It was the most difficult time of my life and there were many, many things “against” me. To look at my breastfeeding troubles, you’d have to go back to my pregnancy… You see, I was 47, kept getting pregnant, but kept miscarrying due to older eggs. Finally, we used science to help us. It didn’t occur to me until during the In Vitro (IVF) procedure to request only one embryo be put into me. Women’s intuition told me that I did not want to have twins but the doctor, attendants and my own husband said I’d be crazy to jeopardize the entire procedure by only putting one in. and besides the other good embryo might not survive the freezing. So they put in two and both “took.”
I had the pregnancy from hell. I thought I was a health nut/was doing everything correctly, but had I known then… I would have been drinking lots more water, I mean LOTS, and doing more green smoothies etc. Because of these things, I was so ill, I could barely walk. And then because of that, my blood pressure shot up six weeks before my due date and I felt “forced” into a c-section, even though I had taken ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) classes.
I practically screamed through the entire cesarean. My midwife was there trying to coach me (Ha, midwife – all hopes for a homebirth had vanished months earlier), and when they asked if I wanted something to calm me down afterward, I said yes. Whatever drugs they gave me, konked me out the entire next day. So I didn’t try to start pumping then. And since I knew you are not able to breastfeed preemies right away because they’re not yet developed enough to do so, I knew I had to pump. So for a day and a half, after that, I begged for a lactation consultant, because I wanted to start pumping, but was told they were too busy. Finally, I’d had enough and I very loudly complained/demanded to see one, and a nurse asked me why. “WHY? BECAUSE I NEED TO LEARN HOW TO PUMP.” “Oh, I can show you.” she said. GRRRRR, why didn’t anyone else tell me this?
So I got off to a late start, and I was so debilitated that I could not even get up by myself for one week after the c-sec. I went to see the twins as much as I could in a wheelchair and tried walking once but almost passed out.
Preemies are fed with tubes down their throat because they’re not developed enough to swallow. Then when I began to try nursing them, my son took to it right away. Funny, but his head was WAY larger than hers. So was his mouth and he would have nursed on a doorknob if he could have. But she and her teeny tiny mouth would have nothing to do with it. They kept insisting I bottle feed her, but I held out for a couple days and begged them to keep the tube down her throat so that she would not get used to a bottle. But they said she now needed to start getting those sucking reflexes working. They removed the feeding tube but she would not nurse. In fact, she was practically repulsed by my breast. And once she got the bottle with that long nipple shoved down her throat, with my pumped milk, she did not want me. Then they gave both babies pacifiers even though I gave specific instructions not to, which probably further reinforced the bottle for her. It didn’t matter for him. He went back and forth from bottle to nipple, no problem.
Then just like drug pushers, when I was down and out, they gave me a free box of formula. I was so debilitated, that I did in fact use it on some occasions. And then there was the “shameful/embarrassing” attitude they had towards breastfeeding: “You’re going to try to breastfeed? Oh my gosh, let’s get this screen up, so no one sees you…” Honestly, I wasn’t shy about it. Yet they tried to make me feel like I should be.
I tried every day to breastfeed her and every day she and I cried about it. My son nursed like a champ, and this is what helped me persevere. I pumped day and night to try to get my milk in better, but I believe because I was delayed in the beginning, I had a hard time keeping up. When they were about three months, I got some raw goat’s milk and that combined with my breastmilk and a little formula, is what I gave them. All the while, pumping and pumping. I could barely get dressed. One day, I wrote it all down. Every time I nursed and/or pumped, and out of nine hours that I kept track, I was trying to nurse for literally eight hours! Friends tried to help and I called the county to get “Help Me Grow” to help, I also called a lactation consultant who told me to feed her with a glass, which was far too time consuming. Finally, I got the idea to try a nipple shield.
Nipple shields are for women who have inverted nipples, which I do not have, but the nipple sticks out farther than a human nipple, to more closely resemble a bottle’s nipple. So against my lactation consultant’s advice, but with the blessing of a different set of lactation consultants, I tried one. The other consultants said that nipple shield’s would generally work in two to four weeks. Son-of-a-gun, after three weeks, one night at four in the morning, I tried without a nipple shield, just like I always did, but this time it worked. I was elated and wanted to scream to my husband, but didn’t want to disturbmy daughter from nursing.
She was now four months old when she finally nursed for the first time. I didn’t want to give her a bottle again, but did try around a month later, but she didn’t take it, which was fine by me! Remember her brother? The one who would have nursed a doorknob? He self-weaned at three years and two months. And her? She nursed for three years and ten months.
Yep, mine is a story of perseverance. It paid off. So if you are failing, don’t give up. I never knew it could be so difficult. Not many do.
For more stories from mamas who overcame obstacles in their breastfeeding journey, check out the complete list of posts.