After Sweet Pea was born, I had a lot of things to process- we didn't know about her diagnosis until after she was born. On top of everything that comes with a newborn- the lack of sleep, the wildly fluctuating hormones, I had to try to figure out how to nurse a special needs baby.
Things started off okay. She seemed to get the hang of it. But she was so sleepy. And so hard to keep awake. On top of that, her pediatrician was concerned about her weight gain. I was pressured into feeling like I had to switch Sweet Pea to a bottle to "make sure" I knew exactly how much she was eating everyday.
Feeling defeated, I made the promise that she would still receive only breastmilk. For two long months, I exclusively pumped. It broke my heart, but I knew it was what she needed. For two months, I felt the cloud of failure hanging over me.
But then the sun started breaking through. On her 2 month birthday, we were out running errands and she got hungry. Still not being use to carrying bottles with me, I had forgotten to bring her bag with. Having no other choice, I sat down to nurse her. And she latched on and nursed!
She still wasn't easy to wake, so I continued to pump and bottle feed at night. But during the day, she wanted me!
We still struggled. But I had some amazing mamas who continued to encourage me and to lift me up in prayer. They would send notes of encouragement or links to resources when I most needed them. They helped remind me why I was doing this, why I was working to get her to do what her pediatrician said she couldn't do.
By her 3 month check up, she was no longer taking a bottle. She was gaining weight, her checks were getting chubby. Her heart still looked good- there was no signs of heart failure. She wasn't over exerting herself trying to nurse. She was thriving =)
So we celebrated by having nursing pictures taken.
We had overcome the first big hurdle in our nursing relationship. But another one was looming on the horizon. At 5 months, Sweet Pea went in for open heart surgery.
Two days after her surgery, I was given the go ahead to start nursing again. I was so happy to be able to hold her again!
With the help of some wonderful nurses, I was able to maneuver myself around all her wires and get her settled in my lap. The first couple sessions, she didn't nurse much (she was still hooked up to IV's at that point), but she did make the effort. More than anything, it was important to get her back in my arms and to help her remember what she needed to do.
With the support of the hospital staff, I was able to stay in her room to be there whenever she needed/ wanted to nurse. The hospital even provided meals for me while I was there. When she wasn't nursing, they had a pump for me to use and a place to store everything.
Once she came home things continued to go well. Her incision healed perfectly, the cardiologist was very pleased with the repair and her therapy team was happy to be working with her again. She continued to grow stronger everyday.
As she gets older, we're struggling through the normal toddler nursing issues - lack of an attention span, more interest in food... But we're still nursing. And so, once again we're celebrating with nursing pictures.
Almost 17 months old, nursing for 15 months and showing no signs of wanting to stop =)
For the mama who is just starting her journey of nursing a special needs baby, don't give up. Find someone who will support you and encourage you when it looks the bleakest. Follow your mama's heart.