In honor of National breastfeeding awareness month, we are sharing the real stories of local mamas breastfeeding journeys. Hear Rachel's story here.
Rachel's Breastfeeding Story
Guest author: Rachel West
My breastfeeding journey began on September 4th, 2018. I welcomed my first daughter, Lily, into the world. The first few days were miserable. I couldn’t get this baby to latch. I used a nipple shield, I tried squirting milk into her mouth, and dipping my nipple or the shield into sugar water to tempt her. I finally caved in on day 5 and gave her a bottle. She drank it so fast! I still could never get her to latch. Lily’s tongue was long and she had a smaller mouth. My nipples are also a little larger than average. I pumped around the clock for her. I still felt the need to feed my daughter. I may not be able to give it to her straight from the source, but she’s still going to get the milk. I pumped every 4 hours and once or twice at night. Then my period started again. My supply tanked! I panicked, and I was very grateful for a support group on Facebook that helped me with donor milk. It happened every month, because I didn’t really have a freezer stash.
In late February of 2019 my supply completely went away, and I found out I was pregnant again. My journey with Lily came to a quick end. I was slightly disappointed, but hopeful that I could feed this next baby. Nearly a month after I found out I was pregnant I quickly found out I lost it.
There was so much going on in my small family’s life that I didn’t try to get my supply back. I’d heard of stories and women that had tried and succeeded, but I didn’t want to stress myself out about it. We had just moved into a new house and there were other personal issues that needed my attention. I was able to take care of Lily with formula, and she was beginning to eat table foods now too.
Fast forward to September 19th, 2019! I was pregnant again! I gave birth to another healthy girl, Evelyn, May 8th, 2020. I was so worried that my new daughter wasn’t going to breastfeed. She’s been doing great though. We’ve been using a nipple shield the entire time, and just found out about a tongue tie on her as well. Evelyn has transferred wonderfully and is gaining like any other baby. She’s 3 months and right on track.
I’ve been going to a support group with Evelyn since she was about 3-4 weeks old. Talking to other moms that are doing this and going through the same struggles I am with the help of lactation consultants has been the biggest help this past couple of months.
Breastfeeding was so hard the first few weeks. It was hard to find a rhythm while adjusting to this newest addition to our family. Juggling a newborn and toddler during a pandemic wasn’t too daunting, because my husband has been working from home. He’s been a huge supporter and has continued to cheer me on. He wants to help do what he can so that I can meet my breastfeeding goals. I’d love to breastfeed for a year. I have no idea if I’ll continue after that. I feel like I’ll continue feeding Evelyn until there isn’t a need or a want. I let Lily try my breast milk, but she’s not interested anymore. I didn’t want to tandem feed, but I would be willing to give Lily any extra milk if she gets sick.
Breastfeeding has made me so proud of my body and what it can do. I am my daughter’s only source of food right now. She’s entirely reliant on me, and it’s empowering. It can be stressful too; for example: she’s only wanting to feed from my right breast. It’s more comfortable for both of us, but she should try and feed from the left. I offer it! She’ll just cry or smile and stick her tongue out! My right breast has been keeping up perfectly, so my breasts are slightly lopsided. If she only eats from my right breast I can live with it, and it’ll be something I can look back on and giggle at with her.
I feel like our feeding sessions are so special. We snuggle together on my bed and she’ll latch on, and sometimes she’ll take a nap. I may take a nap with her or I’ll watch something. It feels so intimate. I believe Evelyn is gonna be a momma’s girl. She smiles so much at me. I’ve been so proud of how far we’ve come in 3 short months.