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Thank you, La Leche League

Susan Goldblatt
Chattanooga TN USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 18 No. 6, November-December 2001, p. 214

When I was pregnant with my first son, now seven, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. My coworkers were very discouraging and my mother felt that her milk had dried up with each of her children at three months. I'm the type of person who likes to be in control of my life so I decided to go to a La Leche League meeting to learn from women who had been successful. I never planned to attend another LLL meeting; I only sought their knowledge in order to succeed at breastfeeding. Thank you, Pam and Fran, for that meeting.

Taylor was born to breastfeed, having no problems with latch-on or sucking. My dream of perfect nursing was a reality for a few days, but then my milk came in. He projectile vomited after every feeding and became jaundiced and very lethargic. I became very engorged. We were miserable, so on the seventh day I rented an electric breast pump. Donna brought me the pump and her copy of The Breastfeeding Answer Book, published by LLLI. She suggested I try eliminating dairy products from my diet. Taylor never vomited again. I avoided dairy products the entire four years that he nursed. Adding them back in my diet as he got older always brought on a reaction. Thank you, Donna.

At Taylor's nine-month checkup, our pediatrician insisted he should be given dairy products even though I explained his reaction when I consumed them. Against my better judgment, I followed doctor's orders. My son did not vomit, so I continued yogurt every day. Two weeks later he had his first ear infection and first visit to the doctor due to illness. For the next four months he was on and off of antibiotics, and finally, I had tubes put in his ears hoping he wouldn't need the medication any more. Two weeks later he was just as sick. Then we attended the LLL of Georgia Area Conference. I attended a session about breastfeeding and allergies led by Patty Spanjer. She suggested eliminating dairy products from his diet, which I did, and he did not have another illness-related visit to the doctor for the next two years. Thank you, Patty.

My second son was due when Taylor was three years old. I was working full time as a breastfeeding peer counselor, having changed careers to work with mothers and babies, and many mothers from LLL assured me that Taylor would probably wean during my pregnancy. Seeing no decrease in his interest, I prepared to tandem nurse. I attended the Tennessee, Georgia, and Louisiana Area LLL Conferences and met many inspirational role models, including two of the Founders of LLL.

Ethan was born at 35 weeks gestation because my water had broken. Within minutes of the birth, he was diagnosed with suspected Down syndrome. When he breastfed in the recovery room, he did not position his tongue correctly, but he breastfed until the nurse made him stop. During the next week the diagnosis was confirmed. We were very sad and grieving the loss of the perfect baby we had dreamed of having. Even harder for me was the fact that he couldn't nurse. I would look in his mouth and see his tongue on the roof of his mouth every time. Everyone capable of helping us tried but he just couldn't do it. I remained determined. I'll never forget the cardiologist telling him, "She is very determined you are going to breastfeed or starve. I recommend you breastfeed." Tandem nursing was now the least of my worries. I was grateful I had someone to nurse.

I pumped my milk and finger-fed Ethan for five weeks. The day after his due date he opened wide and latched on. He was never a fast nurser but once on the breast, he would never come off. He loved it and so did I. When he was three, we found out that he will need heart surgery. I'm so grateful that he continues to nurse at bedtime and when he is sick. I would be more anxious about the surgery if he was weaned.

Around the time of Ethan's birth, I received an issue of NEW BEGINNINGS that talked about the success of LLL being built upon mother-to-mother support. I decided to use that as my role model and to talk to every mother of a child or adult with Down syndrome that I could find. I asked them what they felt they had done that had made a difference for their child. I followed the LLL principle of taking what was helpful from each conversation. I have a very positive outlook for my son and I consider him wonderful. I now counsel new parents of babies with Down syndrome. Thank you, La Leche League, for the framework of support for handling any situation in my life that knowledge can improve.

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