Share Your Story in the Beauty in Breastfeeding Project
Each Monday, we’re sharing stories of the personal breastfeeding journeys of mothers throughout the State of Utah in cooperation with the Beauty in Breastfeeding Project. Read our earlier article to find out more about this initiative that celebrates breastfeeding mothers. To share your own story, visit www.beautyinbreastfeedingproject.com.
My mother was not able to breastfeed her six children. My eldest sister only nursed one of her children and that was only for a few weeks. The next sister was horrified by the idea of breastfeeding. My third sister had numerous health troubles and only nursed for a few months until the baby was extremely underweight and she finally switched to formula.
I was nervous that I also would fail at breastfeeding my children. My two sisters-in-law both nursed all their children and were very encouraging that I could as well, and that I should. During my pregnancy with my first and only child, I continued to qualify my desire to breastfeed with platitudes of, “but if I can’t, it’s okay.”
My husband was extremely supportive and helpful. We took classes and read books and talked about it through the entire pregnancy. When Elam was born, we were able to get him to latch quickly. I was thrilled. It hurt a lot and the lactation specialists and nurses in the hospital were all very confusing, contradictory, pushy, and quick to suggest supplementing with formula.
Jared, my husband, took meticulous notes of each time the baby nursed, for how long, on which side, what hurt, what positions helped, etc. He continued to get up with me to nurse Elam every single time for the first two weeks of life. He arranged many pillows in crazy positions for me to help me relax, he held my feet down when I was in so much pain from the bad latch, he went way out of his comfort zone and took photos of my blistered, bleeding, and cracked nipples to send to La Leche League volunteers (which were no help at all). He kept encouraging me that I could do this and that this was a wonderful gift for both the baby and me.
We felt so alone in our breastfeeding journey. I had no one to ask for help or information. I didn’t know about the fabulous Facebook groups that I am a part of now. My mother and sisters didn’t know anything about nursing and I was afraid they would feel defensive about their decisions to give formula. I was worried about appearing condescending.
We felt so alone in our breastfeeding journey. I had no one to ask for help or information. I didn’t know about the fabulous Facebook groups that I am a part of now. My mother and sisters didn’t know anything about nursing and I was afraid they would feel defensive about their decisions to give formula. I was worried about appearing condescending. My sisters-in-law were vague and placid in their support.
After months of agony, my nipples finally healed and I was hoping to feel more of the happy glow and hormone rush that was supposed to accompany nursing. But then Elam started having face aversion and would pull away, which was hurtful emotionally and physically for me. I had oversupply and a fast let down which I didn’t figure out for months. I also experienced D-MER, which is a negative rush of emotions during letdown. I thought I was crazy! But slowly, slowly, slowly, things evened out on our breastfeeding journey.
I got medication to alleviate the D-MER. My supply leveled out. Elam began to enjoy nursing more and cuddled while nursing. At 10 months, a friend told me about lip and tongue ties and so I met with an IBCLC. I WISH I HAD KNOWN ABOUT THEM BEFORE! She helped me so much. She recommended me to a dentist to get his ties released, but the dentist said he was old enough that it wasn’t necessary and that Elam had learned to compensate, so why put him through pain?
I loved nursing and I loved being close to my baby. I loved the convenience of nursing wherever I needed to. I loved that it helped calm my baby and slowed him down for a few minutes. I loved that it was something I could do to help him feel loved and peaceful. When he was 15 months, he had a night terror and bit me really hard one night while nursing. I screamed because it hurt which of course scared him. I was bleeding on the nipple and so of course it hurt to nurse on that side for a few days. Finally, he refused to nurse at all. I think the combination of me screaming when he bit me, and well as my tensing up when he would nurse on the injured side, really pushed him away from nursing. That was a very emotional and agonizing few days for me and him. I could tell he wanted to nurse, but every time he got close to the breast, he would pull away. I didn’t realize how much I depended on nursing for comfort and how I had planned on parenting through breastfeeding for many years.
The experience of my very young toddler refusing to nurse and the idea that I possibly wouldn’t continue to nurse him all the way through toddlerhood was horrifying to me. I depended on it. He needed it and wanted it. After a lot of prayers and tears and binge reading about nursing strikes, one night while he was half asleep, he finally latched on again. I could feel his relief immediately. I tried to remain calm, but I was so grateful and happy, I was close to tears.
He is now 16 months and loves nursing. I am so grateful for my husband for his support and encouragement and belief in our nursing our children. I am so grateful for the women on the many Facebook groups that have taught me and helped me. I am grateful for medicine that helps me continue breastfeeding despite a strong hormonal negativity at letdown. I am grateful for my healthy body that can feed, comfort, and nurture my little boy. I now am a strong believer and advocate for parenting through breastfeeding. To many more happy years!