In honor of World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month in the US, I reached out to mom friends and asked them to share their breastfeeding stories. Sometimes a difficult start to breastfeeding can light a fire within. Here is Aryn's breastfeeding journey.
Happy World Breastfeeding Week! I am so excited to share my breastfeeding journey with all of you, in celebration of World Breastfeeding Week. I have breastfed two babies now, but have two very different experiences.
Breastfeeding was something I always planned on doing. Not really for any particular reason, mainly because it was what my mom did and it was free. My mom breastfed 5 children successfully and without any issue, so I also didn’t expect to have any trouble. I learned quickly, that just because your mom (or sister or best friend) had a certain breastfeeding experience, that doesn’t mean yours will look similar at all.
My labor with my son was long, and hard, I had chosen an elective induction at 40 weeks. But, I had a plan, I wanted immediate skin to skin and to latch ASAP. Unfortunately, my labor nurse and I butted heads and she wasn't crazy about this (why? I still cannot figure out). So I didn't get my skin to skin, he was laid on my chest while my husband cut his cord, but I had a gown on, and that took maybe 30 seconds. After that was done, he was taken to the warmer to be weighed, wiped down, and was brought back to me swaddled. I did not get skin to skin or immediate latch
Because of my choice to have an epidural (it may not be for everyone, but I do not regret that AT ALL) I was not able to get up and shower for a couple of hours. I delivered my son, Kallen at 5:57pm. I showered around 8, and finally at 8:30 (almost 3 hours later!!) the nurse suggested I try and nurse him. His first latch was great! The new nurse was so sweet and helped me get him positioned just right, he nursed on both sides for a good 15 minutes. I was SO proud, I knew I could do it, and it was happening!
Fast forward to about 1am….I was finally coming down from the high that is giving birth and I was exhausted, all I wanted to do was close my eyes. Kallen was sleeping, so I took advantage and fell asleep…when I woke up 3 or 4 hours later, my husband was so excited and proud that, even though it took him an hour, he was able to get Kal back to sleep without waking me. I was grateful for the sleep, and didn't think much more of it. I nursed Kallen again when I woke up, and I remember he took 1 side, but not the other. Not really knowing what I was doing, I figured it was good enough and all was well.
Around 6am the nurse came in to check on me and Kallen and asked how things were going. I told her great, because I thought they were. She asked me how he was eating, and I told her he had nursed 2 times in the night. She expressed some concern that it wasn't more and encouraged me to try every 2 hours, but she didn't offer any other help or education about it. My mom came up to the hospital around 8, and I told her that I had been trying the every 2 hours thing, but Kallen wasn't really interested. My mom told me newborns are just sleepy and to keep offering it, which made me feel better. When the nurse came again, she asked all the questions for what felt like the millionth time. She was concerned that he hadn’t had “enough” wet diapers and when I asked for help her solution was a nipple shield and a 2 oz bottle of formula “to get something in him” I was never offered a latch assessment, a pump, or taught/told to hand express. My son did not latch again in the hospital, or for 3 more weeks. As soon as we got home, I began pumping exclusively, He would get whatever colostrum I could pump, supplemented with formula, because no one ever talked to us about how much he really needed.
Four days after birth, my milk transitioned. HOLY COW - literally. I was so engorged and uncomfortable. I continued to pump every 2 to 3 hours and I would express 10 to 12 oz each feeding. And while that was great, I wanted nothing more than for him to latch. I would still try to latch him every hour, but he would root and put his hands to his mouth, and couldn't seem to be able to find the nipple. I was getting do discouraged. I think I cried more that week, than I ever have. PostPartum Hormones did not help my frustration. I remember asking my husband, in utter desperation, if he would be disappointed in my if I gave up. Of course, he said he supported me no matter what. But I was determined and kept trying.
When Kallen was 1 week old, I made a phone call back to the Mother-Baby unit, to see if there was any help for me. They told me that there was a Certified Lactation Consultant there that day, and to come up with a hungry baby. My mom went with me, so she could learn how to better help me. This is the day everything changed. The Lactation Counselor talked calmly with me and assured me I could do this. She showed me some different positioning and helped me latched Kal. She sat with us for an entire hour, while Kallen nursed on both sides. I cried, she cried, my mom cried, and for once Kallen didn't cry during a feeding. She helped me with the shield, and let me know it was okay, that it was better to have him latched with it, than not at all. I saw her 3 more times over the next weeks, and by the time my son was 4 weeks old he was Exclusively Breastfeeding, without a nipple shield.
It wasn't completely smooth sailing from there. We've been through oversupply, then low supply from a hormonal birth control, growth spurts, illness, developmental leaps, and teething. There were SO many nights I just wanted to give up, but I am so glad I didn't. I was able to exclusively breastfeed Kallen for 5 months and he continued nursing until I got pregnant with his sister, when he was 21 months old.
My breastfeeding journey with my daughter, went much smoother, and I am still breastfeeding her at 1 year old as well.
I never would have made it, if it was not for the support of that lactation counselor. Also, because of this experience and the support I received, I decided to make a career change and become a lactation support professional. When my son was 9 months old, I became a WIC breastfeeding peer counselor and in 2015 I became a Certified Lactation Counselor and now, I get to help mothers just like I was, every single day. Breastfeeding has become so much more than just “feeding my baby”, It is my passion and my life and I am lucky to also call it my job.
Breastfeeding is hard, and amazing, and special and I hope that you are enjoying your journey. Please, if you are worried, struggling, or need support…reach out, there is help and other mamas waiting with open arms.
Aryn is a wife and mama bear to two beautiful children. After a rough start with breastfeeding her first, she found a passion for teaching and supporting other mamas as a Certified Lactation Counselor. When she is not being mama, she is studying to be an RN and sharing her musings on motherhood on her blog, With Cream and Sugar. You can also follow her on Instagram and Facebook.