She was a planned C-Section after some complications during my son’s birth just 16 months earlier. It certainly went much better that way, and it appeared I was on the road to recovery after being in the hospital for just a few hours. But then a cardiac episode happened, which led to further observation, which led to people coming in and out of my room at all hours taking additional blood. Not only was my dedicated medical team drawing extra blood, but they wouldn’t let me eat.
And not only could I not eat, SHE wouldn’t eat. I was exhausted, and she was like a little crocodile snapping her jaws shut on my nipples. I fell in and out of restless sleep. That night at maybe 2:30 a.m., I opened my eyes and turned to her hospital bassinet and saw dark brown and red soaked all through her jumper. I thought my baby was dead.
Pain shot through my abdomen as I startled and sat up to reach for her. She stirred, she was breathing, and I hit the button to have someone come look at her immediately. Lil’ crocodile had thrown up my blood because she was causing nipple trauma through her imperfect breastfeeding technique. Let me tell you now, these are two words I never want to hear together again: nipple trauma.
Naturally, the lactation consultant came to guide me and offer me some pain relief. Crocodile and I were really tired, but we relentlessly pushed through our frustrations–her screeching and me chugging huge hospital cups of water (I call it the $40,000 cup – what a souvenir I get to take home!).
All babies lose weight after birth, as far as I know, but my little waif-in-the-making had lost too much. I decided to get even more for my money with my hospital stay than the expensive to-go cup and asked for formula.
“Oh, you don’t want to do that,” the nurse chastised me.
“Why yes, I do. Precisely what I’m saying…”
“No, no, she will start on the formula and never want to breastfeed again. You have to keep at it.”
Now, a Midwest gal like me has been raised to be respectful, polite, and even a bit timid in the presence of authority. But I had had ENOUGH. You can withhold food, take my blood, and make me walk to the bathroom nauseous and dizzy to pull out my best friend the catheter. But keep my baby hungry? That wasn’t happening.
I understand the notion and the encouraging words to keep me trying to get that healthy boob juice to my reptilian new blessing. However, what I call upon for myself and other mothers: trust your decisions for your children.
My daughter is now 6 and still a string bean. What can you do? That day in the hospital wasn’t the last day I breastfed, and I even qualified for WIC so I received free formula, which we really, really needed. I was glad to get more calories to her from a source other than my breasts. Although breastfeeding never went great for us, I gave it six months all the same.
About a year later, I came across an article on Facebook that stopped me in my tracks. A first-time mom went through a similar struggle as me and my babe, with a tragically different outcome. Her newborn also had troubles receiving nourishment, lost weight, and was discharged to go home. The next day, the baby passed away from dehydration. Her baby, like mine, cried a lot because they were so hungry and not getting what they needed.
Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel surrounding your choices when it comes to something as serious as the wellbeing of your children. I’ve been judged–in fact, a reader is likely judging me this very moment and I say, have at it. I’ll give you another truth you’re free to judge me for – I didn’t like breastfeeding. Not with Crocodile Dundee, and not with her older brother who did just fine. That said, I really do believe everyone should give it their best shot. Don’t give up those first three weeks. It takes at least that long for it to get a bit better.
When I see an increasing amount of mamas feeding their young at the pool, in restaurants, just any and everywhere … I’m filled with joy and it is absolutely beautiful. It isn’t the only route, though. The most stunningly miraculous part of daily life is just watching children live their best, happiest life – no matter how they got there.