I had the wonderful opportunity to have an interview with a beautiful mother from my LDS Breastfeeding Families Facebook group about her struggles breastfeeding. Liz Woodfield published her story on her blog, and I could tell she had a very strong desire to breastfeed from her story. She went through a lot of struggles and wasn’t able to get her baby to latch for the first five weeks. You can read more about her story here.
Ashley: Tell me a little more about yourself. Where are you from?
Liz: I was born in Fairfax, Virginia and now live in Salt Lake City, Utah.
A: What did you do before you became a mom?
L: I work in recruiting for a large investment bank. I will continue to work full-time after I finish my 4-month maternity leave.
A: What are your hobbies/things you enjoy doing?
L: I love the outdoors! I especially love to hike, bike, ski and run. I also really enjoy reading and photography.
A: Were you breastfed? Did any of your sisters or sister-in-laws breastfeed?
L: Yes, I have two little sisters and all of us were breastfed. My sisters don’t have any children yet. My two sisters-in-law have not breastfed and my mother-in-law did not breastfeed so I do not have a lot of support on that side of the family.
A: Who has been your greatest support to helping you meet your breastfeeding goals?
L: My greatest support has been my husband. He has encouraged me so many times when I wanted to give up. My mom has also been incredibly supportive, as well as one of my sweet friends, Ally, who has an adorable 11 month old baby and breastfeeds exclusively. Ally is also a nurse and has offered endless support. She came over and helped teach me multiple breastfeeding techniques and gave me a shoulder to cry on.
A: What specialists did you see and why? How did they help?
L: I saw two IBCLCs, a Chiropractor, a Craniosacral Therapist, and a Pediatric Dentist. I saw each of these people because we wanted to take a very holistic approach to breastfeeding. We saw the first IBCLC four days after little David was born. She spent a lot of time checking baby’s mouth and diagnosed extreme tension in his jaw and tongue. She was known in the community for finding lip/tongue ties so I felt confident she would find something if there was an issue. After we left our first meeting with her, we noticed the upper lip tie and we asked her about it at our second appointment. She didn’t think it was an issue for breastfeeding. We did not feel this first IBCLC was very helpful because she did not give us many action items or suggestions of things we could do to make breastfeeding work. I had already planned to see the chiropractor early on and scheduled our first visit the day we saw our first IBCLC – the chiropractor was so helpful in aligning baby boy and he was always so calm after each visit. The Craniosacral Therapist was scheduled quite a ways out and I was unsure that it would really be helpful because I had not heard of it before I met with our first IBCLC but we went ahead with it and I am now a believer! You can see the impact of the work she is doing on the baby in the moment it is being done. She was so sweet and patient with baby boy and key in relieving tension throughout his mouth and head. We saw the second IBCLC right after a recommendation from the first LLL meeting we attended. She was also recommended by another friend. She was so helpful! She gave us a ton of homework to do and exercises to work on with baby to help with sucking and building head and neck strength,which would all ultimately help with breastfeeding. I hesitated to spend the additional money to see another IBCLC but I’m so glad we did. She has been amazing and I have had so much additional support through the breastfeeding support group they host every two weeks.
A: Tell me about your support network, you mention the support a lot in your post. How has everyone helped you meet your breastfeeding goals?
L: I have had the most amazing support network throughout our journey. I already mentioned my husband, my mom, and one of my best friends, Ally. In addition to each of them, I talked to a lactation consultant early on through a hotline provided by my employer and they said something that really helped me: “Breastfeeding is a natural process and can be very intuitive but many people forget that mother and baby still have to learn – they have never done this before so it is a process to figure things out.” La Leche League was amazing. I went to a local meeting when baby was almost 3 weeks old and I was just about ready to give up. Hearing the stories and challenges that so many other mothers faced made me feel so much better about my experience. LLL gave me a few more resources and suggestions that gave me the motivation to move forward and keep trying. Additionally, I used multiple different Facebook groups to read others experiences and reach out with questions and support when I needed it most. I had to seek out these resources but there are so many people out there that want to see you successful with breastfeeding.
A: You mentioned in your post that you took more than one breastfeeding class. How were they different and what did you learn that helped? What did you wish you would have learned in the classes you attended but didn’t?
L: I took an in-person beginning breastfeeding class from a local lactation consultant. I then took two additional online courses from the same LC. They were helpful and went over everything at a surface level. What helped most was learning the basics: different types of milk, different positions, how to get started. I wish I had learned more about problem-solving – where to go, who to talk to, etc. These are things you often cover one-on-one when you meet with an IBCLC but it would have been helpful to have a general overview of some of the challenges you can face in breastfeeding, aside from the more obvious mastitis, thrush, etc. I honestly did not think it was possible that baby would just not latch at all in the first several weeks! I knew pain was possible and latch could be a challenge but did not expect that baby would just not latch. The LC also did not talk at all about tongue/lip ties but I knew some information from my own research and Facebook groups.
