Tell me about your family and your breastfeeding time.
We are a family of four and we have two sons. Our older son is 4 years old now and his name is Theodore. I breastfed him for almost three years until I got pregnant with my second son, Elliot, who is 6 months old now. Our breastfeeding time with my first son was about 15-30 minutes, 8 to 10 times in a 24 hour period. I breastfed him whenever he was hungry. By the time I got pregnant with Elliot, I only nursed Theodore before his nap and at bedtime. I wondered how I could tell him that I couldn’t breastfeed him anymore and how he would behave after that. So, I just told him that my milk was all gone. And suddenly, he was just old enough to understand that. Instead of breastfeeding we are doing different things. We’re singing, and cuddling before his nap and bedtime. He transitioned very well and he hasn’t seemed upset about it at all.
With Theodore, in the beginning of breastfeeding, I had a lot of difficulties. I had breast surgery before, and the doctor wasn’t sure if I would be able to breastfeed or not, and if I did breastfeed, how much milk I would be able to produce. I had a lot of issues at the very beginning and it is a long and complicated story, but it, basically, came down to a problem with the way he latched. We saw a couple of lactation consultants. Theodore had a very difficult time gaining weight at the very beginning and I did a little bit of supplementing when using nipple shields. I used a SNS, a supplemental nursing system device, which is a feeding tube attached to a bottle that contains either formula or breast milk for supplementary feeding at the breast. This allowed me to breastfeed Theodore, even though he was being supplemented. I produced a lot of milk when I was home. But I went back to work when Theodore was 3 months old. I produced enough to feed him when I was breastfeeding him but I couldn’t pump enough milk. So I ended up supplementing him with formula.
This time, with my second baby, Elliot, I am producing a lot of milk and the doctor even thinks that I produce too much milk, because he just drinks a lot and gets full really quickly but is not gaining a lot of weight. This is really weird to think about. On one hand, I’m making a lot of milk and Elliot is nursing well. But, on the other hand, he is not gaining a lot of weight because he is drinking a lot of lower calories. My breast milk is watery milk at first because that is the way the breast milk is. The higher calorie breast milk is produced at the end of the feeding. There is a technical term for this. Basically at the beginning of a breastfeeding session a mother gets watery milk to hydrate the baby and it comes quickly and there is a lot of it. Then, at the end of the feeding, the baby has to work hard to finally get high fat milk. So, he gets full very quickly with that first watery dosage of milk and he often doesn’t continue to nurse long enough to get that high fat milk.
What does breastfeeding mean to you?
Breastfeeding is the way that I able to show my baby that I love him. I just feel connected to the baby. While he is nursing, I can look at him, I can tell how happy he is and it makes me feel more bonded to him. It makes me feel like I can take care of him, nursing him, providing him everything that he needs with me, myself, and with my body. It makes me feel good! I am a woman and that is what my breasts are for. It’s part of being a mother. And it was really difficult for me when I did have to supplement with formula and I did come to realize that it’s okay to supplement. It’s okay to use formula. Formula doesn’t make me any less of a mother, but I still feel better when I nurse him. I like to be his comfort. I like when he is upset and I can just nurse him, and he’ll feel better.
What has been your biggest breastfeeding challenge?
This time around, it can be difficult for me with having a second child, because my oldest son wants more attention from me. He is almost 4 years old. I don’t have a problem with breastfeeding. Eliot nurses pretty well, but I’m just trying to balance breastfeeding with having another child and paying attention to him too. When I did, I involved him in our breastfeeding time – a lot of time he sits with me and we read stories while I am breastfeeding.
I think, sometimes he feels that he is left out, because at breastfeeding time, for sure, I am concentrating more on the baby. It’s probably the hardest thing to having a second child and guiding him and helping him adjust into the routine with everything else.
What do you love most about breastfeeding?
My favorite moments when I breastfeed him are when he holds my hand. It’s just the cutest thing! Or when he looks at me, especially when he stops and looks at me and smiles at me with a big toothless, priceless smile and you can just see how happy he is and how much he loves me. He doesn’t do it for anybody else. He just does it for me. It’s my special little moment with him.
Who has offered you support in your journey?
With my first son, with all the difficulties I had my midwives were very helpful. Also, I was living on the west coast. My sister, who lives here in Milwaukee, flew out there. She was there with me the first week of Theodore’s life. She was very helpful during that time. It was very hard emotionally. So she was there for me, more emotionally, than physically.
