Hilda’s Breastfeeding Journey
Hilda Guerra, El Paso, Texas
My name is Hilda Guerra and I would like to share my breastfeeding journey in hopes it will inspire others to give their little ones the gift of this precious liquid gold. I am a 26-year-old preschool teacher and a mother to a healthy and witty seven-year-old. As a 19-year-old soon–to–be mother, my world focused on learning as much as I could about all the parenting choices I was about to make in the next years.
I had a good support system. I was strong-willed and ready to go through college with a newborn who would be my study buddy for the next few years. I frequently referred to my mother about baby topics, and she was always a great help until I asked about her breastfeeding journey. I remember her words: “I tried breastfeeding you, but they gave you a bottle in the hospital so you never wanted to breastfeed when we took you home.”
How can a newborn wean themselves off the breast, or even worse, never want to breastfeed at all? This is when the research began. During this time, I worked at a daycare center, and we had a baby whose mother would bring us daily bottles full of breastmilk. I decided to ask her to share her knowledge, and she referred me to breastfeeding websites with lots of information on the topic, and one of the websites was La Leche League. After my research, reading about different struggles and success stories, I was completely confident in my decision to breastfeed my baby.
The day finally came. The doctor placed my son on my chest, and I was ready to begin nursing, except my son wasn’t. He kept pulling away and not latching. The nurse told me that babies are born with a little “reserve” and don’t necessarily need to nurse for the first couple of hours. I was not about to give up. I waited patiently and after three hours he was hungry. A lactation consultant came to visit me. She said that he had a good latch.
The first couple of days were so hard. It hurt me so much that I dreaded the feedings. I was ready to buy formula “just for a couple of days while my nipples healed.” I had a text from the mother from the daycare center that night: “Hi, just checking in, heard your baby was born yesterday, hope you are good and enjoying your bundle of joy, congratulations!” Just as I finished reading, my little bundle of joy was ready for his feeding and I wanted to cry! I debated if I should send her a “thank you” and continue my night as if I was not nursing in pain while biting my pillow as I rocked back and forth, or ask for help. I put my shame aside and told her my breastfeeding journey was not starting well and I had gone from “I want to nurse for a year” to “Hopefully I make it to six months” to “Help! I need formula for my two-day–old!”
Having a helping hand is always needed to keep you sane in times of despair. I was so glad to have this experienced person in my path. She said, “I am not an expert or a licensed lactation consultant, but try a nipple shield before you give up. I used one for the first couple months and it was a life saver.” I immediately sent my husband to the store, and he came back with the game changer. It turned out that the latch was wrong, and the nipple shield helped to correct it.
A couple of days later, my milk came in and my baby couldn’t have been happier. A couple of weeks later it was time for his two-week appointment. The pediatrician asked how many ounces he was drinking every three hours. Excuse me? Every three hours? I proudly said, “He is exclusively breastfed, and I nurse on demand.” Then I heard the most horrifying words a professional ever told me: “Breastfeeding is overrated. He is a big boy now, being 15 days old. He needs to eat every three hours. If he doesn’t in the next couple of days, switch him to formula.”
I left feeling angry. Breastfeeding is hard for a new mother and can be overwhelming at times. You have doubts whether you are doing it right and if the baby is getting enough. There was no clear answer to how many ounces the baby was receiving, but my 5 lbs. 8 oz. baby was now six pounds and wetting his diaper every two hours. I chose not to let this bump in the road stop me. I changed pediatricians, and my baby continued thriving.
After three months, I did not have the option to attend online classes anymore and I had to go back to face-to-face instruction. My baby would stay with his grandmother, and I needed to pump to leave bottles for him. It was hard getting him to take the bottle but, in the end, I found the perfect one for him. I packaged everything for my first day: a little cooler, icepacks, and my breast pump. I was so disappointed to find out the university had no designated or private place to pump. I had to resort to pumping in the restroom. I kept thinking “it is only two days out of the week” and I didn’t let this inconvenience destroy the progress I had made for three months. Soon the semester was over, and I got to exclusively breastfeed my baby again over the summer.
The challenges of a first-time mother are too many to count. Perseverance and being informed is what personally helped me reach the goals I had set and even go beyond them. I initially had the goal of six months of nursing. When I got there, I extended it to a year. When he turned one, he was down to only nursing in the morning, for naps, for comfort when sick and before bed. I loved the bond and decided to let him wean when he was ready. At 18 months he dropped the morning feed. By two years old he dropped the naptime nursing session. By this time, I felt the time was near, and I saw the end of our journey coming.
One night, at 2 years, 11 months, he didn’t ask to nurse before bed, not even the next night or the one after. At this point, I knew he was ready to move on to a new chapter, a new adventure in our life. Our breastfeeding journey came to an end just as I graduated from college. It was the closure to a cycle. I was able to hold on to the beautiful memories, the ups and downs, and the knowledge for future babies. It was all worth it.
Editor’s Note: If you are considering using a nipple shield, we encourage you to consult with a La Leche League Leader or a lactation professional. While nipple shields can be helpful in certain situations, they are not a solution to all problems causing nipple pain. Speak with someone knowledgeable about breastfeeding issues to see if a nipple shield is right for you.
- Positioning and latching: https://lllusa.org/positioning-and-latching/
- Introducing a bottle to a breastfed baby: https://lllusa.org/bottle-feeding-breastfed-baby/
- Sore Nipples: https://lllusa.org/sore-nipples/
Please send your story ideas to Amy at [email protected].
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