I had my surgery in January, 1991, when I was 21 years old. My reasons for having the surgery were mostly psychological/self-esteem related, although I was starting to experience physical problems as well. At the time, I didn't even have a boyfriend, let alone a serious relationship and having children was the furthest thing from my mind. Consequently, when my surgeon told me I'd have a 50/50 chance of being able to breastfeed future babies, I didn't give it much thought.
When I was pregnant with Adam, I finally started to think about the breastfeeding issue. My mom had breastfed me and my siblings and is a former LLL Leader, so I had lots of support from her. I didn't want to get my hopes up, though, so I basically took a "wait and see" attitude toward whether I'd breastfeed.
After Adam was born, with my mom's help, I got him to latch on right away, although he didn't really seem to suck much. Then they took him to the nursery for a while, while they moved me onto the post-partum floor and got me settled. While they had him in the nursery, they did whatever tests they normally do and found out that he had low blood sugar so they gave him a bottle. Arrgh!
I had made (what I consider to be) the *mistake* of telling the nurses about my surgery and that I wasn't sure if I'd be able to breastfeed. That, combined with Adam's low blood sugar, made them monitor my breastfeeding efforts incredibly closely and they continued to give him bottles because they didn't think I was getting him to nurse enough. I finally saw the lactation consultant, who showed me how to finger-feed him, but even then, I was pressured to give him way more formula than I would have liked. I feel like I missed out on a lot of those most important 48 hours of establishing my milk supply, because they were pushing the formula so heavily. I wish I'd at least asked to rent a pump, but next time, I just won't tell them about the surgery, and I'll refuse to give him any formula during those first few days.
After we came home from the hospital, my mom was an incredible source of support and information and she helped me establish my breastfeeding relationship with Adam. I tried using the SNS for a while, but found it too complicated, cumbersome, and generally difficult to use, so we switched to Avent bottles for supplementing. (We finger-fed for the first couple of days, but that too became too much of a hassle.)
Ultimately, I think I ended up providing about 60-70% of Adam's nutritional needs through breastfeeding, and supplemented the rest with formula. When I went back to work, the ratio changed -- even though I pumped twice a day, I was never able to pump very much, so Adam mostly got formula during the day, and breastfed at night and on weekends.
Now, Adam is fourteen months old. Even though I no longer pump at work, he's still breastfeeding at night (we family bed) and on weekends. Amazingly, somehow my body knows when it's the weekend! I always have plenty of milk for Adam on the weekends, even though during the week, I never feel engorged or have any leaking. Because I have to be away from Adam so much during the week, our breastfeeding relationship is my "lifeline." It's just such a wonderful way to "re-connect" with him after being gone all day, and it's something that only *I* can do with him, which helps when I start feeling jealous of all the time he spends with my husband's grandmother, who takes care of him for us. I plan to nurse until Adam decides it's time to wean, and I know I'll be very sad when that happens!
BFAR has definitely been a struggle for me, but it's been so incredibly worth it! I'm hopeful that with the next baby (whenever that may be), I'll have even more success.
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