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Shot of a young woman breastfeeding her adorable baby girl on the sofa at home

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“Why is this not working!?”

This was a recurring theme in my first breastfeeding experience.

I was told “breast is best” but is it really?

Why is he not latching?

Now it hurts.

Even pumping hurts.

Why is he always hungry?

He’s so tiny.

Is he even getting enough milk?

Why is this not working!?

Now I’m leaking.

I leak and leak breast milk everywhere.

Through the breast pads, through my clothes.

My breasts were already huge before pregnancy–34H.

Now, they’re engorged and not doing what they were made to do.

Why is this not working!?

The constant battle of doubt and pain, coupled with new mom exhaustion and fear robbed me of the special experience I thought breastfeeding would be. The lactation consultant made it sound so easy but didn’t really offer any useful tips. The nurses made it look so easy–it wasn’t.

Why is this not working!?

I breastfed and supplemented with formula for the first three months of my first son’s life and then I gave up breastfeeding completely. Relief–then here comes baby number two.

Anxiety and dread resurfaced.

It’s time for my first WIC appointment for this pregnancy.

I know the lactation consultant is going to ask me what my plan is to feed this new baby.

Confidently I answer, “bottle feeding with formula.”

She asks why and I tell her about my struggle with breastfeeding my first son.

I tell her that I just want to make sure my baby gets all the nutrients he needs, –and I know that formula will do that.

The lactation consultant looked me dead in the eye and said, “women have been breastfeeding and sustaining life for millions of years; before formula was conceptualized. What makes you think you can’t?”

At that moment, something clicked for me–She was right.

From then on, I did hella research and joined breastfeeding groups on Facebook. I worked with that lactation consultant to figure out what techniques might work for my large breast. By the time my second son was born, I was ready. He was born on a snowy, Christmas Eve and latched immediately. It was so easy and natural. I ended up breast feeding him for the first full year of his life.

A month after he was born, my second son became very ill. RSV, a common respiratory virus that causes cold-like symptoms, was spreading quickly in babies around metro-Detroit. During his 3-day stint in the NICU, I encountered other infants fighting off RSV but with less luck than my baby. The doctor told me that my breastmilk likely prevented the virus from presenting itself severely in my baby. 

I am forever grateful to that lactation consultant who instilled the confidence I needed to try breastfeeding again. While the first experience wasn’t great, the second was all that I could have hoped for. No two experiences will be exactly the same and I am grateful for both of mine.

Ta’Shara Francis-Brown is the Human Resource Manager at The National Birth Equity Collaborative.

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