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Even before I had my son, Luca, I always knew that I wanted to breastfeed exclusively for at least the first three months (six would be ideal). However, my obsession with breastfeeding began a few years ago when I came across some data which suggested that babies who are exclusively breastfeed for at least the first six months of life are 19-27% less likely to develop Type I Diabetes later on in life. That, and a host of other great benefits of breastfeeding have made me the advocate I am today, and I willingly join in on any fight against moms who want to whip out a boob and nourish their babies anywhere. Now that I have my own kid, I’m only more certain every day that I’ve made the right choice to breastfeed and I’m going to tell you why…but first, I’ll share my own breastfeeding story with you.
DISCLAIMER: Breastfeeding your child is a choice, and whether you choose not to breastfeed or you are unable to doesn’t decrease your ability to be a great mom. So if anyone tries to tell you otherwise, tell them to go kick rocks…or go suck dem…you know who…
Having read that babies born to Type 1 Diabetic moms normally have low blood sugar at birth, I wanted to start trying to express some milk before my scheduled C-section. However, I was advised against doing this as it could possibly help to induce labour before time (and I already had issues with placenta previa and bleeding so I was taking no risks). The word ‘stillbirth’ had become a stain on my mind after hearing everyone talk about this – but I prayed and hoped that Luca could be the exception on delivery day – born with none of the issues I’d read or heard about from all the doctors and my other Type 1 Diabetic mom friends on social media.
After being anesthetised from the waist down on D-Day, time seemed to stop. I’d barely felt a few snips and tugs someone said to me, “Good job, mommy. He’s here.”
Why wasn’t my baby crying?
But there was no cry.
I distinctly remember wondering why he wasn’t crying, and although I heard myself asking why isn’t he crying, I’m not sure anyone in the Operating Room heard me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a nurse scrubbing down the baby while prodding him awake. “Remember to do the GMR quickly,” I heard one person say to another. It was only after a nurse (I think) pricked his little foot with a lancet that the sound of a most annoyed baby’s cry filled the Operating Room.
Thank you Jesus. He was alive!
After letting me see him and kiss his little face, they whisked Luca away to the NICU, closed me up and sent me to a recovery room. I had just started to drift off to sleep when a nurse from the NICU popped her head into the room and said, “Mommy, your docket says you’re only giving baby Luca breastmilk. He has really low blood sugar, so we need you to express some milk for him right away.”
“Your baby has low blood sugar…”
Any Type 1 Diabetic or those who live with/care for them knows that the words ‘low blood sugar’ can send them into a tailspin of fear, confusion and downright desperation. I couldn’t imagine my helpless little new-born going through that and I immediately started wringing out my nipples over a bottle as if life depended on it…. because, well, my son’s life did.
But not a single drop of milk would come out.
I could hear myself crying out loud. How was I failing at motherhood already?
It could only have been God who sent that nurse to me (I honestly wish I remembered her name!). With no words, she saw my frustration and despair, scrubbed her hands quickly and then grasped my breast knowingly. “Don’t worry mommy, nursie is here to help you get some milk for the baby.”
The Golden Milk
Within seconds, my golden milk started dripping from my breast into the bottle. Fifteen minutes later, we had ONE OUNCE of colostrum, which ‘nursie’ sent off to the NICU quickly. I fought sleep and struggled to extract more milk with the help of ‘nursie’ over the next couple of hours, but I couldn’t actually nurse my baby as I hadn’t regained feeling in my legs until several hours later. By the time I started to feel my legs again, I was ready to go nurse my baby.
But then I was told that the only way I was going to the nursery was if I could walk myself there. Try as I might, I couldn’t even lift myself off the bed! The pain was excruciating, and my anguish grew. I cried that entire night – I wanted to see my baby for myself and know that he was ok for myself. I wanted to hold him and smell him, and the photos his father sent me from the NICU became woefully insufficient as the night went on.
By the next morning, I was finally able to wrest myself from the bed, and swallow the pain. Hunched over, I walked to the nurses’ station (screaming in my head with every step I took), only to be told that my blood sugars were too low for me to go to the NICU. In my desperation to go to my baby, I hadn’t even noticed that I my own blood sugars were on a downward spiral. So I rage-ate everything in sight, checked my sugars myself and strode past the nurses, wincing my way to the NICU. Thankfully, an angel of God (and by angel, I do mean a porter with a wheelchair) found me halfway there, and took me the rest of the way.
Stabilising baby’s blood sugar
I can’t even begin to describe what I felt when I saw Luca (for the second first time). No one had to tell me to take out my breast – I was boobs-out and at the ready before anyone could say a word to me. Getting him latched was a challenge at first (all my YouTube video-watching and researching did not help). It was another kind nursie who took my nipple and pushed it into Luca’s welcoming mouth. A lazy little thing, the nurse had to flick the bottoms of his feet (very painful to watch, as they scream out and the nipple slips in their mouth at that moment) so he could stay awake and suckle long enough to get his blood sugars stabilised.
The paediatricians told me that until his blood sugars stayed at 2.9 m/mol and above, they couldn’t discharge him from the nursery. With that as motivation, I made the painful trek (practically sleepwalking a few of the times) to the NICU every 2 hours to feed him until the doctors were satisfied with his progress. By day three, I was walking almost upright (with the aid of several Voltaren shots and endless prayer) and Luca was happy and stable.
By the time I was discharged, I was awash with breastmilk. I started out expressing by hand (with a little manual pump my sister got for me), until I got the hang of my handy little breast pump, which was gifted to me via my Amazon Baby Registry. A hands-free pumping bra had me in business quite soon, and I was pumping from both breasts while doing the dishes or cleaning the house. What I discovered soon was that being up and about, breast-feeding, pumping, going up and down the stairs and doing normal house chores helped me to heal super-fast, and within a few days of being home, I was practically pain-free and off the painkillers.
Today, I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on an Elvie hands-free breast pump (only one since the double pump was almost US$500). And while it doesn’t pump as fast as my old faithful, I waste far less milk during the days, and it’s practically undetectable under my clothes. It comes with a pretty cool app too, which makes it fun for a self-proclaimed techie like me (hee hee), and now, Luca and I have a breastfeeding routine down pat. I’ll share all my breast-feeding must-haves in another post (all of which you can get from Amazon) on the cheap…My scar is fully-healed, my tummy is going down surely and my baby boy is happy and healthy. He’s 100% exclusively breast-fed – no water or any other supplements just yet. Gotta run – my nipples are dripping – it’s milk o’clock!