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Giving Back

Stacey A. Greaves-Favors
Hail Saudi Arabia
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 23 No. 2, March-April 2006, pp. 58-60

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was excited about breastfeeding. I knew it was something that I wanted to do. I began attending La Leche League meetings when I was in the fourth month of my pregnancy. The Group in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA warmly welcomed me. I attended meetings for the rest of my pregnancy in preparation for breastfeeding. I purchased THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING and a small tube of Lansinoh Brand Lanolin for Breastfeeding Mothers—I wanted to be ready for any possible problems that arose. I expected to have some difficulties in the early days, but nothing out of the ordinary.

I was induced on my due date because of medical concerns. Before the induction began, the nurse spoke to me about breastfeeding. She was very supportive and I was thrilled to have her there just in case I needed help. The labor was fast and I was happy to get through it without pain medication. Tasneem Aliyah Favors was born at 2:30 p.m. on February 10, 1998. Soon after, I tried to get her to latch on to my breast. The nurse asked how it felt and, since I felt no pain, I told her we were fine. I was happy that things had progressed so well.

It had been a long day and I was tired. I assumed that the hospital policy was that babies had to go to the nursery if the parents were asleep, so I sent Tasneem to the nursery. I told the nurses to bring her to me in two hours so I could feed her. I made my wishes clear: my daughter was going to receive my milk only—no bottles, formula, or glucose water were to enter her mouth.

I woke up later that evening wondering where my daughter was. Three hours had come and gone with no sight of her. I called the nursery and had them bring her to me immediately. I will never forget the moment she arrived in my room. It was obvious that Tasneem had been crying for a while because she was screaming and her entire body was red. I looked at my poor, helpless baby, searching for someone familiar. I wanted to nurse her, but she did not want to be near my breast. I continued to try to latch her on, but my attempts were unsuccessful. After a while, a hospital worker came into my room. I sat there with my gown open and both breasts exposed while my baby and I cried. I hoped the worker would help me, but she just emptied the trash can and left. That first night was a nightmare.

The next day, the hospital lactation consultant came to my room to help. After observing a failed attempt at breastfeeding, she told me that I needed to pump to help bring in my milk and to keep my supply up in case my daughter continued to refuse my breast. She also wanted to give Tasneem formula. Originally, I was against the idea of any formula, but when the consultant suggested we feed it to her in a cup, I felt a little better. I knew she needed nourishment and at least we would avoid nipple confusion. For the rest of our time in the hospital, Tasneem's feedings consisted of a drop or two of my milk mixed with an ounce of formula via a medicine cup.

When we went home, I was on a vigorous schedule of pumping every two to three hours while cup feeding my daughter. The cup was messy, but necessary. My mother, my husband, and I were overwhelmed. My mother had no experience with breastfeeding and I know it was hard for her to watch me struggle.

The day after arriving home, my mother and I went back to the hospital to talk with two lactation consultants. They watched me try to nurse Tasneem, but by this time, she was adamant about not taking my breast—she literally pushed it away. No one believed me when I told them this tiny, three-day-old baby was combative toward my breasts. The lactation consultants seemed a bit flustered by Tasneem's actions. They agreed that I needed to continue pumping. They also suggested that I use a nursing supplementer. A nursing supplementer consists of a thin tube taped to each breast to deliver a supplement to a breastfeeding baby from a plastic container, which hangs around the mother's neck. I was also given breast shields to bring my nipple out in hopes that it would help her latch on. The lactation consultants thought Tasneem's small mouth made latching on difficult. We returned home hoping that these new gadgets might help.

For two days I used the supplementer, continued pumping, and wore the breast shields in between those times. It seemed to me that the supplementer wasn't helping. I could see that my baby was sucking on the tube only. She wasn't latching on or even coming near my breast, but my milk was beginning to come in so I was able to mix it with the formula.

I was glad that I had attended LLL meetings before Tasneem's birth—I called my local Leaders since I felt comfortable asking them for help. It was great knowing I had someone to turn to. One sent information to me via mail and the other came to my house. She said it was clear to her that we needed serious help and she suggested I talk to a lactation consultant who had once been an LLL Leader.

I called the new lactation consultant, Anne, and explained my situation to her. She told me I needed a stronger pump since my baby wasn't latching on at all. I left Tasneem with my mother since she was still cup feeding and made a quick trip to Anne's house for a new electric pump. Anne gave me the name and number of another lactation consultant in the area that I could call for help. I took the new pump home and called the next lactation consultant.

