Today we share one woman's breastfeeding journey in her own words through a recent interview we conducted.
We worked with Jackie in late Spring of last year after her beautiful daughter Isabel was born. Jackie faced breastfeeding challenges like many mothers do and she was so gracious to share her story to normalize those challenges and provide hope for new mothers. Please enjoy and thank you, Jackie!
What preparation, if any, did you do for breastfeeding?
I did my own research while I was pregnant. Majority of the information I found was the different positions you could try and how the infants' lips should look on you. I thought I had a good understanding of it all but I never realized that its actually still a bit tricky.
What initial challenges did you face?
My initial challenge was still while I was in the hospital, Isabel ( my daughter) was latching all over the place. I already started with painful breastfeeding and had the "lipstick" nipple. Her latch was not deep enough and I tried every possible trick the nurses gave me in order to get her to latch deeper. I feel sometimes her latch was good, but most of the time it was bad. It was also difficult to unlatch her to find out if she latched correctly because it upset her and it wasn't guaranteed that I would be able to latch her correctly the next time around. I eventually allowed my daughter to latch the way it worked for her and I bore through the pain. The was only the start of it all.
What was the process like for you seeing a lactation consultant? Would you recommend it?
A little bit after labor I did see an IBCLC at the hospital. She checked for a lip tie or tongue tie and then helped me with positioning. That session pretty much just upset me. I left with no new knowledge and the advice of "It gets better, just bear through it". Might I add this was around the time that the doctor was worried because my daughter had lost too much weight. I went and saw another consultant, she was not board certified but she made me feel confident in her abilities. I am thankful that she pointed me in the right direction of a specialist that deals with lip and tongue tie corrections because my daughter indeed had a lip tie which was causing me to have very damaged nipples and horrendous vasospasms. That is all the insight she provided me, as when it came to breastfeeding I got the same advice as "just bear through it. Keep latching baby onto the breast". At this point, I felt very defeated. I wanted the stories I've heard of mothers loving to breastfeed and that breastfeeding shouldn't be painful but only a tug.
I had also tried pumping at this point and with no success because my vasospasms were so bad (I didn't know they were vasospasms at the time). My significant other was amazing in finding a well-reviewed IBCLC for me in order for me to have my last shot at breastfeeding or pumping at all for my daughter because at this point she was mainly on formula. I hated the thought of having to breastfeed but I was not mentally ready to give it up yet. It was incredibly hard for me to even feed my daughter formula. My significant other had to push me to feed her formula and I remember crying so bad the first time I fed her a bottle. Fed is always best to me but for some reason, it hurt so much that I couldn't provide for my daughter. When I went to Sweet Songs Breastfeeding this was my last shot and thankfully Mary was able to completely give me hope, teach me something new, and enable me to provide for my daughter. I went from almost giving up because of the pain and eventually non- existent supply and being unable to pump to all the sudden in the right path to being able to breastfeed a bit and pump in order to provide for my daughter. I am reaching at almost a year now and I'm ecstatic. It has been a VERY long journey but I was able to do it with Mary's help. So to answer your question, would I recommend and strongly advise someone to see a lactation specialist? Absolutely. The only major advice I would give on that is really look into the person you're taking advice from. Never stop searching and being your own advocate. There is a lactation specialist out there that CAN and WILL help you achieve your goal in some way or another. I wanted to exclusively breastfeed as my main goal originally but that wasn't in the cards for me with working full time and dealing with the pain issues I had. I am so grateful in general that I was able to least breastfeed for a while and exclusively pump for my daughter.
What challenges did you face when you returned to work? How did you keep pumping going?
When it came to pumping at work I believe I dealt with one issue every mom deals with... having the time. It was tough making time out of my busy day to pump, especially since I was still trying to get and keep my supply to where it was. So, that meant I was pumping every 2-4 hours around the clock. I also dealt with having an incredibly cold room to pump in at work as well as having a difficult time relaxing. How I kept on going pumping as much as I did was just by setting more of a routine. I feel its all mainly a learning curve. Eventually, you get smart and learn about different ways you can make your experience pumping better. I would have a jacket with me as well as my phone to distract me. I wouldn't look at the pump or at how much I was pumping until after a while because I knew if I watched it would make me tense. I also found out that I can just rinse my parts and then put it in a ziplock in the fridge in between pumping sessions at work. This allowed me to save some time in between my hectic day.
What was it like to find yourself a year later and meeting your breastfeeding/breastmilk goals?
It's absolutely an amazing feeling to know that I have accomplished so much. Eventually, all I wanted was to be able to provide for my daughter at least two months. Then it became 4 months, then 6 months then to a year and I did it! I went through cracked nipples, lipstick nipples, nipples missing CHUNKS out of them. Terrible vasospasms where I was in almost constant discomfort. Had a child with a lip tie and some weight issues. Mentally dealing with having to feed formula and seeing my child react sometimes negatively towards it. I went to pumping around the clock 2-4 hours and taking milk plus 4 times a day around the clock. I wasn't able to pump for 10 minutes in the beginning and I went to be able to pump to 20 or more minutes. I went from practically no supply to my peak of 34 oz in one day!!! When I look back its been absolutely amazing. I am so happy that I have been able to provide for my daughter and with the support, I've had I'm able to share my knowledge with others that are having a difficult time.
If you could give breastfeeding advice to a working mom or any new mom, what would it be?
My advice to new moms is to be your own advocate. If something doesn't feel right, it's not. Look for that second opinion and never stop searching. Also, note that it's a learning curve for you and your little one. So the best thing you can do is take it one day at a time. Don't make a long-term goal right away, make a small one. Literally take everything hour by hour, minute by minute. In the beginning, everything seems to last forever and you can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. The light is there though! *And* it comes faster than you realize.
Again, a big thank you to Jackie for sharing her story. We wish her all the best with her family. If you are having breastfeeding challenges, how did you overcome them? We want to know!