When I decided to breastfeed, I was thankful most of my friends had taken the breastfeeding route so I could turn to them with questions. Prince Charming and I took a breastfeeding class offered by our hospital that explained a lot of details. I also referenced a couple of books – “The Nursing Mother’s Companion” by Kathleen Huggins and “The Breastfeeding Book” by Martha and Dr. Williams Sears – but the most help I received was from lactation consultants at the hospital after I gave birth to my son.
As a new mom with a new baby, I felt so unsure about doing everything correctly. I didn’t know if Big Brother was getting any nourishment, and those fears were compounded once he was diagnosed with jaundice.
After we were sent home, we had to visit the pediatrician twice to check his bilirubin levels; jaundice is caused by too much bilirubin in blood. During his second visit the nurse sternly scolded me, and since I was sleep deprived I only remember that she hinted about my breastfeeding being inadequate. At the time, I had no idea that jaundice is common in breastfed babies, and that it’s intensified by the use of Pitocin during labor. I was instructed to take him home, breastfeed him at least every two hours, and supplement with formula. Then, I was given a bagful of infant formula and coupons so I could buy more.
Once we got home, I felt like a horrid mother. But it didn’t matter how terrible the nurse made me feel – there was no way I was supplementing with formula. Big Brother wasn’t comfortable with breastfeeding yet, and I refused to introduce a bottle and create nipple confusion. All night long I woke up every two hours to breastfeed Big Brother, then put him back under his biliblanket, the phototherapy treatment for his jaundice.
Big Brother’s bilirubin levels diminished quickly, and after a check at the closest children’s hospital – prescribed by the concerned doctor – the emergency room physician told us we had nothing to worry about. With that second opinion, we immediately decided to find a new pediatrician. Prince Charming and I both agreed if the first pediatrician’s practice overreacted in such a way, we weren’t comfortable with their approach to patient care.
Once I finally felt reassured that I wasn’t a bad mother, I was able to relax and enjoy breastfeeding. Unfortunately, to this day, the most troubling memories of Big Brother’s first week include feeling so berated during the doctor’s visit and the insecurity I struggled with afterward.
With my second child, Little Sister, I was very comfortable with breastfeeding. I weaned Big Brother when he was 16 months old, and had a six month break until breastfeeding again. Little Sister was so different from her big brother – the first time she nursed, she had a voracious appetite. She was a good eater and sleeper from the beginning, and even in the hospital, she would cluster feed by nursing every hour as long as she was awake, then sleep for three to four hours.
Even with such a good eater, I still had troubles with the medical staff. On the second day in the hospital, the nurse was concerned with the number of Little Sister’s wet diapers. Even though she had six more hours to produce just one wet diaper, the nurse came to my room and said, “I think you should supplement with formula to make sure her kidneys are working.” Fortunately, I had been researching and writing my breastfeeding and formula chapter while I was pregnant, so I knew that I didn’t want formula anywhere near my newborn. I politely refused, reminding the nurse that I had been feeding Little Sister a lot and I wanted to wait a bit longer to see if anything happened. When she left the room, I started praying that my little girl would pee. And not even ten minutes after my prayer ended, Little Sister’s diaper was soaking wet.
After praising God, I started thinking about the situation. While I appreciated the nurse’s concern, a much better approach would have been to ask me to pump my own breast milk – with the complimentary breast pump beside my hospital bed – and feed it to my baby. If this had been my first child or I wasn’t firmly set on my breastfeeding decision, I probably would have followed the nurse’s formula request without a second thought. And, chances are I would have doubted my ability to breastfeed.
The greater problem with this situation is that the nurse violated a policy set by the American Academy of Pediatrics: “Supplements (water, glucose water, formula, and other fluids) should not be given to breastfeeding newborn infants unless ordered by a physician when a medical indication exists.” 1
The discouragement didn’t stop at the hospital. At Little Sister’s one-week exam, her pediatrician instructed me I shouldn’t cluster feed, but be a “Twenty-First Century mother,” get her on a schedule and insist on at least two hours between feedings. I smiled, nodded, and knew I would continue our feeding routine that worked – my milk supply was plentiful, and I appreciated filling her belly so she would sleep longer. And now, as a healthy, growing 15 month old, she still loves to nurse.
I loved breastfeeding once I got the hang of it – it took a lot of patience, though, and was painful at times. But I never felt like breastfeeding was a burden; instead, I appreciated how easy it was. Before my children started solid foods at six months, I could go anywhere and only think about taking diapers and wipes. Some moms tote bottles and pumped breast milk for their infants, but it seemed like such a hassle. When I finally was comfortable with the process, it was nice to be able to retreat to a discreet location and breastfeed – that included busy days of errands when I could sit in the car and nurse. When they got older and were constantly on the go, I loved getting a chance to reconnect with them. And I liked knowing I could comfort my children at any time of the day or night, only as a mother can do.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the personal stories this weekend. This coming week I’ll discuss breastfeeding’s dangers and benefits, along with a scriptural perspective and ways to become your child’s advocate.
Check out First Bites
To read more about my personal experience breastfeeding two babies and the stories of many other moms, check out my eBook, First Bites.
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