Breastfeeding. After 3 kiddos it should be easy right? Come naturally? You should know what to do and definitely not need any help, right?
What happens when this baby is different? A medical need. A preference. Change in your life circumstance. There are countless reasons why different babies may need to be fed via different methods.
My fourth baby is a beautiful little girl who completes our family in a way I never knew would be possible. She also happens to be a beautiful little baby who honks like a goose, snorts like a piglet, and turns shades of blue when she struggles to breathe. My fourth baby was born with a congenital condition called laryngomalacia, in the most basic terms this means her airway is floppy. This creates a host of problems with feeding. You have to be able to breathe to eat. You have to be able to breathe to coordinate breathe, suck, swallow. When you latch onto the breast and struggle for air, it’s natural that breastfeeding will be a challenge. Add on to that the aspiration and severe reflux that often go along with laryngomalacia and you have, well, a baby who needs a different method to be fed.
Early on I knew Felicity was different. She didn’t sound like my other babies, she didn’t breathe like my other babies, and she didn’t feed like my other babies. I sent many messages to our lactation consultant to the tune of “is this normal?” Because none of my other kids had ever exhibited the symptoms I was seeing. Separate these things weren’t a big deal, but when we started to look at the whole picture I realized something was off. When she had her first blue spell my suspicion was confirmed.
So this baby? She’s different. She’s beautiful and perfect and exhausting. All at once. Due to her struggles she nurses ALL THE TIME. It’s a lot of work for her, more work than it should be for a full term baby. So she often nurses for a few minutes, becomes frantic from the choking and coughing, and falls asleep. Rinse. Repeat. Every hour-ish.
As her mom I struggle. She doesn’t seem comforted by breastfeeding, at least not in ways I can usually see. For her it’s all about survival. You have to eat to grow and thrive. All of her energy right now is focused on that. I pray that the comfort and sweet suckling to sleep will come in time.
With hospital stays and late nights I’ve had a lot of time to think about all of this. I’ve come to one conclusion: every baby truly is different. Their needs, responses, circumstances. They are different. Same mom, different baby. Different mom, different baby. We are all just trucking along trying to do right by our babies no matter what that means.
Felicity is different. Nursing her hasn’t been a dream. It’s been hard. A struggle. It’s still beautiful. I’m doing right by my baby, the best way I know how. And maybe tomorrow doing right by her will look different. Different baby. I know that no matter what my journey looks like, I am a good mom. If I never breastfeed again. I am a good mom. Whatever the road looks like, as long as you do right by your baby (and yourself) pat yourself on the back mama. 1 kid or 10. No one knows it all. No one knows how it’s going to go. They are all different. Mourn. Rejoice. Adapt.
You got this.