Some of you might remember reading about my anxiety about nursing Elijah before he was born. I was able to nurse Sydney up until she was a little over 5 months old and it was rocky the entire time.
While in the hospital with her, I was in pretty bad shape. I'd endured a 22+ hour labor, pushed for a fruitless 2.5 hours, then ended up having a c-section. Our doctor at the time (who was NOT a "patient-first" practitioner, but was more concerned about his own convenience and paycheck than me) told us that we would need to check into the hospital at 1 am on the day of my scheduled induction. "That way," he told us, "we'd get the full day's worth out of our insurance." What he didn't tell us is that he expected an induction to take around 12-ish hours, which would put me at delivering the baby at around 1 pm the next day if I dilated "on schedule." How convenient for him! I would deliver right after his lunch break! Pardon me, sir, but you're an a-hole.
Because it was our first time having a baby, we had no idea what our rights were. We had no idea that we could have said, "Nope! We're going to get a full night's rest and then go to the hospital in the morning! When it's convenient for us!" When we arrived to the hospital we were already exhausted. We began our check-in process with the night crew. As the nurses got me changed into a gown and began the intake process, an orderly came into our room to get John and tell him that he MUST come with her immediately and pay a "deposit" up front to the hospital. We had already paid a deposit at our doctor's office in full (and as it turns out? We could have also declined THAT, but we were pressured into it by our doctor's office manager. Actually, threatened. Again? A-hole). So yeah, my husband is escorted downstairs by a person who in her own words does not "normally do this job" and told to re-pay the deposit to the hospital that we had ALREADY PAID at our doctor's office (but we didn't realize what was going on because woah! It's our first time having a baby! We're exhausted! We don't know what's going to happen! We just do what we're told because we can TRUST a hospital, right?! Oh young, naive John and Manda. I wish I could help you now).
ANYWAY, the point of that whole story was that if we'd been at the hospital during more "normal" hours and had been "rested" we probably could have avoided a whole lot of hassle. We did re-pay that deposit, by the way. And no, we did not get it back. ;lknadsoinafdkjd;laskdn;a
All that aside, we begin the induction process at 1 am. I'm hooked up to an IV of pitocin and antibiotics at around 2 am and checked for dilation (I was at 3). They show John the pull-out chair/bed thingie, flip the lights off, and recommend that I try and get some rest. I am not offered a sleep aid or pain relief (and I don't know that I can ask it for either!). I spend the night tossing and turning uncomfortably. I get up to pee a few times and a nurse comes in to readjust my monitors soon after. I finally give up on sleep and turn on the television and watch TLC's A Birth Story (I skipped the birth part as usual. Oh Manda. You silly nitwit). John got zero rest on the uncomfortable bed/chair thingie. By the time the doctor arrived to break my water at 8 am (and guess what! I had not dilated any farther in those six hours!) we were both a total mess.
AND THEN I WENT THROUGH LABOR.
So by the time my baby was finally born at 9:43 pm that night via c-section I was exhausted. I'd been pumped with drugs all day (I had a failed epidural too! Whee!). I'd pushed for two and a half hours. I struggled in recovery until they finally brought me to my post-partum room at 3 am. I'd hardly spent any time with Sydney up to that point (no skin-to-skin contact at all). I snuggled her desperately to my bare chest when they brought her to me soon after I was in my room. (As I rehash all of this now it just makes me want to cry.)
That first nurse and every nurse and lactation consultant to follow would grab my breast (without me asking) and try and shove it in my baby's mouth. I thought they could help me. With almost every visit I was interfered with. Different nurses had different opinions on "how to" get my baby to latch on and nurse. As I tried to work with her I was constantly interrupted. I was brought a pump and told to use it. My daughter was brought back from the nursery one night with a pacifier in her mouth and no one had ever asked me if that was okay. I was told to feed my baby anything I got out from a bottle (and I was also told to wash down the colostrum from the breast shield part of the pump into the bottle with glucose solution and feed that to my baby). Finally, a nurse who probably meant well, brought me a nursing shield (a little silicone shield you place over your nipple area). She claimed I needed "help" stretching my nipples out so my baby could get a hold. It was day three and I was so desperate to feed my child because everyone was pressuring me SO HARD to get her to latch that I used it. Syd had already been drinking out of the bottles I'd pumped and she nursed with the nursing shield easily. What I didn't know was that she was imprinting her first latch on that damned piece of silicone. She was forming a preference. What I didn't know was that I would never, ever nurse my daughter without a silicone barrier between us.
I have so much sadness and regret over the whole thing. I get angry. Why didn't someone tell me what to do? Why didn't someone protect me? Why in the hell didn't those lactation consultants throttle the nurse who brought me that shield?!
