Heather and Jonah's Story: It Takes a Village
I’m a mother to three sons, and I’ve breastfed for about five years between the three of them. By the time I had my third son, I thought I’d learned nearly everything there was to know about breastfeeding. My knowledge certainly went beyond what the average person might know, but the world is vast–and so were our obstacles. I’ll never fail to be amazed at the ways our children can be different from one another in so many important ways.
When Jonah was born in June, I expected his tongue and lip tie, so, from the hospital, set up a meeting on our first day home with an IBCLC. I’d exclusively pumped with my first son, who was never revised. My second son was revised, and although the aftercare and instruction from the dentist were lackluster, we received excellent support from an IBCLC and, though we continued to struggle, breastfed for three and a half years–into my pregnancy with Jonah.
Jonah’s latch didn’t physically damage me as his brothers’ had, but it wasn’t right–he was nursing all the time and he never seemed full. With lactation professionals, we tried to make adjustments to his latch, but it wasn’t enough. Ultimately, we sought the help of a pediatric dentist and Jonah was revised at two weeks old. With continued aftercare and craniosacral therapy, he began to show slow improvements. Although he still nursed around the clock (in excess, even for a newborn), his mouth became more functional and he stopped clicking, spitting up as frequently, and popping off the breast.
My supply still struggled though, just like it had with the others, despite his time at the breast, pump sessions, and lots of skin to skin. I met with someone in Canada who reviewed our case–all that we had done to improve breastfeeding–and prescribed domperidone. Jonah was seven weeks old at this point, and while I remain infinitely grateful to the human milk donors who helped us along the way, I was so glad to stop relying on supplementation and happy to be rid of the SNS.
Despite the books I could fill with what I’ve learned about breastfeeding, it was work for me to reach a state of equilibrium with my baby. It took a village of folks–IBCLCs, compassionate doctors, friends, Le Leche League leaders and attendees, a supportive spouse, patient children, kind office staff, and many others to help us reach our breastfeeding goals. And still, it is some of the best, most fulfilling work I’ve ever done.
Now, I continue the hard (and less inspiring) work of fighting my insurance company for the coverage they’ve now twice denied me. I work through Jonah’s food intolerances to find out which element of my usual diet is causing him trouble. But I do it with the knowledge that I’m feeding my baby in the way I dreamed of.
Jonah is 20 weeks old now, and nursing like other 20 week olds. What a miracle it is to have so many tools at our disposal. We’re reentering the world from the precious fog of postpartum, and this weekend, at a Halloween party, I nursed Jonah in my pirate costume (he was a parrot). Another mother there breastfed her one year old, and when we locked eyes, the look of knowing, of having been there–was palpable.