With Honest Feeding Stories, you’ll hear from parents like you about one of the most intimate and important experiences of family life. Happiness and heartbreak, serenity and struggle, joy and tears — it’s all here in their own words. Presented with our support and without judgment, these stories remind us that the choices we make to nourish our children are truly unique.

Honest Feeding Stories: Elena

Over our five year journey to become parents, one thing I was always very sure of was my desire to be able to breastfeed.  The benefits of breast milk, the bond between mother and child, the fact that it’s free — that all appealed to me and it was something I knew that I would set out to do, no matter how challenging it might be, once I got pregnant.  

Struggling with infertility and having to go through multiple rounds of IVF and eventually use an egg donor to get pregnant, I was very skeptical about my body’s ability to produce milk. If my own eggs could not produce a baby, what would make me think my own breasts could produce milk?  Once I was finally pregnant, thanks to the beautiful gift of egg donation from our known donor, and I realized my body could carry and sustain a healthy pregnancy, I realized the same would go for my ability to produce milk.

Throughout my pregnancy I did tons of reading and researched and prepared myself as best as I could to nurse as soon as our baby girl arrived. I was very clear in my birth plan that I wanted immediate skin to skin contact following my unmedicated, natural, water birth so that I could start nursing right away. As most moms know, labor and birth doesn’t always go as planned. After 36 hours of unmedicated labor I was told I would have to have a cesarean section due to the positioning of the baby. I was devastated and knew that I wouldn’t be able to experience what I had always imagined, and that my milk coming in was now being threatened by the fact that I would have to undergo a c-section.

Two long hours after Georgia was born I was finally out of recovery and able to meet my baby. Although I was in quite a blur from lack of sleep and anesthesia, baby girl was placed on my chest and immediately took to nursing all on her own! I couldn’t believe that after all we had gone through for our baby, there I was laying in the hospital bed with her on my chest breastfeeding like such a natural. It was such a surreal moment for me and one I will always treasure. Nursing continued to go well in the hospital. We spent the next day with the lactation consultant in the room for her morning feeding and she showed me some tips, but said overall her latch was good.  

On day two we were sent home. I continued to nurse Georgia and although she was gaining weight and eating often, I was experiencing a lot of pain, cracked and bleeding nipples, and feeling utterly discouraged. Because of these things I desperately wanted to quit, but also kept reminding myself of the immense benefits she was getting from my breast milk, so I pushed through the pain and fought through the tears. I knew in the back of my mind based on all the research and reading I had done that this type of pain was not normal. Eventually, after a night of agonizing pain and lots of tears I called the lactation consultant to reevaluate her latch. She told me to  pump on the painful side for a couple days and treat the gouge in my nipple with triple antibiotic and hydrocortisone. She also found Georgia had a lip-tie, but that we could probably forego surgery.  

After a few days of pumping and treating my nipple the pain subsided and I began to enjoy nursing again. Although we had some really hard days in the beginning, especially as a first time mommy, I am so glad that we continued to nurse. Luckily with the support of my husband, family, lactation consultant, doula, midwife, and OB, we were able to overcome the obstacles and have continued to have a very successful breastfeeding journey so far.   

Breastfeeding truly is one of the hardest and most challenging parts of being a mom that I have experienced in my short 6 weeks as a parent, but it has also been unbelievably rewarding and I love the bond that we are able to share. In the long run what it really boils down to is that our babies are healthy and fed, no matter what or how. A healthy, happy, baby is the most important thing in the end and as long as our babies are fed, then it really doesn’t matter where their food comes from.  If at some point I end up having to supplement with formula then so be it. I think the key to success for moms who want to nurse is to eat a well balanced diet, take the necessary vitamins, surround yourself with a support system, seek help if you’re feeling discouraged, but never be hard on yourself for the choices that you have to make to keep your baby healthy.

We have been very fortunate that nursing has gone so well for us.  That isn’t always the case for everyone.  It is easy to get discouraged, caring for a tiny human is real challenge, but being able to produce the milk needed to sustain that tiny human’s life is truly a beautiful thing and one that I’m so thankful I am getting to experience.  

-Elena Ridley, Illinois

This post was originally published on Elena’s blog, Baby Ridley Bump.

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