"In Their Own Words" is one of my favorite series on the blog. It lets families to share their stories, and help others along the way. Thank you, Saundra, for taking the time to write out your breastfeeding story. We are honored to be able to share it with other mothers who are facing challenges along their breastfeeding journey. ~Krystyna
This is not a tale of a woman who loved to breastfeed (although there were times I really did). This is a tale of a mother who chose to breastfeed no matter what!
I nursed my son for 21 months. I knew I planned to breastfeed long before my son was ever conceived. I had a deep conviction that this is what I would do, period. My mother purchased The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, a La Leche League book, for me when I was in my first trimester. By my third trimester I decided to pick up the book and sift through some of the content. In hindsight it would have been beneficial to read it, cover to cover.☺ It never occurred to me that breastfeeding could have some hurdles, I merely assumed that you put babe to breast and voilà, it’s done. I knew nothing of oversupply, tongue/lip tie, nursing strikes, overactive letdowns, flat nipples, laid back breastfeeding, Lactation Consultants etc… If I was graced with the opportunity to go back and do it all again the ONLY thing I’d change is this: I’d go to a breastfeeding class taught by an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant; and have a quality IBCLC contact if and when any challenges occurred (which many did!).
I was determined to breastfeed, and I said many times “barring my milk dries up I’ll get through any challenge and continue to nurse my son.” Did we have challenges? YES! I had severe oversupply and an overactive letdown for the first 9 months. His pediatrician wasn’t supportive of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. In fact when he was four months old she said, “Most breastfed babies are starving,” as she was trying to get me to give him rice cereal. NO, I did not take her ‘advice’. My poor son couldn’t stay latched on to my breasts due to engorgement and the fire hydrant of milk coming his way. He was often fussy and popped on/off frequently due to the excess milk. In addition he had type 2 tongue tie and lip tie which we didn’t get resolved until he was almost 6 weeks old and later I got a plugged milk duct (thank you oversupply!) He wouldn’t nurse in public – he’s a shy eater - and due to the forceful let down we often endured nursing strikes AND mama made the mistake of introducing artificial nipples too soon (lack of education again!)
So here’s what I did! I met with 2 IBCLC’s. Why two? Well, sadly, the first missed the tongue and lip tie as she didn’t do a physical exam, just said his latch was off and that was that. ☹ The seconds very quickly identified the ties and discussed my oversupply. I went to La Leche League meetings when I could (I worked outside the home full time) and got some great support from fellow breastfeeding moms! I used laid back and side lying breastfeeding positions to aid in slowing the overactive let down and to help my boy get a deeper latch. I did block nursing to help slow production and pumped for relief as needed. That little trick landed me with a plugged milk duct and we went right into fixing that by using a heating pad, massage with an electric toothbrush (you read that right!) and nursing/pumping on all fours. Thankfully I was able to give my excess milk to a few mamas who had the opposite problem: true low supply. So my challenge ended up being a gift for those in need.
Would I do it all over again with the same challenges and still breastfeed? YES, YES, YES! I am a determined mama and I know the value of breastmilk. M. Scott Peck, in The Road Less Traveled, said “Like is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths . . . once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult.” While some mothers have a very smooth transition into breastfeeding I did not, and I now often hear many stories of women who struggled whether it was lack of support, lack of knowledge or a true lack of milk (the rarest of the 3). I learned that dedication was key! If it was important enough, then I would do something about it. I read books, articles, talked to IBCLC’s, experienced breastfeeding mothers, attended support groups such as LLL, found support groups online. I used any resource I could get my hot little hands on . . . and you know what? IT HELPED! When I was feeling defeated I’d turn to one of my many resources for support and I got it in spades!
I’m so grateful I breastfed my son for as long as I did. One drop, one day, one month, or one year – breastmilk is vital for our babies. If you are struggling look for the helpers! Those who want to see you successfully meet your breastfeeding goals! Ignore anyone who tells you to give up and supplement if that is not what you want to do! My recommendation would be to:
- Take a breastfeeding class as taught by an experienced IBCLC while you are pregnant and take goooooooood notes!
- Attend a La Leche League meeting at least once prior to giving birth and again after birth – bring the babe, they love the babes!
- Schedule a consult with an IBCLC after birth for an evaluation. Yes hospitals provide you with a Lactation Consultant but if you aren’t wowed by that one, get another one who’ll do a home visit. My experience has been they are more dedicated to breastfeeding.
- Make friends with other breastfeeding mamas, us mothers need to stick together!
I wish you all the best as you strive to meet your breastfeeding goals! Happy nursing mamas!
What encouraged you when you had a breastfeeding challenge?
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