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The Best Thing for My Baby

Rena Pearson
Woodstock GA USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 18 No. 6, November-December 2001, p. 216

When I became pregnant with my first child, I was determined to breastfeed. My family and friends were so encouraging, and my husband and I knew that it was the best thing I could do for my baby. Emma was born big and healthy and latched on with little assistance. When she began crying inconsolably at six weeks, everyone blamed my milk. I persevered and discovered she was intolerant to dairy products. She still cried a lot, but I continued nursing knowing as long as I kept dairy products out of my diet, human milk was still the best for her. As Emma approached her first birthday, family and friends began asking how long I would breastfeed. I never gave definite answers but said that it was still working for us and when it stopped being enjoyable, I would quit.

When Emma was 18 months old, I was happy to discover I was pregnant again. I had always heard that when my milk changed to colostrum around five months into the pregnancy, Emma would naturally wean. My doctor supported my decision to continue breastfeeding while pregnant and that gave me ammunition against concerned family and friends. The fifth month came and went and Emma continued to nurse. At 30 weeks, I began spotting and it was discovered that I had placenta previa with the placenta just barely over the edge of the cervix. I was put on limited activity but continued to nurse.

Just after Emma's second birthday, I decided that I needed her to wean because nursing was causing painful contractions and they scared me. Emma seemed to have come to the same conclusion because she would only breastfeed occasionally, not every day. I was afraid that weaning would be an awful experience and that she would cry, but to my surprise, she handled it very well and was just as contented as always. I often explained to her that the baby would breastfeed just as she had done. I also told her that babies had to nurse because they do not have teeth and that she was a big girl and could eat good things like chicken, broccoli, and ice cream. Her sister could only nurse. One month after Emma was weaned, I suffered a massive hemorrhage and Sarah came into the world six weeks premature. I was given four pints of blood and sent to intensive care to recover. I was really hoping to nurse Sarah just after birth, but as it turned out, I had been given general anesthesia and she was hurried away to the neonatal intensive care unit. She was born on Monday and my milk came in on Tuesday. The lactation consultant had met with me Monday afternoon and arranged for a breast pump. When she returned on Tuesday, she was amazed to see the two ounces of colostrum I had just pumped. She told me that when women lose so much blood, their milk is usually slow to come in.

Sarah was tube-fed the milk I expressed for several more days before I was able to attempt nursing. I cannot say she latched right on or that nursing a premie was easy, but I knew that it was the best thing I could do for such a little baby and for myself, so I continued. A few days later she latched on and nursed like a seasoned pro. Everyone was thrilled but my challenges were far from over. In order for Sarah to come home, she had to be able to nurse well and gain weight. She was still being tube fed when I could not be there and her weight was still decreasing. The nurses tried to give her a bottle because it would mean she might come home earlier, but Sarah refused, so they continued tube feeding. I was discharged from the hospital on Friday and spent the greater part of the weekend in the neonatal unit trying to get Sarah to gain weight. The nurses continually told me that she didn't need to eat more often than every three hours. They felt that any more than that was doing more harm than good because I could not possibly continue breastfeeding this often once I got her home where I would be taking care of a two-year-old as well. I ignored them and continued to feed her on cue.

In addition to recovering from major surgery, I was so tired and frustrated but I kept my vigil beside Sarah's bassinet during the day so that she could nurse. Finally, 10 days after her birth, she gained two grams and the doctor said that we could take her home after we spent one more night in the neonatal unit providing all of Sarah's care ourselves. The following day, we finally all went home. The pediatrician was amazed that Sarah proceeded to gain a half pound in a week. I was not surprised because I knew all along, that breast is best for my baby.

I thought that Emma would have a hard time with Sarah nursing, but to my surprise, she was fine. She never once asked to nurse again and she has been such a wonderful big sister and helper.

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