When I was pregnant with my first, I knew I wanted to breastfeed and hoped to do it for a year or so. Fairly simple.
Spoiler Alert: It turned into much, much more than that. There are lots of Breastfeeding After C-Section Success Stories, and here’s mine.
Following a traumatic birth experience, I fought hard to breastfeed my little man. I fought off a pushy pediatrician who wanted me to supplement with formula beginning only the second day after my unwanted c-section. Instead, I kept Baby at the breast and my milk came in full force the next day.
A few days later, we were back talking to the doctor who cut me open unnecessarily. She didn’t want to see me [and, let’s be honest, I didn’t have much interest in seeing her either]. But after multiple calls to the on-call doctor, I was finally able to get a nurse practitioner in her office to agree to an appointment. I assume it was solely for the purpose to tell me I’m fine and to leave them alone, but the NP took one look at me and gasped. The doctor sent me straight back to the hospital.
And that’s how we ended up admitted for the second time, as the c-section incision I already loathed had now blossomed into a full-blown infection wrapping around my abdomen. The doctors didn’t know what caused it, or, more importantly, how to get rid of it.
But I can tell you one thing, they didn’t want my exclusively-breastfed newborn in the hospital with me. When I first walked in the hospital doors, I was chastised for bringing my baby in there. Didn’t I know it was flu season?!? Didn’t I realize how susceptible newborns are to germs?!?
“Can’t you just give him formula?”
Not knowing what to do, I handed my newborn baby to my husband, told him where to find the formula samples at our house, and sent them out the hospital door.
I was alone, hurting and confused. I slowly made my way over to a cold, hard chair, put my head in my hands, and sobbed. My engorged breasts were painful, my untreated incision burned, and my heart longed for the comfort of my baby in my arms.
Eventually, I was able to speak with a kind soul who got me re-admitted in the hospital’s birth center wing, and I was allowed to have my newborn and husband with me. For days, we stared at the wall and wondered why I wasn’t getting better. Finally, an infectious diseases specialist was consulted–but his hardcore treatment plan was not breastfeeding-friendly.
I remember giving my baby formula for the first time, sitting in my hospital bed. He sputtered and choked on it. He kept turning toward me to try to get to the breast, the only source of food he’d known in his short life. I cried and handed him over to my husband.
Then, I pumped and dumped for days on end. Every time my husband made Baby a bottle, I would pump. Then pour it down the drain.
Once I was better, my little guy happily took back to the breast. The way things were supposed to be for he and I.
We nursed for comfort. He never took a pacifier.
We nursed after he got shots.
We nursed through teething. Lots and lots of teething.
We nursed despite judgmental in-laws.
We nursed through sickness and boo-boos.
We nursed on holidays. On normal days. Every day.
We nursed in public. We nursed in private. We nursed in the car, in the bed, in the nursery chair.
Soon, a year–my original breastfeeding goal–came and went. He still preferred mama’s milk to anything else on the market, so we kept nursing.
Soon, he was 18 months old. We took his first plane trip, and the best way to get him to calm down in the air was–you guessed it–breastfeeding.
By that time, we were trying for our second baby. Eventually, I realized I would need to wean him in order for my cycle to regulate enough for me to get pregnant.
He was down to nursing just morning and night by then, so I took away the morning feed and distracted with toys and snacks. It was painless.
A few days later, I told him it would be the last time we’d nurse to sleep.
I can still picture that night in my mind, and I’m sobbing as I write this. It’s been 2 years, but right now, I’m right back in that moment, in that chair, with his long legs curled around my body and his chubby hands reaching up to my face. Me saying those words. Hoping he understood.
At 20 months, nursing sessions didn’t last long. By that time, my supply was pretty minimal. Still, I think he knew. He latched on for a long time that night, and ate on both sides [which was a rarity]. He fell asleep in my arms [also a rarity by that time].
I stayed in that chair for a long time that night. So long that my husband came in to check on me, thinking I must’ve fallen asleep too.
Eventually, I knew it was time. I carefully stood up and placed my big boy in his crib, kissed him on the forehead, and said, “Mommy loves you.”
And that was it. Twenty months of hard work all wrapped up in one night, in one moment.
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Still reading? Well, I got pregnant the month that my first baby weaned. Unfortunately, it was a chemical pregnancy.
But, our story has a happy ending! I got pregnant with our rainbow baby, Blair, the next cycle.