Thursday, August 1, 2013

Stubbornness and Support: My Breastfeeding Journey

World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival - and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center

Welcome to the World Breastfeeding 2013 Blog Carnival cohosted by and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center!

This post was written for inclusion in the WBW 2013 Blog Carnival. Our participants will be writing and sharing their stories about community support and normalizing breastfeeding all week long. Find more participating sites in the list at the bottom of this post or at the main carnival page.


Today kicks off World Breastfeeding Week and to celebrate, and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center are hosting a blog carnival! This year's theme is Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers, so the posts this week will be revolving around that theme.

My breastfeeding journey really began even before I had Munchkin! My mom breastfed both my sister and I, my sister breastfed both of her kids (and she was a teacher!! I never realized what a pumping commitment that was until I had my own kiddos, so super yay for her!!), and I just expected I'd breastfeed my own kids. Formula wasn't an option to me unless my boobs didn't work. As in no milk production. Honestly, I really think this is where my success began. I expected to breastfeed. I didn't expect to "try", I just expected to do it.
Fast forward to my pregnancy with Munchkin. I started doing my own research on breastfeeding, reading my copy of "What to Expect When You're Expecting" like a good first time mama, scouring the internet--I really didn't have much else to do, my hours at work had been cut to just about nil, Mark was deployed in Afghanistan, and I didn't "go out" really--looking for anything I could read. I'm glad that I was self-prepared, because I don't really recall my doctors ever asking me how I was planning on feeding Munchkin until I was in the delivery room with her and the L&D nurse had to put it into the computer. Please remember that all of my medical care was provided at a military hospital, so from my understanding, it is incredibly different than a private or even public hospital.
My hospital didn't offer a birth class and I had to go into L&D on my own to "tour" and find out what I needed to do on D-Day, so I paid for a birth class at the hospital in town. Boy, am I glad I did!! The lady that taught that class was amazing. She came from a family of lactation consultants and I believe was working on her own training. She really helped me out since I was there by myself...kinda awkward in the whole group of couples, but hey, when my hubby's half way around the world fighting a war, it's what happens. She became my go-to info source.
When Munchkin was born, I wanted to nurse her right away, but hadn't the slightest idea of how to actually accomplish that. So one of my L&D nurses came in and groped my breast, held it at an awkward angle, put Munchkin in one hand and attempted to latch her. She scolded me if I tried to hold Munchkin any other way than what she had initially shown me and was generally unhelpful. Poor Munchkin's head was smaller than my boob, so it was interesting trying to position everything. I had Mark go home and bring my boppy pillow to the hospital, which helped a bit. I kept asking for a lactation consultant and was sent nurses that were "lactation counselors" (hindsight...they were just the nurses in the unit) that were completely unhelpful. It HURT. Badly. I was bleeding and was awful. They kept telling me the same thing over and over, I UNDERSTOOD the information, but I couldn't get it in practice. She had a shallow latch that was not very effective. Still I pushed through. I'm incredibly stubborn when I want to be, and this was a case of wanting to be.
We were released from the hospital on a Sunday morning (she was born on a Friday morning),  with instructions to come back the next day for a weight check. I nursed her as often as I could stand it, pretty much crying every time. It was in these early days I learned to read while nursing, as I was shut away in my bedroom for hours at a time it seemed! At the weight check I asked the nurse again if she could help me with nursing. I knew it wasn't supposed to be so painful, yet she watched us nurse and said we were doing it perfect.
