mama story: I'm so grateful for all of the breastfeeding education and support

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Britney Crawley Grand Rapids, MI

I’ve always known I wanted to be a mom and I’ve pretty much always wanted to be able to breastfeed my babies.

I never really thought there would be much to it until I got pregnant and started paying attention to other new and nursing moms and reading what to expect pregnancy books. I think many of us think breastfeeding will come naturally until it doesn’t. I heard lots of stories from other mamas about latch issues, improper weight gain, low supply, cracked nipples, mastitis, and read about nipple confusion, nursing positions, and feeding schedules. All of a sudden, I wasn’t so sure how successful I’d be at nursing.

I decided to take a breastfeeding class a few weeks before giving birth, and I brought my reluctant husband along with me. We sat in a two-hour class put on by lactation consultants from our local hospital and we both sat and listened and awkwardly practiced nursing positions with a stuffed sock monkey we brought from home. I was still worried about mastitis and clogged ducts, but I felt much more prepared as we awaited our baby’s arrival.

Our experience in the hospital started off well: I was able to make a nursing attempt in that golden hour right after birth.

The lactation consultant who taught our class encouraged us to practice nursing at every opportunity, meet with a LC during our hospital stay, and ask our nurse to double check the latch at every feeding. I took her up on the offer and did all the above.

It’s true, the first hours and days (weeks even) are a blur. In the hospital, my newborn baby latched pretty well and had a good, strong suck. Like most newbies, he worked hard to get that milk to come in with an entire night of cluster feeding. WOW. If that’s not some of the hardest, most demanding work I’ve done in my life- I don’t know what is. I can see how mom’s get scared, overwhelmed, and start waving the little white burp cloth saying, “bring in the bottle!” One of my nipples cracked and was bleeding. We were still working on a proper latch and in one moment I was so overwhelmed when he had a bad latch I cried out in pain and frustration. I handed the baby to my husband and cried. What if we get home and I’m in too much pain to feed this baby?

I knew better, and my husband did too, than to give up.

I hoped nursing would get better, and it did. I’m a little over six months into my breastfeeding journey and it’s one of the greatest gifts of motherhood. I attribute my breastfeeding success to proper education and SO MUCH SUPPORT in those early days, mostly from my husband. We found support at our prenatal class, at the hospital, from the LC team after discharge, and from the LC at our pediatrician’s office. My husband supported me every day for the first several weeks of our son’s life. He was with me at every feeding. He brought us all the pillows and propped us up. He pinned back tiny hands while I latched our newborn, and tickled tiny feet to keep the baby awake. He lined nursing pads with nipple cream. He encouraged me, said I was doing great, asked if I thought the latch was good or if I wanted to try again, told me it was okay to take a break. He was seriously the best.

My breastfeeding journey has been so wonderful. There were a few hiccups in those first weeks, but they felt normal and because of the encouragement and education I received. I knew I could work through those first weeks to keep going, and I did. I was super scared of pumping for the first time, so I put that off for a few weeks and dealt a bit with engorgement when my milk was first coming in. I wish I would have been a bit less intimidated, because pumping really isn’t all that bad!

I’m so thankful for the things and people that have helped me successfully nurse my baby these past six months.

I’m so proud of every chubby little roll on his body because I know we put it there together. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to feed his body and nourish his soul through nursing, and I’m so thankful for the bond we now have. I would encourage any mom hoping to breastfeed to take in as much education as she can and to find one or two special people who can offer unwavering support. It’s so amazing what our bodies can do!

Cary Fortin