Birth Educators Can Have Breastfeeding Issues Too

Breastfeeding is a learned art that even the experts can have trouble with. I worked through it and so can you.

I read all of the books. I took all of the classes. For goodness sake, I was a childbirth educator and doula. Breastfeeding should be easy, right?

Not so fast.

I had breastfeeding challenges after giving birth to my first baby. Thankfully, I had an amazing postpartum doula who talked me off the ledge at 2 a.m. every morning for the week we had her. She helped me learn about positions for breastfeeding and how to get my baby not only to latch on, but stay on my breast. Two weeks after giving birth, though, my doula's time with us was over and I was at a loss. I tried everything, my husband provided awesome support, but my baby and I just couldn't get things together. As my husband reached for the formula samples the hospital sent us home with, I said, in between crying jags, one simple word: "No."

I was committed to breastfeeding for six weeks. Not a ton of time, but it sure seemed like an eternity having to try to nurse the kid every couple hours.

There I was, sitting in bed at 2 in the morning, hopeless. But I took a deep breath and tried. Breastfeeding wasn't always perfect, but I did it. For exactly one year. My baby took a late nap during his first birthday party and when he woke up, he just wasn't interested anymore. He self-weaned, which was pretty cool and a little sad at the same time.

Fast forward three-and-a-half years later. I had become a certified childbirth educator and certified doula. I helped many moms and babies get breastfeeding off to a great start. I listened to them cry and talk about nursing challenges like I did. I referred them to lactation consultants so they could get help. I was thanked numerous times.

Then I had my second baby. I had a quick, painful yet wonderful home birth surrounded by my husband, midwife, doulas and a friend to watch my older child. Amazing.

Then came the breastfeeding challenges. More than the first time around.

Again, at the two-week mark I was done. Once again, I sat in bed bawling my eyes out at 2 a.m. Once again, my husband reminded me how committed I was to breastfeeding but also that I knew it would be OK if I chose not to continue.

Some of my tears flowed because of guilt. I couldn't understand how I, the "expert" doula and birth educator couldn't nurse my own baby successfully. I also had symptoms of postpartum depression that didn't help matters.

But I didn't give up. I called a lactation consultant. It was the best call and then the best money I ever spent. She showed me a new position I never read about in books. She taught me things I never learned in breastfeeding classes.

I breastfed my baby for 15 months.

I learned to love breastfeeding. Whenever I see a mom nursing her baby, I give her a smile or thumbs-up. I know how hard it can be. If you really want to do it, you can. I don't wish nursing issues on any mom or baby, but if you have them, know there is support.

You can do it!

Read more

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt
Help your partner bond with Baby while you breastfeed
Guide to breastfeeding for working mothers

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