“Relax, Watch Some TV, Clear Your Mind, Enjoy The Time,” Linda Brennan On Helping New Moms In The Early Days Of Breastfeeding
Linda Brennan and her two-year-old daughter, Raine, were originally participants at a local breastfeeding support group, but now co-lead. As a peer support counselor, Linda shares her decision to breastfeed and how she became a volunteer with the Boston Breastfeeding Coalition.
Linda: I was about seven months pregnant when her father asked me “do you plan on breastfeeding or bottle feeding?”
I said, “I’m going to bottle feed.”
And he said, “I was born with severe asthma and allergies, and you don’t have any of those.”
And I thought about it and realized he’s right. I don't have asthma. I don't have allergies. I'm immune to a lot of things. That's a really good point. If I breastfeed, she gets all my immunities.
So, that was the decision making process.
Dominique: Did any other family members or friends influence your decision to breastfeed?
Linda: Nope. Just him.
Dominique: What about your mom?
Linda: No, he was the sole decision-maker. His one question started it all.
Dominique: So at seven months, how did you prepare for breastfeeding?
Linda: Babies-R-Us had awesome drop-in classes that were free. They had a Breastfeeding 101 class with a LaLeche League representative from New Hampshire [Linda lived out-of-state at the time].
It was a cool one-hour introduction to what I should know about breastfeeding.
We weren’t able to start breastfeeding the minute Raine was born. There were slight complications, because she came out blue. The cord was wrapped around her neck and they kept pulling her not realizing. They revived her and brought her to me.
Now, this would have been a deterrent to some moms, but the nurse who came in [claiming she does lactation] put me in a straight back chair, placed eight pillows around me, threw Raine on my boob, looked at her and said, “okay she looks good,” and walked out.
I never went back to that chair after that. I did everything from my hospital bed.
But once I was able to breastfeed, I breastfed her. And she’s been breastfeeding like a champ ever since.
Dominique: That’s traumatizing. I’m happy you were not deterred and were able to still nurse despite your complications.
Dominique: How was your transition to nursing a newborn at home?
Dominique: So, how did you deal with that?
Linda: Lots of TV. [laughs] Lots and lots of TV and Facebook on my Kindle. I was doing stuff to keep me occupied while sitting there for 45 minutes.
Dominique: You nursed her for 45 minutes at a time?
Linda: She would nurse forever. She would be good for like an hour, hour and a half, then go back to the breast again. There were a lot of times I sat there and asked her, “Are you done yet?”
She nursed like that for a good month and a half. Then started going less and less [as she got older].
Dominique: How was your milk supply?
Linda: Oh, it was plentiful. I did not have an issue.
Dominique: Good for you for being so patient with the process. So Raine is two-years-old going on three [in June]. How is your breastfeeding experience now?
Linda: Now, I have it down to bedtime and Raine’s not happy about it. I’m attempting the weaning stage because, at this point, she’s not done, but I am.
Dominique: And why are you done?
Linda: It’s still exhausting. And luckily at bedtime, she’ll nurse for no more than a few minutes to half an hour, depending on how tired she is. She can fall asleep after 10 minutes if she hasn’t taken a nap.
If I stop her, she’ll get a little whiny. I [calmly] tell her to “stop, close her eyes” and within five minutes, she’s snoring.
Dominique: Bedtime can be tricky. I really appreciate you sharing a piece of your journey with us. With almost three years of lived-experience breastfeeding, why did you decide to take the ROSE training and become a peer support counselor?
Linda: I'm a single mom. I was living with her father when Raine was born. But due to circumstances, I moved back to Massachusetts because I'm originally from Boston.
The WIC Office in Malden gave me a flyer and told me they had a breastfeeding support group called Baby Café. I originally went to get out of the house. Raine was 13 weeks at the time and didn’t have too many problems breastfeeding, but the Baby Café was able to answer the questions I did have.
I found out there was also a group in Melrose, so I started going to that one too. On the bulletin board in Melrose, I saw a flyer for a group at the Boston Children’s Museum and started going to it. Then after I moved to East Boston, I started to go to the group there as well.
At the time, Morgan Brockington ran the Museum group. I had learned so much from the Baby Cafés in Malden and Melrose because they are run by the woman who founded Baby Café USA. I was apparently teaching Morgan at the Children’s Museum things she didn’t know. Morgan suggested I fill out a scholarship application to become a peer support counselor. My application was accepted, and I went to the very first ROSE training two years ago.
Dominique: How was the training?
