Monday, August 3, 2009

Breastfeeding Challenges

I am a fan of breastfeeding and I am an avid supporter of women who choose to do so. While I understand that not all women will try or continue after trying, I am the go-to girl if you want that emotional support! I read somewhere that the primary reason that women stop breastfeeding is due to lack of support at home (any of you men reading, that means YOU). I have been amazingly blessed with a man who after reading and doing his own research, was going to move mountains to make sure that I nursed our children.

I had the privilege earlier this year to host a friend having nursing issues in my home, as Jennifer from the La Leche League came to figure out the problem(s). (Quick side note: Jennifer is not paid by LLL, and therefore had no obligation to sacrifice her lovely Sunday afternoon to come by. But she did. Because she LOVES to support nursing mamas. We are so thankful to this precious woman.) This sweet new mama had had a c-section after many hours of labor and reverse dilation and was simply having issues, but she was determined that she was going to nurse this baby. I had called her on the phone several times, each time ending in tears (from both of us) and went to drop off a meal to her house. After stepping into the living room and getting her usual bright and sunny "Hi, Mary!!" I felt free to ask how things were going. Her bottom lip trembled as she revealed a little baby at her breast and a feeding syringe draped over her shoulder gently placed into the baby's mouth. "She just...won't latch...on..." and a volley of tears ensued. I couldn't believe that within a week her entire tube of Lansinoh was gone- how much pain had she already experienced and worked through to nurse this baby?! I had brought her a book (The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding) but was immediately struck with my lack of working knowledge, feeling completely helpless to assist my struggling friend. She had called several resources and was always given some website or book... and I was doing the same. Sam needed someone to physically be there to see what was going on. I left extremely sad feeling useless and inadequate and as soon as I got in the car, melted down and called my husband asking for help. He recommended that we call Jennifer, and that is how both my friend and Jennifer meeting at my house (somewhere in the middle of their 45 mile separation) occurred.My friend Sam showed up and was renewed in her determination. The men left, taking Piggy, my elder daughter with them on a walk. And Sam carefully disrobed from the waist up and showed Jennifer what she was doing and how she had been doing it. The baby just didn't want to latch on to the nipple. Maybe she was too little, maybe she just didn't understand how. But Jennifer was oh so gentle in her assessment and encouragement and I just sat back and watched the interaction and exchange of ideas and information. Someone in the prior days had recommended a nipple shield for Sam and that was working better, though the baby initially refused to latch on to that either. Jennifer discussed weaning the baby off the syringe and helped to show Sam that her milk was plentiful and that the baby was getting it even if the syringe was empty, which was a huge relief. She told Sam to dribble a little milk on her nipple and asked her to encourage the baby to nurse straight from the breast each time, before she tried the syringe or shield. After several grueling weeks, the baby finally caught on. What has initially been a tremendous struggle has blossomed into a beautiful nursing relationship made even sweeter because of how hard it was worked for.

I don't get to hang out with Sam much, but I was so happy that she felt comfortable enough to come over that day. She is still nursing that sweet baby and after six months, has decided to introduce her first solids in a few days... so exciting!

I learned a lot from that day. Sam's husband was a bulwark. He knew how much she wanted to nurse this baby and he made it a point to diligently protect her from all the naysayers. I'm sure that he spent hundreds of hours praying over Sam and their baby, and never once did he even suggest that they just stop... he was present emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually... Plenty of folks would have had the chance to tell her it was okay to give up, but they never got that opportunity. And because of this man's tenacity and encouragement, Sam had all the support she needed to succeed in this endeavor. It was truly a beautiful testament to the strength and dedication of marriage.

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