Breastfeeding is a very personal decision so it is always painful to be reminded how influential the opinions of health care providers can be on a new mother.

A physician is not the only health care professional a woman may come in contact with when beginning breastfeeding. After delivery, the obstetric floor nurse will spend more time with the new mother than the doctor who delivered her baby. She should be supportive and helpful when questions and problems arise. If available a lactation consultant can also be very helpful the first few days especially in difficult situations.

Fortunately most physicians and nurses are more informed on the benefits of breastfeeding today and are usually supportive. However only 20 years ago that was not necessarily true.

After my daughter, Sarah, was born at 32 weeks gestational age (GA) she was taken to the Neonatal intensive care nursery (NICU) where she remained for 3 weeks. My Norman Rockwell image of a happily sated baby in my arms, hours after delivery, dissolved away with the morning dew.

Scared for my baby's survival and insecure about my skills as a mother of a preemie, I needed to do something to help my tiny child. I found my answer in breastfeeding. A friend of mine had also had a premature baby, so I knew it was possible to keep up the milk supply and eventually nurse when the baby was old enough.

Knowing very little about breastfeeding I didn't realize that it takes time for your milk to "come in." The first milk expressed is known as colostrum, a liquid gold for infants because it is higher in protein and antibodies than mature milk. Great stuff but it comes in small volumes for the first few days.

After using an electric breast pump I was only able to get about 4 oz my first go round. Unsure of myself I asked my nurse if that was normal. "Why honey, you aught to throw that away there's not enough there to do anything" was her response. As you can guess she did not win my vote for nurse of the year. That could have ended it for me right there if I wasn't such a tenacious bitch (ask my husband).

Upset but determined I set about doing everything I could to produce more milk. Fortunately for Sarah I didn't throw out that first milk but stored it in a freezer so that it could be given to her when needed.

With the help of my midwife and a member from La Leche League I was able to successfully establish my milk supply and nurse Sarah in the NICU when she was strong enough. Although a slow starter she caught on quickly and thrived.

The moral is not to let anyone be it medical personel, family or friend convince you that you cannot breastfeed your baby.