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Dakota's Nursing Strike

Dayna Martin
Madison NH USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 20 No. 2, March-April 2003, p. 52

I didn't know it at the time, but 12 days before this writing, my 11-month-old daughter, Dakota, stopped nursing. I wish I had known she was going to "go on strike," I would have treasured every moment of it. I would have smelled her hair, kissed her forehead, and looked into her big, beautiful eyes, savoring every second of our special time together.

Since Dakota's nursing strike, I have received so much support and encouragement. My dearest friend, Liza, was there for me when I would call crying, needing a shoulder. She cried with me and we became closer and deeper friends because of what I was going through. I also think we became better La Leche League Leaders because our understanding and compassion grew for mothers going through something similar.

Kathy Kendall-Tackett, the Area Professional Liaison, became my life raft. She gave me so much encouragement and enthusiasm. I cried through the phone to her as I paced my kitchen floor spouting off my confusion and sadness about the abrupt ending of our nursing relationship. Kathy gave me hope. Never in my life have I known the significance of that one single word until this time. Hope carried me through those long days and nights.

Nursing strike seems like such a simple, self-explaining term. Well, that little term rocked my life and my soul. It felt as if I was mourning the death of a loved one. I was mourning the way that I mothered my child. Mothering through breastfeeding was all that I knew, and without it I felt useless, detached, defeated, and depressed. The experience was life altering.

I learned a lot despite these feelings. I learned that I could mother my child without the actual act of breastfeeding. It was awkward and new, but I did it! I pumped every single day to give my baby my milk. I learned a new respect for mothers who exclusively pump for their babies. Dakota took a bottle at night contentedly, and I got used to not having to lift my shirt up and fall asleep freezing and scooting up and down all night. That part was kind of nice, though I hated seeing her fall asleep with an object while I just lay there feeling useless with my breasts full of milk and no baby to nurse.

I eventually got used to it. It actually worked out wonderfully just two days ago, when I attended my first birth as a doula and had to leave at three o'clock in the morning. My husband slept with our daughter and whenever she would wake he would give her the bottle. He said she never even knew I was gone. It would have been very hard for her if she hadn't been used to that. I was thankful and contented in a new way and left wondering if things do happen for a reason.

After 12 days and nights, I woke this morning to my little angel starting to rouse. She tossed and turned and started to root. I lifted my shirt and scooted over to her as I had been doing every morning since the nursing strike began, just to give it a try. Like nothing had ever happened, she latched on. She nursed slowly and drowsily for about three minutes. I don't think I even breathed through the whole thing. I touched her head, looked into her sleepy eyes, and took one big whiff of her feathery-soft hair. With a kiss on her forehead I whispered, "Welcome back, my Angel."

I don't know if she will ever nurse again. I am thankful that we had this nursing experience so I could savor every second of it. I will keep trying to get her back to my breast, but if that was the last nursing, it will stay in my heart and soul forever. I want to thank everyone for being supportive and comforting to me during this confusing, emotional time. What you did for me just confirms what we all know about La Leche League. Mother-to-mother support is so very important to a nursing mother.

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