by Cara Kreuziger CD(DONA)
When I became pregnant with my first son, over 7 years ago, there was no doubt in my mind that I would be trying to exclusively breastfeed. Note that I used the word “trying.” I had only ever seen one person in my family nurse their baby. I was very unsure of myself. My late grandmother, who was born in 1913, didn’t nurse her three babies. I have a fond and sad memory of her seeing me breastfeed my 3-month-old as she sat in her wheelchair. She was always self-conscious of her large breasts and remarked that it was a shame that she never used them for nursing a baby.
My earliest memory of breastfeeding takes me back to about the age of 4 or 5 when I was in the bathroom during a wedding reception. A woman walked in with some strange device. I must have either looked at her funny or asked what it was. I learned that she was pumping the milk from her breasts to feed her baby. She slipped into a bathroom stall, and I left the bathroom. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I found that experience gross because the idea of feeding your baby from your “boobs” was just odd to me. I have remembered that moment for over 30 years. I don’t recall having ever asked an adult in my life what breastfeeding is all about. It just was not a part of my “culture of birth.” (I often ask my clients to describe the culture of birth that they grew up in.)
As I prepared for the birth of my son, I read a lot of books and learned as much as possible about breastfeeding. I felt a lot of pressure to get it right with high expectations of myself and low expectations of getting support from my family. They were never unsupportive; I just knew it wasn’t something that they had experience in. My husband and I were pretty much on our own.
The first week or so of breastfeeding was filled with frustration, tears, pain, and insecurity. My son had a pretty obvious tongue-tie that I recognized the moment he was born, but it was not corrected until he was about a week old. By not having someone standing by my side who had been there before, I feared that he wasn’t getting milk, that we were doing it wrong, etc. I credit my stubbornness and the unending support of my husband for our breastfeeding success. Without him, I would have given up. He learned and read along with me, brought me water, let me rest, woke with every night feeding and brought our son to our bed for his feedings. Behind every breastfeeding woman, there needs to be a ton of support, whether that be from within your “culture of birth,” utilizing women who have gone before you, or in the foraging of a new path with your partner’s help.
I encourage all of my clients to call me with any breastfeeding issues as early as possible so they can get the help they need. My personal experience with a wide variety of breastfeeding hurdles, such as tongue-tied newborns (all 3!), birth trauma from shoulder dystocia, thrush, recurring mastitis, infant GERD, and returning to work/pumping/supply issues has given me a lot of knowledge that I enjoy passing on to others.
Cara Kreuziger is a certified birth doula. She lives in south Minneapolis with her husband and three sons who at certain points have been nicknamed “Nurser,” “the Nursing Machine,” and “Nurser Mayer.” She has been lactating for 4.5 of the last 7 years and is still going strong! Her website is www.lapleinelunedoula.com