There I was in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, known to many as “Fort Lost in the Woods” due to its location in central Missouri. I was well over a thousand miles from home and family and holding my first-born child in in the delivery/recovery room of the maternity ward. I was in love and I was in pain. Despite reading several books and resources about breastfeeding, I felt like I was failing. My nipples were on fire, I was exhausted, the baby seemed insatiable and I was feeling so inadequate. I admitted defeat and reached out to the nurse on duty for assistance. I told her that the baby seemed fussy and I didn’t know if she was “getting enough.” She let me know that I had to bear it if I wanted to breastfeed and promptly came back with a small bottle of sugar water to supplement the baby. I was shocked and also put off by her bedside manner. I was confused because all the books I had read discouraged supplemental feeding.
God sent me a rescue in the next shift change. A male nurse bathed the baby, spruced me up and then tucked me in. He asked if I was okay. I shyly told him that my nipples were burning and I was unsure about the baby getting an adequate amount of food. He gently examined my nipples, helped me to apply lanolin and then assisted me in positioning my daughter while explaining the proper way to latch the baby. All the book knowledge in the world couldn’t compare with hands on assistance and compassion.
Since that experience, I have nursed all three of my children, including an experience with tandem nursing. It has been the most intimate and heart warming experience. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. So many women have witnessed me feeding one of my children and commented that I was doing what was best, while others congratulated me but added that they couldn’t breastfeed because they were not able to produce enough milk, they had to work, or had to take medications after delivery. I believe these to simply be minor challenges with the major issue being lack of support. If only more women could receive the support and education necessary to do what the body naturally intends and facilitates for survival, many more women and children would reap the benefits of breastfeeding.
I am passionate about educating women about their ability to breastfeed, so many women feel defeated and do not meet an earlier goal to breastfeed their child. Another population of women breastfeed but find it taxing and inconvenient. I am interested in in identifying the variables that cause detriment to the process of “successful” breastfeeding. It is possible to educate the women on alternative perspectives thus alleviating a percentage of negative thoughts and feelings associated with breastfeeding by some women. It would be optimal if more women found breastfeeding to be a pleasurable experience, thus creating an opportunity for the women to breastfeed for a longer duration and decreasing or eliminating the use of artificial milk.
In closing, I would like to encourage mothers to use their resources. I was able to successfully breastfeed my first child for 18 months while on Active Duty in the Army. I attribute my success to sharing my plans with my supervisor. I let him know that breastfed babies were healthier and that breastfeeding helped me to return to my pre-pregnancy weight within four weeks post partum. (Which is very important with regard to maintaining compliance with the regulations of the Army.) Not only was he onboard with my plan to take scheduled breaks to express my milk; he used departmental funds to purchase a miniature fridge for me to store my milk while I was at work. I felt so encouraged. My immediate supervisor was also very understanding of my pumping schedule and she graciously accommodated my closed door and affixed post-it note labeled “pumping” three times daily. I believe my work performance was enhanced by my nursing experience, my daughter was healthy, I felt confident and at 180 degree turn around from my first day breastfeeding; I felt successful.