All images from Hayley Kinchant
When pregnant, what was your plan for feeding your child? How did you think you would do in the hospital? How easy did you think it would be?
Breastfeeding was really the only option for me.
I’ve “known” since I was a little girl that one day I would breastfeed my babies and after waiting an eternity for my little girl I couldn’t wait for this special time of bonding. The part I had failed to realize is that breastfeeding is not exactly “natural” for all women and that hit me like a brick wall. I had naïvely assumed that I had boobs, and I had a baby, one attaches to the other and breastfeeding begins. How wrong I was!
I had limited support in the hospital from the nursing staff although the daily visit I received from the LC was great. I wish I had of known how much support I would really need, especially as the days turned into weeks, turned into months.
2 How did you prepare for feeding your child while pregnant? Did you read any good books, check out Web sites, take classes, take free items from your doctor's office, talk to other moms, etc.? How prepared did you feel going into the hospital for feeding your child?
My naivety really came into play here. I was so confident in my decision to breastfeed and with my previous knowledge (pregnancy, child birth, babies etc have always fascinated me and I am also a nurse) I didn’t really do a lot to prepare. My midwife spoke about it a lot and used a doll to help show me different positions for breastfeeding in the weeks leading up to the birth which was great. She also gave me an awesome DVD to watch – which I did……10 days after my daughter was born and I was having latching issues!
3. How did the first week of feeding go for your child? What did you try? What helped, what did not help? What challenges did you experience that first week feeding your child? How did you FEEL with feeding your child that first week?
' I loved breastfeeding from the moment my daughter was put to my breast. The first week didn’t actually seem that difficult. I was tender, but I expected that and she was a very happy and content baby. What I didn’t realize was that my definition of “tender” should actually have been defined as “pain” which isn’t normal beyond the first few days if baby is latching on correctly. I was still very much in the honeymoon phase of breastfeeding being as nature intended.
4. What surprised you about how hard/easy it was to feed your child at first?
10 days after my daughter was born I was in sudden severe pain!! I had expected it to get better, not worse. I had expected it to get easier, not harder. Thankfully I had access to a great breastfeeding clinic (baby was born in New Zealand) and for the next few weeks the LC’s worked with me on getting a better latch. The severe pain I was feeling was from a “bleb” which is a blockage in the nipple itself and can be caused by a shallow latch. When they told me they were going to release it with a needle I just about passed out! My breast was already on fire and they were going to stick a needle in my nipple!!!! It didn’t hurt at all and the immediate “release” was amazing. It actually took many more months for me to get the blebs under control (they kept returning) and they were the main cause of my ongoing pain (although you could say a shallow latch was the ultimate cause of all my issues).
5. What do you wish people had told you about how hard/easy it would be to feed your child in the beginning?
I’m not sure that had I have received any advice on how difficult it was that I would have been prepared to hear it. I’m sure I would have just brushed it off as people being pessimistic. I was still under the glorious illusion that breastfeeding comes naturally to all women
The purple is stain from a medication to treat a yeast infection.
6. After that first week, what was your experience feeding your child? What was your routine?
Oh, where to start. We returned back to the US when my daughter was 9 weeks old. At her 12 week check her weight had only increased a tiny bit and she had dropped significantly on the breastfed baby percentile charts (from 45th to 10th). My doctor referred us to the LC’s at the local hospital to help keep an eye on things for a few weeks. To keep the story short, in the next three months my daughter dropped to the 1st percentile, I started taking the “mini pill” for contraception, she received her 4 month shots which put her on a nursing strike for 12 hours and gave me mastitis. The antibiotics I took for that gave her a yeast infection which transferred to my breasts. Combined with a still shallow latch that I was reassured many times was a “good latch”, my supply plummeted. I worked extensively with the LC’s at my hospital, and my physician until we reached the point that my physician who was wonderfully supportive said she didn’t know what else to offer me although she never once suggested formula which I am eternally grateful for.
The LC’s literally gave up on me telling me over the phone that they weren’t sure what else to do and they hoped to see me again with my next baby. I was angry, hurt and frustrated. Breastfeeding was supposed to be natural, and here I was 5 months down the track with a baby who was barely keeping up on the growth charts, who would cry as she pulled off the breast frustrated, and pain EVERY SINGLE TIME I NURSED! I had never experienced pain free nursing. It just didn’t seem fair.
I skyped my LC’s back in New Zealand for more advice. I wasn’t ready to give up yet, despite practically everyone telling me I had obviously done my best and it was time to switch to formula. The New Zealand LC’s recommend I contact Dr Jack Newman, a world renowned breast feeding physician and pediatrician based in Toronto, Canada. I googled him, emailed him several times, and 2 weeks later when my daughter was 6 months old we headed out on a 15 hour drive from New Hampshire to Toronto!! After 2 hours in his clinic (30 mins with him, 90mins with an LC) all my issues were solved. I was elated……and angry!! Why did I need to go through the last 6 months of receiving ill informed information from health care professionals (remember I am a nurse), conflicting information, and at times damaging information before having to travel for 15 hours to find someone who could help? After seeing Dr Newman, I started taking the drug domperidone to increase my supply (that had been damaged for the last few months), corrected her latch (the same day at the clinic – it was really that easy) and went on to nurse her without any further issues until she was 12.5 months. For 6 whole months I got to breastfeed my baby girl as nature intended. I loved it! Unfortunately, as I was weaning from the domperidone, she went on a nursing strike and my plans to nurse her into toddlerhood rapidly changed. After persevering for another 4 weeks, I accepted that our nursing days were over, but continued to pump for her until she was 18 months old. I had enough stored in the freezer that she received breast milk every day until she was just shy of 21 months old.
