Nothing about my road “here” has been quite as I had planned, but I’m finding my destination much more enjoyable as a result of the bumps I encountered along the way. I have three boys, Ralph (6yrs.), Daniel (5 yrs.), and Samuel (6 months). After years of struggling with infertility, my husband and I adopted our two oldest sons. Toddlers when they came to us, they opened the door to motherhood that I was sure would remain locked to me forever. A few more years went by, and after much effort, I was finally pregnant! We all were thrilled and excited about the newest member of our family, and it was with tremendous pride that when asked if I was going to breastfeed I enthusiastically answered, “Yes!”
As my pregnancy progressed, I started to become concerned about how deep my commitment to breastfeeding, (and my ability to do so), was. When I was 23 years old, I had a breast reduction surgery. At the time my surgeon said my chances of breastfeeding were 50/50. I thought it wouldn’t matter, maybe I wouldn’t want to breastfeed, who knew what the future held anyways. Besides, at 5’7” tall and a size 12/14, my 34DD breast size was more than slightly uncomfortable. I had permanent indents on my shoulders from my bra straps, I had to wear two sports bras in order to even consider participating in my first love, volleyball, and my back and shoulders were in constant pain. As I consented to have my surgery, I never even gave breastfeeding another thought until my due date approached.
I spoke to a Lactation Consultant who loaned my her copy of “Defining Your Own Success”, the Bible for BFARs, (those of us who breastfeed after reduction surgery). Through the book I found an online support group and quickly asked to become part of their group.
The more I read, the more scared I became, but I also found my resolve to breastfeed growing by leaps and bounds. If the women I found online could do it, so could I!! It would turn out to be A LOT harder than I ever expected.
Samuel entered the world at 11:02 p.m. via C-section (after many interventions…don’t even get me started!!)… and was brought to me within an hour of his birth. Our first attempt at nursing is still a total blur. As time went on, the Lactation Consultant and I noticed that Samuel wouldn’t always latch on well. When properly latched, he wouldn’t suck well, and when poorly latched, he’d suck like a champ. Worried about my supply and ability to breastfeed after surgery combined with my strong desire for my baby to NOT have formula, I started to nurse with a supplemental nursing system, or the S.N.S. I was very fortunate as I was able to use the S.N.S. not with formula, but with breast milk my sister (and her 10 month old son) had generously donated. The other problem I had right from the start was an inverted nipple. This was not a result of the surgery, in fact, I’d had this problem long before surgery. I tried every trick in the book to convince Samuel to nurse from the “bad” or left side, but nothing worked, except the S.N.S. I can remember many nights I’d be trying to get Samuel to latch onto my left side, he’d cry, and then we’d both cry.
For about four weeks I’d nurse with the S.N.S., pump from the side Samuel didn’t nurse from, and then clean the S.N.S. and pump parts. It was a vicious cycle. The whole time I was going through this routine, I kept thinking, “Just 1 month, you can do it for just 1 month.” I thought if I could nurse for a month one of two things would happen. I’d either continue nursing, feeling confident and secure in my ability to breastfeed, or I’d quit knowing I’d given Samuel 30 days more mother’s milk than many children ever get.
The good news is that after the first four weeks I was able to ditch the S.N.S. and nurse bare. Samuel was still not nursing from the left, but at least now I felt confident enough to venture out into public with my nursling. After about eight weeks, I stopped pumping and just nursed, nursed, nursed. It was still a huge struggle, and I spent more hours than I (or my Lactation Consultant) care to count, but with each day my determination grew and grew. I’m happy to say that Samuel is now six months old (July 28th) , I supply him with 100% of his nutritional intake, and I couldn’t be happier with our nursing relationship. I couldn’t have done any of this without a tremendously supportive husband, two children who are so young but somehow seemed to understand how incredibly important it was that I breastfeed their brother, and an awesome Lactation Consultant who, on more than one occasion, has made my day by telling my how proud of me she is!
My advice to any new mother, but especially a “BFAR” mom would be this…have faith in yourself, have faith in your ability, have faith that no matter what happens you are making the best choice for YOUR child, and remember that some mother’s milk is better than none. The first four weeks are hard, there is no way around that, but trust that it will get better. Someday you will be sitting there nursing your little one and he or she will give you the best toothless grin with milk running down their little face. THAT makes all the tears, self-doubt, and heartache worth it! The road wasn’t smooth, but I’m better off for the bumpy ride!
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