There were many things that went into planning for Eisley. We planned for a natural birth, we planned to cloth diaper & I without a doubt planned on breastfeeding. At 30 weeks I was soaking my shirts overnight in colostrum and I was so excited that my body was obviously primed and at the ready to nurse our baby. I had dreams of having a perfect natural delivery, the nurse would set our baby on my chest & she would latch on perfectly and nurse like a champ.
Well, I did get my natural birth. But things didn’t go exactly to plan. And when they set her tiny little vernix coated body on my chest my heart was about burst. I laid her to my breast and… she didn’t latch. I could express colostrum into her mouth and she would guzzle it down but she wouldn’t even try to latch. To anyone who isn’t aware, that’s the blessing of a vac. And by blessing I mean absolute curse.
I have bittersweet feelings about that vac. Without it, our little sunny side up munchkin may not have made it into the world naturally. After four hours of pushing the prospect of a c-section was quickly approaching while Eisley struggled to get past my pelvis in the birth canal due to her position. On the other hand it added to a short list of reasons why nursing was a little difficult for us at the start. In case you were wondering, when a baby is removed by vac they use an object that’s somewhat like a plunger. When I pushed they attached it to her head to allow her to crown and then removed it so I could push her the rest of the way. However it leaves bruising on the scalp which of course affects the jaw muscles and makes baby unwilling to suck.
But it wasn’t that alone. The bruising set us back a day in the sucking/latch department. Determined to not supplement, I spoon-fed Eisley my colostrum. I was actually a colostrum machine. I pumped the colostrum and continued to express with her at my chest so the moment she was ready to latch she could. Except there was another hurdle. My left nipple was flatter and even when the soreness subsided she continued to struggle. The only unkind nurse we had our entire stay came in around 4am the first night and basically threw a shield at me with no explanation and left. I had no idea what to do with it. I understood the concept but couldn’t get it to stay. I struggled with it until I was left in tears that woke up Andrew who came and helped me express milk into her mouth and soothed me and wiped my tears.
What was wrong with me? Why was I struggling so hard to nurse this baby when my body was producing so much? I didn’t want to fail at this. I was terrified of starving my baby.
But then hope.
The next morning the LC came. She discussed Eisley’s issues with latching us and we decided to use the shield. She showed me that my issues with it were completely solved by wetting down the shield before placing it to my chest. We did this and slowly Eisley started getting the hang of it. She was eating & happy! The nurses came in to do her blood sugar test and her numbers were outstanding! Apparently the fact that I had needed to spoon feed at first had not hindered her one bit.
From those weeks on out the struggles continued. Eisley would eat like a champ (a very messy one, though) with the shield on but would refuse me without it for the longest time. I kept setting deadlines. She’ll be weaned by 1 week. Okay, maybe 2. Alright a month. And eventually, after holding the breast for her and teaching her to learn to eat without the shield she started to latch on her own. By a month and a half or so, we no longer had to use the shield and I felt so relieved. Now, I feel like Eisley is a nursing champ! She still tends to favor my right side, but from what I’ve heard breast favoritism isn’t uncommon.
We are blessed. Though we struggled I am very happy to say that I haven’t ever had to supplement. Eisley’s been exclusively fed boob juice since day one. The ease of feedings now may have been proceeded by countless hours on the couch hunched over uncomfortably but they were worth it.
I wanted to post this because I know there are others out there. Moms who didn’t have the fairytale of a rosy newborn who latched with their first breath. Other moms who are struggling and are ready to throw down the towel, turn off the pump & cry. But I want to you to know that you’re not alone. Persistence is the only thing that brought us where we are today. We at first didn’t succeed but we tried and tried again and again and again and again and again. And eventually it wasn’t so hard. Eventually it actually began to be more of a bonding experience rather than a chore. We exchanged smiles instead of tears. Was it worth the initial struggle? ABSOLUTELY. I’d do it a million times over to be able to give her what I’ve given her. What a blessing it is.