Dear Mama of a Brand New Baby,

Breastfeeding can still work out for you, even if you are having a hard time feeding your baby today. So much changes from one hour to the next with a newborn baby. And I know this is true, because I am living it right now! 

With my prior experience as a nursing mama, with my training and education in the lactation field, and after working with countless mother/baby duos, I never expected (in a million years) that my 3rd child would be born naturally, in a beautiful home birth, and then... refuse to latch on. 

I am not going to lie, the moment was a little tense. My brand new baby girl lay on my chest squalling her brand new baby cries, and after a little while, my midwife told me that she really needed the baby to nurse to help contract my uterus a bit more. And my daughter just refused to latch on. The positioning was right, and instead of showing any interest in the breast, she just screamed. Her refusal caught me off guard for a moment. Thankfully, manual nipple stimulation also gives an oxytocin response. I handed our hysterical baby to her dad for some skin to skin time while I worked on that. 

With repeated offers and attempts over the next couple of hours, she did finally, reluctantly, take the breast. And when she was 36 hours old, this blog post started forming in my mind and heart. 

There are some maternity care providers or birth locations that have policies stating when newborn babies must eat by and the pressure can be overwhelming when you have just "climbed Kilimanjaro" labored and birthed a whole new person into the world. The pressure to get it all right, right away. To sustain your baby. To bond and have a loving and peaceful experience. To succeed at something you planned on doing. 

Sometimes, what you and your baby need the most is patience and the time and space to keep on practicing! If we had been in a different birth environment, or if I was a brand new mom myself, this initial setback could have easily thrown my plans to breastfeed off course. Babies definitely need to eat, but during that first day, hastily introducing a bottle to my too-angry-to-learn-to-breastfeed-newborn would have been a step in the wrong direction for getting nursing off to the best start possible. It turns out that we just needed to keep at it, learning together. I am so thankful for everything that I know about breasts, nipples, babies, and how they all work, but no amount of previous experience or knowledge could have removed my baby's need to learn how to do it for herself- through trial and error- and when she was ready to. 

So, Mama of a Brand New Baby who might be struggling to nurse today, if there's one message that you take with you from this I hope it comes across loud and clear: you can still get this on track. 

You can still make this work. We know you can. You might have experience from nursing another child, or not. You might have read every book about nursing, or not. You might have other challenges and obstacles to face. You might need to get help with breastfeeding. Just remember to take a few deep breaths, it's not too late to get this on track! 

Lots of love, 

Gladis

The Fourth Trimester

Lactation Counseling and Breastfeeding Advocacy

www.thefourthtrimester.net

(Originally written July 2013. Baby P is now a year old and is happy to be a nursing toddler.)