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When Babe Fights Breast

by Claire Roy, London, Ontario

I found out very late that I was pregnant. We were both out of work, living on unemployment insurance, and my mind and body were elsewhere. Only my body remained to carry out the duties of motherhood, and it was grossly underweight, dehydrated and tense.

Amelia was born in hospital with the usual: epidural, episiotomy, forceps. She was presented to me while I was flat on my back, legs in the air, being stitched up, in a hospital gown that tied at the back. I managed to slip my arm out of the gown and breastfeed for maybe two minutes. She latched on perfectly.

She was taken away and I asked “permission” to get her after I recovered somewhat about an hour later. She couldn’t latch on anymore.

A good nurse sat down beside me and we worked at teaching Amelia to latch on again, for about twenty minutes. Baby was great and happy for the next two weeks then the trouble began.

She breastfed every hour and a half, and it would take her ten to twenty minutes just to latch on. She was desperately hungry it seemed, yet she twisted and fought, turning her tiny head from side to side as if she hated the whole idea of having to eat. Each session ended up with me being exhausted, frustrated, and dreading the next feeding time.

I walked the floors for hours at a time, day and night. She refused to accept anyone else holding her, even with her father she went into hysterics.

Feeding times had to be immediately when she felt hungry or else she would wind herself up into a beet red, choking, screaming panic. That would take up to half an hour to calm, then another ten or twenty minutes with the latching routine.

Amelia craved love and attention, not just food. She instinctively knew I was not “there” for her in her beginning, and her feelings of being rejected she reflected to me by rejecting my breast.

At two months, grandmother suggested I feed her formula. I was tempted but the thought of shoving soybeans or cow’s milk into what seemed like an already fragile digestive system kept me firm in my conviction to nurse Amelia. The whole colicky, screaming, latch-on lasted another three months. After that she still nursed every two hours, but found it easier to latch on.

We gave up on the crib by the time she was six months and kept her with us in bed. A good baby carrier also helped with sleep times and in the end she weaned herself at eleven months.

In hindsight I know what happened. #1 I had an overactive let down reflex and #2 was Mommy Panic. We’re all calmer today and Amelia no longer feels left out. She’s a happy, beautiful, very sensitive five year old who is exceptional at school. She has a little sister, born at home with the help of a midwife. Sophie nursed every two hours, day and night until she was 13 months. Sometimes the greatest challenges to breastfeeding are in the mind and not the body.

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