I am eternally grateful to a Birth Center mama who, when I was pregnant with my son, said to me that she recommended the breastfeeding class at The Birth Center. I looked into it and signed up. I had always known I wanted to breastfeed my children because my mom had always spoken lovingly of her breastfeeding relationships with me and my sister. She did mention difficulties but they were mostly in the beginning and she never mentioned any ongoing adjustments, changes, or struggles. I imagine time has erased some of the small battles she fought, but maybe she really did have a fairly easy breastfeeding relationship. Whatever the reason, I didn’t really know that it would, in fact, be a journey through every stage.
As recommended, I attended Katie’s class. I went without my husband whose first three children were all formula fed. I figured it was my domain and he would be uncomfortable listening to all the boob talk. I wish I’d had him come with me. If I had known how major our breastfeeding difficulties would be, I would have had him there by my side for sure. I listened and I watched the videos Katie showed but certain words stuck with me. She said “I can’t teach you how to breastfeed your baby yet. Your baby isn’t born.” Wow, I thought. Every baby is different. That’s actually amazing to think that I have no idea what my baby is like yet. Luckily, I also heard Katie tell us that if we ran into trouble once our babies joined us on the outside, we could call for an appointment with her.
I credit the recommendation to go to Katie’s class as the advice that made the most impact on my postpartum life by far with both of my children. Meeting Katie not only, in my opinion, allowed me to have a breastfeeding relationship at all with my children but it opened up a whole community of supportive, amazing moms to talk to and grow with.
When my son, Donovan, arrived, the day before his due date, via c-section, he latched right away in the recovery room. What is still astonishing to me is that, three days later, we were discharged, after having talked to two different lactation consultants, and having my son checked by the nurses and pediatricians. We left the hospital without the word formula ever being mentioned, and only saw a lactation consultant after my repeated requests. My son had lost over 10% of his birth weight, had not had a bowel movement, and was slightly jaundiced. Open the blinds to cure the jaundice was the only advice I got. I took my boy home and by the next night he was lethargic, not waking to feed, and crying when he was awake. Feeling my first moments of true mother’s intuition, I called the pediatrician’s nurse line.
That night we fed my son formula. The next day, we took him to the children’s hospital and found out he was down to 7 lbs 11 ounces, from 8 lb 15 ounces at birth. The doctor said I had to feed my baby however I could. He had started to fight latching, because he figured out something I didn’t know yet. My milk supply was almost non-existent.
I took Donovan home and fed him bottles, which he loved and tried to “put him to the breast” as often as possible like all advice from the internet and friends said but he didn’t want to try to get milk where there was none and he screamed, and I cried, too, and I felt like I was failing my brand new baby. My husband, father of three full grown children who had been fed formula, didn’t understand my angst and just kept reassuring me that formula would work out fine. It would, I knew, but it wasn’t what I wanted. I remembered Katie’s words. I called so she could help me figure out this kid of mine. He was here. He had opinions. I needed to figure out what was going on and I needed someone with more experience in this than I had.
Unfortunately, Katie believed she could take a vacation that year, and in a cruel trick of fate it was that week that she was gone. No, really, she hasn’t lived it down yet and it’s been three and a half years. But we got our appointment for the day he was two weeks old. By then I had almost given up nursing, was pumping ten to twelve times a day, and felt like I had no one to talk to. Everyone I knew just kept telling me to try to nurse as much as possible and they didn’t know the breast aversion my son had at this point caused screaming and thrashing and for both of us to cry. I avoided answering texts and talking to well meaning friends because I didn’t want to have to tell them what was really happening.
I don’t think I have ever felt as relieved in my life as I did after meeting with Katie. I’ll never forget that day. She said she would help me make a plan to try to get my milk supply up, that I did not have to force Donovan to try to nurse in the meantime, and she would help me get him to latch again if and when the time was right. We wrote out the steps for the week and I agreed I could handle them. Katie walked us down to my car and gave me a hug. I’ll never forget the release of stress I felt as I drove home and processed what had just happened. I wasn’t failing. I had a plan. I had someone who could help me. I didn’t have to fight with my son at every meal time. I could breathe. I cried from relief.
Together Katie and I did increase my milk supply, but it was still minimal. Donovan did begin to latch again with Katie’s help and my about six weeks, we were able to have a hybrid feeding situation where he got to breastfeed about three times a day, and received the rest of his nourishment from formula through a bottle. It was a miracle to me, to be able to breastfeed him in this way until he was seven months old. I am certain that without Katie, we would not have make it through the first few weeks.
Two years later, I was pregnant again. I called Katie. I needed a game plan of what to do when my little girl was born. Katie and I discussed the possibilities. Maybe I would have a different milk supply. Perhaps the cause of my low supply had been the edema after my c-section, or something else specific to Donovan’s birth. But, if it did turn out to be my reality again, how could we make things work out better. We make a plan. I wrote it out. I packed it in my hospital bag and even typed it into my phone. I was prepared.
My daughter, Quinn, arrived by VBAC which I tried largely to see if it would have a different effect on breastfeeding. However, it didn’t seem to. My milk supply didn’t come in again. However, I followed Katie’s and my plan and I began supplementing before my daughter became too hungry. We nursed and supplemented and we went to see Katie on day four. It was happening again, despite my different birth experience. But my girl was happy. She had no idea anything was wrong, because we never let her know. She did have a tongue and lip tie that we had revised at exactly a week old. Other than that, our story was a happy one. We nursed many times a day, and had bottles in between. She loved breastfeeding and has always been a snuggle bug. I got to be one of the “latches” at the 2016 Big Latch On, which was so meaningful to me after our challenges. Unfortunately, my milk supply dropped drastically from the small amount it was once I had to begin leaving my baby at daycare. By six months, she was done, but it was such a positive, loving, special experience; I will be forever grateful for the gift Katie gave us by setting me up for success. With Donovan she saved us in our darkest moments. She ensured that Quinn and I never experienced those same challenges.
Katie is not just a lactation consultant. She is a partner. She amazingly skilled at what she does. She is passionate and caring. She is real. I never would have understood before I became a mother how much these battles over breastfeeding would rock my self-confidence and my view of myself as a new mother, but they did. I honestly cannot imagine my postpartum experiences without Katie and I would never want to. I send her blogs to my friends near and far. I recommend her online classes and in-person classes. I encourage everyone to go to support group and listen to other moms. We might not all be having the same troubles, but no one is without questions or doubts. I could never thank Katie enough for what she’s done for me and my children. Everyone deserves a Katie to help them as they enter motherhood. I’m so glad I found ours.