From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 22 No. 1, January-February 2005, pp. 22-23
I am Romanian and have been living in Mongolia for the past six years. My son, Mark, was born in 1990 in Romania. His birth was complicated, and I wanted a cesarean birth, but the doctor refused. Mark was born healthy, and I felt good. The third day after the birth, one of my breasts became engorged. A roommate advised me to express the milk or the medical staff might plug me into a "machine," which would be very painful. I listened to her, and I spent the whole day pumping out the milk. It was not easy, but after a day or two I could express a half cup. Even though I was seeing Mark every three hours, I did not manage to put him to the breast because he had jaundice and was sleeping all the time. By the time we left the hospital five days after his birth, Mark had not been breastfed even once. I could only hope that the staff from the neonatal department had given him the milk that I'd pumped.
When we arrived home, I could see his eyes for the first time and put him to the breast. He sucked well from the very beginning, but it did not take long before he would fall asleep. The first two weeks he slept through the night, and I remember my husband and I waking up in the morning in a "sea of milk." After these few happy days, Mark started waking up at 11 pm and crying until 7 am. I was desperate and exhausted. I changed my nutrition because I thought that my milk was causing his colic. I ended up only drinking milk and eating boiled meat and potatoes. After two months I decided that my milk was no good and introduced him to formula. By the time he was three months old, he would sleep through the night, and I was convinced that it was right to give him the bottle.
I got pregnant with Katharina in Mongolia. From the newsletter of the International Women Association of Mongolia, I learned that there was an international organization for breastfeeding and that it would be organizing meetings for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. I decided to join in order to learn how to prevent my milk from going "bad." I was three months pregnant when I went to the first meeting. I liked Melanie, the LLL Leader, from the very beginning; this was very important to me. I immediately bought some books: The Birth Book, by Dr. Sears and, of course, THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING. At the next meeting I became a member.
One piece of information really stayed with me. Melanie told us that a mother's milk is the best nutrition for her baby. How could I have thought that my body would produce something that was harmful to my son? How was it possible that nobody around me realized such a simple thing? There was a pediatrician who came once per week to see Mark, a medical assistant who came twice a week, my mother who had a medical background herself, my mother-in-law, Mark´s father, friends, and neighbors who had children themselves—and no one knew or thought to tell me that my milk was the best possible food for my son.
The more I read the new books that I had bought, the more I realized how many mistakes I had made and how many ideas I had to change. The first thing that I changed was my nutrition. Another change was that I wanted to have a natural birth instead of a cesarean. And the third and most important one was that I wanted to breastfeed my baby until her sixth month of life.
Two months before the birth, I went to Romania because I wanted my obstetrician to assist me. I felt good and extremely confident. It was a natural birth even though everybody expected me to have a cesarean because I was 38 years old. Katharina was brought to me the day after the birth. I put her to the breast, but my nipple seemed to be too large for her little mouth. A midwife helped me, and everything worked fine until she left and a new midwife came. This one was not able to help me, and I started having problems. I tried to express milk, but my breasts were engorged, and it was hard to pump it out. In four hours I managed to express only 10 ml of milk, my nipples hurt and I was panicking.
I got a lot of conflicting information from the medical staff. Finally, another midwife came with a bottle filled with formula to feed to Katharina. She left, and I sat on the side of my bed, tears rolling down my face. I was desperate. Friends heard about my nipple and engorgement problems, and they rushed to my bed to try to solve them. When they were gone, I remembered having read in my LLL books that the breast produces a lot of milk in the beginning because it has no signal yet from the baby for what his or her needs are and that the only solution is to simply put your child to the breast. So, I put her to my breast, and this is how our breastfeeding story started.
When I was feeling frustrated with my husband for not helping me enough, Melanie came up with the topic, "The Role of the Partner during Breastfeeding." When I was annoyed with Katharina for nursing too many times during the night, Melanie came with the topic, "Breastfeeding and Nighttime Parenting."
Now Katharina is two years and two months old and still breastfeeding. For a time I was thinking of weaning her, but she loves breastfeeding so much that I cannot take this pleasure away from her.
I still attend LLL meetings. Every time I go, I have the feeling that I couldn't possibly learn anything new because I am now a "veteran," yet every time I do. Melanie always finds interesting topics. I think that the most important thing of all is that we have the chance to share experiences and ideas within our Group. Talking about problems partly relieves us of them and makes us stronger.