Learning “What’s Normal” in Breastfeeding and Following Your Motherly Instincts

“In the beginning, breastfeeding my daughter was a challenge.  We both had a traumatic birth experience which led to complications getting breastfeeding started.  We had several lactation consultants try to help, but we were still struggling after leaving the hospital.  I had always been told that it was normal for things to hurt in the beginning and felt I just needed to try harder to get her latched on correctly and that would solve the problem.

Well, weeks went by and my nipples started feeling better, but my daughter was still having issues with nursing.  She was choking on my milk and was getting a lot of air while nursing, leading to lots of burps, hiccups, and spit up while nursing.  I had a gut feeling that something was wrong, but I kept hearing everything we were going through was normal and that I just had an oversupply and a strong letdown which was leading to the issues. My daughter’s weight gain was good so the doctors and midwives weren’t concerned.

Learning "What's Normal" in Breastfeeding and Following Your Motherly InstinctsSo we kept on going with the promise that things would get better as time went by.  Around three months old my daughter was still having the same symptoms. I still had a lot of milk and a strong letdown, which was making me feel uncomfortable and my daughter was having problems taking it all in.  I finally decided to go in to see my WIC peer counselor, Lyssa, to get her advice.  I had recently been doing some reading about lip and tongue ties and after looking at my daughter suspected that she had both.  Lyssa said she couldn’t diagnose that condition, but gave me a referral list of local providers to contact and a manual pump and some milk savers to help me manage my oversupply while I found a provider to evaluate my daughter for lip and/or tongue tie.

At four months old my daughter was finally diagnosed with a lip and tongue tie by a pediatric dentist and I felt so relieved that I finally had an answer and knew I wasn’t crazy for thinking we were having issues.  However, despite the diagnosis I was still nervous about going through with the procedure.  I perceived that things were getting better with nursing and didn’t know if the revision was necessary at that point.  So we declined it and kept on nursing.

More months went by and my daughter started getting more teeth.  It was at that point I really noticed just how shallow her latch was and how it felt like she was just chewing on my nipple to get the milk out instead of drawing the nipple back into her mouth like she was supposed to.  She was also having some issues eating solids.  After continuing to research more about lip and tongue ties I realized how important it was for baby to have a good latch for not just nursing success, but for future oral health.  So I finally decided it was time to get my daughter’s lip and tongue tie fixed to help avoid future issues like speech, dental, and ENT problems, just to name a few.

At 9 months old Ava had the procedure to remove her ties, which was quick and not too painful.  I also took her in weekly to see a speech language pathologist to help her learn to use her tongue properly not only for nursing, but for eating solids and speech.  Her latch improved tremendously in just three months of therapy.  She also started eating solids better and was beginning to talk a lot around that time.  I always wonder now if her speech would have been delayed or problematic if we would not have revised her tongue tie.  At 20 months old, my daughter is still breastfeeding with no plans to wean any time soon.

It took us a long time to get a groove, but with help from my peer counselor and other breastfeeding moms we figured out what was causing issues and were able to have a breastfeeding success story to share with other moms.  It’s because of that journey that I myself have decided to help other moms with breastfeeding with the long-term goal of becoming an IBCLC.  Support is so important for a breastfeeding mom and the WIC peer counselors and staff are just another great resource to have in your corner.”

Kristen, Kyle, TX WIC

Lyssa’s story of Giving Her All

Lyssa's story of Giving Her All“I started my breastfeeding journey with the goal of making it to a year. During the first month I had a hard time due to having to deal with Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex. But once we got past that things leveled out. Once I made it to a year I was very happy, then I thought, “Why not keep going?”

Then two years came around. Kept going. Then three years came around. I decided to stop breastfeeding at three years and the next thing I know we were 5 months away from her fourth birthday. So we decided to go to age four.

Last night as we laid down to nurse after suckling for a minute or so my daughter got a sad face and said there was no milk. So I told her to try the other one. She suckled at the other breast for a minute then again looked at me and said there was no milk. She got sad and turned into her pillow.  After a few minutes she decided she wanted call everyone and tell them.

