In 2015 my first baby was born, and I had no idea what I was getting into. I spent my pregnancy days listening to Hypno-birthing courses and learning about birth, but didn't prepare at all for breastfeeding. I knew I wanted to breastfeed and had watched many women in my family breastfeed before me. I naively thought it would just happen. Boy, was I wrong! Breastfeeding, as beautiful as it can be, left me feeling lost and lonely. I didn't know where to turn with questions as I navigated nipple pain, engorgement, oversupply, and vasospasms with my first born. She was gaining great from the beginning, so I feel like we got a bit lost in the medical system. So I turned to the World Wide Web for answers. Not the best way to go about it, but I didn't have much choice at that point. With hard work and perseverance, my daughter and I nursed through my next pregnancy and made it to over 2 years breastfeeding. It wasn't easy, but totally worth it for us.
In 2017 my second baby was born, and I was well prepared for breastfeeding...or so I thought. My son entered the world with a whole new set of problems to navigate. He, like my daughter, gained weight beautifully. I didn't have the nipple pain like I did with my daughter, but he could not maintain his latch. This made breastfeeding miserable for both of us. With my fast let down and his bad latch, we were a mess. He would pop on and off the breast gulping air each time and screaming because his poor tummy hurt from it. I remember within the first month, counting how many months I had left for my 12-month breastfeeding goal. Dreading breastfeeding was a new feeling for me, and I felt terrible even feeling that way. No one could give me a reason for his bad latch. I was reassured over and over that he did not have a tongue tie because he was gaining weight. This is false! If you have a robust milk supply, then babies, even with a tongue tie, don't have to be great at the breast because they can get milk passively. I continued to nurse and dread the screaming afterwards from the extra air. At 3 months I had had enough and took him to an IBCLC. Kristina Chamberlain, who has become a mentor to me, took one look in his mouth and validated all of the concerns I had been having. He had a posterior tongue tie and lip tie. We opted to release the ties and start some suck training to re-train his tongue movement. Within 3-4 weeks he was staying on the breast throughout the feeding and not screaming afterwards. Our breastfeeding relationship had completely turned around! He went on and nursed for 4 years until he self-weaned. I never imagined breastfeeding for that long, especially with the difficult road we had the first few months of his life. But we did and it was the best, last breastfeeding experience I could have asked for.
The take away:
Being thrown into the world of breastfeeding as a mom and not knowing where to get help is the reason I wanted to become a Lactation Consultant. No one should have to navigate breastfeeding challenges alone. My goal as your LC is to be that calming voice and cheerful face that you feel comfortable reaching out to, no matter what the question is. It really does take a village to raise a child! Get to know the experts in your village and have those relationships established before baby arrives. Then if questions or concerns arise, you know exactly where to turn.
Kelsey RN, BSN, IBCLC