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Perseverance Pays Off

Wendy Doyle
Halesowen West, Midlands, Great Britain
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 25, No. 3, 2008, pp. 20-21

I write this as a very happy, breastfeeding mother. I always knew I would breastfeed, and even dreamt how wonderful it would be, but never imagined the difficulties that awaited me. Luckily, during pregnancy I read La Leche League's book, THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, so I had an excellent reference in difficult times and an incentive to continue amidst the trials that were to follow.

Madeleine was born following an induction due to pre-eclampsia. Further complications meant surgery following a retained placenta, so I wasn't able to initiate breastfeeding within the first hour after birth. Breastfeeding was painful to begin with, and not quite the natural and instinctive process I had imagined. Before long my nipples became cracked and sore. The medication as well as anemia affected my milk supply. I also suffered from a complication of spinal anesthesia: a mind-numbing headache, which made sitting up to feed Maddy nigh on impossible! The final straw came when Maddy -- crying continuously when she wasn't on my breast -- was losing too much weight (more than 10 percent of her birth weight). This left me feeling disillusioned and stressed with breastfeeding. We decided we were going to have to use formula milk.

Fortunately, my visiting health practitioner informed us the next morning that we could follow up nursing sessions (what we refer to as "top up") with formula milk while we felt Maddy required it, but to persevere with breastfeeding. We realized that supplementing Maddy with formula milk in a beaker or bottle as a temporary measure did not have to mean giving up on breastfeeding. Over the following weeks I began attending a breastfeeding support group run by very nice health workers. They showed me techniques to use, and advised me about expressing my milk when it was too painful to feed her. They recommended the use of a nipple cream containing ultra purified lanolin.

On difficult days Maddy would have three "top ups" of formula milk throughout the day (of 90 milliliters each), but gradually we reduced it down to just one in the evening. After roughly a month of mixed feedings, I decided to stop using formula altogether. After four days without it, Maddy had put on more weight than ever before (10 ounces in one week), which thrilled us to bits!

Breastfeeding from this point on gradually became easier as my nipples became less sore. Thanks to being brought up to value the principle of breastfeeding a great deal, with the help of supportive health workers, a wonderful husband (who supported me in whatever I decided), and a perfect little girl who just loved breastfeeding, we got there in the end!

Our prayers would often be directed to Nuestra Señora de la Leche y Buen Parto ("Our Lady of happy childbirth and plentiful milk"), from which the name of La Leche League was derived when it was founded in 1956.

Breastfeeding is now such a joy for us. During the night when Maddy stirs in her bed-side crib, I can pull her toward me and hold her tenderly, as she latches onto me all by herself, obtaining a perfect security and attachment from this instinctive act. It makes the problems we first experienced seem like a distant memory.

I cannot adequately express how pleased I am, with my decision to persevere in the midst of the hardest and most painful moments of breastfeeding. If I had given up at these times, I would be left with a bitter impression of what has now become an awesome mothering experience.

Adapted from an article in LLLGB NEWS

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