Fatimah’s Story (Part I): My Struggle

Fatimah’s son Hadi

Fatimah Salman, RN, BSN, Lebanon

Editor’s Note: In Part I of her story, Fatimah shares her difficult introduction to parenthood as her newborn son, Hadi, struggles to stay healthy and Fatimah fights to gain confidence and find breastfeeding support. Next week, in Part II, Fatimah continues her story, describing how she overcame these early challenges and is now happily breastfeeding a healthy and thriving Hadi.

When my baby boy, Hadi, turned eight days old, he developed a high-grade fever, stopped eating, and ended up in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). There, my story started. Every person I met during my baby’s hospitalization shamed me for breastfeeding and not offering formula. Even nurses blamed me for being a nurse myself and not giving formula after each breastfeeding session. I was the one to blame according to the voices around me.

I never prepared to breastfeed (during my pregnancy) because it seemed like the most natural thing to do. My mama breastfeed the four of us, and I was old enough to remember how perfect of an experience it was with my younger siblings. I wanted it to be the same with my own baby.

I breastfed for the first seven days of Hadi’s life until he became sick. I can still remember the first time my little boy opened his brand new eyes searching for the breast. I can recall the moment flawlessly: moving his little mouth right and left, scared and overwhelmed in this new world. When he latched on, we calmed down, and I stopped shivering.

When Hadi was in the NICU, no one told me I should pump to maintain my supply. After all, the voices around me were pushing me to give formula and to quit breastfeeding as if they had built up some kind of connection between breastfeeding and Hadi’s sickness. Although I manually pumped about 100 mls of breast milk, I was convinced that I didn’t have milk. Pumping led to cracked nipples, and I was in such great pain to the extent that I thought of giving up the idea (of providing breast milk) and getting him formula.

Deep down I was struggling in sadness where everything was pitch black, and I couldn’t hear my mama telling me it’s not my fault and my milk is the best to offer. But, a twist to my story occurred when I met a woman who started asking me about my baby. I ended up telling her my story. Amani also is a nurse and is breastfeeding. She’s the revelation in my story. She seemed to be passionate about breastfeeding and kept talking to me daily, asking for updates and offering help so I could exclusively breastfeed. I started to read and ask more about breastfeeding. The more I learned, the more guilt I felt for offering Hadi formula. I felt anger and outrage toward the voices around me. My baby did need my milk, especially in his sickness!

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