I feel like we have come to the end of our journey and what a journey it was. I have proven to myself over and over that I can do this. And since this is my last child I was happy to be able to give her my all.”

Lyssa, Lockhart, TX WIC

Observations from World Breastfeeding Week

observations from world breastfeeding weekWorld Breastfeeding Week may be over but National Breastfeeding Month continues throughout August with many opportunities to raise awareness for breastfeeding, support mothers in their breastfeeding efforts and celebrate breastfeeding as the very best nutritional choice for babies.  In fact, we will be celebrating Black Breastfeeding Week August 25-31 as a culmination of our National Breastfeeding Month festivities.

As we look back at World Breastfeeding Week, we can’t help but cheer for the victories for breastfeeding in the U.S. and take note of the work that still needs to be done.  Many other countries are still fighting for some of the issues the U.S. has worked hard to overcome. Plus nations around the world had significant triumphs this World Breastfeeding Week that we want to share. Today we’re giving an overview of observations from World Breastfeeding Week:

U.S. Breastfeeding Victories

Because of the progress made in the U.S., evidence-based information has changed many mothers’ perspective on the best way to nourish their babies. Study after study proves the benefits of breastfeeding for babies and mothers. From science to celebrities, more and more education and role models are making headlines in support of breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding in public was once taboo but is now more accepted than ever and protected by law. While some social stigma still exists, moms are prioritizing their babies’ health over a few awkward glances or snarky comments.

Mothers who cannot breastfeed are also seeking help from other moms in the form of donor milk.

Employers are making more effort to accommodate breastfeeding moms in the workplace, especially because statistics show breastfeeding makes families healthier leading to less missed workdays and morale is higher when moms have the opportunity to meet their breastfeeding goals and maintain their careers.

All of these are incredible victories for the U.S.

U.S. Breastfeeding Opportunities

Despite the aforementioned accomplishments, there are still barriers to success in the U.S. There is a socio-economic, cultural and racial divide when it comes to breastfeeding as many lower-income and minority communities lack the support they need to successfully breastfeed.  And they may be the very ones who would benefit from breastfeeding the most.

Many moms are misinformed about breastfeeding from the start when hospital staff do not promote breastfeeding but rather offer simpler alternatives as a quick fix.

Plus, until breastfeeding rates are close to 100%, there will always be work to do for this important health cause.

These are all opportunities for improvement in the U.S.

A Global Breastfeeding Perspective

observations from world breastfeeding weekIn other countries the focus of World Breastfeeding Week is overcoming some of the same challenges as the U.S., but the majority are still working to rise to the level of societal acceptance that most Americans have. Breastfeeding in public is one of the biggest issues at the global level. Case in point: according to The Times of India, breastfeeding in public “is a worry and a fear in India.” In Colombia, mothers joined together for a public breastfeeding event to stand up for the cause.

In China, breastfeeding rates are rising but still lower than many countries. A recent controversial photo of mothers breastfeeding on the subway sparked a heated online discussion of public breastfeeding intolerance and demonstrated the sentiments of many Chinese citizens. However, perhaps it was all for a good cause because during World Breastfeeding Week the Chinese government “pledged to set up more nursing rooms in public spaces and encouraged companies to follow suit,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Another experience in Poland provoked governmental involvement too. A woman who was asked to nurse her baby in a bathroom at a restaurant was outraged and went public with her story. The health minster then made this statement: “Breastfeeding is not only a natural act, but an act which actually deserves the widest support possible. Stigmatizing women for breastfeeding in public is not acceptable.”  The instigating incident was unfortunate but as a result it brought national attention to the issue in Poland.

At the local level, similar to the U.S., certain areas have lower breastfeeding rates, perhaps based on lack of support. Communities are getting creative to try to improve conditions. For example, per the website BelfastLive, Belfast has the lowest breastfeeding-from-birth rate among England, Scotland and Wales and their numbers significantly drop by six weeks and six months. As a solution, 400 businesses, facilities and attractions signed on to an initiative to support breastfeeding at their locations, complete with signage and staff training.

