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A Valuable Resource

Angel Vogel
Pittsburgh PA USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 24 No. 6, November-December 2007, pp. 253-254

I had not wanted to breastfeed until I started working as a nurse at the local children's hospital and saw the amazing bond between a breastfeeding mother and baby. With my daughter, Lucy, I had several problems. She wouldn't latch-on, and we had thrush. At four months after trying everything to boost my milk production, I stopped breastfeeding because of an extremely low milk supply. It broke my heart.

When I was pregnant with my second child, a son, I was determined to breastfeed. I started attending La Leche League meetings when I was six months pregnant. My pregnancy was normal, but after hours of pushing during labor, I had a cesarean because my baby was not moving. He could have been in distress if I pushed any longer. The first thing I asked was would I still be able to breastfeed right after the birth.

When my baby was born, I had a feeling that something was wrong. A minute went by and he wasn't crying. I was told that he would be taken to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) because he had aspirated a lot of meconium and his breathing was not normal. My husband and I saw him in an isolette before they took him. His hands were completely blue.

They wheeled him away and I was okay for a minute, but then I completely broke down. I kept saying, "I need my baby." I couldn't believe that I would not be able to nurse Samuel immediately. It was so wrong. The doctor assured me that Samuel would be in the NICU for only a few hours. How wrong he was. Samuel's lungs cleared up, but then they thought his movements were abnormal. I asked when I could breastfeed him, and the doctors kept saying he wasn't ready yet, but when he was I would be able to put him to the breast. Four long days passed until they would let him eat. The nurse told me that I could not breastfeed him because of the IV in his scalp. I started sobbing and she left the room. I went back to my room and called the lactation consultant at the hospital and asked why I could not nurse my baby. She recommended that I speak to Sammy's doctor. I did and she was very compassionate.

Samuel's first feeding had to be my expressed milk in a bottle so his sucking and swallowing coordination could be monitored. He took the bottle just fine. And, finally, it was time to nurse him. He latched on like he had done it a million times before! He nursed for 15 minutes, and then had to take pumped milk from a bottle. I was discharged on the fourth day and he was discharged on the fifth day. We stayed in a hotel close to the hospital and I went back and forth to nurse Sammy and then feed him more with a bottle, since my milk was not in.

We went home and all was well, until our final stumbling block. When Sam was three weeks old, I came down with a fever. I thought I had mastitis. It turned out to be a kidney infection and I had to be admitted to the hospital for IV antibiotics. They told me that Sam could be readmitted to the nursery and I could nurse him, but I felt so poorly that I could barely take care of myself. I pumped every three hours in the hospital and stored my milk for Sam to be fed by a bottle by my husband. I got to see Sam one time during my seven-day hospital stay and nursed him one time. I ended up with a very serious blood infection and needed strong antibiotics.

I had a student nurse say to me, "We really don't know if the one antibiotic is compatible with breastfeeding, so you'll have to just pump and dump. Is that okay?" I said no, that I would call my LLL Leader, Carmen, for information. The antibiotic was compatible with breastfeeding. I also had to have a CT scan of my kidneys and I was told the dye was not compatible with breastfeeding. Again I called my LLL Leader and found out that the dye was compatible with breastfeeding. I called the lactation consultant at the hospital and she said this mistake had been made several times and that she would set up a meeting with the doctors to discuss this.

I went home when Sam was one month old and nothing since has stood in the way of our nursing relationship. He is now 11 months old, and is still nursing. I attend LLL meetings regularly. I plan to nurse Sam until he decides that he is ready to wean. Attending LLL meetings has taught me that baby's self-weaning is the easiest and the best option for me. I will always be grateful for the local LLL Leaders who answered my questions and helped me when I needed it most. I am also grateful for the friendships I have made through La Leche League. To have friends who understand what it means to breastfeed is amazing!

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