Just wanted to post some thoughts here. My first born is going to be 12 on her next bday (I can hardly believe time has passed so quickly!). I have had some changes in my life since that time including becoming a pediatric registered nurse at a leading children's hospital. I encounter a lot of new babies and am often faced with helping moms with feeding problems, or ordering an LC to help the mom while the baby is on our unit.
Recently I had a little baby come in who was exclusively breastfed and gaining well, however this baby had some periods where it stopped breathing and turned blue at home. We had the baby in for observation and some tests. Unfortunately this baby was found to be aspirating on fluids and had to be fed nectar thick fluids only. Mom was heartbroken that she now had to pump full time and thicken the milk for her baby. The LC did tell her that she could put the baby to the breast for comfort right after she had fully pumped but mom said it's not the same. I was able to support this mom because I knew what it was like to exclusively pump, as I did the same thing for 5.5 months for my oldest child. It's very hard to do and even more so for this mom who had two other young children at home and was going back to work in 2 weeks. She was supposed to pump every 2-3 hours around the clock to maintain her supply, and then feed the baby bottles and then care for her family.
We are about to embark on RSV season and most of those babies are also sent to our unit, as well as 1-2 pertussis babies that we have at a time during this time of year also. Those babies often have respiratory rates too high and coughing fits too out of control to allow them to nurse or bottle feed. As with heart babies, our RSV/pertussis babies poop out very easily just trying to cope with severe illness and nursing/feeding takes up their energy, and they cannot coordinate fast breathing with feeding. Respirations rates are often in the 60's and above. Their noses are clogged up too, and babies are nose-breathers, and it's almost impossible to suck and feed with a clogged nose and coughing fits. So, they end up on fluids or tube feedings until their illness runs its course, usually 5-10 days in the hospital. As nurses our job is supportive care and lots of suctioning of the nose so they can breathe, and suctioning the inner cheeks where they cough up the mucous. If they get too bad they end up sedated/intubated but thankfully that's a small percentage, not the norm.
As a nurse and as a mom I see this and I am sad. The mothers express that they feel helpless to comfort their babies, and the babies often have a hard time re-establishing breastfeeding after the illness.
When I was unable to nurse I was given a hard time by many in the breastfeeding community who felt that moms like me didn't try hard enough or didn't have enough support. That was certainly not the case with me, and is often not the case with the moms I encounter at the hospital. I had one mom being given a very hard time by her sister who just didn't understand how ill the baby was and it was not the mom's fault that the baby was not able to nurse. Moms who pump are heroes. Moms whose breastfeeding relationship is taken away by circumstances beyond her control are not any less moms with attachment than those who have a good breastfeeding relationship.
When I encounter moms who are grieving this loss I encourage them to have skin to skin contact even with older babies, learn to bottle-nurse, and 1000 other ways to bond. I just hope whoever reads this can help support fellow moms who are trying to do their best, because being a mom is not easy, and there are no hard and fast rules to define who makes a good mom. :-) Just lots of love and bonding, that's the most important thing a baby needs, and their moms need lots of support too.
P.S. Our hospital is very breastfeeding friendly and we have lots of resources for nursing mommies, LC's, pumps, and such.