A Happy Ending
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 24 No. 6, November-December 2007, pp. 261-262
As an American living abroad, having a baby was truly a life changing event, in many ways. My mother breastfed me and my three brothers. My extended family in the USA was very supportive of breastfeeding, too. I never doubted that I would breastfeed my children. However, the obstacles of being a new mother thousands of miles from my family proved to be formidable.
I have lived with my British husband in England for seven years. In March we welcomed our little girl, Emma, into the world in a hospital in Surrey. The birth went really well, with the two attending midwives encouraging me not to have any pain relief. In the end, I delivered with only my husband and the midwives there, with a lamp on in near darkness -- a lovely, calm atmosphere! And this was despite my pregnancy being higher risk. We were lucky to be at a hospital that encourages breastfeeding, and were able to benefit from an on-site lactation consultant and a special feeding room with lots of positioning pillows and foot stools. Despite all of this, my daughter just wasn't latching on. After three days of frustration and pumping, we were advised to give Emma formula "so she won't end up in NICU." Without having my supportive family there for backup, and with no real knowledge of how breastfeeding works, I gave in, although this went against all of my instincts.
Three weeks later, in the calmer atmosphere of home and with fewer pressures, Emma was ready to latch on and breastfeed, but by this time my milk supply was low due to pumping only a few times a day. I resigned myself to formula bottlefeeds interspersed with short, ineffective breastfeeding sessions. We were following the tips of a popular British parenting method and fed according to the book: every four hours, and certainly no breastfeeding just for comfort or to get baby to sleep. Unsurprisingly, my supply got lower and lower. By this time I thought that my milk supply just wasn't good enough. Luckily, my story doesn't end here.
It was only when Emma got gastroenteritis at four months and was ill for two weeks that I began to wonder about using formula. I was already getting advice that I considered terrible -- I was being told to start my baby on cereal and meat early to help her sleep through the night, and to ignore her if she cried after being put to bed.
It no longer seemed right or even sensible to follow everyone else's advice. As a family, we needed to find our own way and start making our own decisions based on our baby. I decided to find out if I could increase my milk supply, although I thought that it was too late to change to exclusive breastfeeding. I found the LLL Web site (www.llli.org) and submitted my question in the "Ask a Question" section. This put me in touch with Jill of LLL in Berkshire. She was fantastic and encouraged me to give breastfeeding another try, and gave some tips for increasing milk production.
Emma and I spent three days doing little but feeding and cuddling. I put her to the breast almost hourly during the day, as well as giving her ever decreasing bottles of formula. The herb fenugreek also proved helpful to me, and I quickly built up my supply. Over the next month we continued to make the change from bottle to breast until we were finally bottle-free! That was a wonderful feeling, as I hardly believed it was possible to change from bottle to breastfeeding at such a late stage. My husband and I also adjusted our parenting styles and really began to enjoy caring for Emma. Now Emma sleeps next to me in bed, and loves riding around in her sling when we go into the local village to grocery shop or just to enjoy the sunshine! She is much more content now, and we are more relaxed and caring toward her.
Today Emma is a thriving nine-month-old sweetheart. She doesn't sleep through the night, but this no longer matters so much as I love being able to meet her needs in the night and watch her go back to sleep, so peaceful and happy. I am a proud member of La Leche League and we regularly attend LLL meetings. The closeness that breastfeeding brought between my baby and me is priceless, and I will always be grateful to LLL for encouraging me and giving me the information that I needed for Emma and I to become the breastfeeding duo that we are today.