I made the decision early in my first pregnancy to breastfeed. What could be more natural or more beneficial to my baby? What would create a better bonding experience? And that wasn’t even taking into account how all the extra baby weight was supposed to just melt away thanks to the extra calories needed for breastfeeding.
How naïve could a new mom be?
No one told me that, although breastfeeding is natural, breastfeeding does not always come naturally. I thought maternal instinct would kick in and I’d be a breastfeeding pro in no time. Nor, I quickly learned, does breastfeeding come naturally to every baby. My firstborn didn’t know what to do any better than I did, so a breastfeeding consultant was called in before I could be released from the hospital. When the breastfeeding consultant simultaneously grabbed my newborn infant’s head and my breast and tried to force one upon the other, both baby and I dissolved into tears. I faked a feeding (quite an accomplishment for someone so unprepared), was released, and decided to compromise by pumping. That unrealistic idea lasted for a week before I admitted defeat and gave in to the convenience of formula.
Breastfeeding with baby number two was marginally easier (I avoided the breastfeeding consultant), and we made it through six weeks. Why only six weeks? Because of the cracking and bleeding that made my toes curl every time my baby latched on, making her resemble a satiated vampire at the conclusion of each feeding. Baby number three went much better, and we lived in breastfeeding bliss for almost five months until he went on a feeding strike. Panicked that he’d starve, I gave in to formula.
Seven years later, I was given one more shot at breastfeeding with the surprise of baby number four. I redoubled my efforts, determined to make it work. He was weaned at ten months, and I could finally say that I had achieved breastfeeding satisfaction. Yes, I still had cracking and bleeding, but we made it through. So what was different?
Obviously I learned a lot from my first three attempts. But the major reason I didn’t give up with Baby 4 was because of Barb, the breastfeeding consultant. She herself had successfully nursed five children (none of whom ever touched a drop of formula) and was able to walk me through the emotions, trials, tribulations, and joys of nursing. From cabbage leaves to soothe engorgement to a breast guard to help the baby latch on, she knew what she was talking about. The fact that she never grabbed my breast and tried to force my baby on was also a point in her favor.
Although I was a slow learner, I hope others can learn from my experiences. Breastfeeding isn’t always as easy as it looks, and a good breastfeeding consultant can make all the difference between success and failure. At a time when sleep is a luxury and hormones are raging, having someone on your side to lead you through the toughest part of the process can make all the difference.