I had heard about this — about the baby who wouldn’t nurse. But I couldn’t make sense of it. After all, I had four babies who all latched immediately, and nursing was cake. Aside from some raw nipples I protected with a shield early on, I had no problems breastfeeding my first four, so I couldn’t see how it was possible for babies not to just get it. I never disbelieved it; I just didn’t get it.
And then I had baby number five.
I was the mom friends reached out to with questions about the nitty-gritty details around nursing. I spent a lot of time learning from a lactation consultant about many aspects of breastfeeding because I was extremely fascinated with the whole process. I even looked into becoming a lactation consultant — I loved helping new mothers who were looking for support. I was that mom who showed other soon-to-be moms what pumping looked like in real time, sat with new moms while they nursed to keep them company, and would openly discuss any aspect of a nursing journey with anyone who wanted to share all.
So to all of a sudden have a baby who wouldn’t nurse was devastating.
I never considered that she wouldn’t nurse. In fact, I was committed to nursing her for as long as I possibly could because I knew she would be the last baby I would feed with my body. She was the last one who would allow me to participate in the miracle of birth and nursing. Giving birth and nursing my babies felt to me like the most complete form of living. I wanted to experience it one last time and cherish it for as long as I could.
I never got to.
I don’t know why she didn’t nurse. She was born with hip dysplasia and went into a Pavlik harness on day two of her life (and stayed in it for six weeks). It might have made her uncomfortable while nursing. I can’t be sure. She was my second hip baby, but my other daughter had no issue nursing wearing the harness, so I just don’t know if that was the reason. She was also born with a slight tongue tie. We saw the ENT doctor three days after leaving the hospital. It didn’t work.
So I pumped. Around the clock. Every three hours. With four other young kids. It was a nightmare. I even rented a hospital grade pump, ate the cookies, took the supplements, and did all the things you do when you want to give your baby breastmilk. I cried in a lactation group. I found myself humbled. I was the veteran mom in a group of mostly brand-new moms. However, I was hormonally exhausted, grieving, and trying everything I could to get her to latch. I broke down while they supported me.
My final strategy was to pay for an in-home consultation from a lactation consultant after my daughter came out of the harness — maybe then I could get her to latch. But you know what happened? COVID. And by the end of the week that my daughter came out of the harness, we were in quarantine.
I decided it was over. I cried. I shared my story. I grieved.
And then I accepted it for what it was, and I was happy to give her formula. I was happy to feed her another way. I was happy for the time I had available now that I was no longer pumping. I was happy to have family members excited to help feed her. I was happy she was healthy. I was happy she was fed. After all, fed is best.