A: What books did you read? Which one was most helpful?
L: I read Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding, The Nursing Mother’s Companion by Kathleen Huggins, and Breastfeeding Made Simple by Nancy Mohrbacher and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett. I read each of these books during my pregnancy. I feel that Ina May’s book was the most helpful because she did share the experiences of some mothers and went into a lot of details on some challenges; however, I feel the classes were more helpful than any of the books I read. It is difficult to really follow the books and relate to the content when you have not tried to breastfeed yet. I am now reading The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Diane Wiessinger, which is dedicated to LLL, and I would highly recommend as the one breastfeeding book to read during pregnancy. It is funny how you learn these things after you have a baby.
A: Tell me more about your first hour. What were your goals versus what really happened?
L: My goal in that first hour was to have unlimited skin-to-skin contact and have the baby latch within that time. Unfortunately after birth, I had really bad chills and it was difficult for me to even hold the baby. My doula did help me try to latch for a minute but baby was falling asleep and I was miserable because of the chills. At the time, I did not think much of it but after the fact, I have wished many times that I could re-do that first hour and just push myself to hold him that whole time or wish that I just never had the chills. Hopefully things are different for my second baby.
A: Tell me more about your first week. What were your goals versus what really happened?
L: The first week was a blur. The first 3-4 days, we tried to feed him at the breast every time he was hungry but within minutes, the baby was screaming inconsolably. So after 10-15 minutes of trying to breastfeed, we would start to syringe feed the baby while he was sucking on a finger. I was just hand expressing my milk at this point but started to use the pump on day four, after we went to the first IBCLC. We also started to use the bottle for feedings, still introducing the breast every time he was hungry. I was nervous about using a bottle because of nipple confusion but it was so difficult to use a syringe once he was eating larger amounts (2+ ounces). The goal was to get baby latched at the breast but the ultimate goal was to feed the baby breastmilk, regardless of what it took.
A: How long did you exclusively pump? What helped you get through that time?
L: I exclusively pumped for 5 weeks. The primary motivator for me was that my baby continued to root around on my chest when he was hungry and show interest in the breast, even though he never really latched.
A: Tell me about those first times trying to latch, what would happen?
L: For the first few weeks, anytime we tried to latch, it was the same reaction. Baby would root around, we would cradle him at the breast and he would move his head back and forth around the nipple, search for the nipple with his hands, etc. and then get frustrated really quickly when he could seem to get it in his mouth and he would cry inconsolably. He would continue to cry until he started to get some food from the syringe and/or get to suck on a finger.
A: Tell me more about your first experience with an IBCLC? What was helpful and what wasn’t helpful?
L: My first experience was a little odd. We spent the entire first apt sitting on a couch trying to breastfeed baby while he screamed, with a few minutes spent where she felt around his mouth and did a little lymphatics to try to loosen things up. She told us to just keep trying and suggested we use a bottle going forward. She didn’t really give us any action items of things to try or work on – this was our biggest frustration. We were especially frustrated after the second appointment because it felt like more of the same…again, no action items. Although she did suggest we switch to using a Phillips Avent bottle to help baby open his mouth more to help him learn to latch – I do think this helped him a lot in his journey to breastfeeding.
A: What do you think was your turning point?
L: There were a few turning points in our journey. One turning point was when we started to do paced bottle feeding, baby seemed a little calmer at the breast and would try a little harder, sometimes getting a little mouthful of breast but he couldn’t get any suction to stay on the breast. Another turning point was when I visited the LLL meeting and they encouraged me to meet with the second IBCLC – the second IBCLC was so encouraging and gave me so many incredible exercises to do and resources to follow-up on. And of course the final turning point was the upper lip tie revision and then when baby latched right on 10 days later.
A: You mentioned that you took your baby to the chiropractor for adjustments. Did you notice any difference with latching after, behavior, anything else?
L: I love the chiropractor! The biggest difference I noticed was in his behavior – baby was so calm after the adjustments. He also had some mucus at one point and after the chiropractor, it cleared right up. Honestly, I never noticed a major difference with breastfeeding after an adjustment but I definitely feel it helped baby boy feel better. He had some bad subluxations in his neck and I think it is more comfortable to move his head and to nurse on both sides now (he did better on the left side before several more adjustments).
A: When did your baby first latch and breastfeed and what were your feelings about that first latch?
L: At five weeks old, 10 days after his ULT revision, baby was refusing the bottle for 15-20 minutes and my husband suggested I try to breastfeed – he latched right on! And his latch was great. We were both shocked! But SO HAPPY. And so excited! We celebrated with dinner that night.