7. What tips do you have for either breastfeeding or formula feeding, or exclusively pumping or some combo in between? What specific things helped you to feed your child the first few months? (Drink more water, bring baby to you when nursing, try 2 oz of formula at first, try different bottles, etc.)
If breastfeeding is really want you want to do, persevere until you can find someone who can help. I know healthcare professionals, family and friends think they are being helpful when they tell you that you have done your best, but if in your heart you want or need to do more, reach out to those who will tell you that it is possible. Whether it be through forums and groups such as the Mommy Stories, Le Leche League or Dr Jack Newman (my HERO who personally responds to all emails within 24 hours), find someone who can help. If a healthcare professional tells you that you must stop breastfeeding, seek a second, third, or fourth opinion. It is extremely rare for a woman to HAVE to stop breastfeeding if they are being given accurate support, accurate education and accurate information.
8. What is your advice to moms who are experiencing pressure, expectations, judgment, or otherwise unwanted comments about how they are feeding their child?
It is really hard as a first time Mom to trust yourself. Sometimes it can seem that everyone else has got it right, so why are you getting it so wrong? Trust me, you’re not. You really do know what is best for you and your baby, even if you are the only person in the world that seems to understand that. However you choose to feed your child, that is the right way. Period. Don’t let others make this choice for you.
9. If you felt Mama Guilt over how you fed or did not feed your child, what was that like for you? What's your advice to other moms who experience that guilt?
When deciding what and how to feed your baby, do your research. Talk to those who support the decision that you feel is right for you. The more informed you are, the less guilt you will feel. While I am obviously “pro-breastfeeding”, having been through everything I have experienced in the last 21 months, I now understand that only a mother can make the decision on the best way to feed her baby, and whatever she chooses is the right way.
What is right for me may not be right for you.
1 What are you most PROUD of about how you've fed your child?
That I didn’t give in! People told me I was crazy to drive 15 hours to Toronto. I look back now and think it was only 2 days out of my life (yes, we drove there and back in 2 days!!) and what I gained out of that trip was immeasurable. I got to experience breastfeeding as nature intended, and my baby received breast milk well into her second year. That was and is worth the world to me.
11. If you have more than one child, was your experience feeding your children the same or different? In which ways? What's your advice to a mom who did not get the experience she wanted with one kid, could it be different with feeding another one?
Baby number two is due in February and while I am a little anxious about how things will go this time around, I am so much more knowledgeable now and I know who and where my resources are. Some days I feel like I could write a book on breast feeding challenges, yet I know that I’m about to start an entirely new journey and I’m sure I’ll have even more to add after that experience.
12. What have you learned about yourself as a mother through the process of feeding your child?
That I will never give up on what I believe is right for my child
13. Anything else you'd like to add?
There are two things I would like to add. First, as a healthcare professional myself I am really concerned about the lack of accurate breastfeeding information that is given to women by those that we trust to know what is best. It is really disconcerting that the information we receive may be outdated or even wrong and may actually be damaging to the breastfeeding relationship, and this is information is coming from our physicians, pediatricians, Ob’s and LC’s. How do we know what and who is right? I don’t have the answer for you. But what I do know is that physicians receive very little (if any) information on breastfeeding during their training. Don’t hesitate to question your healthcare professional. Have they attended any recent seminars, conferences or continuing education on breastfeeding? Would they describe their knowledge as “up to date”? They are hard questions to ask, but well worth it. If you doubt the accuracy of any information you receive, email Dr Jack Newman!
Secondly, how mothers choose to feed their babies appears to be a really hot topic right now. It is made a lot harder as it is such an emotional topic that brings out the protective Mama bear in all of us.
My personal aim is to provide breastfeeding support to all women who seek it. My intent is never to alienate another mother for choosing alternative ways to feed their child. Please know that I am not judging you, nor telling you that my way is right and your way is wrong. You have your reasons for how you have chosen to feed your baby and you are doing the right thing, just as I have done the right thing for my baby.
14 - What supplies, equipment, brands, accessories, etc. were your favorite as far as feeding your baby? (bottles, formula brand, nursing or pumping equipment, etc.)
All Purpose Nipple Ointment (APNO) should be prescribed to ALL mothers immediately after birth! It is a wonder cream (the “recipe” for your physician is on Dr Jack Newman’s Webpage) and provides instant relief. A compounding pharmacy will need to mix it for you and tell them absolutely no substitutions.