Why I Chose To Breastfeed

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

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Submitted by Hansen

I really loved Cathy Cooke's story...mine was somewhat similar. My mother is an R.N. and also a lactation consultant, and although not a bully in any way, her personal opinion is that a "good" mother will go through the "inconvenience" for her child. I am currently breastfeeding my third baby girl, and must admit it is difficult not to agree with
her. My first daughter, who is now four, was born at 37 weeks by C-section and was only 4 lbs. I have received no adequate explanation for this low birth-weight, but that is in itself another story...anyway, I was unable at the hospital to get her latched on properly, even with my mother helping me, and like Cathy, a half a dozen other people
manipulating my breasts and other humiliating things. But this poor baby needed to eat, so I pumped and we fed her out of a cup like a kitten. After a week in the hospital, much pumping, crying, and failed attempts to get my sweet mini baby latched on, and more crying, I went home with a pump. My mother and I still worked on getting my sweet angel latched on until I had had enough. I couldn't believe how difficult this was! If my own lactation consulting mother couldn't help me, then it was hopeless! I finally made the decision to pump and feed my baby breastmilk from a bottle. I did this for her entire first year--pumped and fed her every bottle. People have commented that I must be a martyr or saint, they surely would have given up before I did, but my motives were not entirely saintly. My baby had had formula few times in the hospital before my milk came in (they were freaking out about her size in comparison with her gestational age), and couple more when I was out and couldn't pump for some reason. But one night, when she was about 6 months old, my husband was feeding her a bottle of formula when she
started breaking out in hives from her mouth, spreading down her body! We rushed her to the emergency room where they gave her a shot to keep her from going into shock. They suspected it was the baby formula. Well, that was it, I had to keep going with the pumping!! Another thing that kept me motivated to breastfeed before my daughter's allergic reaction, was the cost of formula! It is outrageous to me to pay for something
that is inferior to what I can make for free!     

My second daughter was able to latch on and we had the usual problems of bleeding, cracked nipples.  But once I made it to the six week mark, it was only getting better. Unfortunately, this daughter weaned herself at 10 months. She is a very curious kid, and couldn't stand to be pressed up against me when she could be interacting with her big sister! I hated to let it go, but it really seemed to be her choice, so I ended up giving her formula for the last two months of her first year...although I did still pump some and give her breastmilk...I just wasn't exclusive as I had been with the first child.

My third daughter is just 6 months old, and has been the easiest by far to breastfeed. She came out of the womb knowing what to do and hasn't let go since! I think if more women would just give it six weeks, they would probably continue with it. It is so hard to have that perspective as a first time mother with bleeding and/or leaking nipples and a severe lack of sleep. I try to tell as many moms as I can who say they want to breastfeed: you make that lactation consultant stay with you in the hospital until you get it; give it two weeks, then go to six weeks, and then by three months you won't ever remember it was hard! It is definitely harder to do at first, but in the long run it is actually
much easier. I don't have to make up messy bottles several hundred times a day and sterilize nipples and bottles all the time! Also, I like having a pump, so I can have someone else give her the occasional bottle. I am saving thousands of dollars and giving my baby something healthier than I could ever purchase.

Submitted by Marie

My story goes back to 1963.  I'm the mother of 10 children, grandmother of 12, and great-grandmother of two. I breastfed nine of my children, all except the first one.  The doctor thought I was too nervous to breastfeed.  Well, this first baby turned out to be allergic to everything the pediatrician suggested.  This went on for an entire year.  Her allergies were so bad that if I used baby powder on her the powder would turn pink.  She bled from every crease in her body.  For sure all of this was enough to make any woman "nervous."

When my second daughter came along, eleven months later, I was determined to breastfeed her.  Thanks to a determined nurse, I succeeded.  I breastfed all the rest of my babies.

My sixth baby was born with a congenitally deformed heart....she was a "blue baby." Breastfeeding her was difficult.  With her heart condition she would suck once, then have to pant for her next breath.  She nursed for 50 minutes out of every hour.  At the age of two months she had to return to the hospital.  Of course I had to cease breastfeeding.  They moved her from our local hospital to a New York City hospital.  They could not find any formula that would agree with her.  Her poor little bottom looked like someone set fire to it, it was so red and raw.  From there I had to take her to Houston, Texas for open heart surgery.   During the course of her open-heart surgery they had her on sugar-water IV's.  Janet was so weak that she could not cry, she made no sound at all.  It was a month and a half since I nursed her.

I kept asking the doctor what they were giving her for nourishment.  He said they hadn't found anything to agree with her, and he agreed with me that she could not live on the sugar-water intravenous feedings for any length of time.