A: Tell me more about your employer’s “Mothers at Work” program. Do you know where people can go to find more information about the program (employers or employees)?
L: The “Mothers at Work” program is aimed to support working women – it is offered through LifeCare. They provide 24/7 Lactation Consultants to help you establish breastfeeding and then general support for the transition back to work. Here is a link with more info about the program: http://www.lifecare.com/mothers-at-work/.
A: You had thoughts of giving up and even put a date on the calendar of when you wouldn’t try (latching?) anymore. You became neutral about breastfeeding. Tell me about what led you to those feelings? What made them ultimately change?
L: My husband was the one that had the idea to set a date on the calendar. It was around baby’s 3 month birthday. That was when we decided we would stop investing so much money and time into trying to breastfeed and stick to exclusively pumping. Until then, we were pretty dedicated to working with our second lactation consultant, CST, and the chiropractor to see what they could do to help us meet our goal of breastfeeding. I am a very logical person so when we set a date, it helped me to know this period would not last forever. My second lactation consultant also reminded me that baby was not “rejecting” me by not latching and to let go of the emotion because that would make it easier to keep problem solving – I think this is ultimately what helped me to feel neutral about breastfeeding. I also logically reminded myself that baby was still getting breastmilk and the nutritional benefits, which was what was ultimately most important to me.
A: Tell me more about your experience with the breastfeeding support group meetings that you have attended. What have you found helpful from the other mothers and leaders and would you recommend a struggling mother to attend meetings?
L: The main thing I found helpful was just hearing so many different experiences. No one experience is the same. My favorite support group is the breastfeeding support group hosted by my current lactation consultant every two weeks. These settings are very open and I feel so comfortable openly breastfeeding there and learning from other moms.
A: Your baby had a tongue and lip tie revision-tell me more about what happened with the doctor. Were you able to try latching in the office afterwards?
L: The revision went great! The first 30 minutes with the pediatric dentist were spent doing the initial evaluation of the ties – we determined our baby only had the upper lip tie (no tongue tie) and he asked if we wanted to do the release there. We went into another room where we swaddled baby in a SwaddleMe blanket and then they numbed him – he cried a little when they numbed him with the needle – then he fell asleep while they did the laser cut. They showed us how to do the massages and gave aftercare instructions and we were on our way. We didn’t get the chance to try to latch in the office but baby was so sleepy, I don’t think he would have been too interested. The dentist was extremely kind and patient.
A: You mentioned skin-to-skin quite a bit in your post. Where did you learn about this? Do you think that it helped your baby ultimately be able to latch?
L: At one of the LLL meetings I went to, one women said “I think most all of the challenges we face in breastfeeding can be solved with skin-to-skin.” I think that reminded me early-on of the importance. I had also read several studies in pregnancy about the importance of skin-to-skin and it was stressed in my breastfeeding classes. I think this did help baby to ultimately latch because he could always smell the milk while on my chest. Whenever I was home, if I wasn’t holding him skin-to-skin, I was often wearing him in a stretchy wrap skin-to-skin.
A: Tell me about your experiences with the Craniosacral Therapist versus the Chiropractor? Was one more beneficial than the other? What differences did you notice?
L: I feel like a CST and Chiropractor are very different. A Chiropractor focuses on the spine while a CST does gentle touch therapy more on the cranium. CST takes much longer as well. I feel like they both served their own purpose and benefited in different ways – the chiropractor aligned baby’s body while the CST loosened the tension in the jaw and through baby’s head. I noticed a huge difference in baby’s behavior after both treatments, mostly that he was much more calm. Although baby did try to latch more particularly after CST.
A: You talk about the first time your baby started refusing a bottle and you ended up latching, at 5 weeks. How did you feel during that nursing session?
L: It was incredible! I was in shock. There was a small part of me that was worried it was a one-time thing so I tried not to get too excited but I just couldn’t believe it! It was very obvious there was milk transfer as well which had definitely never happened before.
A: You also mention that you tried several tips and tools. Which one was your favorite and why?
L: My favorite technique is the “flipple” – essentially holding above and below the areola, holding the nipple between upper lip and nose and then when baby opens wide, flipping the nipple into baby’s mouth. This allows baby to get a big scoop of breast tissue. It works really well for my little one, especially because he tries to latch on really quickly and gets frustrated if it doesn’t happen perfectly soon enough.
A: Do you have any final words for a struggling mama?
L: My final words…if breastfeeding is important to you, don’t give up. It is so worth it! Everyone has a very different journey but continue to problem solve and make it happen. It is the sweetest experience to successfully breastfeed your little one. And just know, if it is not working, that’s okay and your baby loves you all the same, your bond is just as special. Stay strong, mama! Breastfeeding is such a beautiful gift.
Thank you for sharing your story with us Liz. If you would like to share your story with me please contact me. I would love to share your breastfeeding story.