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my breastfeeding story

In honor of National Breastfeeding Month I'm sharing my own breastfeeding story. I'm mother to 3 kids and each one has been a totally different feeding experience.

With my first I never gave a thought to how I would feed her. I planned to breastfeed but didn't really research it or do any advance planning. Despite an epidural delivery, Olivia latched on just fine. They gave me demerol right after she was born while they stitched up my episiotomy so my memory of the first few hours is a little foggy but I believe she was with me from right after birth until several hours later. I did send her to the nursery that night so I could sleep and I don't know if she was supplemented with formula at that time or not. Back then I wouldn't have known to ask them not too. But once she came back to my room the next morning she stayed with me and didn't go back to the nursery. We left the hospital exclusively breastfeeding but were never visited by a lactation counselor nor given any referals for breastfeeding support should issues come up. We were given the ubiquitous bag however.

The first few days were actually pretty easy. But it didn't take long for my daughter's poor latch to begin damaging my nipples. It's been so long ago, over 10 years, that I can't look back and diagnose her latch problems, but I wish someone back then had just asked how breastfeeding was going. Her pediatrician or someone at the wic office, or anybody. I wish the hospital, pediatrician or wic office had at least offered a handout with some basic breastfeeding support and information. By 6 weeks I was in so much pain with each feeding that I dreaded her cries for milk. Both nipples were cracked and blistered. I hate telling this part of my breastfeeding story because knowing what I now know I feel like I shouldn't have given up so soon. I always qualify my story with examples of the stress I was under. (To be fair, I was under extreme stress dealing with my child's father, an abusive alcoholic, and dealing with health issues related to my ulcerative colitis)

During her sixth week of life I started giving her formula from the bag we took home from the hospital for some feedings. Just so I wouldn't hurt. Just to give my nipples some rest. I had no idea I was sabatoging my breastfeeding relationship. I had no idea something like a lactation consultant even existed much less where to find one. I didn't know there was good latch vs. bad latch. I didn't know how easy a bad latch can be to fix. I didn't even know I could get relief just by changing the way I held her for her feeds. I didn't know how much better it gets once mama and baby learn to breastfeed comfortably.

And the one thing I wish I had know more than any other That NO ONE EVER MENTIONED was the utter infiriority of formula compared to breastmilk. If I had known the full extent of the detriment of formula feeding I might have stuck it out.

We left her father when she was three months old. Once I got my health issues under control my stress levels went way down. That would have been a great time to try relactation but once again no one ever mentioned it.

My next child was born six years later and his breastfeeding story is so different. While pregnant with Kellen I took a childbirth class from a former La Leche League leader who used to be a certified Bradley instructor. I switched to midwifery care around 28 weeks. I also did a whole lot more during my second pregnancy. I even read a few breastfeeding books beforehand. Additionally I had actually seen other mothers breastfeeding a few times. My sister breastfed her son. I saw a cousin breastfeed her daughter a few times. And perhaps most important I knew where to go for help if I got stuck.

I chose to birth Kellen without an epidural or other pain medications so neither of us was groggy during "the golden hour". We delayed giving eye drops and bathing the baby. We used a different hospital for the birth and they sent a lactation counselor to see us twice before discharge. The hospital didn't give us bag packed with formula samples. Once again we went home exclusively breastfeeding.

With my son the atmosphere at home was so much better. His daddy was so supportive of my breastfeeding. My childbirth instructor had coached my fiance on some practical ways to help me succeed. He was always ready with a snack and a glass of water and did at least twice as many diaper changes as I did. When I developed sore, cracked nipples, I knew where to go for help. I saw a local lactation consultant, attended a breastfeeding support meeting, and searched online for support and information. ( I spent a lot of time on, kind of woo but a great source of support and info )

I was able to breastfeed my son for 2 and 1/2 years.

Later when I had the opportunity I took a course to become a certified lactation counselor myself. So by the time I had my 3rd child I felt well prepared to nurse her.

She too, took to nursing right away. We didn't take but a few days to learn to breastfeed together. I did have a few really painful days with her but by the time she came along I had enough techniques under my belt to launch a full fledged attack on the pain and the root cause. What helped me most with her was rotating her round the breast from each feeding to the next and applying breastmilk to the nipples.

She's a year old now and still nursing. I don't know how long it will last. I'm working full time and I've weaned from the pump. (although in place of pumping I come home from work for some breaks) She's actually lost weight so her pediatrician reccomended pushing more solids. Weaning is a process, not a day so we could conceivable continue to nurse for another year or two. I would love that but she's never been the boob-a-holic my son was so who knows.

