My son weighed in at 7 pounds 6 ounces and decided he wanted to come into the world two weeks early (thank goodness). For months I had prepared myself for this moment. I had made list after list after list. I researched everything I thought I could about having a newborn. I bought multiple books including the famous, What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I took front and side view belly pictures every week. I got life insurance and made a will in case something went wrong. I even made a three-page birth plan and a delivery bag checklist, which I designed and printed to hand out to family, friends, the doctor and any hospital staff that would be present during the birth. I may have gone a little overboard. But the one thing I forgot to research was how to feed him.
The entire time I was pregnant, I just expected that I would breastfeed him and that it would come naturally. I had heard multiple stories from family and friends about their personal struggles or triumphs, as well as tips for soreness. What I gathered from these stories was that I would need Lanolin, breast pads, a pump, storage bags, bottles, a bottle cleaning brush, an easy access maternity bra and a fresh head of cabbage (a trick from my sister to reduce swelling in moderate to severe engorgement.)
Besides the excruciating pain of contractions, the delivery went pretty well. The hard part for me soon followed. The nurse brought him into the room followed by the on-staff lactation consultant. I assumed that this would be easy and be an instinctual thing. You take the boob out, hold the baby up to it, and viola!
Whoa! Was I wrong. Apparently there is much more to this. First, you need to know how to hold the baby properly, then you have to guide the child to your nipple and make sure he/she “latches” correctly.
The lactation consultant at the hospital was not all that helpful. At one point she made me feel like I was going to starve my son. She told me that he was not latching correctly and wasn’t getting enough of what he needed from me due to his frenulum, the little piece of skin underneath his tongue. She urged me to get him into surgery before I left the hospital to have the piece of skin clipped. I felt that this was a big decision, and I needed to look into it a little more. I could tell this frustrated her, but I wanted to continue to try breastfeeding my child without putting him through another dramatizing situation.
The lactation consultant went and got a nipple shield, a syringe and a bottle of formula. I was directed to put the nipple shield on and try to feed him using it. This was very awkward. Considering it was my first child, I was clueless to what I was doing and adding another obstacle in this process was overwhelming. But I did as I was instructed and hoped that this would be the alternate solution. She proceeded to put the formula in the syringe and then took the syringe and squeezed it into the shield in hopes that he would start sucking harder. I appreciated the efforts to get him to try to feed from me, but I wasn’t too happy about giving him formula to achieve this. The entire time we tried this she made snide comments about how much easier it would be if he just had the surgery. I was extremely happy to know that her shift was almost over and she would be leaving soon.
After she left, my mother (a mother of four breastfed children) came to my rescue. She knew I was upset and did everything she could to help to make me feel better. She urged me to keep trying the natural way since that is what I wanted to do and to take as much time as I needed to decide on the surgery.
My son was given quite a bit of formula in his first few days at the hospital. And we were sent home with a can of formula and a six-pack of ready-to-use formula. My mother stayed with me the first two weeks out of the hospital and was my rock. Within the first 24 hours of being home, my son was latching correctly without any help of a nipple shield or formula. At his two-week checkup, he was on target for where he needed to be, and his pediatrician said his frenulum wasn’t an issue and it was a good thing I didn’t get it clipped. It would have been unnecessary and just another bill to add to the pile.
I am very glad I had a supportive mother and pediatrician that were both willing to continue to support my decisions.
During my pregnancy, I had been living in Dallas, Texas working for a company doing graphic design. My son’s father (my boyfriend) and I were in a long-distance relationship. We met while I was in college at SMS, now known as MSU. He was living in Springfield, and I had moved to Dallas after graduating to pursue my career.
During my maternity leave, I decided to come back to Missouri for family support. By the time our son was two-and-a-half months old, it was time for me to return to work in Texas. The cost of living, along with the cost of childcare, was more than we could handle. And I wanted my son to be able to see his Dad on a daily basis. So I decided to put in my resignation and move to Springfield.
I worked for the company as a contract designer until my son was six months old, but it wasn’t enough work to cover the bills. I made the decision to stop being a stay-at-home mom and found a full-time job.
Going back to work full-time, being a contract designer and breastfeeding a six-month-old was extremely difficult. I quickly had to start supplementing with formula to make up what I was lacking in milk. By seven months, he was fully on formula and started on rice oatmeal soon after.
Part of me wishes I could have stuck in there a little longer. But in my personal experience, this is what I felt was best for my situation.
Do not feel that you have to choose one option over the other. Do what feels and works best for your own situation.