Growing up, I never thought much about breastfeeding except that it seemed to be how you fed babies. I knew my mother breastfed both me and my younger brother and that she weaned him "cold turkey" when he was around 2, with the joke being that he'd still be nursing (at 31 years old) if she hadn't weaned him because he loved it so much. The anecdote of a little kid with a Dorothy Hamill haircut beckoning my mom by patting the couch, saying, "sit down, Mommy, sit down" still makes me smile.
Fast forward 20-something years to when I was pregnant with my daughter Anya. Even though I had been running the Celebrity Baby Blog for a year and the topic of breastfeeding did come up from time to time, I still never thought much about breastfeeding. For some reason, a lot of people at my day job were asking me if I planned to breastfeed. It seemed like a silly question. Of course I would. That's what breasts were for, right? And especially since mine were so big, it would be good to finally use them for what they were put on my body for.
Before Anya was born, I took no breastfeeding or parenting classes, never thought to look at a book on the subject or even watch another woman breastfeed her child. I naively assumed it would come naturally to me. You just put the baby's mouth on your nipple, right?
Well, Anya came out the old-fashioned way and after they showed her to me, they took her to the nursery to "get warmed up" as is practice (which I later learned was unnecessary because being placed skin-to-skin on mom's chest and covered with a blanket is all most babies require). When they finally brought her back two hours later, they did nothing more than check my bracelet against hers to make sure they matched and takeoff. It was only at this point that I realized that I couldn't remove my hospital gown enough to access my breast because I was still plugged into the IV and epidural catheters.
So again, I had to wait for a nurse to come back to unhook me which took another half an hour at least and it's turning into 2+hours since my daughter was born before I could even place her on my chest. Finally I get topless and I realize I have no idea what to do. Positioning? Latch? How much of my nipple and areola? Even with my mother and mother-in-law (who breastfed for a short time) in the room I was flying solo. I got Anya on my breast and she sucked but I realized I had no idea what I was doing.
I don't even know when the lactation consultant made it over but with her help I finally was able to breastfeed my daughter. She visited me once more, grabbed my breast without my permission and gave me the erroneous instruction to clean my nipples before and after a feeding. After this ridiculous nipple cleansing, as my daughter was nursing pretty much most of the time we were in the hospital, I said, "*!$^&# this!" and stopped doing it. (I later learned it was completely unnecessary as nipples are self-cleaning and self-lubricating.)
The first night in the hospital, they allowed us to stay in the roomy delivery room which had a pull-out sofa where Josh could sleep. The nurses had told us that they would keep Anya in the nursery and bring her to me to nurse, so that we could get some sleep but after we asked them to take her back after the first time they brought her in, they said, "oh, you want us to feed her?" We said, "no, we're breastfeeding" and they said, "oh, then you have to have her room in." Which was fine,but it would have been nice if they hadn't said they would bring her in and out.
The second day I was moved to the postpartum floor and given one of the few semi-private rooms. Even though the second bed was empty, they refused to let Josh stay overnight because they might need to bring a mom at any point. This was going to be a major issue for me because I had an episiotomy repair and could hardly walk. I didn't know how I'd be able to get out of bed to change Anya's diaper or put her back in the isolette. I was getting kind of fed up with the hospital at this point because they were making me feel like a junkie because I was asking for ibuprofen and laxatives every few hours and really wanted to go home. My husband was able to arrange for a private duty health aide to sit in the room overnight and help me which made the night bearable. But when daybreak came, I could not get out of the hospital fast enough!
Things went pretty well once we arrived at home, but I wanted to be really sure I had the hang of things so I had a lactation consultant visit us at home. She showed me how to get a better latch but said that otherwise Anya was doing wonderfully.
Knowing what I know now, as a self-educated breastfeeding mom and as a Certified Lactation Counselor, I'm shocked that breastfeeding was a success for us. The roadblocks were small but many, but at least I had my determination. In a way, my naivete served me well for though I was aware of formula, I didn't know that it was something mothers might choose or need to give to their newborns. I just thought breastfeeding was the only way.