What does breastfeeding mean to you?
Before I had Lola it was simply how I was intended to feed my baby. I thought nothing could be more natural and I assumed that because of that, it would be simple and intuitive. After encountering every single obstacle you could possibly imagine and finding the brightest light at the end of a very dark and very long tunnel, breastfeeding has become so much more. I feel like it has completely defined my womanhood and allowed me to embrace motherhood to the fullest. It has softened my personality, made me a better parent to my older daughter, and a more loving partner to their dad. I also feel that its power has stretched beyond our home and into the community at large. I have been fortunate enough to donate hundreds of ounces of milk to other mamas in need for their babies and I feel that my willingness to breastfeed publicly is helping break down the barriers that surround the purest and most natural of acts so that my girls can feed their babies without shame or fear of ridicule. Simply put, breastfeeding, right now, is the most important and empowering part of my day, every day.
What has been your biggest breastfeeding challenge?
I think the better question would be: what hasn't been my biggest breastfeeding challenge? I expected breastfeeding to be the easiest and most natural thing I would ever do. I had the perfect home birth and was fortunate enough to do immediate and prolonged skin to skin, delayed cord burning, baby-led latch, basically everything associated with a great start to breastfeeding and it just didn't happen. Lola did not latch on at all the first night. My midwife assured me that she had more than enough to get her through to the next morning when she'd be back to check on us. Still no latch. By the 24 hour mark I was frantic and my baby was hysterical with hunger. I was fortunate enough to have a doula, midwife, and LLL leader come to my aid. Things got very scary and I was on the verge of sending Jorge to the store for formula. That's when my wonderful co-worker loaned me her breast pump and I was able to pump colostrum to feed my baby with a dropper. I had never pumped before and boy did I work hard at it. I was getting nearly three ounces of colostrum from each breast by the next day! Great, right? Wrong. Because when my milk came in it sure came in! I was soaking dozens of receiving blankets every single day - milk was literally pouring out of me. Lola and I continued to work on her latch and because of my oversupply she was drowning in milk - choking, frantic, crying and I felt like a melted ice cream cone - a sticky mess! By the end of our first week she was finally latching and things were going great. Or so I thought. Nursing her on my right side was extremely painful - it had always been. Everyone thought it was because that nipple was a little more flat and I just needed to give it time. Then, it split wide open. I have never in my life experienced such blinding pain. I spent the next several days crying and literally shaking when it was time to feed her on that side. It was terrible. We finally took Lola to see an ear nose and throat specialist who diagnosed a severe upper lip tie. Letting that doctor cut my baby was the single hardest decision I have had to make as her mother thus far but we decided to go through with the procedure and about one week later there was no pain. We continued to struggle with oversupply and undersupply for the next couple of months and things really started to level out at the four month mark. I am so glad I hung in there because at this point I feel like I could breastfeed her upside down hanging from a tree by my toes if I needed to. But believe me, there were days when I couldn't have imagined making it this far. And of course, there are always more struggles to be had. Lola got her first two teeth at only four months and oh how those have been fun! However, my biggest struggle right now is pumping. It is something I dread doing. Fortunately I am able to pump five ounces every time I pump and so I have considerably decreased the number of pumps I am having to do per day while at work and don't pump hardly at all when I'm at home now.
Who (or what) has offered you the most support?
I have been fortunate to have an amazing support group that cheers me on. It started with my midwife who was so patient and so resourceful. Angela Hand, a local LLL leader is the reason I didn't give up. She came to my home and helped me with positioning, was the first to recognize the upper lip tie, and offered countless kind gestures and plentiful encouragement. My mom has been my biggest supporter since, hands down. She did not breastfeed my sister or I but has become the biggest breastfeeding advocate I know. She endured the mood swings and temporary depression that came on strong in the first few weeks because of the struggles I had with breastfeeding. Not only does she tolerate how finicky I am but she has become just as picky as me about the storage and handling of my milk and pump supplies. I was actually laughing the other day because I told her I wasn't going to pump on the weekends anymore and she would have to use frozen milk on Mondays and she proceeded to tell me about how it wasn't as good as the fresh stuff and expressed a real concern about that decision. SHE IS AWESOME!! She has Lola during the week while I'm at work and does an amazing job of pace feeding and comforting a baby who refuses a pacifier and has never once over-fed her or made me worry about not having enough milk. She may not have breastfed us, but I know for a fact that the patience and kindness I have that has allowed me to be successful at breastfeeding came directly from her. Lola's dad is another huge support. He went from being a very reluctant observer when I was pregnant and decided on a home birth, to a full-blown "crunchy" dad. I was finally able to begin openly breastfeeding in public after he told me that he absolutely supported me 100% and would deal with anyone who had a problem with it. I have two very wonderful friends, Doni and Chelsea, who are both breastfeeding babies who are well over a year old who have offered me tons of insight and support throughout my journey. And of course, I cannot forget, all of the other moms on the natural parenting, LLL, natural birth, and other pages online who have offered help to a total stranger. I also need to thank Monet for her efforts to normalize breastfeeding.
Any advice for other mothers who want to breastfeed?
I'm not one to give unsolicited advice but the one thing I will say is, KEEP TRYING. Even in your darkest moments, remember, this too shall pass. And always expect that whatever hurdle you've overcome will not be the last. Breastfeeding your baby will take work and it will cause you to feel the lowest lows and the highest highs of your life. But in the end, whether you've made it one day, one month, one year, or more, you've done exactly what you were supposed to do for your baby and you are a wonderful woman and mother.