By Dianne Kemp BA, RN
I had 3 pregnancies, 3 children and 3 very different breast-feeding experiences.
First, a son, was born when I was 20 years old. I was a year out of nursing school and working at a pediatric office. I knew a few things about breast feeding, took an expectant parent class but breast feeding was not even mentioned in that class. I breast fed my son for the first time about six hours after his birth (I had to lay flat for that long after a spinal anesthetic for a forceps assisted birth – the way births were done in 1975). The baby was given formula in the nursery and I received no help from the nurses. Once home, I attempted to breast feed often, but also gave formula (I did not know any better). At three weeks old, my baby became ill with a URI and ear infection. This illness went on for three weeks and breast feeding was difficult. At six weeks, I stopped breast feeding.
Baby number two, a girl, was born three years later. This birth was drug free. I kept the baby with me all during my hospital stay, she breast fed on a regular basis like a champ. I experienced two cases of mastitis during the first three months of my daughter’s life. I was told by my OB to stop breast feeding while on antibiotics and I followed these instructions. I was fortunate to get back to breast feeding after following this incorrect advice. My daughter stopped breast feeding at nine months of age. She was given a sip of juice from a cup and liked that. She never had a bottle.
My third pregnancy was in 1982, another son. I knew this was my last pregnancy and I planned to do “everything right”. I would have another intervention free birth, breast feed immediately after birth, hold him all the time and so on. Unfortunately, Matthew was born with multiple physical anomalies. He was taken at birth to the nursery; I did not see him for hours. To shorten the story for now, Matthew had facial paralysis. He could not form suction to breast feed. He also had a soft cleft palate defect. I pumped breast milk for several days but could not keep up. I was taking care of two young children and traveling to the Children’s Hospital an hour away to visit Matthew. Matthew was fed formula through an NG tube, he could not suck.
I grieved breast feeding Matthew for a long time. Then I realized that there are several ways to feed a baby. Of course, breast feeding is best but that is not always possible, or the choice that is made.
Moral of this story – breast feeding is best but not the only way to feed a baby. In my opinion, a mom should make this decision after informing herself through discussion and research. Informed consent is so important in all areas of medicine. And I found in my career as an RN, that informed consent is too often not applied.
Dianne Kemp was born in Detroit and moved to Lexington at age 9. She received her Associate Degree in Nursing Science in 1972 from SC4, and a Bachelors in Healthcare Psychology from Graceland College (Iowa) in 1996.
Dianne’s career developed from her love of babies. She was a Maternal Child nurse for 45 years – developing and teaching childbirth and parenting education classes, working as an RN in Mother Baby Care and was the first lactation consultant in the county. She is now volunteering as a chaplain at River District Hospital since losing her vision in her left eye due to a retinal detachment in 2010.
Dianne is the proud mother of three children (one who was disabled and passed away in 2007) and two grandchildren.
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