Celebrating World Breastfeeding Week

IMMB stories of "Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers". 

Teresa Stackhouse, MSW, RN, BSN:  Clinical Coordinator

I was 17  before I saw anyone breastfeed. I was living with a faculty couple, and being the teenager that I was, I was mortified to watch. Over the weeks and months that passed the mother, Annie, educated me regarding breastfeeding. During the course of my time there, what once seemed so embarrassing and uncertain to me became natural and preferable. I saw firsthand that breastfeeding was so much more than simple nutrition—calories in and calories out. Breastfeeding was baby Dylan’s quiet time with his mama. It was his comfort and pain reliever when sick or hurting. It was his way of winding down after a long, hard day of playing, and drifting off to sleep.

    Ten years later I was I pregnant with my first son. My experiences with Annie and Dylan made me certain that breastfeeding was the path that I wanted to take with my own child. Unfortunately, although breastfeeding itself is a very natural process, it did not come naturally for me. It was 1989. There was very little in the way of breastfeeding support in the community. Nurses kept telling me that my nipples were flat. My nipples seemed perfectly fine to me. I had no idea what they were trying to tell me, but it sounded like an insult. My milk came in -copious amounts of milk that made me rock hard and exacerbated my already existing difficulties with latch. Despite all the challenges, my baby flourished. Sheer determination got us through.

I went on to nurse two more boys. Each son weaned around 2 years. old. Simple math says that I devoted six years of my life to breastfeeding my three sons; however, my heart tells me that many more years of our relationship have been impacted by my choice to breastfeed. As the mother of young adults and a teenager I’ve entered a very different realm of parenting. There are a lot of emotional challenges that make my early breastfeeding struggles seem simple. The years that I spent breastfeeding, the wonderful memories that I have of each child, sustain me. That bond that we developed in the first two years of their life is like a wonderful healing balm that gets us through the trials of young adult life.

There are so many reasons to breastfeed, i.e., nutrition, immunology, decreased risk of obesity later in life, increased IQ, visual acuity, speech, fewer allergies, the list goes on… But as a more mature mother, taking a longer view, breastfeeding set the stage for the relationship I continue to share with my sons throughout every phase of their life.

Jami Marvin, Pasteurization Coordinator

It's hard to explain how important breastfeeding has been to me. It has meant so many things to my family.

I spent the third trimester in tears over the decision to breastfeed. Sure I knew it was the best, but it still made me ball my eyes out. We can blame the hormones for that.

I had the chance to breastfeed my daughter, and have skin to skin contact, just minutes after she was born. And it was the first and only time we had the opportunity to do that in her first crucial 24 hours of life. Just a few short hours after my cesarean delivery, my world was rocked. The pediatrician on duty sent my daughter to the NICU and ordered a CT scan. Then it was decided that she needed to be sent by ambulance the next morning to the local children's hospital.

I held her three times in the 14 hours that we shared a hospital. My husband went with our baby to the hospital, and an hour or so after they left, the lactation consultant finally came to my room. I was all alone, and  she taught me how to pump. And pump I did. Every little milliliter of colostrum was collected into tiny bottles. I knew that I had to do something to help my poor helpless baby.

I was released from the hospital that afternoon, 2 and a half days early (which was a huge deal after a c-section) and my husband promised to make sure I followed my doctor's orders so that I stayed healthy too.

When I finally made it to my daughter's bedside in the Infant ICU, my husband asked for a rocking chair, and breastfed my daughter. It was a simple action that  help to heal my daughter after having brain surgery at just 16 days old. Her doctor felt confident that she was healthy enough to handle it. Breastfeeding led to a speedy recovery, and we were home just 4 days after the surgery. We breastfed for the first 22 months of her life, and I wouldn't change it for anything in the world. Not every moment of it was easy, especially being wheeled around to various hospital pumping rooms every three hours, or having to be wheeled around at all. However, my family benefitted from more than just the health aspect. It made us all closer and stronger.