Jackie's Journey | Overcoming her Circumstances to Love and Breastfeed
How did your breastfeeding journey begin? Did you nurse Annabelle?
My breastfeeding journey began as a 17 year old momma. I nursed AnnaBelle until she was just shy of 2 years old.
I grew up in a low income, abusive environment and was in and out of foster homes - so when I found out that I was pregnant with AnnaBelle I began to learn as much as I could about being the best mother I could be in hopes of breaking the cycle of abuse and addiction that had been generational in my family.
Breastfeeding was part of that. I definitely had to do some intentional work during my pregnancy as a sexual trauma survivor, but I was given great care through the staff at the Planned Parenthood in Arvada where I received my prenatal care. They gave me books and support, and I knew that breastfeeding would be important for bonding and nutrition with AnnaBelle.
What is different now with Layla?
Everything! Well, circumstantially, anyway. I am an actual adult now, at 35, and I have a wonderfully supportive and amazing partner in my husband. I was a single mom with AnnaBelle until she was 11, when Zack (my husband) and I met.
To be honest, nursing as a single momma and a married momma are really different in a lot of ways. For the most part, it’s easier. He is loving, gives me substantial support, makes sure I have everything I need to be well fed and rested; really, he is such a great support.
But in some ways, it is a little harder. There was no other relationship competing for my time, attention, physical affection, or sleep when AnnaBelle was little. Now, I do not mind giving these things to my husband, in fact I want to, and he is not at all demanding.
It’s just different. The bonding is still so special though. I remember those first couple days home with Layla, wondering if it was going to be the same. How could I ever love anyone as much as I loved her sister as a little nursing babe? But here we are and, it’s amazing, that love just happens again. It’s so crazy how we have such an unlimited capacity for love.
What has been difficult throughout your journey with Layla?
Oh man, Layla really struggled to get a good latch on my left nipple for the first few weeks, and even after we figured it out I didn’t heal until almost 8 weeks! There was a huge chunk of my nipple just gone. A constant open wound. I used MotherLove nipple cream and doTERRA’s lavender, which helped so much.
I considered using the nipple shield, but I could tolerate the pain and I didn’t want to risk reverting back to a bad latch once we figured things out. But man, that left nipple. I still cringe thinking about how much latching hurt for a while there.
What do you consider a success?
Getting past that left nipple crack for sure! Plus, Layla is growing at a very steady, healthy rate. That is definitely the biggest success.
What goals do you have nursing Layla?
My goal is to nurse her until at least 24 months, but I won’t rush weaning with her. I rushed weaning with her sister before either of us was ready because I felt pressured. I regret that. If I feel like it is time, or she gives it up, fine. But I am not going to let anyone outside of our nursing relationship dictate when it is time to wean based on their opinion.
Can you talk a little about your beautiful stretch marks?
I’m super proud of the scarring that the stretch marks have left, especially on my breasts. I have always been very small chested, and I will admit that when I got pregnant and was talking about nursing with AnnaBelle, I was concerned that I wouldn’t produce enough.
The midwives at Planned Parenthood would tell me that the size of my breast didn’t matter, but I couldn’t help but still be nervous. Then, once she was born I had absolutely no problem producing, and my breasts grew so large that I was gifted this sun ray pattern.
To me, these marks signify my ability to do this miraculous thing, which is sustaining my baby with my body. It’s the most powerful and special thing I have ever been able to do. I’m really proud of these stretch marks.
How does your family get involved with nursing?
My oldest hangs out and talks sometimes when I am nursing. I think she likes the quiet, cozy feel of my room when Layla is nursing to sleep. That’s so nice.
My husband is super diligent about making sure that I have all the right foods, checking in to be sure I am getting enough rest, bringing me water when he is home and I am nursing, basically anything I need.
There is not much I feel like I really need from him, but emotionally his support is really helpful. Just knowing how much he is grateful for me exclusively breastfeeding, and for just valuing our bond honestly is the most important support he gives.
What advice do you have for other mamas starting or continuing on their own journey?
Don’t give up!
If you feel like you are not producing enough, nurse more. I mean, supplement if you need to, but offer the breast every time. I know you are very literally a slave to your baby the first (at least) 8-10 weeks while your body adapts to their needs, but don’t give up!
Remember, their little bodies are adapting to the world. Every single thing in this world is new to them. Be patient as they depend desperately on you; they don’t know that you are separate from them yet.
One really cool thing is that your body receives their saliva and adapts your milk to their needs. Let them latch as often as possible and do not limit them to a schedule those first precious months. You two will work it out.
Do you have more than one kiddo? How was your journey different between them? Share with us in the comments. I would love to help document your own journey with words and photos. Send me a note if you are interested in more information.