Why I Chose to Breastfeed

The following heartfelt letters were submitted by mothers from across the world

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Submitted by Jamie Gibb

My daughter is now two years old.(already, boy how time flies). I knew before I had ever became pregnant that I wanted to breast feed! I took a breastfeeding class and I read every thing I could about the subject once I became pregnant. When my daughter was born I was very adamant that the hospital nurses knew that my baby was breast only!! My breasts became so painfully sore with cracked, bleeding nipples that I thought I was going to die every time she latched on.

So, I went to a lactation specialist for help and it did help. The specialist assured me that it would get better, just give it time. In the meantime I pumped the side that was the most painful and nursed on the other side, so the more painful side could heal a little! I felt so very determined to do what was best for my little bundle of joy that I knew I had to stick it out and Idid! I ended up breastfeeding for one year.

I feel so very passionate and opinionated about this subject. When a woman tells me that she could not breastfeed, Iask why? I get a few different responses, from sore nipples to inconvenience or feeling tied down or they were afraid that the baby was not getting enough to eat! Well for one thing don't tell me about sore nipples, as far as being an inconvenience (tied down) that baby should come first! The thought of the baby not getting enough to eat, well the experts say that babies are just fine! I realize that in some situations a mother can not breastfeed but every mother should try and try hard! Don't give up too easily, think of the benefits you are giving your baby!

Submitted by Kathleen

My name is Kathleen Crawford and I am a nursing mother of a strapping baby boy. Jonathan is 10 months, 30 inches tall and almost 26 lbs. I wrote you several months ago about a recurring thrush problem that just would not go away. I wanted to write to you because my experience might be helpful to someone else suffering out there. I apologize up front because it's a long saga.

Starting from the moment Jonathan was born by planned Cesarean, complicated by the fact that I did not see my baby, let alone try nursing, until after 4 hours in recovery no medical problems, just their "way" I believe, Jonathan and I had troubles with breastfeeding. He was born 9 lbs. 8 oz. on a Monday, and by Friday, when we went home (thank GOD!), he weighed 8 lbs. 1 oz.

I think I had the most unhelpful lactation consultant in history during my stay at the hospital. She thought it odd that my milk was taking "so long" to come in. It came in very early Thursday morning (actually less than 3 days after the birth). She tried to get me to use a shield, a Haberman, a syringe with formula, a syringe with glucose, etc. My baby's mouth was "shaped funny" to her. He sucked his tongue. The litany was never ending. (By the way, several pediatricians have since assured me he was never tongue-tied, no abnormalities whatsoever.) I had enough information and where-with-all to resist most of her suggestions, although I paid for it. I was "starving" my baby and was almost flat out told to give it all up and show mercy on my child and feed him a bottle.I am not advocating "starving" your child, don't get me wrong. I am just for interventions that support breastfeeding.

By the end of the week I was nearly hysterical. Several weeks after what might be construed as "successful" nursing (isn't it normal to nurse for 24 hours straight every day? ha ha), the pain crescendoed into such burning that I decided to visit a local lactation consultant. She recommended trying Lotrimin, since Lansinoh wasn't cutting it. Lotrimin seemed to help. I got a prescription for Nystatin. I used it for 10 days and the symptoms seemed to go away. 2 weeks later the symptoms reappeared. I used the Nystatin again, this time for 14 days. Again, the symptoms disappeared only to reappear 2 weeks later. I also should mention I was scouring my bras, changing breast pads every time anything touched anything, and using the sterile techniques I learned in a microbiology class in college. I was slowly being driven crazy by this.

Finally, I returned to the doctor and said, "Please get rid of this!" He prescribed griseofulvin (oral) because it has more of a history with breastfeeding mothers (so said my physician--he was uncomfortable with Diflucan). I was nervous about what it was doing to my liver, but I was also desperate to "get rid of this!" I was to take it for 10 days. After a few days I got a horrendous headache that had me lying on the floor (near my baby) for an entire day. I managed to reach up to the phone to call my doctor and tell him I was cursing griseofulvin (which I could hardly pronounce) and flushing them down the toilet. I didn't want to be within 10 miles of it ever again.

