Nursing, although natural, can be nothing short of a beautiful struggle.
As La Leche League puts it, “Breastfeeding is an instinctual and natural act, but it is also an art that is learned day by day. It is almost always simply a matter of practical knowledge and not a question of good luck.”
When my son was born, there was no question about whether I wanted to nurse.
However, after a marathon labor at Breath of Life Women’s Health & Birth Center, my son did not entirely go through the nine stages I often teach about as a CLC (certified lactation counselor.) Read more about that here.
His throat was cleared and suctioned due to possible meconium, which may have caused some throat trauma. Meconium, the first stools of an infant, can sometimes be passed during labor and birth while baby is still in the womb. Meconium can partially or completely block airways if inhaled, so the suctioning was done as a good measure. (“Meconium happens.”) I think exhaustion contributed as well.
After much skin-to-skin time and given the all-clear from our midwife, we went home about five hours after the birth. I’d hoped breastfeeding and latching would improve with practice. It did not. He was not interested whatsoever. It wasn’t an issue of suboptimal latch but rather no latch at all.
We exhausted all avenues by getting his tongue and lips evaluated for ties (there were none) and took a look at positioning and postures to nudge him in the right direction.
No bottles, pumps, formulas were mentioned or discussed. THIS was very important to our eventual success in week one. Never once did my midwives suggest that my body was broken or incapable of feeding my son, nor were any verbs or words used to suggest anything was wrong with my son and we were both encouraged.
Finally on day four in my room, I had him nestled in. We were skin-to-skin, drops of milk around my areola for him to smell his food, his body turned into me, belly to belly, his hands free and unclenched, as I cradled him semi-reclined.
Then it happened. I saw some suckling in spurts.
I wanted to scream so loud to rejoice and get my sister but I videoed it instead. I don’t have that video anymore but it is forever etched in my memory. It was in the moment I felt most defeated that the breakthrough happened. WE did it!
It is that same moment that lives in me every time I face obstacles, every time I am challenged for my choices, every time I counsel a new mother, every time I want to quit, or anytime someone suggests I need to wean him. My son is currently a breastfeeding, self-weaning, loved three year old little boy.
By: Korene Shelton, Postpartum Doula, Belly Casting Artist, Placenta Specialist