Breastfeeding Saved My Son’s Life

Or at least I believe so, let me explain.

Our second son was born on a gorgeous June day in 2006 weighing 8 pounds 7 ounces and was 21 inches long.  He was quiet at birth but even without the strong “Hello World It’s Me!” cry that you often hear our baby seemed perfectly healthy and took to nursing like a champ from the first opportunity.  So it took everyone by surprise that by the time he was 6 months old he had not grown as expected.  He was a somewhat chubby little guy, but he had hardly grown in length at all.

Our son, Aiden, at 6 months old

(sorry about the photo quality we had a really bad camera at the time)

Our pediatrician ran some tests and our son was given that dreaded label no parent wants to hear “Failure To Thrive“.  That night as we were preparing for bed we got a call for us to go to the children’s hospital.  Our son’s blood work had come back and his sodium was dangerously low (118), our pediatrician sounded so worried over the phone.  I asked if we could wait until tomorrow.  Her response?  “No, you don’t understand how serious this is, you have to leave now, tonight.  I have called ahead and they are expecting you.”  We were terrified.

Once at the children hospital we were entered into a whole new world of doctors and specialist and something always in the background going beep.  We have still never figured out what caused his low sodium levels but now after the birth of the twins I suspect he also had Pseudohypoaldosteronism, just a less sever case.

The doctors at the children’s hospital were also concerned about our baby’s lack of growth and that is when the real roller-coaster started.  We tested for one disease after another and still it remained a mystery.  Finally they suspected a brain tumor and we were told he would need a MRI.

As you probably already know you have to lay completely still to have a MRI done so for a little guy, like our son was, you have to sedate them so they will not move during the test.  This would be the first test that either my husband or I would not be able to hold him through and it was breaking our hearts.  We went to the little waiting room they have down the hall from the machine and held him until the medication did its work and he was “under”.  Handing him off to the nurse that came to get him for the MRI was one of the hardest things I had ever done up to that point in my life.

We sat nervously in the room holding hands.  My husband suggested cards, I said no, my heart wouldn’t let me do anything but crave my little boy back in my arms.  Finally after an agonizingly long wait the door to the room was flung open by a frazzled nurse who quickly barked a rather unexpected question “You still breastfeed right?”  Confused I answered her yes and she grabbed me by the arm and started rushing me down the hall.  In tears I walked into a room to see my little boy motionless on the table with a team of doctors and nurses surrounding him and alarms going off everywhere.  The nurse told me to nurse my baby “You can’t pick him up but lean over him and let him nuzzle you.”  Crying, almost hysteric, I did as she told me.  For just a moment he made no response but then his head turned to me and he made a soft little grunting noise as I put my nipple into his mouth.  He was too weak to suckle but he began to breathe softly and then, like magic, the alarms stopped and everything calmed down.  I became aware that the room of doctors and nurses slowly started thinning out with several of them shaking their heads in amazement “I can’t believe that worked, she was right.”  The nurse just grinned as she double checked machines and straightened things back up and with a wink said “Of course I was.”

Yes, she was right and I thank God for that angel of mercy and whoever it was that taught her to be so wise about the breastfeeding relationship.  Breastfeeding is more than just a way to give your baby food, it is an unimaginable bond between mother and child.  Something so powerful that even the feel of my breast and the smell of me, his mother, was enough to, I believe, save my son’s life.

 

*Our son did not have a tumor.  Almost a month later it was discovered my sons failure to grow as expected was due to him having Growth Hormone Deficiency, also known as Pituitary Dwarfism.  Recently his endroconologist has been exploring the possibility that it may have instead/also been from unmanaged PHA (Pseudohypoaldosteronism).

** This post was originally written by me for my private blog One Rich Mother in March of 2011.

Five Times and Back Again: A Journal of a Sixth Pregnancy (Vol. 4)

Last week I promised I’d write something about nursing while pregnant… I’m in this moment really floundering at coming up with anything positive about it!! It’s been one of those days where I’m tapped out, touched out, and done.. Logically I know there are MANY benefits to nursing while pregnant. It keeps your little one connected and tandem nursing is an AMAZING bonding experience. With as young as my Marah is still she really needs that and so do I as a parenting tool. What starts to happen, though, is your milk dries up inevitably (though not for every woman) and you go through a spurt of dry nursing. That’s the uncomfortable part. It doesn’t hurt necessarily (at least for me) but it sure makes my skin crawl at times. I’m sure that’s a biological thing as your body and brain make way for the new baby/life you will be sustaining.

Sage tuckered out from her 3rd birthday festivities.

When I nursed Sage through Marah’s pregnancy it was a pretty rough ride, her latch was ALWAYS horrid and while it normally didn’t bother me much at all while pregnant I had to set limits. She was old enough (just over 2) to understand that Mama needed some boundaries. She’s the only baby that I nightweaned, she’s the only one that I told that Mama’s boobies were tired like the sun and could only give her milkies when the sun was up (which actually led to waking at the crack of dawn for a few weeks), she’s also the only one (thus far) that nursed right up to her 4th birthday! (that’s when I gently said… okay, I think we’re done..)

Tandem nursing 3 year old Sage and newborn Marah

This time around I was really quite worried about going through the same hell I went through last time but was pleasantly surprised when I made it through the first trimester and I still had abundant milk. If Marah had anything going for her it was her MOST beautiful latch, it really kept things flowing… sadly though eventually hormones take over and there’s not much you can do about it. There’s no herb, supplement, food in the world that will keep an abundant supply while pregnant. Eventually it will dry up and then comes the dry nursing. EEK!

Sleepy baby

I’ve been trying to capture more pictures of nursing Marah because when I look at them, it makes me feel/see the good parts and removes the negative emotions I have associated with the dry nursing. She looks like a beautifully contented, sweet baby girl and I truly can’t wait to nurse her and another sweet little one.  I’ve been so grateful that I’ve had other women in my life to share my experiences with who have shared the good and not so good of nursing while pregnant and tandem nursing. It’s not an easy ride but it is TOTALLY worth it in the end… I remind myself to take it one day at a time and try not to think too far ahead with it. It’s easier mentally that way.

Sweet little nursling, 24 weeks pregnant nursing 17 mos old