When Wyatt was born, I had my mind set on doing all those things I had read were good for a natural birth and successful breastfeeding. I had been working for 2 1/2 years for the WIC Program (a child and mother nutrition program for low-income families) where great support is given to breastfeeding. I had also participated in several training seminars. I already was a Lactation Consultant at the time as well as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). In order to accumulate more hours and be able to take the test for the latter title, I worked at Tarzana Hospital in California for one year, in the postpartum department. I helped mothers breastfeed during their stay at the hospital, giving breastfeeding classes prenatal and postpartum support. During my pregnancy, my patients kept telling me that, given all this experience, I should have no problems when my baby was born.
After 18 hours of labor, pain, uncertainty, emotions, joy, and being anxious to meet my baby, Wyatt was born.
As soon as he came out of me, the nurse said something that I couldn’t understand; I knew English, but some words still seemed hard for me. I could see the worried expression of my husband, though. Wyatt was already lying on my chest making skin to skin contact. Just for a couple of minutes, then they had to examine him. To hold him in my arms, what an indescribable joy!! What a beautiful and confusing sensation, the emotional rush of being able to touch him, feel him on my body, hear him cry. So much joy and adrenaline. It al came together as a perfect mix that made me forget about the pain of the last contractions needed to eliminate the placenta and the stitches I needed after my son worked his way out! I had been preparing myself mentally for the pain of a natural birth without the need for painkillers. Everybody kept telling me that recovery would be much quicker without them, given this important decision. I had never prepared for a postpartum that was so long and painful. I never imagined so many stitches and pain.
In my line of work, I see mothers who come to our office 2-3 days after birth, walking as if nothing had happened. Fifteen minutes after their check-up, they brought my beautiful baby back to me. He wasn’t 100% perfect, he had a broken clavicle and one of his testes was undescended. Two very common conditions. To me, though, Wyatt was 100% perfect. Despite my wish, they asked me to refrain from breastfeeding during that first hour in order to avoid moving his right arm until they took an x-ray. I held him in my arms and, just like I had dreamed, I started singing one of the many baby songs I sang to him during the pregnancy “Los pollitos” (The little chicks). Two hours later, I tried putting him on my breast. My friend, a doula (natural birth specialist) was still there with me. Despite the fact that she did it out of passion for helping and that she had already been there for several hours with us, she refused to leave until she saw Wyatt breastfeeding for the first time (Thank you, Mina). Wyatt was well-awake but for some reason, when trying to breastfeed, he would only latch on to the tip of the nipple and make a ‘clicking’ sound while sucking. I used all my experience and knowledge in order to obtain a perfect latch-on. I explained to my husband how to help me.
My friend stayed a while longer. She helped to remind me that I should adopt specific positions to help keep my baby’s broken clavicle immobilized. Even though I had an enormous amount of colostrum, that I used skin-to-skin contact, that I taught Wyatt how to latch onto the breasts from the beginning opening his mouth wide and deep, my little one spent most of the stay at the hospital attached to my chest. Not only did he not latch on correctly, he also kept rubbing his tongue against the tip of my nipple, which after a few hours became a painful experience, my nipples suffered abrasions and ended up bleeding. Wyatt had different characteristics than other babies I had helped in the past. Even though he breastfed, he filled his stomach nicely and had many diapers with pee and bowel movements. Wyatt cried and cried non-stop. My nipples bled for around 2 days. I called the hospital’s lactation consultant for help, even though I was a lactation consultant myself. She saw the same thing I did, latch-on was perfect, there shouldn’t be any problems. She brought me some special gel pads to place on my nipples which causes me an almost immediate relief. Despite these
difficulties, I never stopped breastfeeding my baby, I couldn’t deprive him of the privilege of being well-fed and protected against disease, while I worked on showing my little prince how to eat correctly without hurting mom.
Some of the situations I went through during my personal experience were:
- Painful and bleeding nipples
- Use of home remedies to reduce inflammation
- Inflammation of breasts produced by reduction in milk quantity
- Baby preference for one breast in particular
- Baby breastfeeding non-stop for extended periods of time
- Baby upset at all times
- Milk oversupply and upset baby at the breast
- Tried nipple shields with no satisfactory results
- Went back to work when baby was 3 months old
- Breastfeeding lying down due to baby’s preference for this position
- Baby biting breast
- Expressed milk using electric, pedal and manual pumps
- Social pressure while breastfeeding in public
- Changing pediatricians constantly due to lack of knowledge about breastfeeding
- Pressure from society and family to stop breastfeeding a child over 1 year of age
Despite obstacles that appeared along the way, breastfeeding is and will be one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever been through. I don’t regret a single second of all the time I dedicated to breastfeed my son Wyatt and I will always treasure the memory of those little eyes staring straight at mine, as if saying ‘Mom, this is our time, in your arms I feel alright, relax and let’s enjoy it.’
Dear son, it is for you and all the babies of this world that I dedicate my job to helping mothers so that they can choose wisely and be able to go through this unique experience in life.
Unconditional support from your partner can be paramount to the success of maternal breastfeeding. And, if for any reason, that person is not present in your life, find a relative, friend, anyone that can give you the moral support which is sometimes needed to carry on.