The stories presented here are ones that I have received in response to my blog post Breastfeeding Stories of Hope. If you have a story to share, please leave a comment on the blog post or e-mail me at fleur(at)nurturedchild(dot)ca.
My Breastfeeding Journey
I was surprised breastfeeding was challenging, as I come from a nursing family. In fact, I was shocked when, at 26 years of age, someone told me they were not going to breastfeed their child; I never realised there was an option! In hindsight, this mother probably felt judged by my reaction. I was ignorant to the conflict surrounding infant feeding. Some people have difficulty understanding why I choose this lifestyle that requires mom’s regular proximity to baby, and why I don’t introduce a bottle to share parenting my child with others. Their choice to use alternatives to breastmilk reflects their local culture, and satisfies their familial needs, as does my choice to breastfeed.
The hospital pediatrician advised formula-supplemented feedings because “mothers who have low iron can’t produce enough colostrum”. After a challenging pregnancy, I was devastated my body might not get the chance to finally support my daughter. Instead, I had to work through an oversupply issue, which resolved itself after five months with block feeding. I felt so much hope when, after stopping formula, the hospital lactation consultant weighed my daughter and cheered me on saying, “this (weight gain) is all you!” As my baby gained, I quickly lost my pregnancy weight.
After consulting with a private lactation consultant about the pain, we learned my daughter had a high palate, posterior tongue-tie, and a lip-tie. Thanks to her support, we accessed the help we needed to release the lip and tongue, and I experienced some relief. Slowly, it became enjoyable to nurse and I keep surpassing my goals for length of time nursing.
My husband and I both feel we get more sleep without bottles and he does share the night time parenting. Often, he brings the baby to me when she is hungry, and I almost sleep through the feeding, pop her off, and she is back to her crib. The most peaceful way to calm my girl is to nurse, take deep breaths, and feel her and I relax together. A high energy baby, nursing is the only time we get a chance to really cuddle, and for ten months, it was the only way she could fall asleep. It worked for us. When we travel, changes in routine can be smoothed using this familiar comfort.
My supportive community has taught me not to be embarrassed to use my breasts for their design purpose! At playgroup, many of the moms nurse, and we share challenges and successes. My in-laws bought me a pump to show their encouragement. My mom and husband supported me through the visits to the hospital and with the lactation consultant. Our local swimming pool has “breastfeeding welcome” signs. I have found supportive scientific research from nurtured child and kellymom. I used to say to people, “She won’t take a bottle”. Now I feel like saying, “She won’t take a bottle, and I am okay with this choice”. Nursing has allowed our family to learn and grow together.
….I decided I would quit nursing at 6 weeks if my son was still not nursing from me. I needed something for my sanity, a breaking point. When my son was 6 weeks old I told my husband that I was going to quit nursing tomorrow, and tomorrow would come, and I would tell him the same thing that day. I just could not bring myself to give up! I knew we could make this work! I was just taking it a day at a time, nursing day to day.
I saw the lactation consultant again around 7 weeks. She was asking how I was feeling emotion wise. She knew before she asked that I was not good. I was SO determined to breastfeed, and was having all these problems. I felt like a failure that I could not just latch my son on, and have him thrive with nursing from the breast only. I hated having to pump after every feeding! This was leading to postpartum depression. She sent me to my doctor, who talked to me. She told me what I was feeling was totally normal, but that I needed something to help get my emotions back on track. I agreed, and she wrote me a prescription for an antidepressant.
After that I decided to throw out the shields and make this work! My left nipple was finally no longer inverted and he would nurse on that side. Things slowly started getting better. My son was getting the hang of nursing, and I was feeling better.
At 10 weeks old, I was still pumping, but only for the night time feedings. We did some traveling for Christmas at this time. While out of town, I decided to give up the pumping, and get him to only nurse.
Once back in town, I stepped away from the pump and my son did so well. I think the pump was my crutch. I wanted to make sure he was eating enough, and that is why I still wanted to pump, because I could see how much he was eating.
At 11 weeks, we were finally pump free, pain free and nursing full time! I felt on top of the world. I loved the feeling that I was providing everything that my son needed and we were bonding so well. We had everything under control! He was gaining weight and thriving and I was feeling better!
