When I had Kai, we didn't know she was sick. We had planned to co-sleep with her in a "Snuggle Nest", a little infant bed that sits in the parent's bed, until she was 3 months old and I planned to breast feed for 6 months.
I was lucky enough to have a friend suggest extended breast feeding. When I looked into it, I knew that was what I wanted to do... I loved nursing her so much! Every time I stuck her in the Snuggle Nest thing she would cry and cry, even though she was right there in bed with us, just not in my arms, and she nursed every half hour to 45 minutes (at the time we didn't know it was because she couldn't absorb any nutrients and she was in pain). One night, I accidentally fell asleep while breast feeding her and woke up in the morning with her resting contently on my chest. I started sleeping with her like that from then on! It was so easy to nurse her through the night when she was already right there in my arms and we both got more rest that way.
In the hospital, the doctors think that one of the reasons she was even alive was because I breast fed her on cue and, after they observed her vital signs on the monitor normalize every time she was sleeping with me, versus in the bed by herself, they became advocates of co-sleeping, too!
She was 3 months old when she was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia and acute end-stage liver failure. She had her transplant at 4 months old and they had to do a second surgery to reconstruct the blood vessels around the liver to get the blood flow to the "new" organ. In doing so, her lymphatic vessels were dissected and she couldn't ingest lipids without the vessels leaking into her abdominal cavity. She was put on intravenous nutrition through a line to her heart for several months. I pumped during that time, hoping she'd go back to breast feeding after, but regardless of how hard I tried, she never did (she had something known in the lactation world as severe oral aversion). I was heart broken. I pumped until she was almost a year old and gave it to her, first through a nasal-gastric tube and then in a sippy cup. It was one thing I had control over and that I could do for her. In addition to helping her get the nutrients she needed, it also gave a much needed boost to her suppressed immune system.
One night, during all this, I woke up because she stopped breathing in her sleep. I was so in tune with her that it actually woke me up and I was able to get her breathing again!
My youngest is now 8 months old and we are still nursing strong! He is a very healthy boy and I know Momma's milk not only helps protect him and his immune system but it also helps protect his sister by keeping him healthy and illness-free.
I'm a huge proponent of extended nursing, nursing "on-demand" and co-sleeping. Co-sleeping helps encourage night feeding and a healthy milk-supply, reinforcing the extended nursing relationship. I would encourage any new mother to do the same!
Hooray for Boobies! Happy World Breast Feeding Week!
Mamma to Kai Nolyn (Nov 28, 2007) and Reef Wallace (Nov 27, 2009)