Another stride in support of breastfeeding was made in Thailand this World Breastfeeding Week.  The Ministry of Health will take a bill to the National Legislative Assembly that forbids advertising or marketing formula or other food products to infants and young children including offering coupons and free samples. It also binds healthcare professionals to promote breastfeeding as the healthiest option for babies. This is a major step forward for breastfeeding in Thailand.

Although breastfeeding is a 24/7, 365 days of the year issue, World Breastfeeding Week magnifies the cause on the global stage. Each country faces challenges and World Breastfeeding Week is a great opportunity to focus on these issues in order to make improvements. The U.S. has come so far, yet there is still much work to do to ensure every baby is given the gift of health through breastfeeding.

The Lifesaving Gift of Breastfeeding

The Lifesaving Gift of Breastfeeding“I was 23 years old and terrified the first time I walked into WIC. My birth control had failed and I found myself thrown into a foreign world. Besides the typical fears first time moms have – for their unborn babies, impending labor and of course the constant thought that my body is ruined – I had the added fear of how does a poor single woman from Lorain provide for another human being?! I struggled to care for myself alone. And so great was my fear that I couldn’t support a child that I spent my entire first trimester researching adoption.

As I searched for ways to provide for a family, I found myself at WIC. I expected to get some stamps or coupons to help with food but I had no idea of the wealth of support and information they would offer.

As a child I was breastfed and so I planned to breastfeed. But only because that was what my mom did. At WIC they taught me the hundreds of benefits of breastfeeding. The more I learned, the more excited and passionate I became about breastfeeding. And of course one HUGE perk is it’s free (saving moms $2,000-4,000 a year)! WIC also provided amazing breastfeeding tools that I use daily (to this day!) such as a breastfeeding cover and pump which I would have struggled to afford and probably would have not purchased on my own.

As I learned more I decided to “term” breastfeed my daughter (some people call it extended breastfeeding). I read of all the benefits breastfeeding can offer to toddlers and decided to let my daughter self wean when she is ready. When my daughter was 2 I had my second child. She breastfed throughout my pregnancy and we are now tandem nursing. My son (8lb 6oz at birth) is 8 weeks and over 12 pounds and my daughter is a thriving, happy, healthy little girl.

I hear a lot of people say how hard breastfeeding was when they first started. And I have certainly had my struggles throughout my two years of breastfeeding. But I can honestly say that I’ve never once thought of quitting because of the arsenal of information and support I’m armed with. I know that this is something fully worth doing and that I absolutely can do. Thank you WIC for the lifesaving gift of breastfeeding (and everything else). And thank you to all those who support WIC so that they can continue to nourish families in our community.”

Hannah, Lorain County, OH WIC

Gemma’s Story: Battling Lupus, Conceiving & Breastfeeding Successfully

Gemma's Story: Battling Lupus, Conceiving & Breastfeeding Successfully“One year after my son was born, 2013, I was diagnosed with Lupus Nephritis stage 4. I was told that I would never be able to have another baby. I was on 18 pills a day. Through medication, exercise and diet change (low sodium and no processed foods), I went into remission and convinced the doctors to switch my meds and allow us to try for a baby.

One year later we had the green light and 2 months later I was pregnant with Emily.

I was told that I probably wouldn’t be able to breastfeed due to supply issues and the constant fatigue from lupus. Lupus forced me to wean my son cold turkey three days shy of his first year birthday. I would not let this control my life or my daughters.

Gemma's Story: Battling Lupus, Conceiving & Breastfeeding SuccessfullyShe was born healthy on her due date and we have breastfed from day 1 with zero supplementing. She fought me on bottles when I went back to work but in the end she would take 1 bottle of pumped milk a day at daycare. I work as an instructor full time at Springfield College teaching Biology to freshman. I was able to nurse her on my breaks at the daycare.

She is now 15 months on Friday and I can hardly believe that this journey is still going strong. She still nurses 4-5 times throughout the day and what’s amazing is that she is keeping me in remission. The hormones that are associated with breastfeeding keep my lupus quiet. I don’t know when this journey will end but I am sure glad to be apart of it.”