After that we tried Bactroban and Lotrisone, alternating treatments. I got very little relief from this. On to Diflucan. My physician finally relented. Guess what. This didn't help. We began to suspect that thrush wasn't the culprit. My physician looked at my breasts under a "black light" to see if there would be any "white" there to indicate yeast. My breasts glowed white like they were radioactive. Very weird. We both ended the appt. a little frustrated. Why was nothing working? I tried gentian violet. In a word, MESS!!! I tried primadophilus, paud arco and kyolic, eating yogurt like crazy. I tried a vinegar-water wash. We were now months into this and nothing was working. As a matter of fact, I looked down at my baby eating one day and saw that his face was covered in blood. I mean, it wasn't pouring out of my nipples, but it is a shocking thing to see any blood. The thing was that there was no difference between usual pain and "blood" pain. It was awful. Everyone to the last person on earth I talked to (besides my contact with you) said, "Give this madness up!" I carried my little plastic "Bag-o-Drugs" everywhere I went--tubes, Qtips, cotton balls, new pads, etc. It was ridiculous.

I'm not a zealot. I'm not crazy. No one could understand that this was my "normal," and that bottles and formula and getting all of that coordinated was out of the question. Besides, I wanted to solve my problem (of course, I was told that quitting breastfeeding would solve my problem). The answer? I finally was referred to a dermatologist who said my problem was eczema. If I had a thrush problem at all, it was probably burnt off my breasts with one of the million remedies I tried. I'm not fair haired or particularly fair skinned, and I had not had rashes or eczema in the past, except a very mild, small, strange patch on my face early in pregnancy that disappeared almost as quickly as it appeared. The dermatologist prescribed Aclovate ointment, .05% for a week. 4-5 days into the treatment I was still in pain and ready to give this up as another failed treatment. However, I stuck to it for a week and poof! The pain disappeared. We now are pain free nursing. We haven't had a problem since. It's a miracle!

If you're having trouble, whatever it is, please keep trying. There is probably a solution out there for you, and there is a lot of the right sort of support available! Feel free to ask questions or comment. 

Submitted by Cathy Cooke

Breastfeeding - Friend or Foe

From the moment I found out I was pregnant (a major shock), I knew I would be forced to breastfeed. My sister's a midwife and was still feeding her children when they were three years old! My mum fed all five of us. It's the done thing in our family and something apparently to be proud of, although I wasn't sure why. If you bottle feed surely everyone can muck in and then you have less to do, I had visions of my lovely 'new man' sitting happily with the baby sucking contentedly on a bottle. 'Much easier' I thought.

In my 28 years of life my breasts have never really played a big part. They weren't visible for the first sixteen years and then swelled slightly. (I've never been what you would call buxom). From sixteen to twenty-eight they became sex toys for my boyfriend. He loved them dearly and spent many a happy hour playing with them in a nice gentle sexy way. Apart from this they have remained inanimate and generally behaved themselves in public.

Then I became pregnant, my first symptom of this affliction was that my boobs grew from a 34B to a 34D. 'Wow' I thought 'Now I know what it feels like to be a sex kitten' That lasted about six weeks until my stomach decided to overtake them sticking out further and wider than you imagine possible. 'Don't you feel womanly?' said my sister, the Earth Mother. 'No!' I replied ' I feel uncomfortable, I can't breathe properly and I've got indigestion so bad I drink Gaviscon by the bottle like a wino'

The first appointment at hospital was surreal. Walking into the Ante-natal Department looking like a normal person, no bump to speak of, you are positioned in between enormous tummied women who take up most of your chair as well as their own with their sprawling legs and swollen ankles. It puts the fear of God in you! A rather large midwife called me in to her office and proceeded to perform some strange calculation with an incomprehensible slide rule. 'Baby's due on the 19th September and will you be breastfeeding?' 'Um Yes' I say with my held hung low - How should I know? On what authority could I make that decision?

Its all very well telling everyone that you will breastfeed before you even have a bump to think about and before the baby is born you have no idea how it works, its an alien concept. Leaflets and magazines try to encourage you, but you haven't a clue what it will be like. I think I was lucky that I didn't find the idea repulsive, as I know other women do.

According to all around me I sailed through the pregnancy and labour, which I think was described by several as a 'very easy birth' Ha! Didn't seem very easy to me. After losing all my dignity in the delivery room we were wheeled to the 'Mother and screaming baby' ward for a nice kip. On arrival a lovely midwife said 'Ill take your baby to the nursery and you get some sleep' No chance. I had just drifted off to the sound of other people's new arrivals voicing their disapproval at the outside world when I was woken by a poke from the now not so lovely midwife. 'Baby needs feeding' This first attempt was fraught and difficult. My enormous nipples were bigger than his head and trying to get his tiny mouth near the middle was impossible.

I thought he would know what to do but he just flailed around screaming. In the end I won the battle aided by three midwives. One positioned behind me squashing my bosom (very dignified) another aiming the baby's head at it and the third shouting encouragement from the corner. ' I thought it would be easy' I wailed several times between 3 and 6 am. I knew I had to continue. The pressure was on, not least from my mum and sister but from my breasts which were filling up rapidly. I needed him to release the pressure as much as he needed me. So there we were, symbiosis at its very best.

