“We are here together…I am yours and you are mine”: One family’s experience with breastfeeding

By: Holly Hansen , BFA, Project Manager, Healthy Children Project, Inc.*

Holly Headshot
Interviewer Extraordinaire, Holly Hansen

At my age, finding out that friends of mine are having a baby isn’t uncommon; last summer I was overjoyed at the news that my dear friend, Nora, was pregnant. I knew how excited she was to start a family, so when Nora told me she was expecting, I was over the moon for her!

Then it hit me: Nora’s going to be a mom. She certainly wasn’t the first of my friends to get pregnant; a handful of friends from high school had gotten married and had children years earlier. But Nora was the first really close friend I knew who was about to make a tiny human and then raise it.

When I was asked to write a couple of blog posts (as Jess herself produces a tiny human), interviewing Nora was one of the first ideas that came to mind. She’s a first-time mother living in New York City, and one of the most compassionate and brave people I know. Talking to Nora about her experience with Baby Price helps continue my education into what motherhood means, and I’m glad to share it with you!

BREASTFEEDING BEGINNINGS:

Did you always know you would breastfeed?

My mom breastfed both my brother and I so I always knew I would someday.

What was your previous exposure to breastfeeding like?

I worked as a babysitter and my mom had a daycare in my house growing up, so I was incredibly familiar with moms who breastfeeding. I was very lucky to have many families I babysat for who breastfed and so I was exposed to how they did it in New York City. One mom in particular would breastfeed in her carrier while we would walk around the city. She was such a role model for normalizing breastfeeding as a normal, on the go, part of her day.

I also watched a lot of YouTube videos and documentaries on breastfeeding right before I gave birth. Reading articles on Kellymom.com so that I would feel confident when starting breastfeeding, or at least know where I could find help if I needed it.

What was it like the first time you were able to breastfeed your child?

Watching my son do the crawl towards my breast was amazing. He needed a little assistance to latch for the first time, but seeing him figure it out and experiencing us figuring it out together and our new relationship was so rewarding. My milk came in fairly fast, and with the help of my midwives, doula, and husband we were able to find success and I felt confident that I was able to create this relationship of breastfeeding.

What (if any) challenges did you encounter while learning to breastfeed?

My left nipple had always been inverted, and so my son would get frustrated when it was time to nurse on that side at first as it would take time to get the nipple to stay for him to latch. So I did experience a couple of plugged ducts on that side and some engorgement which I was able to remedy with a warm wash cloth and Epson salt bath. I loved that I had online resources that helped guide me in clearing up the problem so that I wouldn’t panic. Looking back on it now, it did take time for my nipples to not feel uncomfortable and thank goodness for ice packs and nipple cream! But I knew those minor uncomfortable moments were so worth giving my baby the best nutrients possible.

BREASTFEEDING IN THE CITY

Nora City Hall
Nora and Price nursing on the steps of NYC City Hall

Have you ever had to feed/pump in a less-than-ideal place/situation (i.e. subway, audition, etc.)?

My friend gave me a book called The Places You’ll Feed which is a take on Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go and oh my, was she right! I quickly learned to feed anywhere and everywhere. I got really good at feeding him in the front pack. I’ve fed him on the subway, in the middle of rehearsal–my favorite memory is doing a reading of a new play in which I was feeding him in the front pack while standing still as a “tree”. I was recently on my way to catch the Amtrak train from NYC to Albany and we were on the go and baby needed to eat, so I carried him in my arms with my boob popped out of my sun dress charging down 8th Ave near Penn Station! A police man gave me a double take when he realized I was nursing and then smiled, gave me a thumbs up, along with a “good for you” nod of approval.

There have been a couple of rehearsals I was at where baby did not come with me, and I actually had to hand express milk into a toilet in a bathroom. That was poor planning on my part; I quickly learned to carry little freezer bags and would hand express my supply if I was at a long rehearsal. Most of the time I had my husband or a friend come hold the baby at rehearsal, and would feed him on a break or while I was not immediately working.

How do you balance breastfeeding while working/travelling for work?

I feel very lucky to have two professions that allow me to bring my baby with me, for the most part. As an Independent Consultant for Arbonne International, I can set my own hours of work which entails video conferences from home, coffee dates and group meeting that not only allow me to bring my baby with, but are encouraged. I have lead trainings over video conference in which I tip up my camera and keep baby in my lap while breastfeeding. I also bring him along to my one-on-one consultations over coffee and when he’s hungry I feed him. I’ve also had the chance to travel on the plane and train and car which has led to some interesting places to feed as well. I quickly took on the motto I once heard a Lactation Consultant say,” Boobies are for Babies, if you don’t like it you can put a blanket over YOUR head,” and so I confidently feed whenever we need. I find that when you feed with love, people respect that it’s you loving your baby. I also pump at night to keep a supply at home for those days he’s with Daddy or those days we need coverage for shows and date nights. We have gotten really good at packing freezer bags and milk in our luggage!

