Before my son was born, I knew breastfeeding was an experience I deeply desired to share with him. I was ready to do the work and learn how to breastfeed.
Several friends told me not to pressure myself and to give it two weeks. If it wasn’t working within two weeks, they encouraged me to let myself off the hook.
Some breastfeeding websites say the same thing- try it out for two weeks and then move on if it’s not pleasant.
In this situation, my determination and refusal to consider a different option served my son and me well.
Now, let me backtrack and tell you a little about the last weeks of my pregnancy.
A complicated rainbow pregnancy
If you don’t know, a rainbow baby is a baby conceived after a miscarriage. My son is my rainbow baby.
Rainbow pregnancies are fraught with the typical excitement, joy, anticipation of pregnancy. But living with these emotions are intense grief and guilt and a whole new kind of fear.
My pregnancy was “normal” until I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes at 26 weeks.
Despite my best efforts, I was put on insulin to help stabilize my blood sugar levels.
The protocol for being on insulin results in weekly “mini” ultrasounds called a Biophysical profile (BPP) of the baby. This monitors baby development, function, and amniotic fluid levels.
As frustrated as I was at being put on insulin and having these weekly ultrasounds, I believe they saved my son’s life.
Quickly, we discovered my amniotic fluid levels were dropping- with no real explanation as to why.
Typically, high amniotic fluid levels are the concern in a gestational diabetes pregnancy that requires insulin. So, this was a bit odd.
At my second BPP with low AF levels, my doctor sent me to the hospital for the first time.
To make a long story short, the last eight weeks of my pregnancy, I was in and out of the hospital on bedrest.
Thankfully, our precious rainbow baby was born at 36 weeks via C-section with a head full of hair and healthy enough for the NICU team to leave.
The beginning struggle
My son was born Monday afternoon, but it wasn’t until Monday evening that I was conscious of someone telling me to nurse my son.
What an injustice to him!
In my new mom and anesthesia haze, I hadn’t thought once about nursing him.
When the nurse left us to figure it out, I had no clue what I needed to do.
That first night was pure panic, frustration, and confusion.
Tuesday morning, Allyson walked into my room and saved us. Allyson is one of the hospital’s lactation consultants, and she was my cheerleader, instructor, and a friend during those first days.
You see, after gestational diabetes, you worry about low blood sugar levels in the baby- which means the baby’s blood sugar has to be checked an hour after each feeding.
If there are three low sugar readings in a row, baby goes to NICU to be tube fed formula or mom’s breastmilk, and at some hospitals, human donor milk is an option.
Allyson heard my heart cry to do my best to avoid supplementing and she gave me every option she could to do what I wanted.
She was in my room every hour, encouraging and guiding us both as we learned. But when the time came, she was the one I trusted when she assured me that supplementing would be best for my son and wouldn’t hurt our breastfeeding relationship.
She helped us come up with a solution to avoid using a bottle in those early days.
Even though I trusted her and wanted my son to be healthy more than anything, I cried when we gave him formula because I was afraid it would harm our chances of successfully breastfeeding.
However, supplementing stabilized his blood sugar which meant there was no NICU stay!
Our feeding routine for the first five days was to nurse, supplement, and pump. It felt like all I did was breastfeed him!
After my milk came in, he weaned off formula, and we began exclusively breastfeeding.
Our journey wasn’t what I thought it would be.
But I was prepared, right? 😊 I read and I had done my research. I knew to expect pain and discomfort.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the depth of the pain that caused me to clench pillows, crying for weeks on end each time he latched.
But like I said, I was determined, and I didn’t give myself another option. I didn’t feel trapped or pressured into breastfeeding. I just knew that this was a choice I was making.
I wasn’t backing down and any obstacle that came up, I was going to find a way through.
As I write, my son is now almost 15 months old, and we are still breastfeeding in the morning and evening. He was exclusively breastfed until 13 months when we introduced whole cow’s milk.
It took a solid 11-12 weeks to get into a comfortable rhythm of breastfeeding. And it hasn’t been “just easy” after- there is teething, we STILL have bad latch moments, and then hormonal changes that affect my comfort level.
But it has been the sweetest journey and sharing this experience with my son has been worth all the tears, pain, and frustration.
If you desire to breastfeed, here are two things I found most helpful:
- Supportive people
I mentioned my friends- they are some of my closest friends, but when it came to breastfeeding, they weren’t the ones I listened to or leaned on. That was not because they don’t love me, or I don’t love them. I believe they had my best interest at heart.
But I wanted to breastfeed, and I needed people to encourage that, despite my pain and discomfort. So, I leaned on my husband, my mother, my cousin, and my breastfeeding friends.
- Find a lactation consultant!
Not only was Allyson there during the hospital, but we had follow-up hospital appointments, countless text messages, and home visits. Her help was invaluable.
Breastfeeding is not what you expect it will be- and I’m told each child is a new journey- but if this is a desire of your heart, I believe most obstacles can be walked through, and it’s worth the struggle.
I am extremely proud of our breastfeeding journey, and I actually love that it wasn’t easy.