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After having a fairly easy, uneventful pregnancy, I just assumed breastfeeding would be the same way. I had heard it could be difficult but I had mentally committed myself to the process, no matter what. I had a very rough start to my breastfeeding experience and even though I had taken breastfeeding classes and learned so much about it, there was little mention of how difficult it can be at the start. Fortunately, over time, and with proper instruction, breastfeeding has become fairly simple and something I really love.

Throughout my breastfeeding adventure, I learned that approximately 70% of women struggle with breastfeeding while only 30% succeed without any issues. I wanted to share my breastfeeding struggles to help other women be prepared for the parts of the process nobody warned me about – latching, and waiting for the milk to come in.

In my birth plan I had made a point of asking my doctor to bring the baby to my chest immediately after birth so I could bond and breastfeed. I had learned that those first minutes were crucial in making that connection with my child and beginning the breastfeeding bond. My son, Beckett, was not in the mood to make this connection just yet so though he was bright-eyed and ready to take on the world, he didn’t want to breastfeed. I tried not to stress out about it and was relieved when he finally did come to the breast within the first hour of his life. He latched right away so I thought we were off to a great start!

It wasn’t until later that night that we started having problems. All of a sudden, he didn’t want to latch anymore and began screaming at the top of his lungs, most likely due to his frustration and hunger. Thank goodness (or so I thought) the hospital provided a lactation consultant to come help us. I wish I could say she was amazing and did the trick, but far from it. She convinced me that Becks was having trouble latching due to the shape of my nipples and handed me a “nipple shield” and wished me luck. I was a bit perplexed. We hadn’t had an issue with my so-called inverted nipples earlier so why now had my nipples decided they need this stupid plastic thing to get my baby to eat? Regardless, I was happy to feed him and put a stop to the screaming so I took the shield and got the job done.

The next day I requested another lactation consultant to come and give me her opinion. Just like the last one, she gave me very little of her time and saw that I had a screaming frustrated baby so she essentially gave up on me and said to keep using the shield for now. I felt so confused! Upon leaving the hospital, I had met one final consultant very briefly who got the baby to latch immediately and sent me on my way. When we got home, he wouldn’t latch the same way again. I used the shield and did the best I could to just make sure he was getting the food he needed and that was all.

Because of using the nipple shield, my milk was taking longer to come in than it normally would. On that first night home from the hospital, Beckett became hysterical with hunger but as a new mom, I couldn’t calm him down enough to get him to eat more. I assumed he must have just been overly tired, as he had slept very little compared to most newborns in the hospital. He spent the entire first night at home alternating between sleeping and screaming, and ashamedly, I admit he went almost seven hours without eating. I kept trying and trying but to no avail.

At around 5:30 the next morning when Beckett woke up after a good long sleep, I prayed to every spiritual being known to man that he would take the boob and get the food that he needed. Thank goodness he did but my milk still wasn’t in! I called a lactation consultant that my pediatrician had referred me to, and though she was completely booked for the day, she made time for us knowing this was a baby who was starving and not yet getting milk.

Linda, the lactation consultant  (known as “My Nursing Coach”), was a godsend! She showed up in her hippie van known as her “mobile breastfeeding center”, fully stocked with everything one could need for breastfeeding, and Linda was full of incredibly helpful knowledge. With her help, Beckett immediately latched on, without the shield, and by the end of our two hours together my milk had come in with a vengeance! Finally he was getting the nutrition he needed and gained back the significant amount of weight he lost within the first week. Phew!

After nine weeks, I can finally say we have breastfeeding down but the issues didn’t stop after that first week. I barely dodged a breast infection twice, have had to deal with overactive letdown (too much milk) causing gas pains for the little guy, had engorged breasts that caused bleeding (that I didn’t even know about until it showed up in Beckett’s spit-up – scary!) and sore nipples. It really took me a solid two months to get in the groove completely, and I wanted to share my story so any new or expectant mothers know that they aren’t alone if they have a similar battle with breastfeeding. I have heard many other stories of women struggling with lack of milk, bleeding nipples, babies refusing the breast, etc…so just know it may not be the dream situation you hoped for at the beginning.

Becoming a mother is overwhelming as it is. Then add on the fact that this tiny person’s entire being is relying on you and your milk to survive and the whole situation can become very intense quickly. Supplementing with formula was not something I wanted to do, so if you’re like me, the pressure is 100% on you to feed this new little life. To this day, I still feel a little pang in my heart when I think about that first night home with Beckett, when I didn’t know any better and essentially let him starve for several hours. If I could do it over again, the one change I would make would be having the lactation consultant come see us that first day we were home, when the baby still wasn’t latching properly. Doing so, would have saved us a very stressful first night home and odds are, my milk would have shown up sooner.

I feel incredibly fortunate that we’re past our breastfeeding issues (for now anyway) and that I can share this incredible bond with Beckett. I hope you don’t have such a dramatic battle with breastfeeding and if you do, you have the access to help. Our insurance paid for our first visit with Linda’s mobile breastfeeding van (my husband calls it the “Boob-mobile”), so it is definitely worth looking into if you don’t get the help you need at the hospital.

