When I was pregnant last year and preparing for my fourth & final baby I was very excited to breastfeed again. There are so many great things I knew I wanted to relive about it and never would want to miss out on. I had already breastfed all of my babies so of course this time would not be different.
In preparation for our fourth baby I did all the little things I had done before to get ready to have a little breastfeeding dude back in the house. One of these things included selling our queen sized bed and purchasing a king bed with just a box spring, no frame needed because I am a nervous wreck about babies falling out of bed and I am also a big bed sharer and our baby #3 still likes to sleep with us & I knew I’d by laying in bed all night with a baby attached to me like I had done 3 times before. We had done this exact bed exchange with babies #1 & #2 so I prepared for everything to work out in a similar manor.
When our last baby was born he came with a cleft in the soft palate, something we were not prepared for. The lactation consultant flat out said on day one, “he will not breastfeed, babies like this just don’t.”. Her words fueled me, I wanted with everything in me for our story to be different. I talked to other moms who had been able to breastfeed with a cleft baby and I researched the web on every platform I could try to make our situation work. What I did not know at the time though, was our baby’s breathing issues (which were also playing into eating) were not just from him being born too soon, but because he was also born with two major heart defects. I pumped for one month and then on the day the NICU doctor sat me down to tell me that he would be needing Open Heart Surgery my milk was completely done for, stress is a crazy thing. Once my stored milk was also gone he was on donor milk & then before he came home from the NICU we tried to find the right formula fit for him. Once he was discharged I tried everything to get my milk back. I would even try to get him just to latch so we could do non-nutritive breastfeeding like we had early on in the NICU. I had in my head we were going to miss something, he was going to miss a step, we would not be as bonded as I was with my other babies, plus for most of his 2+ months of life he had been tube fed while laying solo in a bed in the hospital, I was so nervous about what differences this might have caused.
You know what though, once he really got a hang of the oral feeds he started to do things more and more like my other three. When he eats he will play with my hair, my clothes, his clothes or blankie. When he eats he will stare right into my eyes, he will also stop mid suck and smile that sweet, sleepy smile, the one my others would do while nursing, the one that melts your heart. When he is being held by someone else and he hears me he will fuss or cry if he wants to eat because he knows I am near, he will even try to eat my face or arm if I get too close while he is hungry. I always assumed that action was because of breastfeeding and being familiar with mama’s skin for milk, guess what it’s not. He does these things regardless because he knows I am the source of food, even if it is from a bottle & not breast, I am his mama & I am what he wants.