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My Breastfeeding Experience: World Breastfeeding Week

I’ve been wanting to write something about my breastfeeding experience these past 7 months but, honestly, I’ve been putting off writing it because I wasn’t sure what I had to say about it. It is World Breastfeeding Week so I decided to give it shot.

I would love to say what so many others say. I would love to say what a magical, wonderous experience it is, etc, etc, etc. However, I don’t always feel this way. The main reason I chose to at least attempt breastfeeding was a financial decision. My husband and I decided that I would stay home, at least for a while, with Kelsey. We don’t qualify for WIC but we certainly don’t have money to toss around. Hey, breast milk is free, it’s natural, it’s best for my baby anyways, why not?

At first my goal was to be able to do it at all. I was nervous that I might not be able to for a variety of reasons. My Mom was unknowingly allergic to the penicillin that she was given in the hospital after her Caesarean to have me and was running a fever so they wouldn’t give me to her until they figured it all out. By then, it was too late to really get me started. Because of this, I tried to ask my OB to test me for allergies for anything they might use if I had to have a C-section myself. Turns out, they don’t do that. I had heard of so many people who “couldn’t” breastfeed that I thought I would be one of them. I was afraid that maybe I physically wasn’t built for it (let’s just say, I do not resemble a turkey timer) and would not be able to because of this. I studiously went to my breastfeeding class at the hospital to get as much information and be as ready as I could be.

My little girl was ready to give a try once they cleaned her up and brought her over to me in the delivery room. She tried, I’ll give her that. She was a big baby, 8 lbs 9.9 0z, and my blood sugar levels had been just below the “worry” line during my pregnancy so they had to check Kelsey’s blood sugar every few hours. After a couple of hours and several attempts to breastfeed, her blood sugar was so low that they made me give her a bottle of formula. The poor little girl was so hungry she sucked it down.

I started feeling like I was a failure before Kelsey was even one day old.

I know there is a report going around about how hospitals need to do more to support breastfeeding in mothers, but thankfully the nurses and lactation consultants at Tampa General Hospital were very supportive. I suppose part of it was my determination to not leave that hospital until I could feed my child – I even brought the pump my sister-in-law gave me to the hospital with me to make sure I would know how to use it – but they didn’t give up on me nor did they let me give up. The lactation consultant came to my recovery room every time it was time to feed Kelsey for an entire day and tried everything she could think of to get Kelsey started. Finally, she thought of using a breast shield. As soon as I put Kelsey on she started sucking hard. We had finally figured out how to get her eat! I was so happy and relieved.

The nipple shield was just supposed to be a tool to get her started and I was supposed to try to get her to go from just the breast but she just couldn’t latch on without it. So, seven months later I have a shield that stays at home next to my usual feeding spot, one that lives in the diaper bag, and one back up in case something happens. I don’t like that I have to use it and it’s annoying to keep on top of it, but if it means she’ll breastfeed then so be it. I’ve nicknamed it “the keg tap.”

I’m an older first time mom so I had plenty of other moms tell me breastfeeding is a learned technique.  It took a little while to get into the groove and every now and then there is a new quirk to resolve. At least I’ve been able make the time go a little faster – I have a little system of setting up the laptop, remote, and phone when I know she is going to be having a long nursing session. It’s when I do some of my blogging, but mainly I end up on Facebook. I’ve also caught up on DVD watching (thanks to free Redbox and Blockbuster codes) during nursing sessions throughout the day.

Unfortunately, most of the time breastfeeding has been a bit of a lonely experience. Sitting on the couch in the dark at 3 am, sitting in a room while family is out having a grand ol’ time chatting, sitting out in the car while the people I’m with are inside. It almost never fails when I’m trying to be discreet a family will be getting into the car next to me or when I’ve thought I’ve found an out-of-the-way spot somewhere all of a sudden a bunch of people come walking through. I get jealous when I see bottle-feeding moms post that they are going out or that their husbands are feeding the baby or that they get to do things by themselves. The only “alone” time I got this week was running to the post office during a Kelsey nap.

I told myself I would try to breastfeed until Kelsey was 3 months, then until she started solid foods at 4 months. Then I decided not to start her on solids until 6 months and somewhere in there I decided that I would breastfeed until she turned 1. So, I guess we’ll have to see how that goes.

Of course, for all the sore backs and stiff arms I do enjoy those moments when I look down at Kelsey when she has fallen asleep in my arms. She looks so peaceful and content and molds perfectly into my chest and arm. I try to remember these moments when she’s wailing and fighting eating or sleeping or both. I know one day I’ll miss this time in her life but sometimes I don’t know how I’m going to make it through the next five months.

I’m trying to get out with some playgroups and moms groups to try to get out of the house and socialize. Today I went to Tampa Bay Birth Network’s The Big Latch On event. I think I just needed to try to feel like part of some kind of community. Even though Kelsey did not cooperate and wouldn’t latch on during the 10:30am-10:31am time that was being counted, I was interesting to see 40+ other women there nursing their babies – some where nursing two at once and I couldn’t get my one on!

I’ve been thinking about trying to make it to a La Leche League meeting – the closest meeting is about 30 minutes away but now that Kelsey doesn’t start crying after about 5 minutes it may actually happen.

I know I’ll look back at this time fondly sometime in the future so I’m trying to stay positive and take comfort in the fact that I know I’m doing the best for my little girl and our family.

About Michelle VanHuss

Michelle VanHuss is an Air Force wife and mother to two beautiful little girls. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from University of Florida and a Master of Public Administration from Wright State University as well as a Certification in Nonprofit Management from the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. After four years as a stay-at-home mom, she has rejoined the workforce as a mom of two. She is learning how to juggle military spouse, parent, and working woman all at once.

One response »

  1. Aw, hugs. I know breastfeeding isn’t all sunshine and smiles. I did the whole nipple shield thing for three months before weaning off it through sheer force of will (and a ton of research and videos about latching and everything else I could think of). Hated it.

    You definitely should at least try LLL; I went to a couple of meetings and had a good time. It’s nice to know you’re not the only one doing it, and you can get a lot of good advice. Who knows, they might be able to help you with that nipple shield! You never know.

    One thing I’ve got to say is that segregating yourself every time you nurse is just a recipe for loneliness. Maybe the people around you aren’t used to seeing it, but heck, they’ll have to see it sometime! A good cover can give you confidence. I hated using one though, so after months of hiding in my bedroom I just got up the nerve, turned to the wall during latch-on, turned back around, and there I was nursing in front of all our friends! No one cared… except one friend who was hoping to have kids soon who came and sat next to me and asked me questions. I think it really helped her to see someone else do it before she would have to try on her own!

    So now I nurse everywhere (less now the baby is older and can wait), wearing two shirts (a t-shirt and a tank top underneath so I can pull one up and the other down) so my belly doesn’t show. No one sees anything or calls attention to me. I feel much less lonely, too. You hear horror stories about people being given trouble for breastfeeding in public, but that has NEVER happened to me or most people I know. Half the time no one notices at all.

    Reply

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