Nursing nightmares: How a non-latching newborn can bring you to tears
I thought breastfeeding would be a breeze. I mean, women did it for centuries without one single copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting! I envisioned myself in a long, white nightgown, my head bowed beatifically over my baby while sunlight danced in my long, Marcia Brady hair (apparently, my breastfeeding daydream occurred in 1971).
Two days after I gave birth, I was still in the hospital and my daughter still hadn’t latched on. She was screaming and starving.
An oafish nurse stomped into my room. “You need to express yourself!”she barked.
“Well,”I said, “I’m feeling worried and frustrated and alone.”
“No. Into this cup.”
She wanted me to milk myself. I’d never milked a cow before, much less myself, so it was no surprise that my inexpert effort was in vain.
“You’re gonna have to pump and give that baby a bottle!” the nurse snapped.
My heart froze. A bottle! No! I knew the deal. If you give your baby a bottle, she’ll NEVER NURSE! It’s true! I heard it firsthand from formulamakesyourbabyamoron.com and the prestigious group Mothers Who Give a Crap Are Mothers Who Nurse Ltd. But I couldn’t starve my baby, right?
The Bovine 2000 pump came in a hard, pleather traveling-salesman suitcase. It had pistons, pinions, gears and tubes more intricate than those which sucked Augustus Gloop to the Fudge Room. I heard a fizzling sound and then a pop. It was my last shred of dignity dissolving.
They sent me home with the Bovine 2000 and told me to pump every half hour.
Soon, my breasts inflated to 15 times their natural size. Breast milk took up the entire refrigerator. My husband researched conveyer belts and pasteurization systems.
At every feeding, my daughter wouldn’t nurse. What was wrong with me? I couldn’t do what everyone calls “the most natural thing in the world.” I was a mom for only a few days, and was already a failure.
Sobbing, I made an appointment with a lactation specialist. When I removed my bra at her office, milk poured out and formed a puddle on the floor.
“You’re overproducing,”she said, casually wringing out her socks. “How much do you pump?”
I told her. She gasped. “The more you pump the more you produce. You’re too swollen to nurse.”
Why did those nurses tell me to pump so much? I wanted to wrap the Bovine 2000 tubes around their necks.
She sent me home with a nipple shield: a plastic disc you place on your breast. The shield worked somewhat, but I was still depressed. I was two weeks into motherhood and I couldn’t nurse my own baby without a fake boob. I wondered what this plastic nonsense was doing to her psyche. I imaged her as a teenager, in combat boots and a nose ring at open mike night, reciting her poem My Mother Had Plastic Nipples:
Plastic Mother. Plastic Life.
Where is the Warmth?
Then, four weeks after she was born, she actually latched on! I was overjoyed!
Three babies later, I’ve never been that woman to whom nursing came easy—They put him in my arms and my hungry little guy magically nursed perfectly right away!—but I’ll take what I can get.