My journey in motherhood began in 2014 when I found out that I was pregnant with my oldest son, Jarvis Jr. I immediately knew that I wanted to breastfeed. In my mind, formula was not an option.
My mother breastfed me and informed me of the benefits during my childhood. I was determined to give my children those same benefits by following in her footsteps. For me, it was the only way to go.
However, things didn't pan out exactly how I hoped they would once I delivered Jarvis Jr.
After my scheduled c-section, we struggled to get a good latch. This was frustrating and discouraging, however I knew that I had to push through.
To my surprise on our second night of trying, my baby screamed while nursing. I felt that something was wrong other than the normal cry for more. I called the nurse. He had to be taken to the NICU. The next morning, my nurse brought me a hospital grade pump and instructions on how to pump for my baby while he was in the NICU.
His blood sugar had dropped, he had some respiratory issues being born a week early with the scheduled C-section, and had to be fed with a feeding tube. I felt like a failure. This was not how I envisioned breastfeeding in the least bit.
After spending a week in the NICU and gaining a preference for the bottle, Jarvis Jr. didn't show any interest in latching on at all anymore. This was disheartening but I decided to pump to make sure that he would still get breast milk. To my surprise again I did not produce enough milk right away to meet his nutritional needs.
I had to do what I deemed as the unthinkable and supplement with formula. This was a moment in which I could feel defeated or persevere. I chose the latter. I still had hope. I kept offering him the breast and pumping as often as I could. By week 5, we got an okay latch and our days with supplementing formula came to an end. We made it 14 months of breastfeeding.
Fast forward to April 2018 when I delivered my youngest son, Legend. I looked forward to the immediate skin-to-skin and attempt to latch him on since this time I delivered vaginally. Again, I faced disappointment. The cord had been tied around Legend's neck and he was unresponsive.
He was taken away after being placed on my chest for a few seconds. He had also swallowed meconium. The next morning I woke up to my nurse giving me instructions on how to pump along with a hospital grade breast pump. This was all too familiar with Legend having a feeding tube too.
The flashback to Jarvis Jr.'s NICU stay encouraged me that we too would have a happy ending with breastfeeding. However, things didn't go as planned once again. Legend gained a preference for the bottle after his feeding tube came out. We had two successful nursing sessions while he was in the NICU. Once we got home, he had no interest in the boob whatsoever. I began to pump and do the unthinkable again and supplement formula.
He's now three months and we are still pumping and supplementing. This is not what I imagined for us, but here we are. I thought for sure that my milk supply would be up by now and that we would be done with formula even if he never latched on again. I was wrong. I was feeling down about this a few weeks ago and my milk supply took a hit. I almost gave up.
I would share this advice with other mothers on the breastfeeding journey.
Once you set a goal for yourself, keep going. Period. Don’t quit just because it’s challenging or because things are happening in the way that you would hope for. Think of breastfeeding as a journey instead of a destination like with any goal worth accomplishing.
You may want to give up but remember why you started. See the challenges that you may face as opportunities to grow and gain a deeper understanding of just how amazing you are as a giver of life.
2. Take it one day at time.
Celebrate each day and appreciate any progress made.
3. Give yourself lots of grace.
Be gentle with yourself. Being too hard on yourself sends out negative energy and results in frustration. Approaching breastfeeding each day with frustration could deter you from reaching your breastfeeding goals all together.
4. Know that you are doing your best.
I've learned to cherish the lesson at every turn on my breastfeeding journey. I had to stop beating myself up about not producing adequate milk this time around. Instead I accept that I gave my best in that moment and then I do a self evaluation. I may ask did I skip a pumping session? Did I drink enough water? I observe and see how I can improve for the next feeding.
5. Focus on your unique mothering journey.
With social media being so popular and the normalize breastfeeding movement growing, you may get the idea that every mother got the perfect latch on the first try or that every day is as easy as the beautiful nursing photo shoots appear.
While that looks great on your social media feed, every mother has her own set of challenges that she faces with breastfeeding. Don't compare yourself or your journey to others. Accept your reality and focus on you and your baby, not anyone else.
6. Approach and accept each child as a unique individual.
Comparisons and setting unrealistic expectations usually yields disappointment.
I expected that since Jarvis Jr (my first child) was able to breastfeed for 14 months that surely this time with Legend (my second) would be a cake walk. I compared the fact that by the time I returned to work in 2015 that I had a freezer full of pumped milk to the fact that I still struggle to produce enough for Legend to eat in a day.
This was keeping me from appreciating what I can produce for Legend. I had to realize that Jarvis Jr and Legend are two completely different children. Jarvis Jr went to the NICU days after he was born while Legend’s first meal ever was through a feeding tube.
They have two different personalities and two different temperaments. Also my life is completely different now. With Jarvis Jr, I didn’t have another child to care for at the same time. My responsibilities are different now and I have more to juggle. Either way the comparison game robs us of joy and appreciation for what is.
7. Ask for help.
Reach out to support groups, professionals and other moms for encouragement and tips.
There is strength in sisterhood and there is strength in acknowledging your needs for help or encouragement. This time around in motherhood, I have had to put my pride. The advice that I have received has encouraged me to keep going. I also joined a Black breastfeeding group online that has been helpful too.
8. Trust your intuition.
Trust in your God given ability to be able to what’s best for you and your baby. After all you did give birth, believe that you can continue sustain this life as well by breastfeeding your baby.
9. Focus on the positive.
I notice that on days when I focus on how many feedings I had to supplement with formula, the number of supplemented feedings tend to increase. In contrast, I notice that when I acknowledge how many ounces of breast milk I am able to pump with gratitude, I tend to end up pumping more ounces of breastmilk.
Positive thoughts attract positive results. I’ve observed that this has been more mental for me than physical. My body knows what to do naturally, it’s my mind that needs the gentle reminder.
10. Take care of your mental health.
Take time for self care, make sure that you’re eating, drinking water, and resting when you can.
I've made the decision to keep trying to breastfeed my baby. This week was good for my supply and we have an appointment with a lactation consultant this week to work with our latch again. I've been taking fenugreek supplements and power pumping. Legend started trying to latch again. I hope to have a great report soon. It is my desire to get Legend on the breast, off formula, and to make it to his first birthday breastfed.
Corinthian Elizabeth Williams is passionate about the arts, health and wellness, children and family. Corinthian holds a Bachelor’s degree from Baylor University, and she’s the owner of The Book of Corinthian LLC. Her brand’s mission is to spread love. Corinthian is married to Jarvis Williams and the mother Jarvis Jr. and Legend.