The Early Weeks
From New Beginnings, Vol. 25 No. 5, 2008, pp. 10-11
As I sit down to write the story of his early weeks, my son, Henry, is already 20 months old. Despite reading The Breastfeeding Book by Dr. Sears and a few other resources while pregnant, I felt completely unprepared when many challenges came our way. Looking back, I realize I just skimmed over the chapters on potential difficulties because I just knew breastfeeding was the natural thing to do and expected it to be easy. Oops!
Despite a wonderful drug-free birth, Henry was very sleepy during our two days at the hospital. While there, I woke him up every three hours to feed him and then struggled for an hour to keep him awake and suckling. I dreaded every feeding because my nipples were sore. Little did I know I'd be dealing with nipple soreness for a while.
We went home on day three, and on day four my milk came in. I was so engorged that Henry couldn't latch on properly. We both spent the night crying. Luckily, I had an appointment with lactation consultants the next morning. Much to my dismay, they got me pumping and fed Henry my milk in a bottle. They also gave me a nipple shield to use. I felt like such a failure, worried about nipple confusion, and feared we'd be destined to use the nipple shield forever. I now know other methods I could have tried to deal with the engorgement, but at the time the lactation consultants did what they had to do to maintain breastfeeding, which I greatly appreciate. They were worried about Henry's 10 percent weight loss and I was just plain overwhelmed!
Fortunately, Henry did well going back and forth between bottle and breast. We were also able to wean off the shield when he was four weeks old. Unfortunately, around three weeks, still with sore nipples, I realized I had thrush. I called the pediatrician who prescribed medication for Henry and me. Almost a week later I felt the pain coming back but, in another stroke of good luck, I attended my first La Leche League meeting that week. With another prescription, it took almost six more weeks before I was pain-free, but it was so worth it.
Henry is still breastfeeding and I am very active in my local LLL Group. When people ask me when I'm going to wean Henry, I tell them that the early weeks were really tough, but now breastfeeding is so easy! Why would I give that up so readily after all we've been through?
During those early weeks I didn't understand why I was having so many problems while others got to enjoy their babies looking up at them during a nursing session with a milk-drunk smile on their face. I didn't realize that sometimes you have to persevere before you reap the benefits and joys of breastfeeding. This is the message I try to share with all mothers who are breastfeeding a baby for the first time. It isn't always easy at first, but almost every problem can be overcome with the right support and, in the end, there is no better gift to give to your child!