As we head towards the end of Breastfeeding Awareness Month, I wanted to share my story.
As someone who was never breastfed, never saw other moms breastfeed, and only heard horror stories of cracked nipples and clogged ducts, I must admit I didn’t walk into breastfeeding too optimistically. I was scared. But it was a choice I made despite my fear, because I knew that it would make a difference in my life and my childs life.
With baby #1 my goal was to breastfeed for 3 months, I ended up breastfeeding for 10 months. It was not easy. I didn’t know too many other breastfeeding folx to turn to for help or support. With the stress of low milk supply, feeling rushed through pumping breaks at work, pumping in the car while driving to campus after work, it was tough. I cried a lot. Sometimes I felt like a failure because my supply was low and we would sometimes have to supplement with formula. In the end, when I surpassed my 3 month goal, and then passed the 6 month mark, I was so happy I didn’t care about the other stresses, I didn’t want to put my baby to sleep without the warm comfort of cheastfeeding. Eventually, she weaned herself. Since she was also taking bottles on occasion, it was an easy decision to transition over to the bottle. All in all, I was proud of myself, but I knew that baby #2 would be different.
The pregnancy with #2 was stressful, but all I could think is “I’ll get through this hard part (pregnancy), then after I have her we will do skin to skin and breastfeed and all will be fine. Well, I was wrong! For the first time, I experienced the frightening cracked bleeding nipples. She was not latching correctly, and I had never experienced that with my first. I asked for help from nurses, lactation consultants, and doctors…. It wasn’t until 2 days later when I walked into the newborn clinic crying begging for help that someone finally helped me. There was an amazing lactation consultant there and she sat with me and my baby for 3 hours so that we could spend plenty of time practicing. She scheduled me to come back the next day and asked me to bring my husband. When we went the next day, she looked so happy and determined. She showed me several tricks, and showed my husband different ways that he could help too (not just getting me water, but actual help). That woman was amazing and she changed my life. Once I finally overcame that obstacle, I knew that I would breastfeed for as long as I could. So, I exclusively breastfed. I took a long term leave of absence from work so that I could do exclusive breastfeeding and return when she started solids. Baby #2 did not get bottles when I was gone, my husband wanted me to be able to have a long term breastfeeding experience that I could enjoy this time. So when I was gone he would give her solids or use other comfort measures until I returned to feed her on the breast (I was never gone for long enough for her to be deprived of milk, this was just the method we used to support our breastfeeding journey). It was not easy or perfect, but I was able to joyfully breastfeed baby #2 for 18 months. We could have gone longer, but I was ready to end the breastfeeding journey with her, so that is what we did.
Breastfeeding is tough. If I had additional lactation support like a doula, a peer lactation specialist or counselor, or a breastfeeding educator; I’m sure my experience would have been different. Now, I’ve learned more about breastfeeding and maternal healthcare and realize that breastfeeding in the USA is severely undervalued and not encouraged enough. This was one of my largest sources of inspiration for beginning my non-profit where we provide consistent support to women to encourage higher breastfeeding initiation rates and increase breastfeeding longevity. I experienced the feeling of being up for 2 days straight, stressed not knowing how to make my baby latch on correctly, while my husband sat next to me searching google and youtube doing whatever he could to try to help. While I am glad my husband was supportive, and I acknowledge how awesome that is, I still needed more support. Support from someone who specializes in the issue you are working through makes a huge difference in your experience and outcomes.
Breastfeeding both of my children was the most wonderful, fulfilling experience I have ever had. Being their source of comfort, their sustenance, and their joy; I have no regrets about breastfeeding. I fully intend to breastfeed my future children as well if I can. I do not encourage people to harm themselves in order to breastfeed; however, if it is an obstacle you can overcome, I fully suggest getting support through it so you can experience the bliss of breastfeeding. My goal now is to help get the support for other people that they need to be able to have the breastfeeding experience that they hope for.
The WHOLEistic Mommy <3