This is My Story:
Growing up, I was the oldest of 6 children spaced out in age. I remember my mother breastfeeding my 3 youngest siblings and that even as a teenager I wasn’t grossed out by it or noticed it much. It was just normal. There was no discussion, no shame, no tiff about it. Breastfeeding and pumping is what my mom did at work and at home, around friends and family – without a care in the world. When I became interested in birth work, the topic of breastfeeding was very prevalent. Before that point, I didn’t realize that there was a stigma as well as a riff between bottle, breast, pumping and formula feeding families. Little to say, it was a rabbit hole of information and views.
Luckily, as a doula, I have the pleasure of being unbiased. I am able and happy to help all of my clients discover what they want, and find resources with evidence based information no matter what the circumstance is.
When it came to deciding if I wanted to pursue a Certification as a Lactation Consultant as a part of my doula practice I chose not too. Looking back now, I am ok that I didn’t. Why? Simply because I don’t think I could have been as effective in my directive to help clients before I had attempted to breastfeed my own son. When I started my doula practice, this was 3 years before I had my own children. Not that the training or certification would have been helpful, but I learn better from physically trying/practicing things. Breastfeeding for many is a love-hate relationship and it is different for everyone/every baby.
Personally, I was able to breastfeed, pump and bottle feed my son for 19 months until we did baby-led weaning. It was a great accomplishment for myself because my goal was 1 year. Breastfeeding was not as easy as it sounds. Especially the first month. During the golden hour after Kol was born, I had to not just watch/direct but actually do what I had help guide clients to do to get him to latch. To teach him to latch. That took a good 2 days. Then, my milk came in late day 3. It was like starting all over. The emotional aspect of learning how to breastfeed for the first time, in addition to all of the hormones going on was intense. Fortunately, as a doula I knew I had recourses and options. In the early morning of day 4 when I realized my milk had come in, I was desperate for help and relief. At 6 AM I called the local hospital across the street from me to see if I could get in with the IBCLC (highest certification someone can have in lactation) because I didn’t want to wait for my home visit with my midwife for help. I was having a hard time navigating my son’s latch, holding him and my breast for a good feed. In addition, there was pain. Thankfully, the receptionist had me leave a voicemail for the IBCLC who was coming in at 8am. I received a call at 8:30am and was told to swing by anytime. You bet your butt I was there right away. No appointment, no insurance check, just simply show up at the L&D unit where her office was for a 1:1 session. I was beyond grateful. I sat with her for an hour, brought my nursing pillow & pump to make sure she could help me with anything and everything I was doing wrong. She helped me realize how I wasn’t holding my breast right, and how I was making it more uncomfortable for myself with not guiding my son to my breast vs me going to him. She helped me get a better latch so there was less pain. Once I learned those techniques, I had to jump the hurdle of the 2 weeks of chapped and sore nipples. It was very emotionally difficult to get over that. And even to this day, I feel that breastfeeding for those first two weeks was worse than natural birth. Not to say that someone shouldn’t breastfeed or that there isn’t relief. For me it was the most difficult part of adjusting to that part of motherhood.
Through my own experience, I can appreciate any individual’s choice on how & why they feed their children. My doula practice only adds to the fact that I am able to be confident in my ability to guide and help clients find local resources based on evidence and their individual needs. I have served clients who couldn’t breastfeed due to medical conditions from families who were tandem feeding. When hiring your doula, make sure you ask them about how they are able to help guide you through the (breast)feeding phase of your postpartum period.