Linda: It was good. There was a lot of information I didn't know and there was a lot of information I did know. I love helping people. By using what I learned through the training and my personal experience, I would be able to do that. That was big for me.
Dominique: And we appreciate that you are super dedicated to helping families today. Is there anything you want new or breastfeeding moms to know?
Linda: Don’t worry about it too much. Worrying makes you think that you can’t do it -- you can do it! The baby can do it! The baby wants to do it. Relax, watch some TV, clear your mind, enjoy the time.
Dominique: That’s beautiful! Thank you so much, Linda!
Are you a breastfeeding mom?
Join Linda and other breastfeeding peer support counselors, Friday mornings from 10am-12pm at the Boston Children’s Museum.
Need ways to save on your museum admission? Children under 12 months are always FREE. Here are a few ways to save from the museum’s website.
If the Boston Children’s Museum is not convenient, check out this list of local breastfeeding support groups.
About the interviewer: Dominique is the blogger behind DommiesBlessed. As a breastfeeding journalist, she is super passionate about encouraging families through our stories. Please let her know if you would like to share your journey too.
“I don’t know how I did it, but I did it,” Mikel Jones On Overcoming Breastfeeding Hurdles With Her 11 Month Old Son
It was rough, the day I came home from the hospital. The nurses gave Kyh-el [my newborn son] a pacifier. He sucked it so hard and it was so big that it gave him a blister on the roof of his mouth.
That messed up his latch, so my nipple became chaffed. Every time he ate, it would rub the blister
on his mouth and then my nipple would hurt.
That was the beginning.
I gave Kyh-el formula that night because we were both so miserable. We needed it to give us a break, because breastfeeding was painful for both of us.
Although it was really rough, we pushed through.
At Kyh-el’s six week appointment, the doctors were telling me he wasn’t gaining weight. They recommended Baby Café and luckily there was a meeting that same night.
Jenny Weaver [the IBCLC at Codman Square Health Center’s Baby Café] observed us and weighed Kyh-el after he ate. Everything seemed good, but we kept noticing he still wasn’t gaining weight.
Jenny observed more closely. She put a glove on, and checked his latch with her hand in his mouth.
He had a tongue tie.
We got him in within a week [to have tongue tie surgery]. After the surgery, Kyh-el was a little fussy, but within a couple of days, his latch was getting better. The recovery can cause some strain on breastfeeding infants, so we did little exercises and were referred to a chiropractor to help his body get adjusted.
Again, we pushed through and everything has been great since.
Every now and then, we have breastfeeding hurdles. Overcoming them has been amazing, and exciting. It empowers me every time we get through one.
Mikel Jones is a mother of two. We met at the Black Breastfeeding Week Photoshoot, then again at the Reaching Our Sister’s Everywhere (ROSE) training.
Mikel breastfed her older son and in today’s interview, shares her journey breastfeeding her now 11 month old.
Mikel pictured with her two sons. Photo Permission: Mikel Jones
Dominique - It’s brave of you to share your experience. I’m curious -- since Kyh-el was doing so well with the bottle, why were you so persistent with nursing?
Mikel - Because I had this birth plan and everything didn’t go the way I wanted. So with breastfeeding, I was very adamant and told myself, “I have to do this.”
I breastfed my older son and enjoyed our bond. So I told myself, “I’m not giving up.” There were days, pre-lip-tie and tongue-tie surgery, where I completely avoided leaving the house. Kyh-el and I would sit in the house while he sat on my breast for hours at a time. He needed to be on more, because he wasn’t getting enough and I was willing to do anything to make it work.
Dominique - Did you have problems with your first son?
Mikel - In hindsight, I believe my older son had a tongue tie too. I was very adamant about breastfeeding then too, and he was always nursing.
It was easier to stay home, because he was the only one.
I didn’t know about a lip or tongue-tie and nobody even pointed me in the direction of a lactation consultant. So I pushed through it on my own. It was nice to have a support group to go to this time.
Mikel’s aunt told her about NPR’s interview on tongue ties.
Dominique - This is your second time mentioning staying at home. Why does a lip/tongue-tie force you to stay in the house?
Mikel - Because they can make babies really fussy in the car.
The chiropractor taught me the strain from babies using more muscles and working harder to eat causes the spine to be stressed. Their spine is like a rope being pulled from the top and the bottom. So when I put him in the car seat, the rope is no longer relaxed when he is sitting down. Instead, it’s being tugged at both sides and bent from sitting - all at the same time.