Mark, trying to be helpful, suggested we just give her formula. Looking back, I truly see it coming from a place of support, hating to see his wife in pain, wanting me to be able to take a break and relax....but then, it felt like a slap across the face. It felt like him saying "You're not good enough." He had NO experience with breastfeeding as everyone in his family used formula, so he really didn't know what to do. He had to go back to Afghanistan when Munchkin was only 9 days old, so from then until about 5 months, we were on our own. I resolved to get it working right. Her pediatricians were always pushing formula, stating she was too little, but my sweet birth class teacher/new breastfeeding mentor was there telling me she was fine and that I didn't have to use formula if I didn't want to. Every Saturday she led a Mom & Baby group at the hospital where I'd taken the birth class and they had a baby scale. So every week, we would go and socialize and I would weigh her. I could see her gaining appropriately, so even when her doctors were concerned about her low percentile, I knew that she was growing like she needed to.
I wish that I had been able to see a Lactation Consultant, but I had no idea where to look, and honestly, even if I had, I wouldn't have been able to afford one since TRICARE wouldn't have covered it. It took about 6 weeks before I was comfortable while nursing. She grew a little, we both learned a lot, and everything clicked. After that, we breastfeed whenever she was hungry, wherever we were! I freaked out some WalMart employees, but never had anyone say anything negative to me. We were pressured into starting solids at 4 months, I held off until 5 so that Mark was home for it and that started our weaning process. My original goal was 12 months, so that was the timeline we were using. Then as it got closer, the more I learned and realized I wanted to aim for 24 months. By shortly after her first birthday, we'd already gone so far on our weaning journey that we were down to naps and bedtime with an occasional daytime session here and there. I discovered that I was pregnant with Lil Man in April 2011 and started reading up on nursing during pregnancy. It turned out that I didn't need to worry too much, as she ended up weaning herself (by stopping asking) in June 2011, at 20 months old. So I had a bit of a break before starting again in December!
Lil Man's nursing experience has been quite different. He was 10lbs at birth and they required me to give him formula (they threatened CPS if I didn't comply), but he wouldn't drink a significant amount (I applauded his smart choice at only hours old!) and instead of worrying about that, I spent my energy getting him to nurse. He took to it well, and while I was sore the first bit, it was nothing like I'd experienced with Munchkin. I knew going into it this time that I wanted to aim for 24 months with no soilds before 6 months, much to my doctor's annoyance for not following her schedule. Lil Man gave us no issues on weight gain, he's now 19 months old weighing 31lbs. He's built like a tank and looks like there should only be one year between him and his sister rather than two. He nurses well--and still fairly often, somedays I have to remind him he's not a newborn! We've practiced baby-led weaning with him, so he feeds himself very well too! I haven't sought out any breastfeeding support groups with him because we really haven't run into any issues that I didn't experience with Munchkin or know how to get through. I don't know what our true weaning story will look like, I really plan on letting him take the lead. I'll probably start being a little more pro-active in the process after his 2nd birthday, but we'll see.
Community support played a much bigger role in my experience with Munchkin, although I wish I'd known about more of it--I didn't even know about our local La Leche League until a couple weeks ago! I think that if I'd needed it with Lil Man, I would've been able to find it since I was more comfortable taking the initiative rather than asking the doctors and nurses at our hospital. The one warm-fuzzy I've gotten from our hospital came this past week from an ER doc--Lil Man overdosed on Benadryl and had to be on monitors to check for arrhythmia. Nursing was the only way to get him to calm down to take a nap, and once he'd finally fallen asleep, the doc came back to our room to make sure we didn't need anything and asked if he'd fallen asleep easily. I explained that I nursed him and he congratulated me and told me his wife nursed their second until almost 3. He was the first doctor in that hospital that hadn't given me a weird look for continuing to nurse past 12 months. So even though I don't really feel like I need any constant support because I'm confident in my decision to continue nursing, that little boost made me feel so great about it.