Breastfeeding is sadly still not 100% publicly accepted; have you ever found yourself in a situation where you have faced any negative responses?

I have not had any direct negative comments when I feed. I’ve sensed that some people feel uncomfortable when I do, but I think it comes out of a wanting to respect me and my child; I used to do the same thing when I was around women breastfeeding and now I can’t help but think, “Why was I soooo awkward.” I usually give people permission if they feel like they should give me privacy, that for me, I’m okay if they are okay. I feed my baby with that attitude as if this is an everyday, normal activity, because it is! I think I’m so comfortable doing it now, that sometimes people don’t even realize that I am nursing my little guy. That being said, I do love our one-on-one nursing sessions at home or somewhere quiet and alone for us to connect. I love that I have the freedom to be where I need and want to be, and most importantly be where the best place for my son to eat is and I realize that is going to be different for each Mommy and baby. For Price and I, that is usually on-the-go and no covers or blankets because we like to see each other and not feel tangled up and sweaty.

BREASTFEEDING AND BEYOND:

How (if at all) has your partner been involved with breastfeeding?

My husband has been so incredibly supportive. He propped pillows up around me in the early days to find the right position, watched YouTube videos on positioning before our baby got here and has told me there is not a more beautiful picture than his wife feeding his child. Those loving words, make me feel like a Mommy Goddess and that has given me so much confidence in my ability as a mom. I know breastfeeding has brought us even closer. Those simple words of encouragement not only make me all happy and twitterpated inside, but I actually have witnessed that when I’m pumping in the living room, if he walks in my let down comes faster! Ah, oxytocin the love drug, how fab is that! He also would rub my feet while I would nurse in the early days, and run my ice packs back and forth.

How long do you plan to breastfeed your current child, and will you breastfeed future children?

I feel incredibly confident in listening to my son and his needs and know that breastfeeding is a relationship, but I am hoping to go for at least a year if not 2 years of nursing with my son. We hope to have more children in the future and I’m excited to see the relationship I will get to build through nursing with them. I am also open to the idea of tandem feeding if we have children close in age.

What has been the greatest help to you while navigating these first few months of breastfeeding?

I was a huge fan of Kellymom.com and my doula and midwives were great at prepping me before the baby was here. I also found support in our local mom’s group led by a lactation consultant and sleep coach.

What advice/knowledge do you wish you had known before starting breastfeeding that you would want to pass on to others?

Know that your breasts are going to take a couple weeks, if not a month to get adjusted. I also didn’t realize how many breast pads I would go through. Invest in some really good, comfy sleep/nursing bras to live in. Having to sleep in a bra again was something I wasn’t thinking about pre-baby. I am a huge fan of double layering my clothes. A tank top you can pull down, and a flowing shirt you can wear on top to pull up makes feeding in public feel less exposed. I also highly recommend having nipple cream and cold freezer packs ready for engorgement as your body adjusts to its new function! And most of all, be patient with yourself and your baby. It’s not just about a LATCH, it’s a relationship between two people, it takes time to establish, but that time and focus dedicated to finding out your perfect position is so rewarding. Hang in there and surround yourself with positive people: lactation care providers, moms’ groups, and online support groups are all great to have established before little baby gets here!

How has breastfeeding changed you, your relationship to your partner, etc.?

I feel more confident as a woman, mom and wife breastfeeding. It’s a powerful, yet calm, feeling to be able to be your little one’s sole provider of nutrients. It’s amazing that nature creates the perfect food for our little ones. I feel such a sweet and close connection to my son when we have a nursing session. The way he looks up and smiles at me, that feeling that, “Hey, we are here together! I am yours and you are mine,” that bond is like nothing else I’ve ever felt in my life. To include Daddy, we sing our son the same three songs every night right before bedtime while he nurses. Daddy holds me, while I hold our baby. It’s a great family memory we are creating.

I know many partnerships and cultures avoid feeding in public or don’t even consider breastfeeding because of the sexual nature and association we have with breasts. I’m very much of the mindset that why can’t they be both? I think breasts can be functional and sexy. Life doesn’t have to be black and white. We are flexible beings, and just as a Mom can be strong she can also be vulnerable and I think if we as a culture empower women to follow their instincts, we will begin to release this “shame” about our parenting, birthing, or feeding choices. If we simply just remove the judgement of each other, we can all start to feel strong, confident, and sexy while still being our soft, open, and sensitive selves.

Thank you, Nora, for sharing your experience and insights!

 

 

*(Ed. Note: Our Milk Way blogger Jess Fedenia is on parental leave for the months of July, August, and September, 2016 to welcome a third child into the family. During Jess’s leave, members of the Healthy Children Project circle are taking up the blogger role.)

 

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