And so when Elijah was soon to arrive I started forming my nursing plan. My birth plan was already set ... a c-section it would be. I researched on how to establish a bond for nursing with a c-section. I wrote everything out for my new doctor to put in my file. John and I spoke to a lactation consultant at the hospital before we were there on "official business" ha ha. I lectured the intake nurse and the anesthesiologist about my wishes for the first hour of my son's life (and thankfully in the last two years the hospital policies have been amended significantly to favor this bond. They no longer allow nurses to even touch nursing shields and are very strict about pacifiers and bottles). Here's what I found out: you can have skin contact with your baby very soon after he or she is born via c-section. My son was placed on my naked chest and held there by my husband while I was still on the operating table, minutes after he was born. In the recovery room you can hold your baby immediately for skin contact and try to nurse, and you can request assistance if you need it (sometimes when the anesthesia is wearing off you're a little uncoordinated and you're covered in wires and IV line. It's a little awkward but it's doable).
It's also recommended that you do not allow your baby to be bathed until after he's established his first latch, also called the imprint latch. This is when your baby first develops a "preference" for nursing. If your baby first latches on to a bottle or shield or pacifier, then he or she will develop a preference to eat that way (it can be corrected with some work, but it will be frustrating for all parties). The reason to hold off on bathing is because a baby gets very tired after that first bath and isn't as "frisky" to nurse as they are before. Most newborns sleep for 4-6 hours after their first bath. Did you know that?! I didn't. Anyway, if you can get them to latch on and imprint before they get a bath it's very beneficial for the baby.
And this is how our story went: Elijah went to town and was nuzzling around and trying to nurse while I was still in recovery. He was with us for most of that time and came to me soon after we were checked into our post-partum room. We were not separated long at all. I spent most of that first night awake with him (you get a hormone high and can't sleep!), bonding and nursing and he latched on correctly at about 3 am. During that time a nurse came to fetch him for tests at the nursery but I turned her away. And away she went. I really can't describe to you how I knew he was latching on correctly but I just knew. His jaw was moving at the right place and he swallowed deeply. My milk hadn't come in yet, but he worked for a while and drifted peacefully off to sleep. I was satisfied. And when the nurse came back in at around 3:30 that morning I let her take him, told her that he could now have his bath, and asked them to keep him for a few hours so I could get some rest.
The point of me telling you this whole long, drawn-out saga is this: I love nursing my son. I never feel any anxiety about it. I just do it. He just does it. It's easy. I don't feel compelled to pump. I do it when I feel like it. I have a little stash of milk in the freezer "just in case" (although he prefers to just wait for the breast during the few times I've gone out for a few hours. He will take the occasional bottle, though. He did not have a bottle or pacifier for the first two weeks of his life either). This was not the case with my daughter. I always had to be sure to have a clean shield. If I was out and I forgot it, I would panic. I pumped almost daily, even in the middle of the night (oh man that was awful). My husband suffered a ruptured appendix when Syd was 8 weeks old and survived on pumped breast milk for the 14 hours I spent away from her because I was in the hospital with him (with NO PUMP, oh. my. lanta. is THAT ever a long story of PAIN), so I'm grateful for that. When I got a crippling case of the stomach flu when she was about 4 mos old, I was glad she could take a bottle of formula when I could not even sit up in bed long enough to pump. But when I started losing my milk supply about a month later, I was so, so sad. I was willing to do what we had to do to keep her healthy - and that was by feeding her formula - but it wasn't how I'd envisioned it at all.
I feel so blessed to be able to do this again the right way: MY way. And that's not to say that my milk won't dry up when Elijah starts on solids, or that some unforeseen event won't occur that will effect my milk supply negatively. That's not to say that I haven't had to work at times to keep my supply up as he grows and his needs change. But now that I know how it CAN be? I mourn that time I lost with my daughter. It makes me angry. It makes me want to save someone else from going through what we did. So here's what I say: YOU are the boss. No matter what anyone at any doctor's office or hospital tells you, YOU make the decisions about the care you receive. YOU can do this. If people come in your hospital room and interfere with you too much while you're trying to learn to nurse? SEND THEM AWAY. Prepare your spouse to be a bouncer to nurses, lactation consultants, and family members who are offering you unwelcome advice on nursing your baby. And then? Give it time. Let your baby nurse and hang out at your breast as long as he can while you're in the hospital. Don't let anyone take your baby to go do a test or take his temp or whatever while he's nursing. They can come back. They might huff off, you might have to be "bitchy," your partner might have to bust open some whoop-ass, but do it. It's worth it. I have a 13.8 pound 2-month-old with three chins who can testify to that.