These first few weeks are hard, anyone will agree and many women decide to give up after the important antibodies are passed on. Your life is spent on the sofa or in bed with the new addition, the only advantage is being waited on hand and foot because you can't move. Your breasts, swollen and painful, squirt milk all over the place. There you are walking round Tescos minding your own business and one whimper from your child causes a major flood down your 'easy opening' shirt. All these inconveniences only last a few weeks, however and it's a shame many women give up at this point. They just don't get the encouragement from the professionals to continue. If only someone told them that in three months they would be grateful for the ease of it all, maybe more would persevere.

We all know the story of the exhausted mother or father staggering about in the middle of the night trying to prepare a bottle for their frantic child. By the time its ready the baby is so worked up they can't go back to sleep. None of that with breastfeeding, oh no. Night feeds are performed lying down in bed, plug him in and drift off - much more civilised. I think my partner found this very appealing as he was getting up for work at 6am feeling fresh as a daisy, while his 'new father' colleagues were staggering about with bin-bags under their eyes.

I was just starting to enjoy my new role when Mastitis attacked - a very cruel illness. High temperature with flu like symptoms and burning breasts that feel like they have gone twelve rounds with Mike Tyson. Not conducive to happy mothering. We survived though and that was the final misery.

Breastfeeding now is enjoyable, not at all painful and very, very slimming! I regained my pre pregnancy weight when Sam was three months old. I eat what I like, chocolate, cakes, crisps, pastries, and great big dinners! I have the metabolism of an athlete and 4000 calories a day has no effect on my thighs! When we visit friends he doesn't need an expensive hold-all from Mothercare with special pockets for bottles, milk, steriliser, warming device etc. etc. He just needs me. Oh, and a nappy!

Sam is now ten months old and I have returned to work part time. At the end of the day I rush from my office to collect him and he cheers and claps when he sees me. We zip home and as soon as we get in I sit down and feed him. He loves it, I love it, and it's so easy. I feel I am giving him the best start in life, according to research he is less likely to suffer from colds, coughs, asthma, eczema, diabetes, and in adult life heart and circulatory problems, obesity and cancer. Breastfeeding mums are a minority and it is a shame because you are rewarded with an easy going healthy, happy baby who can be calmed in an instant with a nice warm breast and cuddle.

Submitted by Patti

After nearly three months of reading everybody else's stories of bf successes and failures, it's time for me to return the favor. I decided I would breastfeed after witnessing my niece's struggles with allergies, inherited from her father. She spent a few weeks every winter battling pneunomia, as well. I told my husband that if we ever had children, I would do my part to prevent his family's inheritance being passed on, whether I liked it or not. He wasn't too keen on the idea, so I brought him to a breastfeeding class with me in my last month of pregnancy. He was slowly warming up to it (he couldn't argue with the health benefits) when Jordan was born.

My sister had bf her children for 4 and 6 months, but never in front of anyone. She sent me pamphlets, and was available by phone to answer questions and offer support. My sister-in-law proved to be very supportive, especially when it came time for me to return to work (she even sent me a pump she had liked for herself).

Jordan was born with low blood sugar, so when he couldn't latch on, the nurses made us give him a bottle of formula. My husband started resorting to that bottle whenever he felt that Jordan had "suffered long enough" while we struggled with latch on problems. The lactation consultant in the hospital was too busy to see me, and too busy to listen to my questions over the phone after I got home.

Still, somehow, we prevailed. My husband went back to work, my sister called and stayed on the phone, long-distance, while we tried, again and again, for almost a whole day. And we finally got our act together, we finally succeeded. By about two weeks we were sailing along, except my nipples were getting pretty sore. It turned out to be a yeast infection, but I finally got over it.

Now Jordan is experimenting with different positions, lazily falling off halfway but still sucking (yeah, that hurts) so I have to watch him, but I'm not giving up. It's that stubborness that's kept us breastfeeding, and now Daddy is much more supportive, even "forgetting" a bottle (of breastmilk) when we go on long car trips, so I can stop and feed him along the way. Feeding in public is always a challenge, since Jordan seems to be unable to be discreet (loud slurping, coming off to give me a big smile, pulling at clothes, blankets, but he's such a cutie!) but I'm still working at it, because I just can't stay home all summer!

Through it all, I've found the stories and various internet sites to be a big help, so I'd like to say thanks to you all who have shared your experiences. Jordan and I will be nursing as long as he wants!

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