World Breastfeeding Week: My Breastfeeding Story

August 4, 2010 at 08:35 3 comments

The following story is a very personal one. It is the story of how mine and Oliver’s breastfeeding relationship was established. I tried to write a happy story, but while it does have a decidedly happy ending the reality for me, and hundreds of thousands of other women around the world, is that this happy ending had to be fought for tooth and nail. I almost lost the amazing gift of breastfeeding my son because of a health care system that tells women ‘breast is best’ while simultaneously blocking their efforts with poor Mother-baby care policies and practices. To learn what you can do to change things and support women who wish to breastfeed visit the World Breastfeeding Week website.

Mine and Oliver’s breastfeeding relationship was rocky from the moment of Oliver’s conception. Well, actually, our breastfeeding relationship was put at risk 8 years before that when I underwent breast reduction surgery.

On top of that my nipples are flat/inverted, so with those two strikes against me in the realm of breastfeeding myths, my chances of successfully exclusively breastfeeding my son were dismal.

Knowing that breastfeeding wouldn’t be a walk in the park for me I did what I always do when I am nervous or unsure about something. I started reading. Over the 38 weeks that I carried Oliver, I devoured every book and article on breastfeeding and BFAR I could get my hands on. I believe that this research and self education was crucial to my success.

Trying to establish a solid breastfeeding relationship is hard enough for a ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’ mother in a health care system lacking any real lactation support, training, or policies. But the moment health care providers catch wind that your breasts are ‘abnormal’ it is damn near impossible.

Because of all my research, and the fact that I had been leaking colostrum for most of my third trimester, I had an enormous amount of faith and confidence in my ability to produce milk, but the doctors at my hospital didn’t see it that way. Before I’d even had a chance to put my baby to the breast, his doctors ordered he be supplemented with infant formula.

Knowing how important it was to avoid the use of artificial nipples in the first 6-8 weeks for the prevention of nipple confusion, and to encourage my son to keep his strong sucking reflexes I asked that he be given this supplement with a cup or a spoon, and that I be allowed to nurse him or pump frequently to build my own milk supply.

‘No’ I was told ‘we don’t use a cup or spoon here, only bottles’

‘Absolutely not’ I told them ‘I will sit here and nurse him all night if I have to, but I will not allow you to give him a bottle’

‘It’s doctor’s orders’ the nurses told me.

‘Mothers orders outrank doctor’s orders’ I said…. In my head, but I wish that I’d said it out loud. It’s something all medical staff should be reminded of.

I managed to hold the night nurses off from giving him any formula. But I did not escape the night nurses completely unscathed.

After an emotionally and physically exhausting day, I sat at 2 am in the NICU holding my baby to breast, trying to be careful of the wires and IV tubes attached to him with a formula wielding devil nurse standing over me telling me every 2 minutes that I was doing it wrong without offering any constructive help until…

‘Your nipples are flat.’ She grumbled.

‘Yes I had noticed,” I told her “they’re my nipples after all, can you unhook him from this machine so that I can try a football hold?’

‘No I can’t unhook him from the machine!” She was aghast at the very suggestion and seemed to decide at this point that I was completely stupid. “we need to monitor his body temperature’ She reminded me, as if reminding a 5 year old that kittens can’t fly, so you probably shouldn’t throw them in the air.

‘His temperature is normal now’ I point out. Oliver’s temperature had been slightly elevated at birth due to an undiagnosed infection in my placenta. His temperature had, by this point, been normal for hours and his blood work showed no signs of the infection.

‘No! Try this, he’ll latch onto this’. What she handed me was a nipple shield. In her ‘professional opinion’ the 10 minutes that she’d ‘let’ me try latching with little success were proof positive that I would not be able to breastfeed with my flat nipples without a nipple shield. I knew this to be a bad idea for BFAR mothers, and yet took it without complaint. I was so desperate to get Oliver latched so the nurse would go away and leave us alone that I was willing to risk It.

Oliver latched onto the nipple shield right away and nursed for a very long time. Luckily, my milk came in 3 days later, and my supply built and was maintained while using the nipple shield. It would take us nearly 5 months to learn to nurse without it.

The next morning I was sent an angel in the form of a nurse who was only a few working hours and one written test away from becoming an international board certified lactation consultant.

‘The doctor says we have to supplement’ she said. I was in tears before the sentence was even out of her mouth.

‘I won’t let you give him a bottle’ I said. I knew that I could breastfeed, at that point I could feel it down to my bones, and all I needed was to be given the chance to do so without interference. I resisted the urge to beg, but I really would have done anything.

‘It’s ok’ she told me ‘I don’t give bottles to babies. Call me after he’s nursed at the breast for as long as he’d like to and we’ll “top him up” with a few ml of formula. I’ll show you how to finger feed so he still has to suck to get milk.’

