Last Friday, I attended the World Breastfeeding Week Celebration at the State House and was really moved by our very own Vanessa Albanese, Nutrition Supervisor, who bravely shared her story about the hurdles she faced when trying to breastfeed. Her personal story really brought home the importance of the services and supports our agency provides to mothers who have extremely limited resources.
With Vanessa’s permission, I’d like to share her important journey and message. It’s a universal one for all Moms. Support is the key to success. – Stacy Couto, Vice President External Affairs.
I stand before you today to share my breastfeeding journey and to discuss the importance for us to spread awareness, educate, support and protect breastfeeding mothers in our state and country. As a women with experience educating mothers about breastfeeding I felt I was prepared in 2017 when I was pregnant with my son. I was a little nervous about what to expect but felt my background had prepared me for what I needed to know in order to be successful at breastfeeding. Delivery day came, my son was placed on my chest, the first step to successful breastfeeding initiation, skin to skin in that “magic hour”. This process began nice and peaceful but changed as my son continued to latch on and then off the breast and soon became frustrated. My milk had not come in! Here I am, a knowledgeable women in the area of breastfeeding, and I have NO milk.
I was so determined to breastfeed that I was ignoring the fact that my son needed to eat and that needed to take priority. I was told we had to provide a little formula. I’ll never forgot how defeated and disappointed I felt in that moment and how distant the idea of successfully breastfeeding seemed. Thanks to a very creative and supportive nurse who understood my goal and the importance for us to breastfeed, who provided us with a syringe, feeding line and nipple shield rather a bottle.
This was exactly how we fed until my milk came in. Thanks to the support from my husband, support from the lactation specialists and support of the baby friendly hospital I was able to breastfeed my son after countless attempts. When we were discharged, the support did not stop there as we were followed by the hospitals IBCLC’s. At the first apt we were still supplementing with some formula because I did not think I had enough milk to exclusively breast feed, a top reason why most women stop breastfeeding all together.
I’ll never forget when she told us that by supplementing those feedings we missed opportunities to nurse to establish a healthy milk supply. When I heard I did not need the formula we were on our way, with many ups and downs, to exclusively breastfeeding. I’d like to fast forward, and share I’ve exceeded my goal to breastfeed for one year and have been able to share the gift of breast milk by my continued donations to the Mothers Milk Bank Northeast.
I would like to highlight an important word because I believe it is the foundation to successful breastfeeding.
This support must come from our hospitals, significant others, family members, friends, home visiting and WIC programs, co-workers, employers and community.
SUPPORT is the key. Because what one person says or doesn’t say does have a significant impact on a mothers confidence in her choice to initiate or continue breastfeeding. That one word of encouragement can make the difference for meeting her goal. When I went back to work I shared my goal with my supervisor and together we devised a plan that worked for both of us. Reviewing my role in providing direct services, going to meetings and trainings, completing supervisions etc. were all things we needed to consider when figuring out a pumping schedule. It takes a lot, and I mean a lot, to coordinate all of this. Thinking you need to pump at least every 3 hours to sustain a healthy milk supply, I was away for 10. I needed to figure this out while performing to the same expectation prior to becoming a breastfeeding mom and balancing everything in between.
Let me share an example of a typical day: Get ready, wear something easy to nurse and pump in, feed baby right before leaving, pack breastfeeding equipment, be on time, count 3 hours from last feeding to start pumping. Often, I found myself working while pumping. Some other things to consider: Assess to a clean pumping environment, a fridge for storage and a sink to clean pump equipment. This takes coordination, understanding and support from all parties. I am not sure I would have met my goal without the support system I had at Children’s Friend. I am fortunate I work in an agency which understands the significance of breastfeeding on both maternal and infant health. Sadly, many women do not meet their breastfeeding goal because they do not have the supports set in place. Or perhaps the courage to speak up about her needs when returning to work because she fears she will be viewed as difficult or demanding or unequipped to fulfil her job requirements. That is why it is our responsibility to promote breastfeeding as the norm and create a culture which supports and protects human milk as the standard for infant feeding and nutrition.
As proud of myself as I am for being a breastfeeding mother, I know there is no way I could have accomplished it without the support of everyone around me. I believe other breastfeeding mothers would agree. With that being said, please take the time to think of someone you know who has breastfed and next time you see them, say thank you. Because what they did was hard and challenging yet rewarding and beautiful beyond words.
I want to take this time to thank you for having us here and for allowing me to share my very personally story. Thank you.