World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival - and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center Visit and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center for more breastfeeding resources and WBW Carnival details!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Below are a list of links for today's participants; you can find a complete list of links (updated throughout the week) at our main carnival page:

(This list will be updated by afternoon August 1 with all the carnival links.)

  • If You're Worried About Your Kid Seeing Me Breastfeeding, You're Doing It Wrong — Dionna at Code Name: Mama is living the breastfeeding-as-a-cultural-norm dream. She has first-hand experience that kids, teens & adults who see breastfeeding accept breastfeeding.
  • Supporting Breastfeeding Online — Wendy at Breastfeeding Utah reaches out to birth and breastfeeding support professionals who are interested in knowing more about supporting their clients online.
  • Breast Friends — Mama Bree, guest posting at San Diego Breastfeeding Center, shares a baby's journey to blissful breastfeeding with a little help.
  • World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival - Online Breastfeeding Support — Other than buying and reading up on books, Jenny at I'm a full-time mummy finds that it is useful to read up on other mums’ breastfeeding experiences and how they deal with their obstacles.
  • It Takes a Village... — Meredith at Thank You Ma'am talks about the support she got from her family, especially from her own mom, who is a lactation consultant.
  • Community Support — Ashley at ModerationMama tells about her supportive community surrounding her breastfeeding journey, and she talks about the importance of the breastfeeding class she took while still pregnant.
  • Finding a Nanny to Be Part of My Village — Before returning to work, Gretchen of That Mama Gretchen, posting at Natural Parents Network, needed to find a trusted caregiver for her daughter. Someone who supported her parenting goals and was ready to become part of a family.
  • A Nursey Love Letter — When asked about her nursing support group, KassK of Get Born Tribe surprised herself with the answer: her husband!
  • We are mammals. — To be a mammal . . . what does that mean? Practicing Mammal educates us.
  • Building a Solid Foundation for a Successful Breastfeeding Journey — Tia at Tia's Sweeps Go 'Round shares how she built a strong support network to help her successfully breastfeed her newborn daughter.
  • Stubbornness and Support: My Breastfeeding Journey — Diana at Munchkin's Mommy shares her breastfeeding journey, from unhelpful nurses to a gentle guide, and her sheer stubbornness.
  • Looking online for breastfeeding support — The author at "Just" A Mom has found many ways to use the internet to support her mothering and breastfeeding journey, and she has learned how to keep her online experiences positive.
  • The Village that didn't feed — Nona's Nipples at The Touch of Life explains how our communities influence our choices. She explains how she came to breastfeed and how it was taken away.
  • Nursing By Example — Krystyna at Sweet Pea Births decided to nurse through a pregnancy and to try tandem nursing thanks to the support from her La Leche League leader and another mother in her community. Read about the resources that were helpful and the lessons she learned on her journey into tandem nursing.
  • A Burden Shared: How my IBCLC Lightened my Load — My IBCLC rocks!! smscott at In All Things...One Step at a Time's journey would not be possible without a huge contribution of time and energy from her IBCLC. Her difficult times were measured in weeks and months instead of moments.
  • Fathers Need Breastfeeding Support Too — Destany at They Are All of Me recalls that the biggest detriment to her breastfeeding success was her husband's strong disapproval.
  • Breastfeeding Support Over the Years — Valerie at Momma in Progress discusses the range of support she received over her seven-year breastfeeding journey.
  • Uncharted Territory: Breastfeeding — Michelle at Oh, The Simple Joys describes her change of heart regarding breastfeeding and the kind souls who helped along the way. From thinking formula was the norm to extended ecological breastfeeding, this is her story. Her story also includes breastfeeding after a hospital birth, dealing with inverted nipples, and the lactation consultant who helped to name her daughter.
  • Online Breastfeeding Support: Finding Success, Acceptance and Friendships — Author and CLEC Lara Audelo of Virtual Breastfeeding Culture shares how online breastfeeding support changed her entire life, and why so many mothers are drawn to it, rely upon it, and place such value on their virtual mother-to-mother connections.
  • Staying Connected---Online Breastfeeding Support for AD Military MomsBreastfeeding in Combat Boots shares how important online support is to the success of breastfeeding for mothers serving in the military.
  • Breastfeeding and Community — Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work discusses ways in which community affects breastfeeding dyads and makes suggestions for accepting and supporting nursing as normal and necessary.
  • World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival - Community Support — Jenny at I'm a full-time mummy has been breastfeeding NON-STOP since 4th March 2009, the day her first child Benjamin was born. Jenny shares who has been in her community of breastfeeding supporters.
  • Oversupply as a Blessing in Disguise: Milk Sharing and Wet Nursing — Tooele Birth and Breastfeeding, guest posting at Code Name: Mama, tells how she ended up donating breastmilk and wet nursing several babies. She shares the benefits from both a recipient and a donor.


  1. Good for you for staying strong and doing what was right for you and your babies! I'm sorry that the military hospital was not more supportive, maybe you could petition to change that for future mommies!

  2. It's frustrating when you are told things in a flurry in a hospital about breastfeeding. I went to a pretty great, baby-friendly hospital but they still freaked me out and said my daughter had bad tongue tie and that's why she wasn't latching well.

    Honestly, it was just a matter of time that her and I clicked. But it wasn't easy... I scabbed and cracked a lot in the first 2 weeks. I was BFing very often on demand because her bilirubin was slightly hard. It wasn't easy, but like you said... once you get that bond and work it out between you and your baby, it's like two puzzle pieces fitting together perfectly!

    My only 2 cents that I'd recommend - not like you need any advice - is that even though you say you don't need support persay, I've found it really cathartic to just have another mama to vent to sometimes. Someone with a baby who is BFing too who has gone through some similar (and even dissimilar) paths on their mothering journey. You might not need direct BFing support but it's great to have someone to cry to and lean on who is a mother that gets where you're coming from (And if you ever want someone to talk to, message me through my blog! I'm a fellow WBW carnival writer :D)

    Take care - thanks for the post!

  3. You are so right that "expecting" to breastfeed goes a long way - sometimes the hard way, but we get the job done and learn to nurse. You are a strong mama to stand up to the force that is the military - wow! I second the previous commenter - having a mama tribe to raise your children with is such a gift. Wishing you a joyous journey as you continue to breastfeed your toddler.

    (also a carnival participant)

  4. I was in awe as I read your story. Not many moms will carry on with the challenges you faced. I'm sure many moms will find strength from your experience. I too was completely lost the first time I held my baby and attempted to breastfeed. The nurse just plopped my baby onto my arms and didn't help much. Lucky baby was good and started to suckle quickly. Then the nurse left and told me to change to the other side after 15 minutes. I was left wondering how to do that but figured it out somehow.

    Anyway, I love your story and have linked back to you in my post about breastfeeding tips.

    If you have time, drop by to say hi.