Please share your stories to help educate women for their journey so they feel more confident and ready once their little bundle of joy joins us in the world.

Thank you for reading my story. Below are some tips I have learned for a better breastfeeding experience.

Written by Lana House

Studio owner, House Pilates

HEALTHY TIPS FOR BETTER BREASTFEEDING

  • Make sure you drink tons of water while breastfeeding. It is the most important thing for a great milk supply
  • Don’t go hours without eating and make sure you eat lots of healthy fats. Remember that baby is still eating what you are eating just like during pregnancy so eat plenty of healthy foods and eat often. You are burning a lot of calories!
  • Motherlove Nipple cream is AWESOME for sore and cracked nipples. Made only of organic ingredients such as olive oil and shea butter, it is completely safe for baby to eat should there still be some left on your nipple come next feeding
  • More Milk Plus by Motherlove is a fantastic herbal product to help increase your milk supply if yours is low and works almost immediately. Also works later if your milk supply seems to slow down. (They also make More Milk teas as well).
  • There are plenty of other great tips on Linda, the lactation consultant’s, website which include dealing with a breast infection, how to pump and save milk, etc… mynursingcoach.com

It was 2004. I was in my intense Pilates apprentice program, learning to become a Pilates instructor.  During the program, I decided that I wanted to become the healthiest version of myself and decided after almost ten years, that it was time to get off the birth control pills. Not only did it make me a crazy person for one week every 28 days, but something about having a controlled period month after month didn’t seem like the healthiest idea to me anymore. I quit cold turkey in November of ’04.

Fast forward to November of ’05. My period had been a no-show ever since I  had quit the pill a full year before. I had heard that it isn’t uncommon to go a few months without a period after getting off the pill but by a year later, I was beginning to really worry. My family and friends were getting worried, too. My boyfriend at the time (now husband), Karl, and my parents, insisted I go see a doctor. Though hesitant to be put back on some sort of medication, I followed the advice of Karl and my parents and went to see my OBGYN that month. Sure enough, the doctor gave me two options: 1. Go back on the pill to regulate my period or 2. Try Metformin, a drug prescribed to patients with Type II Diabetes. Apparently Metformin had a side effect that started women’s periods when they had disappeared. She said she had no idea why I wasn’t menstruating as I was a healthy weight and everything else looked good in the ultrasound. The visit was maybe twenty minutes.

I did not like the idea of option 1 – I felt like going back on birth control would only suppress the problem and not solve it. What was I going to do years down the road when I wanted to have children?

It seemed my only option was the second one. I began taking Metformin one tablet twice a day and was told to up the dosage to two pills three times a day when my body was ready. Well, my body never was ready. It HATED Metformin! I was nauseous every time I took it, was EXHAUSTED constantly and had very little appetite. Even when I picked up the prescription from the pharmacy the pharmacist said to me, “You look so young and healthy. Why is your doctor making you take this?” I was wondering the same damn thing.

Six weeks after giving the medication a try, I decided that wouldn’t be the answer for me; not only did I not get my period, but I couldn’t go on feeling like that every day of my life. I spent the next three months taking nothing, and still no sign of my period.  I was starting to feel hopeless. I had a conversation one day with my sister, Larissa, who casually mentioned to me that she had a friend whose friend had also struggled with the same issue; that person had come to realize that her diet – specifically her intake of soy – had made her lose her period. This really struck a chord with me as I had been eating a lot less meat and a lot more soy in the last couple years of my life. Hearing this from my sister, I knew in my gut this probably had something to do with what was going on in my body and knew exactly who to call.

I went and met with a clinical nutritionist, Debra Santelli Delson, who specifically uses food and plant-based supplements as medicine. Immediately she made me feel so much better. She spent over an hour with me, telling me how many women come to her with the same issue and that she can always successfully get their bodies back on track. She helped me to realize that I had never had a normal period growing up and that meant that she and I would have to work to regulate it naturally for the first time in my life.

This nutritionist absolutely changed my life. Within three months of working with her, more than 18 months since going off the pill, I got my period back, totally naturally. She had me cleansing, taking all sorts of different plant and herb based supplements and drastically changed the way that I ate. Debra so thoroughly described how the body works and how each and every part affect each other so that I completely understood why I wasn’t getting my period until now and how we could change my body for the better. It was truly incredible.

Taking the natural route was definitely not the fastest, cheapest or easiest way to go about fixing my problem. It took over three years to have a regular cycle, with a lot of discipline and dedication on both of our parts. But through the entire process, I kept reminding myself that someday when I want to get pregnant, I am setting myself up for a healthy, natural pregnancy.

Here I am, over six years since I first met Debra, pregnant, after just a couple of months of “trying”.  The most important thing I learned from my journey is that I should always trust my gut. Doctors, nutritionists, therapists, trainers, teachers…have a wealth of great information from so many different perspectives that only you and your gut can tell you who has the right information for you.  As clichéd as it sounds, I truly now understand what people mean when they say, “follow your heart”, and I hope you will, too.

Written by Lana House

Owner, House Pilates