That woman saved our breastfeeding relationship.

For the 5 days that we stayed in that noisy crowded mother baby unit, she was my best ally in my fight to breastfeed.

When the other nurses told me to get used to formula because I’d have to keep supplementing at home anyways, she was there to tell me to ignore them.

She got a hold of the better of the hospital’s 2 breast pumps (2 breast pumps! The ward was full to capacity that week with over 20 babies born. Only 2 breast pumps.) She told me I could keep it in my ‘room’ as long as I wanted or until someone else came looking for it.

When the doctor had good things to say about Oliver’s colour, health, and weight, she jumped in to point out that it was because my milk had come in… In buckets!

When that milk came in and I was rock hard aching and sore, she showed my husband where to find cloths for hot compresses and encouraged me to nurse frequently, if not constantly.

I imagine that she must be exhausted every shift she works, having to work against the poor advice, lack of understanding, and general dismissal of the rest of the staff. She saved our breastfeeding relationship, and I have no doubt that she has saved countless others.

But you know what’s really sad? With all of the stress of that week, the excitement of bringing Oliver into the world, and the chaos of family and friends and fighting with the hospital staff to bring me a decent vegetarian meal. … Neither my husband nor I can remember her name.

So we just call her my fairy boob-mother, and wish all the good karma in the world upon her!

Oliver breastfed exclusively for 6 months, he is now 10 months old and still breastfeeding. We do not plan to stop anytime soon.


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Wordless Wednesday: Breastfeeding World Breastfeeding Week: Link Love/Sunday Surf

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Malcolm+  |  August 8, 2010 at 21:18

    As always, sweetie, I’m incredibly proud of you. That firmness of purpose which you’ve always displayed has served you so very well in this case.

    I expect that for most mothers – especially first time mothers – the support and encouragement of the father / partner in the face of all the formula culture pressure must be vital. I sometimes fell that I let your mother down in that respect, in no small part because I didn’t know whether I should continue to try and encourage her even in the midst of her own desperate exhaustion. When the moment came that she decided she couldn’t continue, I didn’t know how to encourage her to keep trying while still respecting her autonomy.

    I don’t know if that makes any sense.

    And I don’t know if I can say much more without beginning to tell your mother’s story, which is not mine to tell.

    But I know that, standing in the doctor’s office, I didn’t have the first clue what to say or do. It was only a few weeks later that I came to fully understand how badly I failed your mother in that instance.

  • 2. Anna  |  August 8, 2010 at 21:51

    You made me tear up. I attempted BFARing twice….the first time I was so upset when we were unsuccessful that I spent the next 3 years blaming myself. The second time I realized that it was not a possibility for us. And that was ok. THAT is the biggest success, beyond what went into my baby’s tummy, is knowing I tried my best but have moved on peacefully. :)

    • 3. pocketbuddha  |  August 10, 2010 at 02:58

      Thank you for sharing your story with me!

      I am glad that you are no longer blaming yourself. The reasons I had for undergoing surgery were varied and all valid, as I am sure yours were. They all hold true for me today just as much as they did back then, even after all of that trouble and even if I’d been unable to breastfeed because of it, I don’t think I could ever blame myself or regret my surgery.

      If you ever decide to have another child, and you are interested in trying again please do! as time goes on and with the help of hormones during pregnancy damaged or severed ducts can often recanalize. Every time you try your chances of success increase. whether that success lasts 3 days 3 months or 3 years I think it’s totally worth the try.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

What is a Pocket Buddha?

The pocket Buddha is a talisman, whether the pocket is in our mind or our jeans, the pocket Buddha is there to add a touch of Zen to our lives. He smiles from his dark penny and used tissue filled abode and reminds us simultaneously to go with the flow of our lives and to keep our goals, hopes and dreams ahead of us. At least one moment everyday, the satisfaction of a project completed, the taste of a meal we managed to make without burning, the extraordinary patience we somehow managed to show in the most frustrating of times, the pocket Buddha throws us a pocket-lint sized piece of nirvana, and for that I am very grateful.

Pocket Buddha On Twitter!|Start Petition

Lilypie Breastfeeding tickers

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 3 other followers

You can find more of me at:

CONNECTED MOM Natural Baby Pros Visit Natural Parents Network

I received the:

Art by Erika Hastings at Proud member of Mom Blog Network <a href="" target="_blank"CONNECTED MOM

Have you heard about…?

SponsoredTweets referral badge Search & Win


This website is written and maintained for entertainment purposes only. Any advice or opinions expressed here are not intended to be taken in the stead of professional advice, and do not represent the opinions of Pocket.Buddha's employers, family, or friends unless otherwise noted.

%d bloggers like this: