Hello! I'm Marie from In Our Happy Place. I am always happy to share what I've learned about breastfeeding, especially if it encourages or helps another mother. The first thing you should know about my breastfeeding journeys is that they were successful because of frequent and prolonged support. The next thing you should know is that if I can be successful, I have confidence that almost anyone can be. I know that there are circumstances that make breastfeeding impossible, but I do believe after what I experienced that many women simply aren't supported enough and don't know about the challenges other women face. The right support is vital for those of us who have obstacles to overcome. Many times I hear other women say that they stopped breastfeeding almost immediately because of some of the same things I went through. I feel that the help I had made the difference.
I never really thought I would get pregnant. There were reasons, and I tried to accept them as the way things were. When I did get pregnant even my doctor was surprised. After years of burying my head in the sand about what pregnancy would be like I had to educate myself rather quickly. I read a little about breastfeeding. I would do it, I announced. My sister who had two children tried to prepare me. I don't think I listened. It would just work. It had to. Well, it didn't at first.
My first son was born via c-section and had a slight tongue tie. My milk was slow to come in and he was ravenous. We supplemented. I pumped. I tried the supplemental system involving tubes, formula and tape on my breasts. I cried throughout all of it and felt inadequate as a mother. My husband had to support me through the breakdowns and encourage me not to feel so badly about myself for my perceived failures. Finally my milk did come in, but my son had a poor latch and my supply did not match his needs. He lost weight. We talked to the pediatrician and the lactation consultants. I am very grateful for my c-section for one reason, extra time in the hospital with those professionals who were there to encourage me, educate me, and advocate for breastfeeding. I eventually had to wear a nipple shield to nurse my son. While some consultants discourage these because they may inhibit production, my son liked the extension the guard provided and starting nursing like a champ. I LOVED my shields and had several backups just in case. We had to supplement with formula for a few weeks to encourage his weight gain, but only once or twice a day. As he got bigger we eventually removed the guard and did not clip his tongue tie, he grew out of it. He nursed exclusively.
Aengus, 14 months
After maternity leave I changed jobs to have a daycare in the building. I hated the new job but loved that I could nurse him at my lunch and one break a day. I was still nursing him in the picture above, and then, surprisingly I was pregnant again. I decided to wean as he was ready and healthy, but I was sad at the end of that time in our lives together. We nursed for 17 months.
Aengus and his brother bump
Breastfeeding round two? This would be easier. I was sure. It wasn't. My second baby came early (they told me he wouldn't). In fact, he was a "late-term preemie" and he was subjected to testing and prodding and I was terrified. He was too small to nurse well, it exhausted him. But again, I had fabulous support and I pumped and pumped. My sister helped me when I was engorged and in pain, and kept me pumping. I eventually pumped every few hours even around the clock. He was too small to sleep longer than three hours without a meal so I fed and pumped all day and some of the night. And then- he was bigger and he would nurse! It wasn't until he was over a month old that we exclusively nursed, but since he was two days old he's been able to have mother's milk.
Benny, four months
We are going strong at 19 months. Not everyone understands my desire for my children to have extended breastfeeding opportunities, but part of it is the simple joy I have at being able to do this for them successfully after all of our challenges. I love what breastfeeding has done for us as a family and hope that I can be a source of encouragement to other mothers. Because I pumped and tried to build a stockpile even with our initial setbacks I was able to donate almost 200 ounces of milk to the Mother's Milk Bank for preemies in need. That was extremely rewarding and I only wish I had been able to give more.
Benny, 9 months
Things I have learned along the way:
- Ask for help. Talk to lactation consultants. Talk to pediatricians. Find those who support breastfeeding and you!
- Get a good pump. The ones from the hospital are best.
Look into donation, you may think you won't have enough but a little extra pump time goes a long way.
- Listen to experts, not well meaning friends and family who aren't experts, just opinionated. There are lactation specialists you can reach by phone, some visit your home and are covered by insurance, and La Leche Leagues are everywhere! Read good books!
- Believe in yourself and breastfeeding, but know that in the end you will make the decision based on what is best for your child, even if it goes against what you wanted for yourself at first. I would have preferred not to supplement, not to have a c-section…but whatever made them here, healthy and safe was the right thing for us.
Benny, 19 months