When my first child, my daughter M, was born she didn’t nurse like my other two children have. This refusal to nurse, I strongly believe, was no fault of hers, but more the result of a nurse who didn’t take the time to explain what needed to be done to a (in retrospect) naïve new mother. Instead this nurse took my boob in one hand and my baby’s head in the other and repeatedly tried to shove the two together over the course of more than one hour. The result of this marathon, just hours after my daughter’s somewhat traumatic birth via emergent c-section due to fetal distress, was that my infant would scream like a banshee any time I attempted to nurse her.
I stuck with the effort for only about a week before I succumbed to what I viewed as a failure of my first test of motherhood. Whether out of guilt for that fact or just plain craziness, I pumped my milk for my baby every 2 to 3 hours daily for 6 months. This resulted in my never being able to leave my pump for more than an hour or two at a time, and created twice the work to feed my baby. It was not exactly a recipe for happiness, but I was determined that my child would get my milk for the first six months of her life, just as it was recommended at the time (now it is recommended that babies are breast fed for one year).
In addition to wanting to follow the recommendation for what was best for my baby, I perceived that the bias in my social circle bent toward frowning upon bottle-feeding. While I was, essentially, bottle-feeding, I felt compelled to let everyone know that I was pumping and feeding my own milk. I’m sure that the perception that everyone was judging me for using a bottle was faulty, but I was more than a little neurotic about being unable to nurse my baby like other mothers could nurse theirs.
My obsession with wanting to nurse my child continued long after M was no longer using bottles for any type of milk or formula so when K was growing in my belly I was determined to do all I could to ensure nursing success the second time around. I signed my husband, Craig, and I up for a breast-feeding class. It was a one-evening class that taught the parents all about the benefits of breast feeding and taught a few different holds and techniques. It was nothing I didn’t already know.
When K was born, however, I knew one essential thing that I hadn’t the first time around. I could refuse the nurses’ help. So, when I was wheeled to recovery and asked if I wanted help with getting him to nurse the first time I said no. They left me alone and K and I figured it out together. He nursed for a little more than thirteen months.
M has not suffered one bit for not nursing. In fact, she’s had only 2 ear infections in her nearly six years on the planet, compared to K’s multitude of infections that resulted in ear tube surgery before he was one year old. I knew in my head that this would be the case; that she would be fine, but that didn’t stop me from worrying about these things when I was a first-time mother.
When my third child was born just 5 weeks ago, there were still a few nurses who tried to tell me how to nurse my child…my third child. I politely, but firmly, told them to leave me alone. D and I were learning together, and we’d be just fine. And we are.