I became a first time mother at the age of 29 and prior to that my hubby and I were very excited to start our family. As starry eyed beginners we started reading every parenting and childbirth book we could get our hands on, and as our due date rolled closer, we took every childbirth and lactation class we could take. We were going to be winners at childrearing!
I gave birth to my first child in August of 2003. My daughter was born vaginally with induced labor due to preclampsia. As soon as she came out, I flipped her on my chest and waited for the "magical" moment when she would willingly look up at me and flawlessly latch on to her life source. I waited and waited... But my daughter absolutely refused to nurse, she would get frustrated trying to latch on and she would scream all night because she was hungry. After weeks of working with the lactation nurse, bleeding nipples, nipple shields, and an overdose of lanolin ointment, I got her to latch on for two out of ten feedings if I was lucky. It made feel so bad, and I became saddened with the reality that I would need to supplement meals with formula. As my milk started to build I became determined to still give her my milk even when she refused to get the milk directly from the breast. I pumped about 4-5 times a day and fed her through a bottle until she weaned herself off my milk at 7 months old. The one thing this baby taught me was diligence!
In 2007 I was pregnant with baby number two. I was determined to get the nursing thing right this time! I was pregnant for all of seven months... I gave birth to a premature baby born at 2lbs 10oz via emergency cesarean. I was weakened by this traumatic surgery and so was my little one. I couldn't breast feed at all the first day and I cried because here I was again, feeling robbed of the chance again to breastfeed. The nurses and doctors were quite encouraging and told me right away; "don't worry, as long as she can take your milk through the feeding tube she will be on her way to being strong and healthy." I pumped her milk for 6 weeks while she was at the hospital and I had great volumes of milk. The nurses would tease me and tell me that I was a "milk factory" and I took some consolation in this. Although my daughter was too weak to breastfeed during the first month of her birth, I continued to pump and store her milk and she drank it through her feeding tube. My daughter was in the NICU for two months but two weeks before she was able to leave, the doctors informed me that she would have the tube removed and that I could start nursing! I It was exciting because she latched on with little effort and didn't seem frustrated to "work" for it. The only problem at this point was that she couldn't last long because she would get tired easily. Nonetheless, I was grateful to be given the opportunity again.
I've heard many say: "three times is the charm!" Baby number three came in 2009 via C-section. As soon as he was born, we went into the recovery room, and I attempted to feed him–he latched on eagerly and became a pro in no time! This experience was one of redemption for me. I can definitely say that nursing is just a varied experience depending on the baby. My first child loved to eat but didn't want to work for it, the second one was to weak to work for it but did anyway, and my third child starred in breastfeeding marathons!
Remember that breast feeding is always possible unless there is a severe medical issue where the doctors have advised you against it. Ultimately, every woman strives to do her best in nursing her child, but things come up and there is no condemnation here. I have learned that breastfeeding is a journey, sometimes it is easy, and sometimes it is bumpy and hard. Don't get down on yourself and don't give up, there's always another way. Some mothers worry that having a C-Section means that their baby will be too tired or weak to nurse, or that it will be too painful to breastfeed after surgery. Well, I am living proof that it is possible to breastfeed after a C-Section and that even if our birth is not the way we imagined it, we can still nurture and feed our babies with our natural breast milk to keep them strong.
Tips for Breastfeeding After a C-section
1. Nurse your baby as soon as possible after delivery. A newborn's natural sucking instinct is strongest in the first few hours after birth. Early breastfeeding also releases oxytocin, helps the uterus contract, brings in milk faster, and promotes bonding.
2. If your baby is lethargic, ask a lactation consultant, nurse or doula for ways to stimulate her to stay awake to nurse;
3. Check baby's mouth regularly for signs of yeast infection, since antibiotics given after surgery can cause this.
4. Explore different positions for comfort, including side lying.
5. Check hospital policies on giving newborns a bottle, and inform the nurse if you do not want your baby to receive formula.
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For more information on breastfeeding for black women, see It's Only Natural.
Chinwe Omani is an emerging gospel singer/songwriter who fuses contemporary Christian music with soulful vocals that are uplifting and soothing. She is married with three beautiful children and serves the Worship & Creative Arts Department with her husband at Living Hope Christian Center in Emeryville, California. For more information please checkout her facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/chinweomani