Breast or Bottle? It’s All About the Latch!

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When you’re trying to decide between breast or bottle for your baby, take a lesson from me: latching on IS all it’s cracked up to be.
     I wanted life at home with my newborn to be picture perfect. I wanted my family to be blown away by how capable I was. There I was with my days-old sleepy infant sucking hard on a pacifier as I held the front door open for my in-laws. I was far removed from perfect, and I didn’t know it.
My mother-in-law (MIL) surmised the scene. I had been vacuuming; making my nest “just so” since they’d be staying for two weeks. New moms can be like that; we can try to impress others with our new-parent prowess. I did not know my baby was becoming dehydrated.
It’s very hard to tell you this, but if we can’t admit our mistakes to each other we can never learn from each other. I would like you to learn from me, so here goes.
     I left the hospital where I delivered without knowing whether or not my daughter was latched on properly. My lactation consultant should have been eagle-eyed about my proficiency, but, as Miss Perfect, I assured her all systems were go.
     So here I was cleaning the house for company, vacuuming and not putting my infant to breast as I should have been. My baby was so peaceful, hardly fussing at all, so I didn’t realize she wasn’t getting what she needed from me.
     My MIL looked worried. She asked softly, “Susan, when is the last time she nursed?” I sputtered, saying something like, “Well, a little while ago; she’s just been sleeping a lot.” I remember there weren’t enough wet diapers. And I could hardly get the pacifier from my infant’s mouth because she was sucking so hard. Put two and two together and my baby was in trouble. Very calmly, but seriously enough for me to come to my senses, my MIL said she thought I should call my pediatrician. I did and they had me come in right away.
     That’s where the tears began. I was a breast-feeding failure. I sobbed and sobbed in my pediatrican’s office. My baby was starved. My doctor tucked me away in a room with a very kind nurse assistant who waited with me until the latch finally happened. Life then changed.
     Only, just as I learned how to do what my baby needed, a case of bad timing happened at home. That night, I found my husband in the darkened living room giving our baby secret syringes of formula as instructed by my MIL. They had all been tremendously worried, I learned. I began to feel like a failure again, but I understood. She is their baby, too. We are all in this together. We must learn from each other.
And so my firstborn became a baby of both breast milk and formula, and she began to thrive.                          
    Breastfeeding was hard from the start for me, but the big takeaway for you is: Do not go home with your firstborn without a good latch. And if you don’t know what that means … then she’s not latched on.

Susan Swindell Day is editor in chief of this publication and the mom of four great kids.

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