When I was in 2nd year of nursing school I took my Maternity Clinical. It was my first experience with breastfeeding education both for myself, and educating my patients. Prior to this, I was one of those silly 19 year old girls who thought breastfeeding was gross, and why don’t they cover up or leave to feed their kid or just stay home? Yep. That was me.
The summer between 3rd and 4th year is an important one for nursing students. It’s your opportunity to undergrad and work on a hospital unit with a healthcare team. Knowing I loved psych and wanted to preceptor there in my 4th year, I decided to apply to undergrad in postpartum. I had enjoyed my clinical there, and it was also an area I didn’t have very much confidence in, so I thought it would be a good learning opportunity.
I loved my undergrad experience in Postpartum. The women on the unit I work on are amazing. They are supportive, funny, empowering, and strong. They are super smart, and helpful and they provide excellent feedback. I work (and back then, worked) with an amazing team.
I remember my first DAS (Day Admission Surgery AKA Scheduled C-Section). It was her first baby. She was having the C-section because her baby was breech. They came up to the unit after the surgery and I asked that fateful question to the mother – “Would you like to try Breastfeeding?”
Now – a little context here – I was 20 years old. My experience to helping a woman latch a baby for the first time was minimal, I mostly had read about it in the textbooks and watched a few videos on it and played around with a knitted breast model and a baby doll. That poor new mother… if only she knew 😉 lol.
Well .. together she got the baby latched and had a successful feed with all the things you look for as a nurse – good alignment, swallows, drawing suck pattern. I wanted to do a fist pump I was so proud of myself!
During that summer, and then over the year that I worked on postpartum I helped MANY women breastfeed. Women with small nipples, and large nipples, and flat nipples, and inverted nipples, and difficult nipples and “good” nipples. Women who had breastfeed 5 kids prior and who had never breastfed before. Women who weren’t women, they were actually teenage girls, and women who didn’t speak any english.
Going in to motherhood when my midwife asked – “Are you planning to breastfeed?” I thought:
Lady. I was born to breastfeed.
Labor? Scared the shit out of me. Didn’t know if I could handle it. Didn’t know if I could push a baby out of … there.
Breastfeeding? Piece of Cake.
I hate to sound snobby about it, that isn’t my intention at all. But it was the ONE thing about becoming a mother I felt confident about
So Quinn came, and then getting her latched was SUPER awkward the first few times. Lol! It is quite different latching a baby to YOUR nipples. You only have one hand! (The other one is supporting the baby) You can’t adjust the pillows or SEE the way you can when your the one standing at the side of the bed! TOTALLY NOT WHAT I WAS EXPECTING. She latched fairly quickly and went to town with eating. She was a natural.
And then she got transferred to the NICU. My first thought was “NO FORMULA.” Not because I’m against formula, but because there was no clinical reason for Quinn to have formula. Her blood sugars were stable, she was a good birth weight, she had peed and pooped. I wanted my milk to come in, and in order to do that you have to breast feed Q2-3H.
You know what was one of the most shocking parts of our NICU stay? The conflicting information I received regarding breastfeeding. I actually had a nurse tell me I was starving my baby. My baby who was above her birth weight by her 3rd day of life. ABOVE. My baby who peed and pooped round the clock. Had I NOT been a nurse, specifically a nurse with lots of training and experience with breastfeeding – this comment would have shattered me. It was completely inappropriate and insensitive and it’s sad that parents have to deal with these types of comments from health care professionals.
Anyways, it all worked out fine. I successfully busted Quinn out of the NICU on day 6 without supplementing with formula. We came home and then the realization sunk in that I had no idea how to parent lol. But I knew how to breastfeed so at least I could keep her nourished if all else failed! 😉
I was expecting a baby who ate every 3 – 4 hours like the books tell you. I ended up with a baby who ate every 2 hours from 6am – 6pm all day every day. Nights were a little easier on us thank goodness.
Breastfeeding made me feel like a good mother. Because Quinn had colic she was just so miserable all the time, it felt like if I could feed her she would calm down and be a bit more peaceful. It’s always been something Quinn has been good at – she rarely bites/gums me, she’s always seemed to be pretty quick at eating (probably why she needed to eat every 2 hours), and latching seemed to come naturally to her. She wasn’t tongue tied (hallelujah!). At this point in our journey we haven’t dealt with anything too hard besides some nipple soreness. *knock on wood*
I’m writing this now as Quinn will be starting her transition to Day Home a few days a week in just 2 weeks. I will be returning to work the week of February 8th, when Quinn is just 10.5 months old. It makes me sad to think that our special time together will be changing and coming to an end soon. While I don’t plan to wean her myself (I want that to be her initiation), I do know that it will look different when I go back to work and that she will need to be relying on other primary sources of nutrition very soon. Right now the plan is to hopefully provide 1 or 2 pumped bottles a day, supplement when needed with formula, and then breastfeed around when I work. I took a few days to mourn the idea of this transition, and I feel better about the whole process now. This is a topic for another day though. 😉
I guess it just makes me feel sad that she already will be needing me less, you know? Like this is the first step and then I’m going to wake up tomorrow and she is going to be 18 and moving out and all that stuff.
So I guess that sums up our experience so far. It’s nothing too exciting. But its something that has been far more important to me (and hopefully to her) than I ever realized.