Ashley's Breastfeeding Journey
I am so honored to share Ashley's story with you. She is my lifelong best friend and being so far from her during her pregnancy, birth, and postpartum period has been so difficult for the both of us. Ashley and her husband live in Wilmore, KY with their dogs, and she gave birth to Eleanor January 15th, 2018. She is 8 weeks postpartum and in this blog, she shares about her struggles with breastfeeding and finding the right lactation support person.
Inverted Nipples and a Colicky Babe
People will do their best to tell you just how difficult life with a newborn is. I can’t even begin to count how many seasoned “mom friends” tried to warn me about the lack of sleep, the crying, the constant questioning of every decision you make, the struggles breastfeeding and so much more. As a first time mom, I brushed them all off thinking that I was going to have an angel baby who napped for 3 hours multiple times a day, only whimpered a little bit when hungry, latched onto the boob immediately after birth, and slept through the night by 6 weeks of age!
As I am sure you know, that was not the case.
Instead, I ended up with a colicky, reflux baby who hated being put down, would only nap if I had her in the carseat in the car, cried for no reason (or so it seemed), and just could not get the hang of breast feeding on my ridiculously flat nipples. Oh the things I would go back and force my pregnant self to believe!
I am a firm believer in finding people that you mesh well with. I tend to be an introverted extrovert, if that makes any sense. I enjoy being around people, but not all people. The chemistry has to be there or else my introverted side begins to take over and I shut down.
When it comes to birth and babies, this held so true for me.
My best friend is a doula. If I was still living in Florida, she would’ve been my Doula, but alas, that was not the case. One of the things she told me as I was searching for my own Doula hundreds of miles away was to interview a few and choose the one that I meshed well with. Lucky for me, the very first Doula I interviewed was the one for me. There was an instant connection and I felt like she was the perfect fit to that piece of our birth puzzle.
After I gave birth to my baby girl, I struggled to get her to latch onto my breasts. As mentioned above, my nipples are flat and this made the beginning of my breastfeeding journey more difficult than I would’ve ever imagined it to be. The hospital immediately got me set up with a lactation consultant who proceeded to put me on a nipple shield in order to help my little one latch on. Was she nice? Yes. Did she accomplish getting my girl to eat? Sure. Did she do everything she could to help me get my daughter eating without the use of a shield? No. And so my journey with the nipple shield and lactation consultants began.
Finding the right Lactation Support
I found out very quickly that finding a lactation consultant that you mesh well with was just as important as finding a Doula that you mesh well with. The one at the hospital seemed to not want to invest much time in helping me get my daughter latched without the use of other aids. This made me feel like I wasn’t worth the time to get it done right and started me off on a very frustrating breastfeeding journey. (Seriously, if you’ve never had a 2 week old screaming bloody murder at 2 am because she’s hungry and keeps knocking the shield off onto the ground, you don’t know true frustration!) I HATED that shield. So, when the opportunity came to meet with a highly regarded lactation consultant in the area for a very low price, I jumped.
Yet, once again I found myself meeting with someone who only seemed to want me to enroll in her more expensive services, tried to convince me my daughter had a tongue tie (she doesn’t), and just didn’t seem to be listening to what I was saying. She proceeded to put me on a different brand of nipple shield, which while helpful, wasn’t what I wanted and I once again felt like I was going to spend the rest of my breastfeeding journey glued to this little piece of silicone that was making my life a nightmare.
I longed so deeply to have this beautiful breastfeeding relationship with my daughter and I wasn’t getting it.
When the nurse at the WIC office suggested that I meet with one of their lactation consultants, I was hesitant. So far, my experience had not been great and I had come to terms with the fact that I would be one of those women who only nursed with a shield. But, I did it anyways because I figured why not…it’s a free service and maybe this time will be different.
Boy am I glad that I did. I immediately knew something was different because I had finally found someone that would listen to me and instead of trying to sell me something or blow me off, she spent the entire appointment encouraging me. She told me I was doing everything right and that sometimes babies just struggle. She encouraged me to keep trying even when it wasn’t working. She was the lactation consultant that I needed in that moment.
I sat there in her office and nursed my daughter without the nipple shield for the first time. I don’t know what it was about that day that was different. Maybe her reassurance gave me the confidence I needed to calm down and feed my daughter without stress. Who knows.
Nevertheless, She Persisted
It was about 3 weeks after that that I used the nipple shield for the last time. We’ve been going strong for about a month now without the shield, and I feel like I finally got the breastfeeding journey I wanted. I am forever grateful to that woman for her support.
If a birth professional isn’t working out, never ever feel bad for trying someone else. This is your beautiful journey and you deserve a team of people who encourage you, support you, and stand by you when it’s hard. Find someone you mesh with and embrace it!
If you are in need of good lactation support and either can't afford a personal lactation consultant, don't have access to breastfeeding support groups like La Leche League, contact your local WIC office. The lactation consultants there are some of the most well trained CLCs there are. They are committed to supporting you in your nursing journey.