I was only allowed to visit her for 5 minutes of every hour while she was in ICU.   For some strange reason one night I felt the "let-down" feeling again, after a month-and-a-half of not nursing her.  When I went to visit her the nurse told me that for some reason she was trying to cry...and it was at the same time that I felt the "let-down" feeling.

I spoke to the doctor about this, and he agreed that, if possible I should try to breastfeed her again...but of course I couldn't hold her...she was in an oxygen tent.  That evening I ran across the street to the pharmacy and purchased a breast pump.   I came back, and as soon as I had the let-down feeling again, I tried to express milk.  I didn't get a full teaspoonful, and was almost tempted to just chuck it down and admit
I failed.  But I took the tiny bit in the bottle, and told the doctor that I didn't have much luck.  Instead of dumping the tiny amount he said, "Oh, we can't give her all that, she can't swallow yet, we'll only give her an eyedropper full at a time so she doesn't upchuck it into her lungs.

My sister, who was a stewardess, with a flight to Houston at that time, went with me to the ICU after they had given her the tiny bit of my milk.  Prior to this Janet's eyes looked tormented.  What they did to her shouldn't have been done to a dog.  She had wires sticking out all over, and they had plucked scabs off her body in order to do blood tests, until there wasn't a nice area of her body, except for the palms of her hands  When Jeanne, my sister, and I went into ICU at 11 PM that night Janet did not have that horrified look on her face, and, instead, was making little sighing sounds, sounds of contentment.  My sister, who had seen her hours before, commented.  She said, "How could that little bit of milk have made such a difference in her?"

The doctor told me that whenever I felt that "let-down" feeling (sign the milk was coming in) that I should try expressing the milk again and give it to the nurse.   That feeling never came again.   Two hours later they told me that Janet had passed away.  Nothing could ever hurt her again. 

 I had no signs of any liquid coming from my breasts again.  But I've always had a sense of great satisfaction.  I had given her her last meal.  And both my sister and I saw the big difference those few drops of my milk made in her....from a horrified baby, to one that was so contented, almost purring like a kitten.

With each consecutive child, I could be out doing errands, grocery shopping, or whatever, and actually clock when my babies were starting to wake up (even though I was miles away), for when I got that "let-down" feeling, the baby was beginning to stir.    During the nights, I would nudge my husband and tell him the baby would be waking up any second, and sure enough, we were "totally synchronized," just like radar between us.

Yes, this is a sad story, but seeing the difference between the agonized look on her face just hours before she had her "final meal" and how contented she was after receiving that little bit of nourishment, gave me such a sense of gratitude that I was able to make such a difference in her final hours.

Submitted by Paula
I am a stay at home mom of three. I have breastfed each and every one of my children...but that was never even a question in my mind.

When my first child was born, he came three weeks early and was quite jaundiced. He had to remain in the hospital and I told my obstetrician in no uncertain terms that I did not want formula anywhere near my baby's lips. Considering I had a third degree laceration from delivery, staying with him in the hospital was not going to be a problem. The problem was that we were on two different wards and he could not be brought to me, so every couple of hours I would shuffle to his ward and sit in excruciating pain on my massive "battle scar" and nurse him. Because of his jaundice he was often very
sleepy and would nurse very little, for very short periods of time. I had conflicting opinions from several nurses in the NICU, as to how I should be positioning him etc. at the breast. Apparently that was the beginning of the journey from hell for me.

We went home from the hospital and things seemed to be going well, my nipples were cracking and bleeding and really sore, but I didn't care! I was actually sustaining my own beautiful little boy with what babies are intended to consume....breast milk!! By the time my baby was 9 weeks old we had 'finger fed', and cup fed...anything to alleviate,  the almost constant pain I was experiencing from breastfeeding. I finally got smart and hired a private lactation consultant (I had been seeing an LC through the hospital I delivered at, but it turned out she knew less about breastfeeding than I did!). The private LC I hired was amazing, she immediately pinpointed the problem, changed the way I had been 'taught' to position him and we fixed his lazy latch and things were great...or so I thought. It turned out that the problem had gone on for so long that I had gotten myself a seriously advanced case of mastitis in my right breast. It all came to a head one night when the pain was so bad I got into the shower to freely express and I
was so rock hard all I did was leave finger marks on my skin from trying. When I got out of the shower I started shivering and asked my husband to turn up the heat because I was cold and he looked at me and his face went white....I was as white as a ghost and had a raging fever. I got to my Dr. the next day, he diagnosed me with severe mastitis and immediately put me on antibiotics.....I was days away from surgery. The antibiotics cleared up the mastitis...I avoided abscessing and breastfeeding became a total pleasure. I nursed him everywhere and anywhere. I didn't care about the glares I got
from people who found breastfeeding to be offensive. I would just think about how offensive those people were, in their misguided beliefs about breasts and breastfeeding. They actually felt that giving your baby the most perfect food that ever existed and in the most natural way, was anything less than wonderful, and I actually felt sorry for them, and still do. To this day I cringe when I hear a mom say "breastfeeding...it's not for me!"
Ummmm....you are absolutely right....it's NOT for you, it is for that precious little being you chose to bring into the world...THAT is who it is for.  And who knows, if they ever gave it half a chance, they might actually find, that in fact it really IS for them!

