Breastfeeding Stories to Inspire and Inform
Nursing is one of the most natural experiences we can have as women. Breastfeeding can bring unparalleled joy and connection between mommy and baby. Yet many women also experience intense challenges, frustration, and even sometimes pain around the act of breastfeeding. If you were like me, you had a vision of what this nurturing experience would look like. But just like most everything with parenting, breastfeeding is not a “one size fits all” experience. It’s hard to prepare for how both your body and your baby will respond. As we celebrated World Breastfeeding Week last week, the Sears women wanted to share our stories of joy and challenges.
Letting go of Breastfeeding Expectations
“I spent so much time and energy on healthy pregnancy practices. Such as preparing for the birth of my dreams, and wrapping my head around becoming a mom. To be honest, I didn’t do much in regard to breastfeeding education. In my mind, nursing my baby seemed like the most natural instinctual experience. However, I was a bit taken back when it didn’t go 100% easily at the beginning. I’m super grateful that I had my mom (Martha Sears) to help establish good latch moments after Johnny was born. And to notice that I had a “lazy sucker” on my hands as the first couple days unfolded.
I was so stressed about my milk supply, so we began a week of “breastfeeding boot camp”. At times this did not feel like the beautiful magical picture in my head – it was work! We tried syringe feeding to encourage a more active suck, chiropractic adjustment (cranial sacral), switch nursing, using lots of different feeding positions, feeding every two hours, and being very entertaining/annoying to keep him from falling asleep at the beginning of a feed.
It was work that was well worth it because on week two we were getting into our harmonious rhythm. I was teaching Baby and he was teaching me. Feeding time became my peaceful place to sit and soak up all of the wonders of this gift of life. It was also a chance to quiet my mind from all the noise and anxiety that comes with being a new mom.”
-Erin Sears Basile
“From the very beginning, there was so much milk. Twenty-four hours after Beatrice was born, I sat nursing her in the middle of the night and felt a steady “drip, drip, drip” on my stomach. Was she peeing? Was I bleeding? I looked down and saw big drops of milk falling onto my stomach. My milk had come in! I had always heard that it took several days and up to a week for milk to come in. Therefore it took me by surprise that it had come in so soon! The flow hasn’t slowed much since then. Beatrice has learned to drink from a fire hose. While the journey of learning to nurse from a geyser has been challenging for both of us, it’s also made me fall more in love with my clever, adaptable, brave baby girl.”
Persevering Through Opposition
“My son is currently 23 months old and I would very much like to keep breastfeeding him until he self-weans. I feed him to sleep for his daily nap and for bedtime, as I have done since he was born. Having “milkies” at these times helps him be eager for sleep. Those nursing cuddles remind me that he is still little and they refuel my empathy/love tank towards him. It also gives me a precious chance to breathe in the sweetness of my boy, to be in the moment. He also asks to nurse sporadically throughout the day. Some days he won’t ask at all between sleep and other days he will ask multiple times in an hour.
The hardest part with all of this is my husband is not supportive of me continuing to nurse our toddler. He believes that drinking my milk interferes with his appetite for solid foods. Our son is a typical fussy toddler and doesn’t eat a varied or caloric-dense diet. I see breastfeeding as a great nutritional buffer and as an invaluable form of comfort for my son during these hard toddler years. However, it is really sad that I can’t share the joys of breastfeeding with my hubby and that he actually sees it as damaging to our son’s sleep habits and diet. I continue to breastfeed my son as the entirety of my motherly intuition guides me. I try to explain my reasoning to my hubby, however, sadly it serves to drive a wedge between us.”
-Katie (family friend)
Breastfeeding Story of Strike and “Nurse In”
“One of my sweetest and most memorable breastfeeding story was with our third child. As an experienced breastfeeding mom, I know that when teething is happening, one needs to be so careful to pay attention, so biting won’t happen. Joshua was just under a year old when I was nursing him at the end of a very long day. I was sitting next to Bob on the couch talking, ignoring my nursing child when you guessed it, he bit me. I yelled, in pain and at him, which caused him to give me a look of fear and confusion. At that moment, I knew he would go on strike.
