From the time I could babysit children, I knew when I became a mother that I would breastfed my child(ren). It was never a question for me. Flash back to January of 2011, my first child was 1 month old at the time. Due to some complications and lies fed to us by our hospital and his pediatrician, our son was bottle fed with my breastmilk after the first 3 days. Using a bottle so early in his life caused nipple confusion. The bottle allowed my son to eat without much effort, unlike nursing. I exclusively pumped for him because I was hell bent on supplying him with my milk. Regardless of the constant attachment to my mommy milker, also known as a breast pump, I loved being able to give him what I could as he had refused to latch after the ease of using a bottle. I became very sick in February 2011 with pleurisy. I had been given some dyes due to a CT scan that caused me to have to pump and dump my milk for 24 hours. My son ate through my entire freezer stash while I was in the hospital. That caused a lot of stress for me. I was then stuck in the cycle of pumping just to keep up with his demand. I no longer had a fall back plan in my freezer waiting for my precious boy. I sought help from a W.I.C. lactation counselor. Though she was kind, she was providing inaccurate information about how I should be pumping for him. If I only knew then, what I know now, but I was only 19 at the time. Anyways, she advised that I drop middle of the night pump sessions. She said I would be ok because I needed sleep to produce milk. I listened and that cascaded my downfall with a dwindling milk supply. I requested a hospital grade pump thinking mine wasn't working.
After dropping pump sessions I began having discomfort when I would pump. Eventually after a few weeks the pain became unbearable. I had these small cuts on my areolas that would turn into giant gashes every time I put the pump to my breasts. I cried every time I had to go through a pump session. The lactation consultant told me there was nothing wrong with me. I went on to pump that way for a few more weeks until I couldn't do it anymore. I went to my Gynecologist, got diagnosed with thrush. I was treated and tried to nurse but it only ever ended up in frustration. He caused me to have lipstick nipple every time I latched him so I stopped and switched him to formula. Still 11.5 years later and I am frustrated at the misinformation I received. The lack of support at the time from real life "breastfeeding savvy" friends. The lack of support and knowledge from my breastfeeding counselor. *Fun fact: you do not have to have experience nursing to be a breast feeding counselor for W.I.C.* I knew I always wanted a big family. For the next four years I researched and armed myself with accurate information regarding breast feeding, pumping, hormones, and all resources available in reference to nursing a baby. I had our daughter in January of 2015. I refused to bottle feed her. I exclusively nursed. It became apparent after a few weeks that our sweet baby girl was suffering from a lip tie and submucosal posterior tongue tie. After becoming familiar with the "symptoms" in both her and I, it was then that I understood this was my first child's issue as well. To make up for my daughters lack of proper latch when nursing, my body went into overdrive. I developed hyper lactation. No matter how much I nursed, I would never "empty" to end up with soft breasts. I was constantly engorged. Not only was I in pain from the engorgement, but every time my daughter latched it was super painful because her latch was extremely shallow.
In my state information in regards to tongue ties was seriously lacking. I sought experiences and information from my only resource, online friends! Friends I had from all over the world on Facebook helped me understand what was happening and how I could fix our little dilemma. I am thankful for everyone who gave me information about tongue ties and preferred providers to seek surgery for our daughter. I nursed our daughter exclusively until her revision at 4 months old. Due to her ties she was unable to use a bottle. I am forever grateful for every single person and website full of information that helped me achieve my goal of exclusively nursing my children that came after our first. Ironically all four of our children have has severe tongue and lip ties.
All of this work I put into arming myself with knowledge to successfully breast feed. The countless hours I spent on the internet reading about prolactin, the best time of day to pump, the best way to handle hyperlactation. I produced anywhere from an extra 70 to 80 oz of breastmilk a day, aside from what I made to nurse our daughter. The many experiences I sought out from friends and internet people sharing their nursing road blocks. I refused to let myself believe the lies that society tells us about how breastfeeding should be "effortless" for mom and baby. Breastfeeding, though natural, is in no way effortless. For a small majority of people breastfeeding is "easy" but for countless people like myself, breastfeeding is a challenge for mother and baby. It isn't always perfect and beautiful like it seems in those breastfeeding advertisements.
(Photo from our unassisted home birth with our fourth baby.)
Every time I bring up my breastfeeding journey people hyper focus on the fact that I produced so much breastmilk with my last three children. They tend to ignore all my struggles and say that because I had hyperlactation I was "lucky". I cannot stand when people tell breast feeders that they are just "Lucky". It is absolutely insulting to me, when people whine and tell me how lucky I am to have breast fed. Luck had nothing to do with it. Hard work, pain, a lot of time and dedication. A lot of research and tears went into my successful nursing relationships with my children. Hyperlactation is extremely painful. When you have hyperlactation your boobs swell to twice their size, and missing pump sessions puts you at a greater risk for mastitis. I suffered from mastitis almost once every other week. I had to literally work my days around my pump schedule. If my plans interrupted a pump session, I had to either not go or make sure I had everything I needed, including a battery pack to pump while I was out. I had to make sure I had appropriate storage for my milk when I wasn't home. I washed endless amount of pump parts and bottles.
Hyperlactation was my body's response to an inadequate latch from my children. My body created this oversupply to feed my babies when they didn't posses the necessary functionality to remove milk effectively. I was told many times that I shouldn't complain about all the road bumps hyperlactation caused me because I was "lucky" to have so much milk". When people tell me I am lucky, I feel like they are ignoring all the work and effort I put into nursing my children, because that's exactly what they are doing. It literally sets me on fire to think that people actually chalk up all my efforts and sleepless nights to "Luck". I have been on the shit end of the stick where I wasn't able to successfully nurse my child. I took breastfeeding seriously. I put in the work. I cried the endless tears. I sought information and knowledge like a rabid hound dog. I fed my body and mind with positive affirmations about how I would successfully nurse my future children no matter what it took. I took the time and effort to get to the root of the problem in the nurslings I had, rather than just give them formula because it was easy. I suffered through the pain to provide the best bioavailable nutrition my children had access to. I fought like the fucking warrior I am to nurse my children. Nothing that caused me to be successful was a draw of luck. I like to think that every mother who breastfeeds also feels insulted when people claim they were just "lucky to be able to breast feed".
Next time you run into the experience of a Mother who is proud of how far she has come in her breastfeeding journey DO NOT chalk it up to luck. Saying they were lucky sounds like you're diminishing every single effort they put into their accomplishment. It sounds like you're bitter and projecting scorned feelings of your own failed breastfeeding journey onto them. Just tell them how proud you are of them and if you're really curious, ask them exactly how hard they had to work to get to the moment where they feel comfortable enough to express their pride in that moment. Breastfeeding isn't luck. It's pure love in the form of liquid, bioavailable nourishment.