Throughout my ordeal even the people closest to me kept asking me "why don't you just put him on a bottle and give him formula??" I would just smile and say that it was my choice to bring this baby into the world and my obligation to make sure I do everything in my power to give him the best that life has to offer and that included being nourished at my breast...no matter how painful. We continued our breastfeeding relationship until he decided at 10 months that he had had enough. When my daughter came along I
knew from experience what to do and what not o do and she nursed until she too gave it up at 11 months. I am currently nursing my youngest little boy....at 17 months we are still going strong and LOVING every minute of it, and while I nurse him my 5 year old daughter 'nurses' her 'baby' too!. I hope that one of the things my daughter keeps with her for always, is the memory of the beauty of breastfeeding a baby....I will be there to encourage her, help her and give her any and all of the support she will need, when it
comes time for her to have babies of her own.

To this day I am convinced that had I not listened to nurses and Doctors that my first two children would have nursed much longer than they did. I did however, learn not to be intimidated by people in the medical profession, just because they are doctors or nurses, doesn't mean they have all the answers and when it comes to breastfeeding that rings true more often than not. I unfortunately got bullied into 'supplementing' my first two babies with a bottle or two of formula a day (at around 7 or 8 months) and in my heart I know that is why they self weaned as early as they did......My third baby never took to a bottle (thank God) and has never had a drop of formula in his life, and never will....and as I said before he is still going strong with no end in sight!

Many people find the fact that he is 17 months and still nursing in very bad taste (what do they know? LOL) and when people are rude and nosy enough to ask me when I will finally give up breastfeeding, I simply smile and say "when there is no more milk!"
Submitted by Michelle

I was determined to have a new baby and I knew the only way financially we would be able to was if I breastfed.  My husband and I finally agreed it was time to have another child.  We found out in late August we were pregnant. By the end of September we found we were going to have twins.  We were both shell shocked!!  I was panicked!  How on earth was I going to nurse TWO babies.  Everyone I mentioned to that I was going to nurse twins thought I was nuts and told me it was impossible.  Well, let me say to those people THANKS!  Because of these people and their negativity I was even more
motivated to breastfeed just to prove to them I could.  My husband and I went to a breastfeeding class were the lactation nurse was the very first person to be supportive of my goals.  When the babies were born I made sure to tell EVERYONE at the hospital DO NOT give my babies a bottle.  Boy was I furious when I found out my son was given a bottle of sugar water.  No one had explained to me why, I later found out it was unavoidable.  They did not give me my babies until several hours after they were born.  When I finally got them it was almost midnight.  I was eager to start nursing.  Neither
baby wanted to latch very good and I was getting really upset.  My husband was worried for me and the babies so he found a nurse who was supposed to be a lactation nurse.  She came in to help.  I didn't care for her!  She was one of those "You are not going to be able to do it" people!  I finally told her I could handle it and thanks for her help.  The first couple of times trying was hard.  Finally the lactation nurse that was at our breastfeeding class came to the hospital the next day.  She was a life saver!  She helped me get through and taught me how to keep them awake and make them nurse.
The first two weeks was miserable!  I had sore cracked nipples and wanted to cry everytime they nursed.  I think the thing that made me stick out the most was knowing my babies were getting the best and it helped too, to know I was proving everyone wrong!  They have been nursing now for 8 months and I have enjoyed every minute of it!  I work full time so I only get to nurse them three or four times a day during the week but I cherish every moment.

I pump while I am at work to make sure my babies still have moms milk.  I have just recently started having problems getting enough milk but that WONDERFUL lactation nurse has given me some advice and I hope it will begin to work soon enough.  To make a really long story short, IF I can do it, YOU CAN!  It is a feeling that can not easily be described!  Anyone who says it is impossible does not know what they are talking about.  Find someone to help you or talk to you and it will make the most difference in the world! Good luck!

