When I found out I was pregnant with my second daughter, I was excited to try and hopefully succeed at breastfeeding her. I struggled with breastfeeding my first daughter, Kenley, which made me worry that maybe I would be unsuccessful again. With Kenley, I suffered from cracked, bleeding nipples; decreased production, which caused her to experience weight loss; and due to an ineffective latch, my milk supply never came in to its full potential.
Support groups online were a helpful outlet for me to express my concerns, and they also kept me encouraged as I prepared for my new baby’s arrival. But I still wondered: What if my baby goes hungry? What if she loses weight? What if it’s because of me?
When Madelyn was born, the first few days were great. Members of the Lactation Team at Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital were right at my bedside during my hospital stay working with Madelyn’s latch, expressing colostrum when she wouldn’t latch, and helping me become more comfortable with breastfeeding positions. The first few days were promising and we didn’t have any problems. Or so I thought.
Once we got home, I noticed Madelyn would fall asleep and tire out very quickly during our nursing sessions. I heard strange clicking sounds; my nipples were very tender and she could not get a deep latch; and, most noticeably and concerning, she wasn’t gaining weight like she should have been. After our one-week follow-up appointment with our pediatrician, Madelyn still wasn’t back to her birth weight.
One of the IBCLCs (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant®) at Memorial Hermann Southeast noticed that she had a lip and possible tongue tie, which were restricting her movement and causing issues for her latch. Our pediatrician referred us to an ENT specialist to have her evaluated and, at just 3 weeks old, Madelyn had her lip, tongue and buccal ties lasered to improve the function of her mouth and tongue.
Before we got treatment, I had to triple feed, nurse, pump and then feed bottle-pumped milk. It had become exhausting and stressful. But after her treatment – and with the help of a few weeks of exercises and pain management while working with her latch – breastfeeding became a whole new experience. She did so well, the pain was gone, and my supply increased to fit her demands.
My daughter just turned 6 months old a few weeks ago and we are still going strong at breastfeeding. For many moms, breastfeeding comes so easy, but for me and my daughter, we had to work hard for it. Without the support from the lactation team, I wouldn’t have made it this far. I was able to keep in touch with them before, during and after Madelyn’s lip and tongue revisions. I felt comfortable talking to them about my issues and problem areas in order to find out what my needs were and how best to solve them. They were absolutely incredible to work with, so encouraging, and I will forever be grateful for their help.
Breastfeeding is hard. It is physically and emotionally exhausting at times but, as mothers, we are determined to try to do what is best for our babies. My first month was rough. I had moments during which I questioned if I would be successful or if I should continue trying. I wondered if she was getting enough milk, if I made the right choice to get her tongue and lip corrected, or if I should have just switched her to formula. One thing that helped me get through it was to set short-term goals for myself. I started with six weeks, then three months, and now we are at six months and still going strong with our new goal being one year.
The breastfeeding journey creates a wonderful bond between a mother and her baby and, for me, it is unlike anything else. As a nurse, I love educating my patients about the benefits of breastfeeding, while my personal struggles have helped me better understand their emotions and stressors. I’ve been on both sides. I’ve had to give formula and that’s okay too. Every baby and every experience is unique, and I remind my patients of that and urge them to get to know their child. You have to know your baby to know what works for your baby.
Since 1992, August 1 to 7 has been recognized as World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) in more than 120 countries to increase awareness of the tremendous health benefits that breastfed infants enjoy.
Memorial Hermann Health System has received numerous awards for its efforts in educating mothers and promoting breastfeeding at its campuses and in the community. Learn more or click here to register for educational classes on breastfeeding, post-partum care and more at a location near you.