Nursing Julia: My Supreme Challenge

Thanksgiving of 1991 was a special day for our family. Not only were we thankful for all our many blessings and for being able to share the day with family members we have not seen much of in recent years, but it was also our daughter Julia’s first birthday. A birthday is always a joyous occasion, but more so because Julia was born with a birth defect that is often fatal. There was, however, one more reason to celebrate that day. Julia had become a nursing baby only the day before. It was the culmination of more than five months of effort.

My husband, Stephen, and I adopted all four of our children, and I nursed them all at least for a while. They had not gotten much milk but had received the other benefits nursing provides.

When we adopted Julia, she was six months old, weighed nine pounds, and was being fed largely through a tube that was inserted into her stomach through an incision in her side. She had been in the hospital most of her life. Emotionally, she was in no better shape than her thin, pale little body was. Her bottle feedings at the time consisted of my holding her, upright and facing away from me, which was the only position she would allow, while she gulped down about an ounce and a half of a vile tasting formula. She would then spit the nipple out and attempts to put it back into her mouth usually caused her to gag and vomit. She did not take a pacifier or suck her thumb. She had no idea that sucking was supposed to be pleasurable or comforting. My first attempts at nursing her were disastrous and very upsetting for both of us. I ended up putting nursing on hold for a time while I tried to teach her to take comfort in sucking, get her eating well, and get her attached to me. Once the tube was gone and she was fattened up and doing better emotionally, I went back to trying to get her nursing. However, my efforts to put her to the breast with a nursing supplementer were still not successful.