Submitted by Trish
I am 28 and the mother of five breastfed children. When I had my first I was only 17 and did not know much but knew I wanted to breastfeed my baby.  I did for only about four months.  Them my second came along and I nursed her until she was 2.  My third got cut a little short since I went back to work when she was 2 months (I sure wish I knew more about pumping and storage!!) My fourth was about 4 months when I quite due to the fact that I found out I was pregnant and have a horrible time with miscarriage and preterm labor.  My youngest just turned a year and is still being breastfed!!  I want to nurse him as long as he wants(I got my tubes tied and will not be nursing anymore)  It has been such a wonderful experience.  I have gone on to be a certified breastfeeding educator and help to educate women and the community about the wonderful benifits of breastmilk!  The biggest problem is lack of education!  Young girls see it as a hassle until they find out how it can benifit them and their baby.  Good luck to you all in your adventure in breastfeeding!  Like my husband says a MILKIN' is all our baby has know since he was born so why take that away from him! :) 
Submitted by Emily
Five and a half moths ago I gave birth to my 3rd child.  I was determined to do things different this time.  This being my last child I wanted to experience natural childbirth and also breastfeeding.  I succeeded with both, but with little help.  When I first had my baby girl I was disappointed by what little support I got with breastfeeding.  They did not discourage me not to breastfeed but they didn't help me in any way at all.  This was after all my third child so maybe they just assumed that I knew what I was doing.  The worst was 2 weeks later though when my daughter got sick.  My three year old got a virus and passed it on to my 2week old.  She got put in the hospital for 4 days to make sure it wasn't Meningitis.  We were in one of the best Children's hospitals around.  You would think that they would have been supportive of my breastfeeding but they kept pressuring me to give her a bottle.  They told me that she nursed to frequently and that she must not be getting enough.  Being my first time breastfeeding and not being able to physically see how much she was eating I was worried enough about it before they starting harassing me.  I gave in once and said fine I will give her some formula.  When I did she ate it so then the nurse was convinced that I was starving my child.  I was a mess.  Then my daughter started having diarrhea form the formula and I refused to give it to her.  I continued nursing as much as she wanted.  Now at 5 months she is 2 1/2 times her birth weight and is a happy healthy breastfed baby.  I resent the fact that a nationally known children's hospital almost had me persuaded to stop nursing my baby.  They offered no support.  I had a friend that kept telling me if I could just get through the first six weeks without getting discouraged and quitting I would be fine.  She was so right!
Submitted by April

Our precious firstborn Julianna came in November of 1999. I had a fabulous pregnancy and prepared myself for the rigors of a first childbirth and subsequent breastfeeding. Although I had heard breastfeeding was tough in the beginning, I was naïve enough to still believe it "came naturally to a woman".

Julianna's birth was long, drawn out and in the end a traumatic experience. After taking Lamaze, but studying Bradley as our chosen method, I laboured at home for 22 hours with my incredible husband Mark as my coach. It was a great experience being at home and being able to do as I please. When we did finally get to the hospital, I was excited to learn I was dilated to 7cm all by myself! Even the nurses were amazed. But it all ended there. We stayed at that dilation for another 5 hours before I had to take the epidural to sleep. I hadn't slept in two days and was not going to be able to push. After another 5 hours of rest thanks to the epidural, and 4 hours of hard pushing, my Julianna was finally born via vacuum extraction as she had her hand stuck to her head in the birth canal and was trapped under my pubic bone. Could things get any more difficult? Well, yes.

She latched on beautifully to my breast about 20 minutes after she was born. It took that long because I needed serious stitching done. I figured she would nurse from then on no problem. I was very wrong. Julianna had severe jaundice immediately after birth and it got worse day by day. The nursing staff, although helpful and pro-breastfeeding, were concerned at her dehydration. I fought like crazy to breastfeed. I ignored the need to rest and forced the situation trying everything in my power to wake my sleepy baby. Nothing worked. When I hit my breaking point, and post partum blues kicked in, the nurses conveniently convinced me to let them take her to the nursery for the night and give her some formula to get her filled. In my fear for my baby and my naiveté at how breastfeeding works, I allowed them. Big mistake.

I was never engorged so I thought I was just lucky. Eventually I was convinced that I could not make enough milk for my baby. So we supplemented. We struggled with awful smelling formula that Julianna always ended up vomiting out, I breastfed myself to exhaustion. I was beginning to get very depressed that something I thought I could do without effort became a mission that I fought day and night for, turning me into a warrior of sorts. My baby struggled through jaundice, only to get thrush. We seemed to have one problem after another. Family thought I was pushing myself too much, which made me more upset. There is nothing worse than hearing your own family tell you to just "give it up and give her formula", "you need a break". As if breastfeeding was a sickness that I needed healing from.

