, she sat with me for 2 hours and gave me a slew of suggestions. The first suggestion that worked was to buy a sling. The sling was to help support Elly’s weight during the walk and nurse combo.
It became Elly’s preferred method of nursing my left side for about a week. The second suggestion that worked was to start her on her favorite side and then move her over to the other side after the letdown without turning her. Currently, this is 1 of 2 ways that I trick her into nurse on the side she doesn’t like. The 2nd way and the easier of the two is to grab her directly after she wakes up when she is still groggy and will nurse out habit. It seems every time I do succeed in nursing her on her least favorite side it makes the next time just a little bit easier. Hopefully, there will come a day when I no longer have to use any tricks. The one good thing about her preferring just one side is that I now have a freezer stocked with milk. (Note: For those experiencing the same problem, the website KellyMom offers a great list of suggestions).
The moral of this story is that breastfeeding – though rewarding – has its share of difficulties. It is constantly changing as your little one grows up. What works today may not work tomorrow. Just when everything is going right, your baby will change. Case in point, I have spent the past week learning Elly’s vocabulary of sounds and gestures. I used to know when she munched her hands that she was hungry. Now she munches her hands for the fun of it. Sticking her tongue out or clicking like a typewriter are her new hunger cues.
Breastfeeding requires determination, a sense of humor and a great support system to make it through. But you CAN do it. Keep trying as long as you and your baby want to.