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When Breastfeeding isn't Easy

Two weeks ago I gave birth to my first baby. I was committed to breastfeeding so I had done a lot of reading and study about breastfeeding. I knew that breastfeeding was not always easy, but I did not expect to spend most of a week listening to my newborn sob almost every time I tried to feed her.

Due to some minor breathing problems she was 20 minutes old before I had a chance to hold her and try to feed her. She was exhausted and not interested in eating. I let her rest and tried again, and again, and again through the evening and every few hours for the next several days. She would nurse a little on occasion, but most attempts resulted in her sobbing pitifully as I struggled to feed her.

I knew from my research that babies get only a tiny amount of colostrum the first few days, and that they are designed to lose some weight in the few days after birth as their bodies adjust and the mother’s milk comes in. I knew that even one bottle of formula can change the baby’s digestive and immune system. I knew that giving her a bottle could cause even more nursing problems. Yet, the pressure of seeing my baby cry combined with the nurses pressuring me made me feel like a bad mother.

I had gestational diabetes, so there were some concerns about my daughter’s blood sugar and they were testing her every couple of hours to be sure she did not become hypoglycemic.

The first nurse urged me to give the baby a pacifier, something I knew was discouraged by lactation consultants. The next nurse came into my room to introduce herself at the beginning of her shift. She asked if the baby was eating yet. I said that we were still working on it. She said that if I did not get her to nurse within the next three hours she would take her to the nursery and give her a bottle of formula, “whether you like it or not.” She then told me that if the baby did not nurse within the next three hours that she would have brain damage. Throughout the night, the nurse insisted that she would give the baby formula against my wishes if her blood sugar dropped. I told her that if the baby was in any real danger I would reconsider, but that I did not want her to have formula. She then announced that if I did not force my baby to eat that she would have permanent neurological damage.

I was so glad when her pediatrician came in to see her the first morning. He reassured me that this was all normal and that my baby was not only ok now, she would be ok until my milk came in. I told him that the nurses had been pressuring me to give her a bottle and he said, “I told them last night not to give her a bottle unless her blood sugar dropped.” I was so glad I had stood my ground and protected my baby.

It took a lot of effort and patience to teach my baby to breastfeed. Now, at 2 weeks, she is happy, healthy and gaining weight perfectly. A supportive pediatrician and lots of personal research were key for me in successfully breastfeeding my daughter. I was able to stick to my plans and find out what worked for us because I believed in doing the best I could for my daughter.



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