Note: This is a post about breastfeeding. If this offends you in any way, please read on.
I love breastfeeding. And knowing as many people as I do who have had problems breastfeeding, I feel incredible lucky that I get to enjoy this experience along with my baby. When he is suckling at my breast, it just feels so right. There’s really no other way to describe it. It’s almost like it’s encoded in my genes – although from years of anthropology classes I know it’s not; mothering in humans is a learned trait, not an inherited one. But, nonetheless there is something so ancient and grounding about nursing my baby. About that fact that no matter what, as long as I can attain minimal sustenance, I can feed my baby. Me!
I got off to a bit of a rocky start at the hospital. H was born just shy of 3 weeks early at a tiny 5.9 pounds. He had jaundice and his sugar was low. I was lucky because right away I got to hold him on my chest for a good 2 hours before they made me relinquish him, and I of course stuck my nipple in his mouth and tried to get him to eat, but he wouldn’t. My husband followed him to the infant lab where they did his heelstick and all of that good stuff while they evicted me out of by laboring suite and shunted me over to a maternity suite. When he came back, my baby was not with him: INSTANT HEART ATTACK!!
I had specifically put in my birth plan that I did not want my baby unattended at all – he was supposed to ALWAYS be with at least one parent. But, poor husband gave in when they said that they needed to give him some formula (which I had also specified in my birth plan that I did not want as well) to raise his blood sugar and watch him for awhile. They brought him back to me about 20 minutes later, but those were some of the worst 20 minutes of my life. Knowing what I know now, I would have protested the need for the formula, and at the very least refused to leave him alone.
I tried, unsuccessfully again and again over the next day to nurse my baby, but he just would not latch. The nurses – for as it was Sunday, the LC was off – said that he had a “weak suck”. I guess that makes sense since he was so small. I was exhausted, sleep deprived, worried about my child, that he wasn’t getting enough to eat… so I guess that all played in when I agreed to let the nurse give him some formula in the middle of the night that first day. I think something along the lines of “if his blood sugar gets too low again, the doctor won’t let him go home” was said along with some other phrases containing the words “lose too much weight”. Basically, she just seemed to pour the formula from the bottle down his throat. But I let it happen, even though I wish I hadn’t.
This is SO RIDICULOUS! First of all, the only thing a newborn needs is colostrum, and a very teeny amount of that as it is! I know now that he would not have starved, or went into a coma from low blood sugar if he had not had that formula, truthfully, I knew it then. But when all these dangerous-sounding phrases are thrown around, it’s scary and causes you to second-guess yourself. I mean, what mom wants her baby to starve/go into a low sugar coma because she refused to let him have some formula?
It is so unfair that hospital staff use fear tactics to get you to give formula to your child when they don’t need it, and it is possible that it may hurt your chances for breastfeeding! The nurse even came in and took him while we were sleeping to give him a bottle. At the very least, she should have woken me up and given me the option for her to take him, and should have allowed me to attempt to breastfeed him at first.
The next day, I got to spend some time with the lactation consultant. She said that he had a weak suck too, but that it was common since he was so small and I just needed to be patient and work at him. Before she left, she told me that if he wouldn’t latch, then I could express some colostrum into a spoon and feed him that way; he didn’t need a bottle and he didn’t need formula. The next day, my third day in the hospital and my day to leave, the LC came by in the morning. I, for the life of me, still could not get him to latch on. Of course, the LC walks in, grabs my boob, squeezes it, and inserts the nipple into his mouth and he latches right on. Of course, she does this all so fast, that I, a complete novice and totally at a lack of understanding how to do it myself. And she is in such a rush, and keeps getting beeped to go help someone else that I feel I cannot ask the same question for the 11-thousandth time: HOW do you get him to latch on???
I left the hospital not feeling very confident at all.