“I will never forget you. I will always remember you as a very special mom. You worked very hard in your breastfeeding journey.”
That’s what Vanessa, “my” lactation consultant, told me in our very last conversation. My voice was cracking and my eyes were clouded with tears. Emilia is my last baby. This was the last time I was going to call Vanessa– the last time I would call for help.
It is World Breastfeeding Week, and I can’t help but look back and reflect on my breastfeeding journey.
I met Vanessa in 2013 when I had my first baby. I was very prepared for pregnancy, labor, and delivery. One thing I overlooked (and I see many other women overlook, too) was breastfeeding. I always knew I would breastfeed. I figured it is a natural thing– there must be nothing to it. Let me tell you, I was so wrong!
After delivery, many nurses came by and asked, “How is nursing going?” They taught me the basics, and I thought I got the hang of it. By the time I got home, my nipples were on fire. I was in so much pain. My nipples were cracked. I was back in the hospital with mastitis only two days after coming home with my brand new baby. It certainly wasn’t something I was prepared for. I truly had no idea what I was doing.
My dad took me to see a lactation consultant, and I am glad I got paired with Vanessa. She patiently explained how to feed the baby, how to hold him, how to figure out his hunger cues, when to pump, and how to do it. I called her when I went back to work and I wasn’t producing much milk. I sobbed on the phone as I explained that none of the supplements were working. Every time I needed help, she talked to me and helped me solve my breastfeeding issues.
But the best part was how she made me feel. She always made sure I knew I was doing my best. Whenever we talked, I felt like I’d received a warm hug. I had peace in my heart that I was not a failure as a mom.
Vanessa was there for me when my second baby would take long naps and miss her feedings. When my baby wasn’t gaining weight, she kindly listened to me as I told her the pediatrician recommended formula. She showed me the weight graphs and explained how being in the fifth percentile didn’t mean my baby was lagging. I mean, my husband and I aren’t tall people. Genetics must have something to do with her size! Vanessa also made sure I knew there was nothing wrong with giving my babies formula. And to this day, I don’t see anything wrong with it– I’m glad I did. My babies are fine!
The last time I called Vanessa was when my third and last baby was almost one. I was facing the same supply problems. I switched pediatricians and found a new doctor who truly listened to me. And once more, Vanessa filled my heart with peace. I thanked her for the last five years. My voice was breaking as I told her how much she meant to me and my motherhood journey. Her office number is still under “my favorites” on my phone.
I wish for every woman to find the support I found in Vanessa. Find your support. Consult a Lactation Consultant or an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC) Trust your instinct. Sometimes, it may be that you need to find a new pediatrician. Always keep in mind that you are a great mother whether you breastfeed or formula-feed. Your baby is loved, and you are doing the best for yourself and your family.
While breastfeeding is a very natural process, it can also be very complicated.
Find a La Leche League local chapter or join their Facebook groups. There are many local organizations that will support your journey even when you are ready to wean. Check out your hospital and chat with your OBGYN or midwife about the resources that are available to you.