He was exclusively breastfed until we started solids at 6 months, and nursed until he was 14 months. Thru all the struggles, I am very proud to say that I stuck it out. I had it in my mind that there was no other option than breastfeeding. I am very stubborn in nature, and this worked to my favor when going thru this. I also had an amazing support system in the lactation consultant. She was always there for me when I needed her. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Don’t be like me and be embarrassed to ask about things. I know now that there are things you can do to pull out inverted nipples before the baby is born. The lactation consultant that I saw was free thru the hospital but I would have paid any amount to get my son to nurse! Make sure your partner is supportive of you nursing. At any point, if my husband would have said to give up, I would have. He was always by my side supporting me.
(This is part of the nursing story that Lisa shared with me, and was shortened with her permission. You can read her full story here).
A Nursing Journey
When I learned I was pregnant, I was going to nurse my baby till she walked, that was no question for me, there was no other existing option! My mother didn’t fully agree with me, and she wasn’t very encouraging, but she understood how important breastfeeding is to me. Little did I know I would have such a hard time, especially when I felt everyone and everything were against me… my husband was the pillar that helped me stand up and continue.
About 8 or so years before pregnancy, I had a breast reduction surgery. They were cut pretty much like an anchor, and the doctor promised me to do his best to allow me to breastfeed still… but that didn’t help my case at all. Fast forward to the birth of my first child, I had a cesarean because she was breech, and they all refused to let me deliver vaginally anyway. The epidural wore off early as they were stitching me up, but I refused any pain meds because I wanted to breastfeed my baby as soon as possible. That is all that mattered to me.
The first time on the breast, it was going well, she was awake, and she did it like a champ. Then things turned to the worst. She got very sleepy, she was full of fluids (They didn’t want to remove it all although she was expulsing it non stop for the first 2 days), I had a very hard time to get her to wake up, couldn’t latch properly. On top of it all, all of the nurses and even the lactating consultant kept repeating me that because of my previous surgery, I wouldnt most likely be able to breastfeed at all, and at best, mixed breastfeeding with formula. That is when I understood that I was pretty much on my own for this.
I kept fighting for my beliefs even though she started to lose weight (all babies lose weight…) because hey, my pyjamas were full of milk, I was so soaked in it that my husband started calling me Cleopatra (she took baths of milks). No milk? No milk?! Have you even looked at my chest?! My clothing? For the rest of the time there, I breastfed her, then pumped milk for the next feeding while he gave what I managed to save from the previous feeding. It was very hard to get her to latch, most certainly because of my breast surgery, but I held on. I slept an hour or two in between feedings, wrote all I did on paper as proof. As time passed, I managed to save more and more milk, to the point that the day I left the hospital, I was able to pump 2-3 ounces of milks each feeding, which mades the nurses quite impressed.
I didn’t leave because my baby was finally back on track, but because I was on the verge of a big depression, crying non stop for being watched, continually told that I wouldn’t be able to exclusively breastfeed, and that my baby was nearing the dreaded 10% weight lost. They let me going home in hope that the change of atmosphere would help. It did, but it was slow. It took a full week for her to finally start gaining weight. I did this feeding-pumping-feeding thing for a whole month. Not once did I touch a formula bottle althought they gave me plenty. Feed the baby, pump the milk, feed the baby with pumped milk from previous feeding (when my husband was sleeping) then back to bed. I was burned out, crying from fatigue, and even almost gave up at 2 months old, I told my husband that I was gonna give her this bottle of formula, but he refused: “You’re going to breastfeed the baby, and you can do it. I know you can. I know its hard, but if you give her that bottle now, you’ll regret it later, and she might even refuse it.” That night, I finally got her to fall asleep after a few hours. And that was the best thing ever. To know that I would have his neverending support, no matter how things were bad. That is also when I decided to ask for domperidone myself as I heard it was helping many moms with milk supply. Things went for the better from that moment on. I showed them. As time went on, I pumped less and less, as we got finally better together at breastfeeding, and she took more and more from the breast, and then came the day when she refused the milk I pumped.
Victory!! When I finally stopped pumping for the feedings, she was at least 3-4 months old. By that time I started cosleeping with her as I finally was able to get her to latch while in bed. Huge relief! Today she’s as healthy as ever, turns out she is small because she is made that way but trust me she’s got more energy than a tornado! I breastfed her for a total of 13 months, not till she walked but I’m happy nontheless, I managed to do it for a full year. The accomplishment is huge, I’m so happy! Now, I am breastfeeding little brother, with domperidone and some herbal supplements to help with milk supply (barely having any time to pump) and I’m having plenty. We’re still going strong at almost 10 months.
And I have no intentions to stop now.