When I was 30-something weeks pregnant, I sat in a classroom at the hospital where I would soon make my grand entrance into motherhood. I was there for a class called “Breastfeeding: The Best Beginning.” I had already read all sorts of articles online, followed blogs of attachment parenting enthusiasts, and was excited to learn more about the mystery that was breastfeeding.
I sat, I listened and I watched. I heard mantras and buzzwords like “breast is best” and “liquid gold.” I held a baby doll in the cradle, cross-cradle and football positions, daydreaming about Little C’s upcoming arrival and how peacefully we would bond as we learned this new skill together.
Fast forward a dozen weeks. Little C arrived, and I was over-the-moon. I couldn’t wait to begin my breastfeeding journey. I watched in awe as he tried to latch at my breast while the doctor stitched me up, and I patiently spent the next two days with a rotating staff of nurses and a lactation consultant at the hospital re-position him, guide me, shift an angle here, rearrange his wiggly arms there.
In a fog with a baby who was labeled “Small for Gestational Age,” I fed him and fed him to make sure his sugar levels didn’t dip too low (which would have required a NICU visit). Together, we just eked by, with a tiny bit of temporary help from an SNS feeding system. Little C thrived through my struggles, but the casualty in this early marathon of fumbled feedings? My nipples.
I came home from the hospital with raw, bloody nipples and continued determination not to give up on my goal of breastfeeding exclusively for a minimum of six months, if not a year or beyond. I am as stubborn as stubborn gets, and I forged ahead through a painful engorgement, weeks of cracked bleeding nipples (eventually repaired with Lansinoh Soothies and Newman’s Nipple Cream), and painful plugged ducts. Three weeks postpartum, I came down with mastitis, facing flu-like symptoms that actually turned out to be just that: rotovirus. I sobbed as I nursed Little C perched on the toilet, unable to digest food, and for over a week, I ate nearly nothing , lost every ounce of my baby weight and continued nursing.