*Warning: I do post a single picture of my baby at my chest and my breast is visible*
When I think about my second born child, another little baby girl, something that comes to mind immediately is our closeness. I am close to all my children, but I think of our closeness as something solid and physical. I can feel her body and mine together in a way that is very tangible and real. She was my first breastfed baby.
I did try to nurse Noemi, my oldest daughter, only 18 months before Liora was born. I was a new mother, and like many new mothers I experienced significant road blocks to success. Sadly, I was not able to navigate them, and I nursed her for only 2 weeks exclusively.
But Liora, I did things differently with her. First I went with midwives rather than sticking it out with an abusive OB (Noemi’s birth story, I will share soon). They supported me in a natural birth, which helps begin breastfeeding more easily. They believed in my body’s ability to produce milk to feed my baby. This made a huge difference in how we started our journey together.
During pregnancy, I was not convinced of my body’s ability to sustain my baby solely on my milk alone. I kept saying “I am going to try to breastfeed” or “I really hope I can breastfeed”, as if it were a matter of luck or chance. There are a very small percentage of women who have physical problems (IGT, hormonal problems, etc.) but it is quite rare and
I had no reason to suspect any of these. Yet, the memories of my first born screaming constantly, the bloody and painful nipples, and nights crying my eyes out on the front porch had left me feeling rather inadequate and suspicious of my breasts actually working.
The day of her birth came, and as soon as she entered the world she was placed on my chest. She was wide awake, unlike Noemi who was born drugged. She looked right at me, and gently I brought her near my nipple. She latched on right away, perfectly and peacefully. I almost wept with joy! Maybe, just maybe, this could really work.
I was being pressured heavily by the nurses on the ward to give Liora a pacifier. The main reason why my breastfeeding relationship with my oldest was destroyed was due to “nipple confusion”; she nursed as if she was using an artificial nipple, and this caused painful bleeding nipples and low milk supply. The nurses all assured me that it was a “myth” (I hear this often, it angers me so!) and they even gave her pacifiers without my consent on multiple occasions.
Pacifiers do what the name implies, they pacify the crying baby. I took her home using a pacifier, I hated to hear her cry, and it was such an easy solution. I told myself that perhaps I was wrong, perhaps it wouldn’t cause any problems.
Well, it did. Her latch began to become noticeably uncomfortable and she was struggling to get it right. I knew the culprit was the pacifier, but I was being told by everyone around me not to take it away completely. I ignored them, and finally did what I knew I needed to do—get rid of the thing!
I threw out every single pacifier in our home, and within 24 hours her latch was once again perfect. There was only one problem….
Liora was only a about 5 days old at this point, but I had been taking her to the pediatrician for blood samples due to her looking rather yellow. Almost as soon as I arrived home after our last appointment, they called me back and essentially told me to rush her to the hospital because her levels were dangerously high.
I was still a tired, hormonal mess and our nursing relationship was just getting started. I was so scared for her! I was also worried that once again my milk was not enough. My mother drove us to the hospital while my husband stayed home with our oldest, who I missed badly after days on the maternity ward. I had never been separated from our first child before the birth of her sibling, who was now sick, and I just wanted to crawl into a ball and cry forever.
After getting settled into our hospital room, the nurses put Liora under the lamps to reduce her bilirubin levels. They seemed quite concerned about her but they helped me understand what everything was for, and how to take her out to nurse her.
I sat there staring at my little baby, with these silly goggles on and I could only touch her through a door in the plastic box she was in. I cried. I cried a lot. I stroked her little arms, and I thought about how hard this was and how badly I wanted to bring her home so we could all be a family.
This may sound a bit dramatic, but remember I had just given birth!
I pumped like crazy while she was sleeping, desperate to keep my milk supply going. I did not trust my body, and I felt as if I would surely dry up like a hot desert valley if I didn’t keep on pumping! But man, I hated that contraption! Also, my body just didn’t respond very well to it. I kept taking her out whenever possible and nursing her, but the nurses really discouraged me from doing so because she needed to be under the lights.
I was pressured into giving her a little formula. They kept telling me dire warnings of what could happen if she didn’t eat enough. I was reminded that excreting the bilirubin was the best way to get rid of it. I relented and gave her tiny bottles of formula after putting her to my breast.
I felt almost defeated. I was so happy that we addressed her latch problem, but now here I was giving her formula. My heart was heavy as I considered the possibility that this just wouldn’t work. I would fail again.
But then, the next day, they released her! I was overjoyed to be going back home with my little baby, to join her big sister and daddy. I wanted to stay home with them forever, and just enjoy being together.
The nurse gave me a bag of formula before I left….