- As many of you know, John-Paul and I got off to a rough start with breastfeeding. I started out having multiple nurses try to help me at the hospital; while they were all very bright women, none of them had any specialized in lactation. JP did not want to latch. He simply turned his head away, but I could tell he was hungry…which absolutely broke my heart. I knew that sometimes women struggled at first, but most books or websites I read made it sound like babies generally got the hang of it in the the first 2-3 days of life. I felt sad and confused as to why JP appeared to have no interest in nursing. In my somewhat irrational hormonal state, I started to take it personally (like my baby could decide that he didn’t like me or my milk). I felt upset with myself for not knowing how to provide nourishment to my baby…shouldn’t it be the most basic thing for a mother to do? What if I didn’t have other resources, would my baby die? How could I let that happen? If women all over the world are able to do this with fewer resources than me, why can’t I do this? Obviously, not a great head space to be in. Thankfully, that didn’t last long.
I saw two lactation consultants (one at the pediatrician’s office and one independent consultant). At the first appointment, she stuck her finger in JP’s mouth, watched me nurse and then told me to feed him with a syringe and gave me some formula. I walked away feeling better, because I didn’t feel crazy that he was struggling…but I didn’t really have any more information than I did going in. I did have a way to make sure he got nourishment, so I think that’s what made me feel better. The first couple of days I used formula while I pumped and waited for my milk supply to build up. Then I switched to exclusively using my breastmilk through the syringe. I knew this couldn’t go on forever though…I either needed to figure out how to breastfeed JP or make a decision and go the bottle route. Trying to feed, pumping, syringing, cleaning my pump every time… it was exhausting to do around the clock. But I really didn’t want to give up yet. After posting a picture on Instagram sharing our struggle, I had lots of moms reach out to me and share their stories about their breastfeeding woes. Some of those stories ended in switching to formula and some ended up being able to breastfeed…every story was a little different. I took hope in and wisdom from these stories, knowing that whatever happened it would be ok. But I still really wanted to breastfeed, so I resolved to hang in there and get more proactive about seeking out help.
I looked up the Le Leche League website, and found some Le Leche leaders in the State College area. I called a couple of women, and got a hold of one that I talked to for about 20 minutes. She was so kind! She gave me a few hints, tips and most importantly gave me a referral to Karen Foard, the teacher by trade, certified lactation consultant by hobby. I made an appointment with her for the next day. I spent one hour with her, and walked away with so much more knowledge about JP and our particular feeding issues. Best of all, she was confident that he would be able to breastfeed well and that there were no major obstacles in our way – just time, growth and practice.
With the help of a nipple shield, we’re able to breastfeed exclusively now. The only position that works for JP currently is the football hold, which works great at home but would be more difficult to do in a public place I think. I do want to wean him off of the shield in the next couple of weeks, and hopefully get to a point where we’re comfortable doing the cradle/cross cradle nursing position (easiest and most discreet for public feeding!). This is where time and patience will come in as I wait for JP to get a little bigger and stronger.
I’m so thankful for all the practical help that I’ve received – we’re definitely making forward progress! While I have my own vision and plan, I realized I need help spiritually in this new motherly battle. I looked up “novena for breastfeeding” and lo and behold, Our Lady has a special title…Our Lady of La Leche! There is even a shrine devoted to this Marian title down in St Augustine, Florida. Who knew! I think we often forget about the closeness of Mary and Jesus on a human level…she carried him in her womb, gave birth, nursed him, changed him, woke up with our Lord throughout the night…she knew him better than anyone else in the whole world! Mary took care of Jesus’ every earthly need! Why would she, in her compassionate, motherly heart, not care for our troubles, worries and needs? Our Mother loves to offer up prayers to her Son, her Savior, on our behalf. So for the next week (and beyond) I am asking for the prayers of Our Lady of La Leche – that I’ll be able to nurse JP with confidence and provide him all of the nourishment that he needs physically, and that Our Lady be with the three of us spiritually as we figure this out. I am also praying for all women who are struggling with breastfeeding, particularly if they are in a situation where nursing is their only option. May their fears be eased, and their troubles lifted!
if you don’t mind, please ask Our Lady of La Leche to intercede in prayer for us. (The link to a novena I originally included here is no longer working. But there are prayers to our LoLL if you google!) I would include it for any of you out there also looking for prayers for breastfeeding and/or fertility issues.