What followed was five days of sadness, fear, and tears, from Joshua and me. He refused to nurse, and we were both miserable. I knew that the chances of recovering from a strike at this age were 50/50. This only created so much more stress and anxiety in an already awful situation. I was not ready to end our breastfeeding relationship. He was not old enough to be weaned. Breastfeeding was our way of life, it was his sustenance, his comfort, our way of communicating, and parenting.
I had so much support from my friends and La Leche League family. We hosted a nurse-in at my house where breastfeeding moms could gather and nursed their babies while we all sat around and played. We showed Joshua that nursing was ok and not scary and no one was yelling or angry. Eventually, in his sleep, on day 5, he latched and nursed. More tears, but full of joy this time. We had persevered, encouraged, and supported him back to nursing. What a sweet memory of holding my baby and seeing him nurse when I was so unsure that I would ever see that again. What amazing memories of my village that surrounded us when we needed them!”
The Adventures of Nursing a Toddler
“My son is 18 months now and it sometimes feels like a cirque du soleil show while my toddler is nursing! He has also started needing to hold my non-nursing breast in his hand to fall asleep (which was cute at first but now we are replacing that sleep association with him holding my hand instead of my nipple!). I’m so grateful for this season and I have learned to even enjoy all the overnight feeds because I know in my heart all the lifelong health benefits that are being solidified every day. I was also very nervous about postpartum depression, but I see now how my round-the-clock ‘open buffet’ has really helped my mental and emotional health.”
-Erin Sears Basile
Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
“Beatrice is at that age where laying quietly at the breast while nursing just isn’t enough. Her arms pinwheel, legs bend in yoga-defying positions, and she cranes her neck to watch any and everything happening in the room; all while bringing my nipple with her. Just when I think I/my boobs can’t take any more acrobatics I look down and am met with a big cheeky smile. Her smile breaks the latch and I catch a glimpse of her soft pink tongue sticking out between her gummy grin. Suddenly we’re one again, a happy Mommy and a snuggly nursing baby.”
Nineteen Years of Breastfeeding Stories
“Breastfeeding our eight children added up to nineteen years of me having a baby/toddler at the breast. When I think back to myself as that first-time mother just learning the lovely art of breastfeeding, I can still see in my mind the shocking sight of my unbelievably large, bursting at the seams three-day-postpartum breasts. Fast forward 25 years to the birth of Baby Number Eight, and I remember the delight of feeding her at my breast even though I did not give birth to her. Baby Number Seven, age three, was still nursing, so it was natural to feed our new baby at the breast too.
For the first week, things went well, but then I didn’t have the bursting at the seams postpartum breasts. Anticipating that, I had been pumping milk to use until my milk supply would respond to her nursing and bring in more milk for her. When that stored milk ran out, we faced the decision of trying formula, but she didn’t do well with digesting the several we tried. And it is just as well – we didn’t want her to be the only Sears Baby to be fed formula!
We enlisted the help of friends to donate their extra milk – and this list of Milk Moms grew to 36 names over the span of two years. She and one of her Milk Sisters have stayed close, and one of her Milk Brothers graduated high school in her class. She was new to that school and I hadn’t gotten to know many of the boys’ families. When this boy’s mom introduced herself to us at the gathering after the ceremony as one of the moms who had helped us with breast milk. I embarrassed the heck out of that young man by turning to him and my daughter and telling them that they were Milk Siblings. He is probably still scratching his head!”
– Martha Sears
Treasure Your Own Breastfeeding Story
Three generations of Sears mamas with different breastfeeding stories, yet the art and gift of breastfeeding remain the same. How special is that! Cheers to all the moms out there. May you be present, strong, and joyful during this magnificent season.
Written By: Martha Sears, RN
Martha is the mother of Dr. Bill’s eight children, a registered nurse, a former childbirth educator, a La Leche League leader, and a lactation consultant. Martha is the co-author of 25 parenting books and is a popular lecturer and media guest drawing on her 18 years of breastfeeding experience with her eight children (including Stephen with Down Syndrome and Lauren, her adopted daughter). Martha speaks frequently at national parenting conferences and is noted for her advice on how to handle the most common problems facing today’s mothers with their changing lifestyles. Martha is able to connect with both full-time, stay-at-home mothers and working mothers because she herself has experienced both styles of parenting. Martha takes great pride in referring to herself as a “professional mother” and one of her favorite quips when someone voices their concern about her having eight children in an already populated world is: “The world needs my children.”