When my mother and I went to the home of my latest lactation consultant, I wanted to cry. I had told my story to so many people. I was exhausted and overwhelmed and saw no end in sight. I was no longer using the nursing supplementer or the breast shields. After watching my attempt to nurse Tasneem, the lactation consultant suggested that I use nipple shields. She gave me two shields and some lanolin. She also suggested at least 20 minutes of skin-to-skin contact daily. She encouraged me to continue trying to nurse my baby. By offering my breast and laying Tasneem on my chest where she could smell me, I would be teaching her that the milk comes from me. She would learn that my breast was her friend. I returned home with more breastfeeding aids.

Shortly thereafter, Tasneem and I developed thrush. "What else can happen?" I wondered. Both of us needed medication to treat it. Additionally, when thrush is an issue, everything that enters the baby's mouth or touches the mother's breast must be boiled. This meant that I was pumping every two to three hours, feeding my baby with a silicone nipple shield, and boiling pump parts and nipple shields when I wasn't using them. I was ecstatic, however, that Tasneem was willing to nurse at my breast if I used a nipple shield. It was so nice having her close to me.

When Tasneem was two-and-a-half weeks old, my mother returned to her home in Pennsylvania. She wished me luck with breastfeeding and I cried. Now I would be home alone while my husband was at work. I searched THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING and other books for answers and encouragement, but I didn't find information that addressed my complex problem. I was discouraged and depressed. I called many friends for help. They were encouraging but couldn't tell me how to fix things. I didn't have time to enjoy my baby because I was constantly worrying.

One day while talking on the phone with the lactation consultant at the pediatrician's office, I mentioned that I was using nipple shields. She told me that they were horrible and that they have been known to diminish milk supply. I hung up the phone and cried some more. Who was I to believe? Fortunately, we had a doctor's appointment later that week. The lactation consultant I spoke to on the phone observed Tasneem nursing with the nipple shield. Tasneem was nursing well, and clearly my milk supply was ample. She apologized for her outburst on the phone earlier in the week. She said she realized that it could have scared me away. She was right!

Eventually, I was able to stop pumping because Tasneem was getting all the milk she needed from my breast through the nipple shield. It was a relief to be rid of the pump. We went through three bottles of medicine for thrush before it cleared up. Hooray! No more boiling. Things were getting simpler. Despite the progress, my daughter was still not taking my breast without the shield in place. I decided that if I had to express and bottle-feed her my milk, I would. Or I would use the nipple shield until she weaned. I began to feel the only important thing was that Tasneem received my milk. There were many days that I felt discouraged and wondered if I was hanging on to a lost cause. Maybe my baby would never breastfeed. I felt sad all the time. I told my story to anyone who would listen just to be able to talk about my frustration.

When Tasneem was six weeks old, I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. Just like the first night in the hospital, I remember the day so clearly. I was sitting at my usual nursing station on the couch, armed with a water bottle and a cordless phone. Before applying the nipple shield to my breast, I tried putting Tasneem to my breast. After six weeks of trying, she had not made any progress at latching on without the shield, and I had been trying it less often. Much to my surprise, Tasneem latched on! It had taken six weeks, but it finally happened. I was afraid to breathe too loudly, fearing that any disturbance might distract her and cause her to come off my breast. I called my closest friend and on her voicemail I whispered, "Listen to this sound. You just heard Tasneem nursing."

Our situation was still a bit trying at times, but the following weeks were much easier than the first six! I was delighted to have my daughter nursing directly at my breast, even though my nipples were sore. Many times I thought, "What if I had given up?" I would have missed the wonderful nursing relationship that Tasneem and I had. I told myself that I would nurse her until she was 15 years old!

Tasneem didn't nurse until she was 15. She weaned at 23 months, when I was five months into my second pregnancy. I was thankful that I kept trying. I enjoyed our nursing relationship immensely. In the weeks before nursing was established, I didn't have time to enjoy anything. I was either worried, depressed, boiling something, or plain tired. Because of this, I was afraid to have another baby. The beginning with Tasneem was so rough—I didn't know if I could go through it again. But I knew that our beginning was rough because of our breastfeeding issues. Another baby wouldn't necessarily have the same issues.

After Tasneem began nursing successfully, I knew I found my passion. I wanted to help other women breastfeed. If I survived six weeks of her not touching my breast followed by 23 months of successful nursing, surely other women could overcome their problems, too. Around this time, I had moved to Falls Church, Virginia, USA. I began attending meetings there. After speaking with one of the Leaders, I decided that I wanted to be a Leader. I wanted to help other mothers. I had received so much help and wanted to be able to give some in return. I knew I had found my calling.

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