Name and age of your nursling?
Elliott Lynn Pace, 11 months (Oct 28, 2013)
What does breastfeeding mean to you?
Initially, before Elliott arrived, my plan was to breastfeed exclusively for 12 months. I planned to pump, give her pacifiers and bottles, put her in a crib, feed her pureed baby food, sleep train her, use a hooter hider, etc, etc. These were all the things I’d seen my friends and family do for their babies. They loved their children unconditionally and so would I. Back story: When I was pregnant, I hated it. I swore I would never have another child. I didn’t glow, and I didn’t flaunt my growing body and child. I felt zero connection. I remember trying to cry during our first ultrasound at 8 weeks, because that’s what you’re supposed to do – but I didn’t really feel anything. (This also happened when Josh proposed to me). I had these grand ideas of what it would be like to get married, take a positive pregnancy test, see the ultrasounds, have a hospital birth…none of it really occurred the way it had always played out in my mind. Early on, Josh and I decided to have a natural birth at Mountain Midwifery Center. It was an easy decision for us, and the one thing I was really excited about. I would “educate” anyone who would listen. Part of that process included taking a few classes for first time parents, including Breastfeeding. It completely changed my world. Turns out I knew nothing about breastfeeding, reading baby’s cues, kangaroo care, nursing on demand. My mom didn’t nurse me (due to lack of support) and I had never really been around another nursing mom, so I was pretty oblivious to the process. But that class, that class was the best thing that had ever happened to me and my baby. Suddenly, breastfeeding became the most important thing I could do for my baby. I practiced hand expressing my colostrum for the early hours/days, wrote out our birth plan to include the baby crawl, uninterrupted skin to skin, no pacifiers, bottles or formula. I was going to rock at breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding has evolved so much over the past 11 months, and I imagine it will continue to evolve. I don’t use pacifiers, never pumped, never gave a bottle, proudly nurse in public and have no plans to wean Elliott. The evolution of my decision to breastfeed is as follows: 1. Breastmilk is free. 2. It is nutritionally superior to formula. 3. Breastmilk protects and strengthens my baby’s immune system 4. Breastfeeding reduces mom and baby’s risks of various illnesses (diabetes, cancer, obesity, etc.) 5. Ability to bond with my baby 6 Ability to comfort my baby. I feel like the more I educated myself on breastfeeding and the more I practiced it, I did it less for superficial reasons and more because it just felt right, I couldn’t imagine feeding my baby any other way. Today, I’m a huge advocate for breastfeeding and enjoy talking with other moms, professionals and organizations on ways we can encourage all mom’s to exclusively breastfeed (when able) for the first year of life.
What has been your biggest breastfeeding challenge?
Physically, breastfeeding wasn’t too big of a challenge for us. Of course, we had challenges in the first few months, but nothing I couldn’t push through. Whenever I went to breastfeeding support group, (which was a lot!) I always felt so fortunate that I didn’t have to worry about my supply, pumping, nipple confusion, mastitis, clogged ducts…those moms are true rock stars. They hit every bump in the road and keep persevering. Our physical struggles included tongue and lip tie and nipple trauma that took 3 months to heal. The tongue tie was corrected at 14 days, but grew back. Because I had never nursed a baby before, I thought our 45 minute nursing sessions every hour at 5 months was normal. It wasn’t until I befriended another mom with a similar aged daughter that I realized I had to feed Elliott at least 2-3 times more than she was feeding her younger baby. We had the tongue and lip tie corrected with a laser around 5 months and Elliott became a very efficient eater.
Breastfeeding did take an emotional toll on me, and still does sometimes. By the time we attempted a bottle around 7 weeks, Elliott refused. We tried for a few weeks and probably purchased every bottle out there, but she had a preference, and that was me! I loved that she only wanted me, and still do. I was made to think she was broken or strong headed. I had never heard of baby refusing a bottle. I thought it was so hard, but I imagine pumping to fill that bottle would be harder. In the early months when I was dead tired, struggling with depression and lashing out that I just needed a break my family would say “if you had only given her a bottle sooner….” To them, it seemed that was the only way they could help, that was the answer. I heard, “well you’re the only one that can feed her” “you made this decision” “this is what you wanted”….luckily those days are behind us, and the good news is we all made it! So I don’t feel it’s constructive to dwell on that bump in the road for us. The long and the short of it is, Elliott had to nurse every 2-3 hours and only I could do that. Did it suck sometime, yes! Did I want a break, yes! Did I want to go away for 5 hours, yes! And before I knew it, she was eating solid foods!
Because my husband wanted to help “feed the baby”, I’ve asked him to contribute about the biggest emotional challenge breastfeeding has had on him: “I think when you look at all the benefits of breastfeeding, it was an easy choice for both of us. 11 months later, I have seen the results and I can tell you our decision has given us a happy healthy daughter. One thing I regret about Elliott’s first year is giving up on getting her to take a bottle. The consequence of this was that Jenn couldn’t be away from Elliott for an extended period of time. This made Jenn Elliott’s sole source of nourishment which fairly burdened her with the line share of taking care of Elliott. At the same time, it isolated me from bonding with our baby.” - Josh
What do you love most about breastfeeding?
If you are still reading this, thank you! I decided not to talk about ALL the things I love about breastfeeding, because there are so many, and just focus on the one thing that occurred to me recently. I love how confident I am in my ability to breastfeed my daughter. I am confident when I nurse in public. I am confident when I tell people I will let her self- wean. I am confident when I have to nurse her to sleep for naps and bedtime. I am confident when I feed her mama’s milk. I am confident when I comfort her when she’s sick or hurt. I am confident in my body to provide everything my daughter needs. I am not a confident person. I’m not confident in my appearance, in my ability to speak to others or to make new friends, but I am a confident in my ability to breastfeed!
Who (or what) has offered you support in your journey?
First, my husband has been a great support. Even though he wanted to help “feed the baby,” he has never pushed me to consider any other option for feeding Elliott. My mom and I went to every single breastfeeding support group for the first 10 weeks. Together we learned all about how to nurse Elliott and what to expect in the future (because breastfeeding is different at 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months and now 11 months!). I thank her for her support and encouragement during those early days. In support group, I befriended two women and we have remained close during our own breastfeeding journeys. Today, my best friend has a two week old daughter who she is exclusively nursing and now I can offer her the support I once received. I enjoy the community that breastfeeding moms have built and hope it can only grow bigger and stronger!
Any other advice for moms who want to breastfeed?
Surround yourself with likeminded people. That may mean finding new friends that are on the same journey as you or telling dear family and friends to back off. For me, support groups, both meet ups and online, offered a wealth of fascinating information. Information that I could then share with my husband, family and friends. Information that made me the confident breastfeeder I am today! I encourage everyone to watch these three documentaries: the Business of Being Born, Breastmilk, the Milky Way