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learning not to cry over (spilt) milk

July 9, 2013

Our baby girl is here.  Someday I’ll type out her birth story but it’s long  so I’ll save it for later.  I’ll just say God blessed me with the unmedicated, intervention-free birth that I wanted.  That sounds like torture to a lot of people, but for me, the bigger struggle has been breastfeeding.  Ruthie was born healthy, all pink and screaming.  Things quickly changed by day three when she lost a lot of weight (all babies lose weight after birth but she lost more than 12% which was a concern), her diapers were clean and dry and she was so lethargic that we couldn’t wake her.  First-time parent panic set in and we saw our pediatrician and made a trip to after-hours urgent care.  Finally we made an emergency appointment late on a Sunday night with a lactation consultant.  We discovered that Ruth was not getting milk when she nursed.  When she was weighed before and after nursing, there was only one tenth of an ounce difference.  We were ordered to give her formula while we figured out the problem.  That absolutely broke my heart.  I broke down in tears when we got home.  I felt like a failure.  I had carried her safely for nine months, eating healthfully, carefully taking my vitamins, doing my exercises, all to give her the best start in life that I could.  I had given birth the hard way, and it had taken days, and I did it for her.  Now, I couldn’t feed her.  I had done everything I could to prepare for breastfeeding: classes, books, LLL meetings.  But my body was betraying me.  It wasn’t working.  And my baby was “too weak” to suck.  I was told to take her to an Occupational Therapist to see “what is wrong with her.”

I put this pressure on myself.  I know a lot of babies grow up healthy and strong on formula.  I know a lot of women give up on breastfeeding because it can be very hard.  I know that I should be grateful that I was able to get pregnant, and that I delivered a healthy baby (and I am so, so thankful for that).  With some perspective I can admit it’s not the end of the world if I have to bottle-feed my daughter.  It wasn’t the plan but parenting requires us to be flexible and act in the best interests of our children.  But I wasn’t going to give up easily.  So we jumped through a lot of hoops.  I tortured myself with pumping around the clock, never sleeping for more than 90 minutes at a time (if I was lucky).  We tried devices that were seemed totally silly in hopes that something would click.  We spent a lot of money on advice and herbs and equipment.  I prayed a lot.  I was sore, tired, frustrated, sad and maybe a little angry.

Bottle-feeding.  Not part of the plan.

Bottle-feeding. Not part of the plan.

One night as I sat pumping in the rocking chair I had bought to nurse my child in, I thought about the Hanukkah story, and how a tiny bit of oil had sustained the Jews, through a miracle of God.  My milk seemed to be a never-ending resource too.  I’d pump only drops, but somehow, there was enough.  Ruth got very little formula and then gradually, I was producing more milk.  I knew this was something I had to trust in God about.  So I relaxed and let Him provide.

And He has.  He gave us people who could help.  He gave us patience.  He gave Ruth strength.  My body started working.  Ruthie and I both got better at nursing.  And now, feeding my girl are the most special times of my day.  The sweetest sight is her finishing up and looking up at me with “Milk Face.”  I love how I can instantly comfort her when she’s fussy.  I’m grateful we didn’t give up. I’m thankful for how God designed my body to provide something for my child that keeps her healthy and helps her grow up strong, makes her smarter, prevents allergies, provides immunity.  It’s all perfectly created, and I’m glad I kept my faith in that and trusted God to bless our nursing relationship.  I pray we are able to continue for a year, through challenges like me going back to work.

IMG_1290

Eatin like a champ

My grandma’s advice was when you go to nurse, have a graham cracker and a glass of milk.  I think that kind of folksy advice is why breastfeeding worked better in her day.  No nipple shields.  No double electric pumps.  No pressure about baby’s weight.  No alarm over the number of daily dirty diapers.  Just relax and give it time.  Find your groove.  There is no normal, no expected… every woman and every baby is different.  It works and it’s important.  It’s worth fighting for.

 

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 10, 2013 9:43 pm

    Wonderf-full.

  2. July 11, 2013 12:40 am

    I love this. I completely agree. I have been pumping nonstop, every 3 hours, to make sure I have enough to take to Katherine in the NICU every morning. I was so paranoid the first couple of days and had to learn to trust my body and let it do what it is designed to do, and…it worked. I was worried that not being around her 24/7, my body wouldn’t want to make milk or that it would just shut down because I am away from her. But we are doing great and I am crazy grateful. I’m so glad you’re doing well and finding your mama groove. 🙂

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