I always imagined l would have three children. We had two beautiful little humans already, but I just love being a mummy and l really felt that there was meant to be a third little soul to add to our cherished brood. So after much discussion with my hubby, we agreed to my excitement, to try for baby number three.
We fell after the first try. Unfortunately, we lost that baby at 12 weeks, a whole other story, but one worth noting so you might understand l wanted this little bub now, even a little bit more than before.
So when we were ready to try again and I fell pregnant, I was beyond excited. I went on to have a really lovely, hugely wanted pregnancy.
I have to preface, that when I imagined holding my third baby for so many years, it was always with the vision and feel of breastfeeding. I loved the experience of feeding my first two so much. I fed them both for 2 years each, and even though l’m prone to a crazy amount of mastitis (due to having so much milk), it was such a joyous, bonding experience that l longed to have again. So when our beautiful baby boy was born (after a very long 36-hour labor), I put our boy straight up to my breast; expecting, like my other two, for him to attach and happily feed… but it was not the case.
This is why I felt I had to write my very first blog.
While scouring the internet day and night looking for information, I found very little out there in cyberspace or otherwise, especially personal accounts about
“babies who refuse the breast completely”;
which is what he did. He would spit my nipple out and turn his head.
Every. Single. Time.
The first 2 days I was told he was a mucus baby; that must be why the breast in his mouth made him gag. Then he became jaundiced and with fear of him not taking enough milk to flush it through, l put him on the bottle with expressed milk. The bottles in the hospital have always had teats that are way too fast flowing (in my opinion). However, I put my other two children on and off the bottle in the first few days of their life (because of mastitis and bleeding nipples…eek); and they went back to the breast easily, so I had no reason to fear that he would not do the same.
Day Three: A midwife grab him far too forcefully by the back of his neck and shoved him on my breast so hard that he bit down and clamped, drawing blood on my nipple; and we both burst into tears. Thus creating a refusal by him to go anywhere near me for another 24 hours. Before I knew it, day four of his life had come and he was yet to suck, even once.
This moment was brought to rock bottom for me when a midwife at the hospital, at 1am in the morning, while weighing him for the first time since his birth said, “You know babies who don’t suck are the hardest ones to ever get to the breast. I think it’s time you come to terms with the fact he will be a bottle fed baby.”
What? I wasn’t even considering this outcome. I went into a highly emotional state of shock. After 4 years of longing for that bond of breastfeeding, her comment had me crying with a deep loss. The tears kept flowing from morning to night for the next 7 days. I was truly grieving with a deep longing to feel that pull. Going over all the things I could’ve done differently. Blaming only myself, as we always do. Feeling a huge sense of loss, fear and massive amounts of guilt. Feeling anything but happy and grateful as I knew I should; and confusion as to why l was not being the joyous mother I had always been before. Also a huge personal fear, at the possibility of not providing him with breast milk, as it was something l was so passionate about. But overall a big realization that I had used breastfeeding to connect to my other two children, and now I was so confused as to how it’s done without it. I had to learn to nurture in a completely different way.
My first lactation consultant said, “You have an 80% chance in the first 8 weeks to get a baby re-attached, after that it drops to 20%; and then expressing milk drops off in most women, it’s not likely expressing will keep being possible.” Time-sensitive panic set in. I tried syringe feeding, nipple teats, tricking him, pushing him, skin on skin, baths, and every position. Nothing. More feelings of guilt, rejection, panic, loss and confusion. I then went to the pediatrician, lactation specialist after specialist, chiropractor, osteopath, naturopath, and back to a new lactation consultant who was truly amazing. After being told it was a tongue tie issue, I went to a specialist dentist to have his posterior tongue tie and upper frenulum burnt off his mouth (which was beyond traumatic, and probably my one regret). All this before he was 2 weeks old. Again, nothing changed his refusal to breastfeed and no one could tell me why?
On the other hand, I have to thank a few of the more holistic therapists I did see, and one great lactation consultant. They were insisting that l look at it differently. They all said the same thing:
“It’s not about what you are doing, or not doing. It’s not about blaming yourself; not about what you need, you want, you expect. It’s about him and….he is doing the best he can.”
Amidst the darkness, I must have heard it. On about the 12th day of his life, it must have sunk in, because I woke up happy. For the second time since he was born, l was just excited to have him in my arms! I felt such relief, because I was thinking I truly must have been heading to post natal depression. I can’t explain to you the weight that was lifted when I could finally stop making it all about myself, and make it about him. It automatically changed the way I felt and looked at this. I surrendered my idea of what being a mum to this beautiful baby looks like, and looked at it from his eyes.
He WAS doing the best he could. For some reason, a reason no one knew, he had no idea what my breasts were for. I decided to go with my gut and stop trying him. Stop seeing specialists, stop pushing for something he wasn’t comfortable with and just start loving him.
Six weeks later, we were in the shower together and he started to, for the first time, move his mouth the way my other children did when wanting to feed. Keep in mind he was about 8 weeks by now and had never once attached. So I thought I’d put him near the nipple to see what he would do.
He fed for 10 minutes while I stood frozen, hardly breathing; and when I moved him, he took the other breast and attached just as well. I was in total shock! I waited another few days and tried him again; and he did it perfectly once more.
He went on to feed on and off in the shower for a few weeks, but never outside of it. To be honest, he started to chew my nipples like they were gummy bears, so showers soon became a place for cleaning, not chewing.
But he got all the breast milk he needed. My milk didn’t dry up at 8 weeks like I was told by many it would. I expressed milk, right up until he was 12 moths old without issue. He slept well, smiled always and is the light we all circle around. The whole experience fills me now with a sense of pride that I allowed him his journey, and listened to my instincts.
I realize for some, expressing is hard and not possible. I also know that, as a breastfeeding mother before, breast feeders can’t understand why a woman can’t breastfeed. Maybe deep down I was one of them. The whole experience has made me look at motherhood with far more compassion. Understand that our little babies truly come into this world with a mind of their own; and all we can do is the best we can do.
For mothers out there struggling to be the “perfect” ideal we are constantly told we must be: you are doing the best you can, and your best is AMAZING.
And most importantly, so is your baby.
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