My husband, of course, helped with both sons. He always had been very supportive of me. He never said I can’t do this or maybe we just switch to formula, because he knew that breastfeeding was and is still very important to me.
He was kind of my cheerleader!
I pumped a lot the first few weeks after Theodore was born. My husband wrote notes to me about that a great job I was doing and that I am the best mom ever and he put them on the kitchen cabinet. I remember so clearly. In the middle of the night, when I was so tired, and I had to get up and feed the baby and pump, and I was so exhausted, those notes on the kitchen cabinet from my husband, were a quite helpful and supportive. Knowing that he thought I did a good job, made a big difference and made me feel better and kind of brightened my spirit in the middle of the night. This time, with my second baby, I didn’t need a lot of help.
Although, I did have a lactation consultant who helped me a little bit with latching problems at the beginning.
Actually, my son, my 4 year old Theodore, supported me at the beginning, when Elliot was born. Every time I nursed Elliot I had water next to me and if it was empty, he always grabbed my water bottle and took it to my husband and asked him for a refill.
Any advice for moms who want to breastfeed?
I have advice for mom and dad.
For mom, in the beginning, it can hurt, and that can be normal. And it takes some adjustments for your body. I recommended if you have pain issues, especially if you have them in the hospital; try to ask for help from a lactation consultant. Try to get as much help as you can, because the very beginning is a very important time to establish your milk and have a baby to latching properly, so your body is getting the right input to make your milk. Ask for help. Don’t try to do on your own. Call La Leche League. They have people who can talk to you over the phone. Sometimes even they come to your house and try to help you, because sometimes it’s very simple to change the way you are nursing and following their advice may reduce all your pain.
My advice for your spouse is this. Your husband can get your water, your food to eat while you nursing and everything you need while you’re breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is basically a full time job. So, having your partner do things around the house that you normally do or having him take care of the other children, like you normally do, is very helpful.
If you have a problem with the breastfeeding, try skin-to-skin, lay more in your bed. Take it easy on yourself, right after you had a baby you shouldn’t have to do a whole bunch of stuff, just take time to recover and concentrate on breastfeeding. Also, for all brand new moms, be aware that Day 3 to Day 5 after birth, when a lot of your hormones unexpectedly drop, it’s usually a very emotional time for us. It happens for all moms whether they breastfeed or not, and it’s ok and you’ll get through it. You can get weepy and cry for no reason. You have so many thoughts going in your head, so many thoughts of doubt. It’s ok to cry and it’s ok to feel like that. It’ll pass and your hormones will level out and you’ll be ok and you are not alone. There are a lot of other moms probably crying at the same time as you are crying, somewhere in the world.
I think that women, especially those who want to breastfeed, should know that it’s ok if it doesn’t happen. It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad mom. Sometimes, I feel like women feel a lot of pressure to do this because the medical society says it’s the best thing to do. But, if it doesn’t work out for you, or if you have to supplement your breast milk with formula, it doesn’t mean you are a bad mother. You’re taking care of your child one way or the other. You learn with children, that sometimes you have to do things to just take care of them and its ok if it’s not what you have originally planned to do.
Do any of your sons use a pacifier?
My first son never used a pacifier. But my second son really likes to have something in his mouth. He usually had his fingers in his mouth and that is really a distraction to him, especially when he tries to sleep. We just use the pacifier to calm him down for sleeping time. I didn’t really want to use a pacifier with both my boys. I think that, if a baby is fussy and you put a pacifier in his mouth, when he/she is actually just wants to eat, than you kind of mess up your milk supply because you’re not feeding a baby and your body’s producing less milk at that time. So, if your baby is crying and fussy, maybe he needs to nurse more that day. So be it! The reason he wants to eat more is because he wants your body to make more milk, and if you just put a pacifier in his mouth, then your body is not going to make more milk.
Why do you think nature designed breastfeeding?
I don’t know. Animals have to feed their babies somehow. Maybe it’s because humans are meant to move around and it’s kind of food-on-the-go. Other mammals move around and they don’t just have the food supplies necessarily right there to feed their babies. Our babies are meant to be with us during the first couple years of their lives, so we have to have a food supply that is available all time. It’s the best answer I can think of right now.