Gemma, Manchester/Bolton, CT, La Leche League


Breastfeeding Success Story: Triumph in the End!

Breastfeeding Success Story: Triumph in the End!“I wanted to share my story. My daughter is almost 5 months old. My water broke 4 weeks early, (but) when I went to the hospital I was only 1 cm dilated. Long story short by 30 hours of labor, my doctor said I needed to have an emergency c-section because I started to get a fever.

My daughter Adeline was born weighing 7 pounds 9 ounces which is a great size for a baby being born early. When she was born she had low blood sugar and jaundice. She was in the NICU for a week. They fed her bottle of formula which was far from what I wanted. But everyday until she got out of the hospital every three hours I would go and try breastfeeding her.

Breastfeeding Success Story: Triumph in the End!It took 5 days for my milk to finally come in. She had a good latch but became frustrated because the milk didn’t come fast like the bottle. So I would try feeding her then pump so she could get my milk instead of the formula. She stopped drinking formula after a week. And I kept trying to feed her but she only wanted the bottle. So I exclusively pumped until she was almost 2 months. About then I finally got her to feed off of me I was so excited!!! And from that point we have been exclusively breastfeeding!!

It was so hard at the beginning, but I am so glad I stuck with it!!”

Jenn, Jacksonville, FL La Leche League

An IBCLC’s Story of Experiencing Breastfeeding Firsthand

An IBCLC's Story of Experiencing Breastfeeding Firsthand“I delivered a healthy 8lb, 8oz baby boy in January.  He would not latch and I was devastated.  The nurses at the hospital worked continuously with me and we finally got him to nurse with a nipple shield.

About two weeks after delivery he started screaming about 30 minutes after nursing.  The doctors said he had reflux and colic.  I kept feeling guilty thinking it was something I was doing wrong or something I was eating to make him like this.  I have cut out dairy from my diet and it seems to be helping.

Even though I am a registered nurse and an IBCLC [International Board Certified Lactation Consultant] and teach and inform other moms about breastfeeding and coach them through nursing problems every day, I never realized just how hard it is.  You are sleep deprived and will do anything for your new baby.  When problems start happening you automatically think its something you yourself is doing wrong.

I would never have been able to continue exclusively breastfeeding without my family’s support and the support of my nursing friends and our peer helper at the WIC clinic I work in.  I am proud to say my baby just turned 6 months old, is exclusively breastfed and we have actually weaned completely off the nipple shield.  He comes to work with me every day too!”

Ashley, Director of WIC – Jefferson County, OH

An IBCLC's Story of Experiencing Breastfeeding Firsthand An IBCLC's Story of Experiencing Breastfeeding Firsthand An IBCLC's Story of Experiencing Breastfeeding Firsthand

A Peer Counselor’s Personal Story of Breastfeeding

A Peer Counselor's Personal Story of Breastfeeding“My name is Faith and I have always acknowledged the benefits of breastfeeding.

Growing up with a lactation consultant for a mother will do that to you, but never in my wildest dreams did I expect to witness them firsthand like I did.

Twenty weeks into my pregnancy, an ultrasound revealed a hole in my baby son’s stomach.

Things began to happen very fast. We were lost in a sea of doctor’s appointments, surgeon interviews, and NICU tours, all the while trying to come to grips that a “normal” birth just was no longer in the cards for us. The plan was for him to be taken early, via C-section, to prevent damage to his exposed intestine. He would be rushed to the NICU and operated on just hours after birth.

Calvin was born on May 15th, eight weeks premature, with his small and large intestine and stomach exposed.

While I was stuck in bed waiting for the okay from the nurses to visit my baby, I was given what every mother in my situation craves — the opportunity to help her baby in a way no surgeon could.A Peer Counselor's Personal Story of Breastfeeding I was given a breast pump. I couldn’t hold Calvin, I couldn’t even see him yet, but I could ensure that he had the nutrition he needed!  Within four hours after birth, I had collected over 36 mls of colostrum!

