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Worth Every Moment

Amy Branam
Harrodsburg KY USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 25 No. 4, 2008, pp. 11-13

I always knew my baby would be breastfed. I had learned of the importance of breastfeeding through parenting classes in high school and had heard of the wonderful bonding between mother and baby.

When Patrick and I learned of the conception of our sweet baby, I began searching online to learn more about parenting a newborn and, with that, how to breastfeed. Reading beautiful articles on the art of breastfeeding and talking to other moms, I was positive that I would nurse.

Braydon's arrival into this world was great: no hard labor, and only pushing for about 20 minutes. He was here. He was mine. So began a wonderful and adventurous breastfeeding relationship between mother and son.

I think all first-time mothers must be scared when they bring their sweet bundles home: so tiny, so helpless, and it's up to us to provide for our baby's every need.

The first week home was rather tough. Braydon nursed well at the hospital but when we got home and my milk came in, that changed. He cried and would refuse to nurse as he couldn't latch on because my breasts were so engorged. Not knowing what else to do, I began pumping and offering a bottle. I thought that this was the best thing to do because I was afraid he would starve. This way I knew he was eating. By the end of that emotional first week, my cousin suggested I look up La Leche League to see if they had any advice.

I did just that and found Lori, a Leader close to my home. The next day she called and suggested that I finger-feed with a syringe because Braydon was probably experiencing nipple confusion. So for two days that is what I did. Lori helped me get back on track. She showed me some things to try and told me more about nipple confusion. My husband and I felt encouraged and confident we were out of the woods.

For five weeks we nursed every two to three hours for about 30 minutes to an hour. Things seemed to be going great until our check-up. At birth, Braydon weighed seven pounds and two ounces. Two weeks later, he was six pounds and 12 ounces. This wasn't a huge concern because babies tend to lose a little weight in the beginning. The following week we went again only to learn he had lost two more ounces. The doctor didn't seem alarmed and encouraged us to keep going and return for another weight check. We did just that but our baby, at five weeks old, weighed only six pounds and eight ounces. This time the doctor wasn't satisfied and neither were we. The doctor ordered blood work but everything came back normal. At this point, the doctor suggested that we give our baby formula. He said to carry on breastfeeding but to top him off with a bottle. I feared nipple confusion, but was more concerned about getting Braydon's weight up. Lori was surprised to hear of the weight loss because we were nursing so frequently and she said it was time for another meeting. Braydon had a "weak suck." She also ordered me a supplemental nurser. When she demonstrated how to use it, I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. Braydon didn't seem to mind the supplemental nurser and I was happy that he was at the breast again.

Lori continued to be a wonderful source of support as Braydon and I found our way. I shared the following with her in an email:

I appreciate all of the encouragement I have received and am just so thankful for you. I took Braydon back to the doctor today for another weight check. He has gone from six pounds and eight ounces to seven pounds and four ounces! That is even beyond his birth weight! The doctor seemed very pleased. He said to try to nurse if I could and then supplement with the formula. Braydon and I came home and nursed for a long time and had a wonderful time bonding. I cried....I'm not sure if he was receiving a lot of milk because afterward he downed a three-ounce bottle as well. Either way, it was beautiful. I'm doing much better today. I am feeling much more encouraged.

I had to start pumping again to get my supply back up. All seemed to be well until the next week. The supplemental nurser became harder to use. It was hard to get Braydon positioned correctly with the tube and he would become frustrated, making me frustrated.

Lori returned to my house. She shared some great information, encouraged me, and supported me as I decided what my next step should be. I decided to continue. This time I would put away the supplemental nurser and try a different approach. I would weigh Braydon, nurse, then weigh again to see what he received, then top him off with a bottle. This was working well, and Braydon was becoming stronger. He was taking three ounces from the breast and two from the bottle. It was working. This was it! Soon I would put away the bottles for good and my son and I would have the nursing relationship I longed for. I wrote to Lori.

Today Braydon drank only eight ounces of supplement all together! I am trying to give him just two ounces after each feeding, if he wants it. Today it was after noon before he acted like he wanted it. He is really doing great and I have been encouraged the past two days. You know yesterday and today were, I believe, the first times he has ever really gotten satisfied after nursing.

Lori emailed me back saying:

I'm so happy for you both! Reading about your progress brought tears to my eyes! What a journey you have endured and with such amazing grace! Keep up the good work. Soon he will be off bottles. No clocks, just breastfeeding on demand. Look how far you've come! That tells me his suck is continuing to improve and your supply is good. Keep up the good work and let me know how things go. I know it probably seems like an eternity to you, but you've made tremendous progress in a relatively short period of time.

One morning as soon as I put Braydon to the breast, he began screaming. I thought I had done something wrong so I repositioned him and tried again but to no avail. He continued screaming. I tried for an hour and finally gave in and gave him a bottle. For two solid days we tried and he continued to refuse the breast. I was sure that this was the end of our nursing relationship. I had not been pumping and my milk supply had plummeted. I was coming to terms with the end. Once again I emailed Lori. She was encouraging and shared this with me.

Whether Braydon is breastfed or bottle fed, you will love him the same. He has an amazing momma who has proven that she will go to amazing lengths to do what's best for him. He has gotten a great start on breast milk (immunizations that will last a lifetime). You have experienced the bond of breastfeeding. You now know that it wasn't your milk. Nothing was wrong with you. You did everything in your power to help him through it. You got him much further than you initially thought you would. All blessings! Disappointment comes when our reality doesn't meet our expectations. That's normal. Experience it. Cry. Then let it go. This experience will benefit you, probably others too at some point.

After three months of struggling with feedings, I was tired emotionally and physically. The decision to stop wasn't easy. I knew that my milk was best for him and the bond that had been created was simply indescribable. I feared that once we stopped that bond would be broken. I struggled (and still do) with depression related to the disappointment and guilt experienced at the end. But our bond remains. Feeding times are still special, just different. I am still Braydon's mommy and I love him regardless of whether he is breastfed or not. There was light at the end of the tunnel. Through the hard times I learned how to be selfless and determined for someone else.

If I could do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat. To see my baby well, healthy, and gaining weight is worth all the tears and all the dark moments.

I will always look back at this time with gratitude. I have learned so much and hope someday to help other nursing moms. As I told Lori, I will keep on with skin-to-skin and cuddle time. There's nothing that can get in the way of that. I am slowly starting to let it go. It's tough, but the reward of a little smile at the end of the day is worth it all.

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