In our series, “Mom’s Story,” members of our community share snapshots of their real, personal journeys through motherhood. Every story is different. We ask all members to be respectful in their comments on these posts. Offensive or disparaging remarks will not be tolerated.
Michelle Vick is co-founder of The Baby Box Co
With my first child, Sawyer, I had a full-time baby nurse. At the time, I had my own company and couldn’t afford to take maternity leave. I was so scared I was going to mess something up. I had no experience and none of my friends had babies yet. I’d never babysat and I don’t think I’d ever seen someone breastfeed. Someone recommended a baby nurse to me, and since I couldn’t stay home, that seemed like the best option. I was able to sleep, work, and continue my life much as it had been before the baby.
She was a lovely lady, but she was definitely old school. She gave the baby a bottle very early, even though I had heard not to do that in a breastfeeding class I had taken. But she said not to worry about it. I’d be gone, working, pumping all day long and missing my baby. Pretty quickly, Sawyer became addicted to the bottle. Breastfeeding became really hard, but I didn’t realize I needed an expert because I thought I was fine with the help I got at the start. It took me some time to realize that while my baby nurse was great, it wasn’t the same as a lactation consultant. I needed someone to support me, too.
I’m a big health nut, so I really wanted to breastfeed for all of the health benefits. It was great at the hospital. I was doing a good job, our latch was good. But after a few months, Sawyer would cry and push me away. I wish I had known there were other reasons why a baby might cry at the breast. It might not have all been about the bottle, but it felt like it was. I wanted that bonding and I wanted the health benefits for her. I felt like I had failed her. It still upsets me sometimes, but it was devastating in the moment. I felt like a bad mom, like she didn’t love me.
So I ended up pumping exclusively for about 3-7 months and hated it. I felt like I was spending more time with this stupid machine than with my child. It felt unnatural and mechanized. I would be working on the computer in my office, miserable, hooked up to the pump and just didn’t have a good experience. And because I didn’t like it, I would push it off sometimes, and one day I pushed it off more than I should have and I ended up with a clogged duct. It turned into mastitis. It was unbelievably painful; it was bright red and throbbing. I was in so much pain I couldn’t think. Everything online said to nurse as much as possible and use the baby, not the pump, and I thought, “find me a baby that will nurse!”
I made an appointment with a woman who could massage the clog out but my milk supply had already plummeted. So around 8 months I just stopped pumping. The formula smelled bad and unnatural, but the pump was inconvenient too. I was so upset that it had all gone so wrong. I ended up making my own formula from a recipe my pediatrician recommended and even though it was a pain to make, it felt much better and was a good compromise.
For Willa, my next baby, I wanted to do things differently. I knew that I would need a different kind of support this time if I wanted to breastfeed. I had a doula, Lori Bregman, and I told her I wanted to talk to the best of the best. She said, “Call Linda Hanna, she’s the very best.” Linda came over and made me feel at ease. She gave me so many great tips on how to make nursing comfortable with different positions and holds. It was so different from that point forward. I’m still breastfeeding and going strong. I love it so much. It is the most wonderful bonding experience and I love that I’m providing her with nourishment. I’m helping her grow, and I know she’s getting all the right nutrients and immunity.
Willa had bad reflux and colic at the beginning, so she was difficult in a different way. But at least breastfeeding was a breeze. I had times when I was nervous about my supply, but I took fenugreek and that helped. I wish Sawyer could have had the experience that Willa and I are having, but it’s fine. Obviously everyone wants to breastfeed but if you can’t, it’s okay. I wish I would have accepted it faster and let it go. Instead, I felt resentful. Don’t hesitate to seek help from friends, professionals and family. I would have gone crazy without my nanny, my family, Linda and Lori. Don’t wait. Even if things seem fine, as soon as you have a question or concern, call someone. With Sawyer I would hold back, but with Willa, I knew to reach out right away.
Some people say, “I’m going to tough it out.” Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes women can be martyrs, but there’s no gold medal for toughing it out. There’s a lot of ways to avoid making it too hard on yourself.
Are you a new mom in need of breastfeeding support? Reach out to a lactation consultant on our team for more personalized care for you and your nursing baby.