Due to his two surgeries and waiting for his gut to wake up, it was a full two weeks on intravenous nutrition before we could introduce some of my milk. Just two mls at first, but after a few initial setbacks, the volume increased and the Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) decreased. Calvin’s tiny body began to heal. He astounded the neonatologists and the nurses at how well he tolerated his feeds. I’ll never forget when he was up to two ounce feedings; I tentatively asked when I could breastfeed. The nurse just looked at me and said “Now.” The nurse started walking away to find a nipple shield when suddenly Calvin popped himself on perfectly and started nursing away no problem. The staff was astounded yet again.

A Peer Counselor's Personal Story of BreastfeedingAfter 35 days in the NICU, Calvin left the NICU without a drop of formula. After I got him home, I visited Debbie Vargas at my WIC clinic in Georgetown. She gave me a lot of encouragement.  I was not only able to feed Calvin, I had so much extra milk I donated it to other moms and babies who needed it.

Calvin is a healthy, happy little boy today and I owe so much of that to my commitment to breastfeed despite our initial challenges.”

Faith, Breastfeeding Peer Counselor at Williamson County and Citiies Health District, Georgetown

Clinging to Breastfeeding

Clinging to Breastfeeding“I did not get the birth I wanted so I clung to being able to breastfeed. We struggled…a lot. So much. He was not latching. It would take him 30-45 min for him to latch sometimes!

And then I had been in excruciating pain for two-and-a-half months before I realized he had a tongue and lip tie. (A previous LC told me he was not tied. So I thought the pain was normal.) Well we finally got it corrected and it was going well until it reattached 🙁

I went to multiple doctors and they all told me they couldn’t do the second revision and that I should just quit breastfeeding. I was definitely not quitting! I had worked so hard already! So we traveled to Chattanooga to get his ties revised. Bam! The doctor did it! It was amazing afterwards and we haven’t looked back!

Almost 11 months strong and no end in sight!”

Kimberly, Portland, TN – La Leche League

La Leche League Leader Thanks Brave Breastfeeders

La Leche League Leader Thanks Brave Breastfeeders

When I first found out I would be having my oldest child I knew I’d breastfeed. My mother and sister had both breastfed their children so it was normal. Even with that pre-made decision I found myself stocking up on bottles ahead of his birth, because it was the culturally expected thing to do.  Who doesn’t need bottles?   I have memories of my mother breastfeeding her youngest and my sister nursing a wiggly baby.  But I never saw any one else breastfeed in the community.  Bottles were the feeding implement of choice, so I stocked up expecting to need them.  I didn’t think breastfeeding would fail, but it felt like bottles were required with having a baby.

Until my son arrived I had no idea how much that affected me.  I found myself pumping my breasts to allow family to bottle feed, which led to oversupply and mastitis.  Within weeks of birth I was getting questions about when I’d be weaning.  He wasn’t even out of his newborn clothes before the questions began. My husband’s family called regularly to ask, and well meaning friends and family would provide “facts” about when the breastfeeding benefits would run out. My own father was horrified that I breastfed in public without a cover.  I found breastfeeding impossible with one. I knew no one else breastfeeding at the time, and I was beginning to feel like a foreigner in my hometown.

It was after my second child was born that I found my support network at La Leche League meetings and the community. I ultimately decided my calling was to help others. For 10 years I’ve worked with many families to help them find support and, hopefully provide a tiny bit of a network for them while they cultivate their own. Awareness campaigns like World Breastfeeding Week are important in so many ways that it is hard to list them all. The one most important to me is visibility.  Because this week is when others, that may not be so visible the rest of the year, come out and bond over a shared interest to create that support network.

I owe my success in breastfeeding to those who came before me and instilled the desire to nurture my children through breastfeeding. Families who are willing to brave the world by breastfeeding their children in stores, cars, libraries, with or without covers all provide what we all need: a culture that views breastfeeding as normal.

For these reasons I want to say to these families:

You helped me feel comfortable enough to meet my goals, because I knew you had been there.

You helped me see that breastfeeding didn’t mean never leaving my home or always being the one hiding in the back room at get togethers.

You helped me, even if we didn’t speak. You helped me by being visible.


Cathy Heinz – La Leche League USA Council Member and Leader, IBCLC