If you've read this far I hope it has been an informational, supportive and encouraging post. If you have any questions or comments please let me know. I'll answer anything I can and help you find the answer to anything I can't.


Holy (UN)COW its the last day of World Breastfeeding Week

As World Breastfeeding Week draws to a close I'm just sharing some of my favorite posts from the week. The theme this year is Just Ten Steps.

Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding

1. Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to
all healthcare staff

2. Train all healthcare staff in the skills necessary to implement this

3. Inform all pregnat women about the benefits and management of

4. Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within 1 hour of birth

5. Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation even if
they are separated from their infants

6. Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breastmilk unless
medically indicated

7. Practice "rooming in"- allow mothers and infants to remain together 24
hrs a day

8. Encourage breastfeeding on demand

9. Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants

10. Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer
mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic

Here Teresadoula vows to include everyone. Breastfeeding rates are calculated by several organizations and in several ways but I have to agree with Teresa: the more women we include as "breastfeeding mothers", the more women who have a vested interest in improving breastfeeding protection and support.

Anne at Doula-la-la has a really nice round up that brought Why I won't ask you why you aren't breastfeeding from Phdinparenting to my attention. An older post from the same blog, Does breastfeeding hurt? one of my favorite brestfeeding posts ever, reflects on the common quote "It's not supposed to hurt."

And Dani over at Informed Parenting has several great posts up including a repost of the 1st few paragraphs of From Bottle to Drive-thru, a commentary on the impact of food marketing. Dani got some great comments and conversation on her repost.

Katie Granju posts here about being unable to breastfeed and the emotional fallout that can have on a self identified lactivist. That post was even discussed in the New York Times. The comments range from people who are angry at lactivists creating an atmosphere of guilt and blame when breastfeeding doesn't go as planned to people offering advice of things to try to simple support and sympathy.

The comments on these types of high profile breastfeeding stories offer a really good look at the culture mothers face when making the crucial infant feeding decision. I really think we lactivists, lactation professionals, and anyone involved in infant/maternal care should make it a point to read the comment sections in these kinds of posts more often. I know my eyes tend to sort of glaze over by page 2 most of the time because I know exactly what I'm going to read. But to occasionally step back and read it again with fresh eyes, might give a better apprectiation of what mothers are already subjected to and give us some insight into how best to advocate for breastfeeding without alientating women who either haven't decided yet or can't or won't breastfeed.

And heres another wrap up from Elita over at Blacktating writing for Best for Babes. Among other topics, Elita touched on the controversy surrounding comments made by model Gisele regarding breastfeeding and the law and points out some laws we could all get behind.

Annie Newman over at Reproductive Health Reality Check expands on that theme and ties it to the WBW theme for this year by examining how society can be "Baby Friendly" outside the bounds of hospital walls. My favorite link from her piece is this article which discusses breastfeeding in the context of women's rights.

"2. Why is breastfeeding considered a woman’s right?

Breastfeeding is an area where one might perceive
a potential for conflict between the woman’s and
the child’s rights [46]. As confirmed by the
Convention on the Rights of the Child, children
have a right to the best start in life with the best
chance for health [47], as well as for intelligence,
proper growth, protection against immediate and
chronic diseases, etc. But why is this is also a
woman’s right? In countries throughout the world,
women’s autonomy frequently has been limited in
the name of ensuring children’s well-being, subordinating
women’s rights to children’s rights. However,
by framing the issue as a woman’s right to
choose and succeed with breastfeeding makes it a
responsibility for the family, society and workplace
to recognize and support this right. In addition,
clear biological considerations indicate that, indeed,
the right to breastfeed is a woman’s right for
her own health. Thus, women who breastfeed have
improved postpartum recovery, less iron loss,
delayed fertility return, lowered incidence of
breast, ovarian and uterine cancers, and apparently
better bone status in older age. Two international
conventions, the Convention on the Rights of the
Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All
Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
[48] support this right for both the child and
mother. Both Conventions place substantial obligations
on the state to enable accommodation of
childbearing and childrearing roles, among other

Here is a post from Marie Clements an RN and IBCLC at Concientious Breastfeeding Connections. She criticizes what she sees as too many hospitals reliance on pumping as a first line of breastfeeding support.

There is a lot of great coverage out but I'm going to wrap up my wrap up with the Surgeon General's Statement