I asked in a few different places for people to share with me their experiences breastfeeding. The response was fantastic! This blog post is dedicated to sharing the stories of these mothers and showcasing their unique experiences. My sincere hope is that this can be a source of encouragement to mothers and that no matter our differences, we can bond over this common ground.
From Steph: "All 3 of my kids were born with tongue and lip ties. I had no idea what that even was until #1 was almost 2 years old and our breastfeeding relationship had long since ended. I had no idea her midline defects were causing my supply to dwindle, or that she was always hungry because she couldn't really use her tongue properly. I knew what to look for when #2 came around. They both had laser revisions around the same time and I was able to breastfeed him double the amount of time I got with my daughter. I started a new health journey that included stabilizing my blood sugar and made enough milk to donate to a friend's adopted micro preemie. This was the redemption I needed, not to prove it to anyone or boast about what I could do, but to have closure on what I couldn't give my daughter.
**Side note: Looking back, I don't blame myself, but rather the circumstance, because I was ill-informed and unsupported by her pediatrician and the LCs at the hospital. Pediatricians don't know anything about oral ties; this woman started pushing formula on me the moment I said that nursing hurt. She told me not to be a hero. To cut myself some slack because I was a first timer. I will never understand the lack of support for moms' decisions. If my goal was to nurse, I should have been encouraged to nurse and given every resource available. I should have asked a pediatric dentist all along.**
I nursed him well into my second trimester with #3 and then oh my word, the aversions happened. I was devastated, as I had my heart set on tandem nursing. When #3 was born, we had his ties revised at 6 days old and after another week of working on it together, his latch improved drastically and my supply was great.
Life threw us a huge curve ball when #3 was 4 months old. I was forced to be without him for 6 weeks as I cared for #2 in the hospital after a terrible accident. I pumped around the clock. God had a divine purpose for our surprise #3 being born when he was because I was producing milk right when #2 needed it to heal. I was able to give him fatty nutrient dense milk instead of the formula they wanted to offer him. Within a few days of him being on my milk again, he started healing and was taken off the ventilator.
I continued to pump for #2 while #3 at home with my family was receiving donor milk. It all comes full circle. Give and you shall receive.
One week before we were released, my body gave up on me. No idea if my parts were the right sizing or if it was stress and dehydration or maybe the dry hospital air... I eventually got terribly dry and cracked to bleeding and had to stop pumping for a few days to let them heal. By the time I tried pumping again, the cracks reopened and all I pumped was blood. I never got a last nursing session with #3 but I do remember the last time I nursed him. Was in the waiting room in the PICU, just the two of us. I feel as though I failed him, but perhaps this was part of the plan too.. so I could devote my energy to #2's recovery. It is so time consuming. I planned to try to re-lactate because I know I can. But since getting home, life has been so different, I don't know that I can even commit to that. He's still on donor milk for as long as we can still get donations. #3 is blessed to receive milk; I know how time consuming and how much effort goes into pumping, bagging, freezing, cleaning parts... it's a lot.
I don't think we are done having children so I pray I can really have a better experience next time."
"I’m so glad to have nursed all 3 of my kids for a cumulative time of almost 4 years but yet I’m so glad it’s over and I’m done. So bittersweet. I felt so empowered part way into the second kid when I was like “boobs out all the time idc who’s looking!” But the worst part was having a distant relative pm me on fb about one of my bfing [breastfeeding] posts and had the nerve to tell me that I need to be more private and suggest I could “set off” a man with a sex addiction. ARE YOU SERIOUS RIGHT NOW???" - Michaelynn
"So with Eirik, my first I was super happy and thankful I could breastfeed him till after he turned 1. He had a dairy & soy allergy so formula wasn’t an option, I tried to offer him the formula once and he wouldn’t even take the bottle. Which, I have to backtrack.... when he was born in the Middle East I had no one to teach me how to breastfeed. There weren’t any LC [lactation consultant] at the hospital and the nurses were literally squishing my breasts so hard for colostrum and milk to come out. So for the first 2 months he was bottle fed. Finally I found a ped [pediatrician] on base who was a LC and taught me how to BF him and ever since day he didn’t touched a bottle.
With my second, Astrid, who’s about to be 4 months bf [breastfeeding] has been challenging. She just had a lip & tongue release so it’s making it hard to bf [breastfeed] bc [because] she’s so traumatized after the procedure. None the less we keep trying and once we get that latch we’re happy campers.
The worst for me is having to breastfeed outside the home.
We just can’t seem to find comfortable positions for both of us and that’s frustrating. But once again, I think of how lucky and blessed I am to be able to breastfeed her.
A lot of people take breastfeeding for granted, they think boob out and it’s all good, but in reality there’s so much more going on that even if you try to explain it all, they won’t get it till they’re in your position." - Kate H.
"Here is a funny... my family and I were driving through the night to visit family. Everyone is asleep but me, my boobs are filled to the brim and need some relief. I cant reach my hand pump and I don't want to wake up my husband. So here I am, driving down the road hand expressing into some paper towels. Not my finest moment!"-Jackie C.
"I had an over supply with my first and when my second came, CHKD had just started their milk bank and I was able to be one of the first donors and donated over 1200 ounces!" -Melissa A.
"My son was born in 1979. Breastfeeding was just really starting again. I had no support system, and being a new mother, absolutely no knowledge. With my girls, I was determined to succeed, and I did. I loved the convenience of breastfeeding.
I loved the bonding that occurred between me and my baby. My favorite experiences was once the girls were old enough, they would look up at me with twinkles in their eyes. They would stop to give wonderful toothless smiles and then start nursing again. I loved when they would reach up to play with my face. I would kiss their little hands and nibble their fingers. The only part that wasn't fun was when they began to get teeth, they would go to sleep and slowly close their teeth on me. I would have to put my finger in her mouth to break the suction so she would let go. One time she bit me and left perfect little teeth marks! I just loved being so close to all of them. I hate that I gave up with my son so soon. I missed out on those experiences with him.
My mom breastfed me. She told me she knew when I was about to bite. She said I would get a certain look in my eye and clamp down! It was nice knowing that she and I had shared such unique and special experience." - Dovy H.
"I loved how they would fall asleep on me while nursing. His little eyes would start slowly rolling back in his head and he'd finally pass out. It was complete bliss!" - Amanda D.
"I thought she would never wean! But now I miss it so much!" Brianna K.
If you have a story you want to share, feel free to leave it in the comments below! Talk about your struggles, your victories, your favorite moments, and your worst moments. Let's have a conversation!
Jess is a photographer serving families located in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. She specializes in documentary and storytelling photography.