Friends told me it was ok to give formula. Even our family doctor said to, which upset me more. The only true support I had was my loving husband who kept telling me it would all work out and I would breastfeed exclusively, and my local LLL leaders who listened emphatically over the phone as I cried that I was not a good mother.

I took to pumping my breasts constantly to help make more out of what I thought was a dwindling milk supply. I joined Internet newsgroups on Breastfeeding and they became my sources for experience, inspiration and support. I read everything I could on the subject. I researched everything I could find on Breastfeeding. Julianna's pediatrician was very supportive and told me all she needed was the breast.

When Julianna was approaching ten weeks old, she started a growth spurt. I knew from previous ones that she would want to nurse a lot, and I didn't want to keep offering formula. I decided then and there to stop the formula supplements and nurse her throughout the spurt, as much as she wanted. To my utter happiness and bliss, it worked! For the very first time since I had given birth, I felt what letdown was. It happened frequently as she worked to nurse and build up my once small but ever-present supply, and I learned how to breastfeed in the relaxed fashion mothers are meant to. I nourished my precious child and became comfortable with new positions that previously would upset me because I thought we could not do. She has not touched a drop of formula since then, and she is now 2 years old and still nursing, although currently self weaning by her own choice.

We have enjoyed being an amazing nursing couple. This bond is something I never dreamed would be so strong. All the work Julianna and I did was so worth it.

Every woman must feel what it is to breastfeed. It is more than just feeding and nourishing your child. It is about love and bonding. It is an incredible journey that opens your soul.

Submitted by Denece
It was never a question of whether O would breastfeed or not. It seemed to me to be the only choice, however it hasn't been easy. My son is now nine months old and has only latched on maybe a dozen times and not very well. When I was pregnant my prenatal teacher told our class that we should have our nipples checked to make sure they were fine for breastfeeding. My doctor was on vacation at the time and the doctor that filled in for him looked at me like I had ten heads when I asked him to take a look, he made me feel really stupid like it was something not normally done and in fact never did check them out. Turns out my nipples were flat and Wyatt, my son couldn't latch very well and became very agitated even when just putting him in a lie back position to feed. I worked with many nurses that came into my home and also stayed in the hospital for six days to try and nip it in the butt, but still nothing. I have however been pumping ever since, I pump every 4 to 6 hours. This takes much time but I feel he is worth every second. I do have highs and lows in my milk production though, right now is a big low. I am frantically trying to get my supply up to normal. Usually I pump 5 to 6 ounces from each breast each time I pump, but now I am getting only 2 to 4, I've gone from 8 to 10 bottles ahead to only 2. I know I can get it back it just takes time. Have you ever heard of anyone latching a baby at this late date. My son will open his mouth to my breast but when I
offer it he dose not know what to do with it. Should I keep trying? I wanted to breastfeed for as long as possible but am afraid that I may only be able to do a year because I will have to resume work and may not have time to pump so often. He has never had formula and I would prefer not to give it to him. My heart breaks every time I think of having to stop giving something to him that is so healthy for him.
Submitted by Patricia
To all moms with newborns who don't feed well, here is what saved us (my five week old baby girl Eden AND myself):   I was at my wits end because she wouldn't really feed on my breast beyond a few minutes and only gained little weight. At five 1/2 weeks she was only 7-10 (up from 6-14 at birth). I didn't want to give up breastfeeding nor feed her formula from a bottle.   I got a medela supplement nursing system (which is a bottle attached to your neck with a feeding tube that is taped to the nipple) and a breastpump which I use after feedings. My daughter is now learning to nurse better while drawing some additional expressed milk and formula to give her the boost she needs.
The doctors were amazed!!! Coley only lost 4 ounces which was far less that the 10% that is expected to be lost after birth. He started to gain weight with in 7 days of birth. We were home on day 10!!!! The doctor that suggested kangaroo care was amazed and said that the only reason my baby was going home SOOOOOOOOO fast was because I had INSISTED on breastfeeding from the beginning!! We are having a WONDERFUL experience this time. I must say that with him being in the hospital for the first 10 days was not easy, having to get up and go the nursery for EVERY feeding (I did NOT miss one feeding time.) I was really lucky because the hospital that I delivered at provided a free room for me to stay in while my baby remained in the hospital. But it sure has been worth it. I bought him home faster that his brother who was 1 pound bigger at birth and we never had to deal with nipple confusion. Coley is 6 months old now and weighs 12.8 pounds!!!! The doctors have been amazed that he has had no other complications. BREASTFEEDING MAKES A DIFFERENCE!!!!

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