mama story: instead of goal-setting for the future, I'm going to cherish breastfeeding right now

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Thank you Rachael Schlick of Charlotte, NC for today's candid and uplifting mama story!

Upon finding out I was pregnant, breastfeeding was something I was sure I wanted to do.

Immediately after my son, Tanner, made his way into the world, he exhibited the “newborn crawl” and immediately latched. I was pretty certain he was on board with the plan, which was a huge relief since so much else, birth-wise, went far from expected.

Our brief stay in the hospital left me confident that we were off to a VERY good start: no pain, nursing more than double what the LC’s hope to see in 24 hours, and aside from a couple of vomiting episodes that I was assured were normal, everything seemed wonderful.

Around the clock feeding was our new normal.

I saw this as exhausting but not a problem because everything I heard was newborns eat constantly (which it turns out is more a turn of phrase than an actual fact). Tanner would fall asleep often and quickly while feeding. Again I was under the impression he was full and achieved the “milk coma”.

But there was so much else that was challenging. There was the vomit that occurred after every feed, and in more than just one wave. It was challenging to hear I was exaggerating, that it was normal, that "all babies spit up."

It was challenging to have to go to weekly weight checks for my newborn, and never see the number rise (or worse, dip), when literally every minute of the day revolved around feeding and cleaning up.

It was challenging to be labeled Failure to Thrive and be admitted to the hospital, to be told I was overfeeding my child and causing the vomit, followed by being told I could no longer breastfeed my baby.

It was challenging to transition from exclusively breastfeeding to exclusively pumping, only to be told by a pompous GI doc she would not permit my breastmilk to be given via the NG tube Tanner was relying on until I agreed to eliminate all dairy from my diet.

It was challenging, that after living in the hospital for 4 weeks, we were discharged on 24/7 feeds by Gtube, with no true diagnosis but told Tanner aspirated anything less than honey-thick and must simply have “severe” reflux. It was a challenge to accept they were “hopeful” that he would outgrow it.

I was an exclusive pumper for two and a half months; a profound challenge in and of itself. I spent the majority of those sessions trying to figure out what was overlooked with Tanner.

The day he turned 3 months old we had our answer: well informed dentist diagnosed and revised a posterior tongue tie and upper lip tie.

Suddenly we were breastfeeding again, which was a huge relief, but other challenges arose. Imagine going from nursing a shrinking newborn to a lanky 3 month old with no in-between: there was an intense learning curve. Tanner had to learn to use his newly functioning tongue properly, and strengthen it as well. He nurses constantly (used this time as a figure of speech), trying to catch up from the limited growth he experienced early on. I'm happy to report that our boy is a little chunk now! 

It has been a challenge to let go of the frustration of lost time, unnecessary surgeries, and questioning whether I was harming my baby due to lack of education on this issue. I challenged myself to reach out to one of the pediatricians at the hospital, and was elated to get a call from her letting me know she is reaching out to that dentist to better educate herself for the future.

Tanner turns 6 months old on May 16. Before his arrival, 6 months was my short term goal for breastfeeding, and I am thrilled to have been able to make it.

Maybe it is because of all we went through, or maybe I would feel the same regardless, but instead of setting a new goal I am going to cherish every second of this magical journey that only I can share with my son. 

Cary Fortin