When Breastfeeding is a Struggle

The following is a piece written by long time Belle student Julie Holder. Julie first joined our BelleFusion Pilates classes about 5 years ago, switching to the Bump Prenatal classes when she became pregnant after several years of trying to conceive. I'm thrilled to say that she welcomed a beautiful baby boy 5 months ago! Julie is an incredibly warm, caring person (not to mention an incredible fashion designer - she might be the coolest, most creative chick I know!) She is bravely sharing her story of breastfeeding struggles. Julie, you are awesome. Thank you for helping so many other women know that they are NOT alone. 


When Boobs Become Food

I sat awake the night our baby was born, staring at him with amazement. Our birthing story was one of ease. We were lucky to birth him at home with a smooth and relatively short labour. In the 9 months of being pregnant I learned from friends and even strangers what I thought was every detail surrounding pregnancy and birth. I learned that if you play music they can hear it. I learned that the weekly size of the fetus can be compared to fruit. This makes zero sense really. How can a baby be the size of a leek? I learned about the hospital bag essentials. Particularly how embarrassing it can be to run into your partner’s friend while stocking up on adult diapers for said bag. I learned about the love you can feel for something that is only the size of a peppercorn yet has a heartbeat. And most importantly I learned that no, wearing spanks during pregnancy can not harm the baby. We had waited for this baby for over four years but, while being no stranger to hard work, I wasn’t prepared for the struggles that came after the ring of fire.

Following the birth, the midwives tucked us into bed and snuck off into the night leaving us with this new human staring back at us–his big blue eyes channeling the plant in The Little Shop of Horrors saying “Feed me Seymour”. The next day during our visit from the midwife she told us our baby had a tongue tie which needed to be released so that he could feed properly. The earliest appointment for this was a month out. Although he was already precious, patient and calm, I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to be understanding about waiting a month to eat. So we attempted to figure out this feeding thing while our midwife stood overhead until her phone rang and she rushed to the many other babies waiting to be birthed. We struggled for the next few days through nipple shields, hospital–grade breast pumps, numerous books, cracked nipples, bottles, two types of formula, lots of tears and many hours of what I have learned to be the biggest new mother no no….the dreaded deep hole of the internet…Google.

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Photo cred: @SummerandStorm

I am pretty sure I have read every possible website advocating how wonderful breastfeeding is with supporting glamorous Instagram photos of women sipping heart-shaped foam lattes while casually feeding their babies with hashtags sporting “#the breast is best”. I sat sobbing in a sports bra with holes cut out so I could pump hands free. This was far from the images on my Pinterest board of half–naked women feeding their babies on beaches displaying what we are told our bodies are naturally made to do. It was during this time that I wished I had spent even just a little bit of time prepping for this so I didn’t feel so absolutely helpless.

What I now realize is the best thing to come out of my extensive research was the term Lactation Consultant. I called the first number my close friend Google gave me, Lynda Kirby. The voice on the other end of the phone was so magical that for the first time I felt relaxed knowing that my boobs would be in good hands, literally. Lynda arrived at our door with a bag full of tricks including a doll she used to show different breastfeeding positions whose name is Flow…get it?! I loved that she found humour in something which seemed so painful at the time. She came over almost every day for the next three weeks for what she called Booby Camp. The power sessions involved football holds, tubes, cups, bruised boobs, more and more tears but most importantly emotional support. Lynda amazed me with her selflessness and dedication to her work of helping others. Her compassion and warmth are something I think about daily. I thought back to our struggles to conceive him and how I never thought we would be able to make him. I told myself that as with those struggles, this too shall pass and that like all worthwhile things in life, they take practice and perseverance. It was with her support and the hard work of all of us that we made tiny baby steps each day to perfect the delicate dance of breastfeeding. Each day we lay together for hours, baby and I, making small progress until one day everything fell into place and he lay sucking away happily while I rubbed his feet as smooth as silk.

While breastfeeding isn’t everyone’s choice, and sometimes not possible at all – we must do what works for us in this crazy world of new parenting. What I pictured to be the most natural thing in the world didn’t start off that way. However, with help and perseverance it has paid off in the form of a chubby boob-loving baby who enjoys spending his days at the cafe eating while his mom sips her heart-shaped foam latte dropping croissant crumbs into his hair.

Love you so much Julie!! Thank you for sharing your story. It's so important for mamas to know that struggling happens, and they are not alone in this mom journey.

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