Overcoming Breastfeeding Obstacles

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am with the response to Breastfeeding Tips from Seasoned Moms.  It’s so very important that we share with each other and encourage one another in doing what’s best for mom and baby.  Most of the time, breastfeeding can work.  It’s those of you who have overcome incredible obstacles to make it work that inspire me!

Read on to be inspired by one such story from Nony.

I consider myself a breastfeeding champion.

Breastfeeding comes naturally for some new mothers.  In the hospital, they can stay modest under a blanket and carry on a conversation while baby eats away.

For me, it was not natural.  It was a long, hard, physically and emotionally exhausting fight. But we won, and I’m so glad, both for the victory . . . . and for the struggles.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I researched.  I knew all about nipple confusion, engorgement, let-down, mustard-colored poo, football holds and sticking cabbage leaves in your bra.  I took a class, I bought nursing pads, I had a boppy . . . I was ready.  It might not be easy, but I felt confident that I had the information I needed to make a go of it.

What I didn’t know was that sometimes . . . it just doesn’t work the way the books say it will.

My son did “okay” in the hospital.  He had some trouble latching on, but could eat for a few seconds at a time.  It could only get better, right?

Wrong.

The night we came home from the hospital, my milk came in.  I became engorged, and the little boy who already had a rough time latching on, couldn’t . . . and he was furious about it.

I couldn’t believe how much he resisted me.  Who knew that there could be that much strength in an 8 lb. body?    He quickly learned to curl up his tongue to avoid being sprayed in the back of the throat. This wasn’t going the way he wanted it to, and he wasn’t going to have any part of it.  I literally had to use all of my strength to keep him at the breast.

The second night I was home, in utter despair, I gave him a 2 oz bottle that the hospital had sent home with us. He gulped it down, went right to sleep, and I lay in my bed and cried.  I was a failure.

But I didn’t give up. I’m pretty sure that 2 oz. bottle was the only formula he ever had.  And honestly, he needed it.  The poor little guy couldn’t latch on, I’d tried every method I knew, it was the middle of the night, and he was starving.

We took him to the hospital at one week old.  They weighed him, whispered among themselves, and then uttered the words “failure to thrive.” My heart stopped.

The “nursing specialist” came to help. I explained what had been going on, and she watched me nurse him.  Her words, to be exact, were “You know, babies do just fine on formula.”

By this point, though, I was determined to succeed. I asked for help from everyone I knew who had babies.  I was shocked to find out that my situation was not necessarily unique.

I was mad that no one had told me that it could be like this. I spent the first 2-3 weeks of motherhood feeling completely alone.  Why is it that the only ones who ever talk to moms-to-be are the ones who can say, “Oh, it’s easy, he just latched right on!”?

We lived in a rural area, and there was no la Leche league or lactation consultants other than the (less than helpful) one at the hospital.  My sweet husband happened to mention our struggles to a man whose wife worked for Early Childhood Intervention, and he suggested that we call them.  They sent out . . . a speech therapist.  Seriously, a speech therapist. She had a few suggestions for helping him learn to not curl his tongue, but mostly I think that just knowing someone was on my side helped me keep going.

The screaming went on for . . . a solid six-weeks.  Every feeding session was a battle. I was completely worn out and cried more than he did.  But then, at six-weeks, he got it . . . and he nursed for 13 months.

Though at the time I never thought I would say this, I’m glad we went through these struggles. I can say with total conviction that babies are born with minds of their own and distinct personalities.  I learned so much in those six weeks that have helped me mother my son for the last 8 years.

Truly, this experience has helped me identify with all mothers who struggle with breastfeeding.  I fully understand why many women give up, but I also know, from experience, that it’s worth keeping at it. Now, whenever I talk to a brand-new mom whom I know is breastfeeding, I share that I had a difficult time nursing my first, and that she can call me anytime for advice or encouragement.  Even though I’m not a lactation specialist, I’m a mama who has been there, and maybe the thing that helped me most will be what helps her . . . knowing that others have been through this, and have made it work.

Nony nursed her three babies for over a year each. She has chosen to make her family her life’s work.  She blogs about getting her home in order at A Slob Comes Clean.

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Comments

  1. Part of the overwhelming guilt I feel for having formula-fed my firstborn stems from the fact that, as it turns out, I truly AM one of those women for whom nursing (and pumping, for that matter) came very easily and naturally. Your story is amazing and inspiring, Nony, and I salute you for sharing your struggles. Good for you for having the determination to stick with it and find a way to make it work. I so enjoyed reading about your journey.

  2. This is TOTALLY my story. Except that my baby was born 4 wks. early and kept falling asleep. It was miserable and hard and I was a basketcase, BUT my sister (who bottle-fed her babies) told me that she was so proud of me and to NOT GIVE UP! I am so thankful that she said that! After getting through the first couple of months (argh!) my 1st nursed for 13 months and my second (who was “a natural”) nursed for 11 (then, I got lazy and tired and burned my nursing bras!).

  3. Let’s hear it for persistance! :>) I made up my mind to nurse my baby and just kept my eyes on the prize, though cracked nipples and yeast and a small bout with mastitis. So worth it!

  4. Breastfeeding is hard, I don’t care who asks, I’ve never met anyone who breastfed that said it’s easy, especially the first 4-6 weeks, for me it seemed like a light bulb clicked on and my boys finally got it. I also had the problem of them being premature and falling asleep a lot during feedings. But we did it, figured it out. And I so agree I’ve had friends have twins and desperately try to breastfeed, you have to do what works for you. The pressure we put on ourselves sometimes isn’t necessarily worth it in the long run. But as moms I guess there is a certain amount of guilt we will always feel, no matter if we did breastfeed, formula feed, etc.

    PS: I just love this series Amy!

  5. Oh my! I can so relate! I have a different story, but the same struggles and determination to make breastfeeding work. Now at 14 months, my little boy is just starting to wean. I never thought we would make it this far! Thanks for sharing your story!

  6. Oh I needed to hear this! I had an awfully hard time nursing my son last year when he was born and sadly gave up after 11 days. I felt like such a failure because I had done so much research (classes, read books, lactation consultant in the hospital, my bf is LC too). I am due again in December and I plan on trying again. I think I am going to print this post out and save it as a reminder.
    Thanks!!

  7. I love this article. I was the same way when I had my daughter almost four years ago. I felt like a complete failure because I couldn’t seem to make enough milk for her. I wish more people would have been supportive like the author of this post. I did go on to nurse my daughter for 11 months but I was a mess the first few weeks trying to “get the hang of it”

  8. Nony,

    I can completely relate.

    It’s so interesting. I, like you, would not trade those super hard, super lonely breastfeeding days with my first baby. It really did help me figure out how to parent my now 5 year old boy. Funny how God had that all planned out. But I’m so grateful he did.

    Beautifully written.

    -Lauren

  9. Thanks for your comments, ladies! Even now, 8 years and 3 babies later, I’m amazed to find out how many women had experiences like mine. I enjoyed writing this post so much. As hard as they were, I treasure my memories of those days.

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