Not long ago, I wanted to quit. I was done forever. I was ashamed of myself and decided that I didn’t know what I was talking about, so I planned to “retire”. Then, with the birth of a baby….perfection! I was back in the game!
I’m not talking about my job, or my relationship, or even breastfeeding my kids. I’m talking about giving breastfeeding advice. I am known in the circles I travel in as the Breastfeeding Guru. Okay, usually I hear “Nazi” but I calmly explain that that term has such negative connotations and breastfeeding or helping another mother to breastfeed should never be seen as negative. Then I get an eye roll. Whatev, can’t win them all I guess.
I was ready to quit was because it seemed that every mother who asked for my advice or help with breastfeeding quit nursing. Even though I wasn’t pushy (at least I didn’t think I was pushy) and I gathered all the knowledge I could possibly find for these mothers, it still didn’t work for them. I figured it was my fault, they didn’t ask anyone else for help and I feel I’m knowledgeable about nursing. I’m not an IBCLC or anything, but hell I have experience with it and frequent breastfeeding boards like they are crack. Yet I just couldn’t seem to help my friends and family members to succeed. What was I doing wrong?
It all began back in July of 2003, when my son was born 8 weeks early. I had pre-ecclampsia and he was in the NICU right off the bat. He was healthy but little. I started pumping right away because he didn’t know how to suck-swallow-breathe yet. I knew I wanted to breastfeed when I was pregnant and we took the class the hospital gave on it. So, when the nurse wheeled in that pump, I was ready. I made milk. A lot of milk. Luke grew stronger and stronger. However, we were so excited to get him out of the hospital, we didn’t really think to ask if the bottle was the best way about it. It got him out of the hospital, but not attached to my breast. He did latch on a few times, but it was harder than a bottle and he was a preemie (with a later diagnosed motor planning disability) so he got tired and cried. I cried. It was miserable. After a few days of him losing (much needed) weight, I resigned myself to pumping for him. Day and night, for 13 months. He did need a little bit of supplementing with preemie formula around 7-9 months, before he was ready for solids.
I was proud of myself, but didn’t realize what the big deal was when people would tell me how wonderful it was for me to sacrifice for him. Well, first off, I wasn’t sacrificing anything-my body was meant to make his food and that’s what I was doing. If pumping was the only way I could do it, that’s what I had to do. It didn’t help that no one in my family breastfed. I have 3 half sisters and 3 step sisters and only one nursed her babies. In fact, until her first baby was born (when I was 13), I never knew that breasts made milk. Not joking-no clue. So my family thought I was a nut ball for nursing him (that and the fact that I didn’t allow my BABY to have candy and pop and….yeah that’s a whole different post).
Anyhoo, when we found out we were pregnant with my daughter, I knew it would be different. And it was. We hired doulas, I had a full term, naturally birthed baby and she nursed like a champ from the start. The only issue I had was after a week, my nipples were bleeding and I had to pump and use nipples shells for them to heal for two weeks. I instantly knew she would never return to the breast and I cried all the time. But after the two weeks, we went to see an IBCLC and she latched right back on! She didn’t leave the breast until she self-weaned at 27 months.
That brings me to my failure of family and friends. I had so many ask for my advice. They knew how hard core I was and I was more than happy to help out. I’m the one who makes a breastfeeding basket for showers, for goodness sakes! But all these relationships failed. I failed these women and their babies.
Then six weeks ago, my cousin had a gorgeous baby boy. She had to have a c-section and asked me how to make sure they had a good start at breastfeeding. I sent her so many links on facebook, I thought I would break her computer! But, within an hour after he was born, she sent me a text that he was nursing and it was perfect! She and I have talked a lot the past weeks and they are still doing great-I am pretty jealous that she never even had sore nipples! There have been ups and downs (like every new mom with a newborn has) but they are still going strong!
Now, I don’t credit myself. I credit a mama who was prepared and knew she wanted to make it work. I credit a wonderful staff of nurses at the hospital she delivered at. I credit a partner who is very supportive of her. Now, I will pat myself on the back, not because their breastfeeding relationship was my success, that is her’s and her baby’s beautiful success and theirs alone. I will pat myself on the back because I realized those relationships weren’t mine to save. They weren’t mine at all. I knew that I did what I could for them and that’s all I could do. And that’s good enough for me.
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