Learning the Hard Way

From time to time we are going to spotlight a Baton Rouge, La area breastfeeding mother.  We’ll hear about her expectations, her challenges, and what she has learned. Each breastfeeding family has a unique experience, with different values and different goals. These experiences and goals may be different from your own, and that’s okay to recognize.  May you be inspired by their achievements, may you feel comforted in their similar struggles. Here is a window into another journey.

This time, the journey I’m going to share is my own!  I wasn’t always a lactation consultant, in fact I knew very little about breastfeeding when I first became a breastfeeding mom.

Amanda’s Story
Pregnant paramedic
Six months pregnant with my oldest

My breastfeeding journey began with my first son twelve (twelve?!) years ago. He was a surprise baby and I dove into a crash course of my own making to try to prepare for becoming a mom.  I remember reading a book on baby sign language between 911 calls during my night shifts as a paramedic. It wasn’t until the end of my pregnancy that I realized I would need to feed this baby and I started googling “when do babies eat actual food?” 

Of course I would breastfeed because the health benefits were too many to count – this is what I learned in nursing school. My co-workers were surprisingly unsupportive, though. At my hospital nurse job another nurse asked, “Amanda, do your boobs know you’re pregnant?”  They threw me a baby shower and gifted me with tons of bottles. How hard could it be, though? Just put baby to breast. My Google research said I didn’t have to worry about solids until six months, so that was the end of my feeding research.

The First Few Days

My first birth was traumatic, and sadly I know many moms can empathize with me on this topic.  He was huge, 10 lbs and 2 oz, sleepy, and probably traumatized himself from the vacuum delivery.  They took him away from me to “observe,” and I’m pretty sure gave him a bottle in the nursery.

When we were finally reunited he wasn’t very interested in latching on.  I managed it here and there by myself, but didn’t really know any tips or tricks to get a good deep latch.  Just put baby to the breast, right? My nurses tried to help by pushing baby to the breast. One of them pulled a bottle of formula out of her pocket and dripped some on his lips “to see if he’s even hungry.” Another nurse found out I had let him sleep for over two hours and chastised me! “We feed the babies at least every two hours, you need to be waking him up,” she said while pursing her lips.

The sour face the lactation consultant made
*that* face

The shining spot in my hospital stay was a quick visit from one lactation consultant.  She showed me how tiny a newborns baby stomach was and encouraged that colostrum was all he needed.  She quickly ran down her main breastfeeding tips and myths, and was sadly gone as soon as she had come in.  The next morning my mature milk came in and I awoke with major engorgement. How was I going to latch him now? We eventually figured it out, but IT HURT.

I asked for the lactation consultant this time, and unfortunately it wasn’t the one from the previous day.  By now my nipples were cracked and bleeding. She looked and made a face I will never forget. There’s me doing my best impression of her. She sighed and said that she could ask my doctor to prescribe some all purpose nipple ointment. She asked if the nipple looked regular or “like a tube of lipstick” when he had just nursed.  I told her it was like a tube of lipstick, not knowing why she was asking that (it’s a sign of a latch that needs help!). She said “hmm,” and left to go try to catch my doctor to write for the ointment.  

At home he started to wake up more and wanted to nurse ALL. THE. TIME. I had no idea that this was par for the course, and no one in my life thought it was normal.  I must not be making enough milk. He was obviously too big for me to keep up with him. Why was he hungry again? Was I sure he was getting a “full feed?” Another bright light in my journey was our pediatrician.  I had pretty much randomly chosen him from the insurance website …. Mainly because he had the same name as my son. But it turned out he was very supportive of breastfeeding and assured me that my son was indeed getting plenty to eat.  

Home and Back to Real Life
Lactation consultant sleeping newborn
Just a couple of weeks old

The next challenge was getting out of the house.  My first attempt at this was a trip to Walmart. I brought his stroller.  He wasn’t pleased. So I ended up pushing an empty stroller with a basket over one arm and a big fussy baby in my other.  He was hungry, so I went to the bathroom to nurse him. The gross Walmart bathroom. I can still picture that place and remember thinking I was never going to get out of the house again.

And then my husband came home from work and told me that his coworker said my child should definitely not want to nurse that much and that I needed to read BabyWise ASAP.  Not knowing about the American Academy of Pediatrics warning against this book, I immediately bought it and read it. I tried to implement the schedule and that lasted for about five minutes.  There was just no way my heart could take hearing him scream. I felt like a failure, and I felt so alone. At this point I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it.

Breakthrough
Breastfeeding in a sling
Exploring New Orleans with my handy sling!

I don’t know how I stumbled upon it, but I soon found the Dr. Sears website.  I learned about safe co-sleeping and attachment parenting. Most importantly I learned that how my heart was telling me to take care of my son was just fine.  Life changed for the better when I bought a sling. I remember going to Target with him in the sling and being able to just walk around without having to worry if he was going to get hungry.  I was able to latch him on and let him nurse and snuggle the whole time! The sling provided coverage and also let me have an arm free, it was life changing.  

We had a rough start, but went on to nurse through the toddler years.  I didn’t have many mom friends who were breastfeeding, but I relied heavily on online breastfeeding groups for support.  Knowing that other moms were struggling made me feel like I wasn’t alone. I read everything I could about breastfeeding.  I was constantly on KellyMom. As I let go of the stress I became much more comfortable in my ability to nourish and comfort my baby.  My oldest now has three younger siblings, all breastfed with confidence.

Did it Have to Be So Hard?

If I could go back and talk to my younger self, I would tell her that it didn’t have to be so hard.  That yes, things could be difficult but that there was help that could have solved my problems. The first thing would have been to sign up for a breastfeeding class.  I would have scoped out the lactation services in my area. My life was pretty busy with work back then – working night shifts between the hospital and the ambulance – and I thought I didn’t have time for that. And hour and a half could have made such an improvement.  A prenatal consult with an IBCLC would have helped prepare me for the challenges I faced after birth.

Next, I would have hired a doula to help guide me through birth. Having a knowledgeable support person would have made an incredible difference. Doulas not only provide support to mom and partner, they advocate and enable the laboring mom to have the birth she desires.  After seeing doulas in action while I was a birth center nurse, I recommend one to any pregnant mom I meet!

When I got home and was still having problems with latching and pain I would tell myself to call an IBCLC right away.  I had no clue that there was such a thing as a lactation home visit! Taking a new baby out was such a production, it kept me from seeking help.  A couple of visits would have made a world of difference for me! I learned things the hard way, but I wouldn’t wish that on any new mom.

What Are Your Breastfeeding Needs?

Are you a pregnant mom looking for information on breastfeeding? Schedule a prenatal consult with me so you can be confident and prepared before that first latch.  

Are you the mom of a baby and you’re having nipple pain, low milk supply, or any other breastfeeding challenge?  Give me a call, text, or email and we can figure out the best way to work together.  I may have learned the hard way, but I never want another mom to experience pain or tears when I can help prevent them.  Schedule an appointment with me.

After fifteen years of being a nurse and twelve years of being a mom, there isn’t much that catches me by surprise.  So I can promise you – I won’t make *that* face! 

Amanda is an RN, IBCLC (lactation consultant) who helps breastfeeding families through classes and home visits in the greater Baton Rouge, La area. Secure virtual visits are available for breastfeeding support no matter the location.  

All information on this website is intended for educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Magnolia Lactation Consulting encourages all families to have close communication with the medical providers of their choice. 

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