I always knew that I wanted to breastfeed my baby. From the moment I found out I was pregnant I knew that breastfeeding was something I was going to do, even though there are fantastic formula substitutes. It was just what I wanted. I was already anxious to hold my newborn close, snuggle with him in the middle of the night while providing vital nutrients. To be honest I was also relieved that breastfeeding would save me some money after reviewing the prices of several organic formulas. Little did I know that this enthusiasm to breastfeed would be completely shaken during the first week of my baby’s life.
Having had a rather easy labor and delivery, I couldn’t wait to… well sleep yes… but also try my hand at nursing my newborn. As soon as I was able the nurse lifted my baby to me. I assumed I would just hold him in whatever position was most comfortable, so I was surprised when the nurse instructed me on three different INCREDIBLY AWKWARD/UNCOMFORTABLE ways to hold my baby. I tried all three positions thinking the whole time this can’t be right. Sure enough my little one did not latch, and my first attempt at the long awaited bliss of breastfeeding was a failure.
While I know this probably does not fall under the nurses/doctors job description it would have meant the world to me in this moment to hear that I was doing just fine, and that I would be able to breastfeed. Instead I watched as the nurses prepared the breast pump and syringe. Instead of comforting words I was told, “If he wont latch you will need to pump your milk and feed him with this syringe.” What do you mean if he won’t latch? I have only tried one time. Panic began to flush my body, and my confidence as a new mom began to melt.
Having a mother and sister who both successfully breastfed, I knew their advice. They had told me to relax, and that it would happen. They told me to trust myself, and hold my baby whatever way was comfortable. They told me I could do this. Well.. that was all great except I had nurses forcibly shoving my baby’s mouth onto my nipple, re- positioning him into one of their “doctor approved” holds, and all the while saying, “You are going to need to pump, or we will give him formula.” “Not everyone can breastfeed, it’s no big deal.” The pressure was on. Either I got my child to breastfeed now, or the nurses were going to feed him from the syringe because I wasn’t giving him what he needed. The more I tried the more I cried, and the more the nurses said “He needs pumped milk or formula. We need to feed him” Not me… not his mom… they needed to feed him because I was already inadequate as a mom, and it hadn’t even been 48 hours.
It wasn’t until I was at home, four days after delivery that my mother gave me everything I needed. She sat with me on the couch and told me what I needed to hear at the hospital. I listened as she guided me the way I was hoping to be guided by the nurses, doctors, or even the Lactation Consultant. They are experts right? Not quite.
This what I needed to hear:
- Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world.
- Take a deep breath and try to relax, you’ve got this Anna.
- Hold your baby close. Hold him in whatever way is comfortable for you. (I can tell you now it was not one of the three ways forced upon me at the hospital).
- Squeeze a little milk onto the nipple, and bring your baby’s head close. Wait for it, he will turn towards it.
- Just hold him and breath, take your time. He is going to be just fine. He is healthy and strong.
I successfully breastfed my baby for over a year. Had it not been for my mothers help I would have absolutely 100% given up after such discouragement from the maternity staff. I think it is important to note that I received excellent care from both my nurses and doctors prior/during/and after delivery in all areas except breastfeeding support. Perhaps it isn’t even fair of me to expect such encouragement from the hospital staff. I can only imagine how overworked and tired they must be, especially after a long shift.
What I want you to take away from this is that you might also think you need to hear these supportive words from the mouths of your caring nurses and doctors. However, the reality is you may not. You may be discouraged, and offered very little support. If you are not blessed with a mother such as mine to lead you, let the words written here give you confidence. If you choose to breastfeed (and there is absolutely nothing wrong if you do not), remember that the only people involved are you and your baby. Do what feels natural to you. Do not let protocol, intake measurements, forcible holds, or latching techniques sway you from what you have always wanted to do. Everyone’s experience is different. This was mine.
By, Anna Misurelli