So he would literally scream when I put him in the car. I was so stressed and avoided doing anything.
Dominique - No way!! Poor baby!
Mikel - The chiropractor would do these tiny adjustments and after every visit, Kyh-el was literally better in the car. We went 3 times a week for a month and he kept getting better each time.
Dominique - That’s so good that you found a chiropractor. How did you deal with the stress?
Mikel - Just breathing and accepting the situation for what it was and knowing that I was trying my best. I was learning all that I could to make our situation better.
I was literally taking it moment by moment even though I was sleepless with a tiny baby at that point.
I don’t know how I did it, but I did.
Dominique - You had a chiropractor, a doctor, and the breastfeeding group. Was anyone in your family supportive?
Mikel - Everyone in my family worked, so most of my support came from the group.
Every now and then I had a little help. But most of the time, it was me and the baby trying to figure out how we were going to make this work.
Everyone else’s response was, “If this isn’t working, and if you’re always nursing, give him a bottle!”
We ended up supplementing, because the doctors required it. Kyh-el was in the lowest percentile and every time we went for an appointment he dropped weight.
I was willing to supplement, but wasn’t going to stop breastfeeding.
So, I nursed him before and after the bottle.
Dominique - Did he prefer the breast or the bottle?
Mikel - I’ve heard stories where people’s babies start on a bottle and then start rejecting the breast, but Kyh-el was like “let’s do this, I enjoy the breast!”
Dominique - Does he still use the bottle now at eleven months?
Mikel - Since his dad and I are not together, I send breastmilk with Kyh-el every weekend. His father supplements with formula, but after learning more about it at the [ROSE] training, I want Kyh-el to get to the point where he doesn’t take formula at all.
Dominique - Good for you for breastfeeding this long despite your trials!
Mikel - Thank you! I’m excited to keep going.
Dominique - How long are you going to go?
Mikel - I am not sure. I’m thinking until he is at least 4. If he wants to stop before then, that’s fine. But I’m willing to go as long as we can.
Dominique - Why 4?
Mikel - Because I hear of a lot of people, especially families who are over breastfeeding stigmas, nurse until 4. I thought teeth would stop me, because he has bitten me and would literally have me afraid to feed him.
Dominique - Why was he biting?
Mikel - I think he was trying to be funny. He likes hearing me yell. But I don’t want to scare people. It doesn’t happen as often as I thought it would. When he first got his teeth, I think he was getting used to having teeth.
Dominique - Yeah they’re like little toys.
Mikel - Exactly! He was like, “oh wow, what are these things?” But now that he’s had them, it’s very rare that he bites.
Dominique - Well this has been awesome! Thank you so much for sharing the ups and downs of your breastfeeding journey.
Need breastfeeding support? Drop-in on one of the free support groups hosted by the Boston Breastfeeding Coalition. We are located in Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, and more.
The groups are staffed with trained peer counselors, most with lived breastfeeding experience to give you the support you need. Our Baby Cafés have an IBCLC (international board certified consultant who can help you with any medical issues). We look forward to seeing you soon!
About the interviewer: As a breastfeeding journalist, Dominique is super passionate about strengthening families and documenting our stories. Please let her know if you would like to share your journey too.
I got home from the hospital and came straight to my moms. For some reason, he [my newborn son] wouldn’t latch on. He had been doing so up to that point.
He kept screaming and crying because he was hungry but wouldn’t latch all of a sudden.
My mom encouraged allowing formula, but I refused.
Emotionally overwhelmed, I took my pump I never used out the box, went upstairs with his dad (who was also feeling emotional that our son wouldn’t eat) and we pulled out all the parts.
I never pumped before.
I called my friend Skye and disclosed my emotions and she reassured me that I was enough and he would be fine.
I then called another friend, who just had her daughter and had the same medela pump. She sprung into action!
She FaceTimed me and said, “okay let’s do it.”
She walked me step-by-step through how to set up the pump and also gave me emotional support when I was an emotional mess.
I had tears streaming down my face and a lump in my throat. I kicked dad out to be able to get the support I needed from my friend (Anne-Marie).
I sat there in tears pumping - the milk was coming out slowly. At that point [my son] was only 3-4 days old. She said, “Keep going. I’m coming over to bring you some stuff.”
Twenty minutes later she was at my door.
Her daughter, Alana, was born about the same size as Bryce [my son]. She brought me instant formula that she was given at the hospital. She also brought me a bunch of products that support milk expression. And with a hug and the words,
“you are enough”
I took a deep breath and poured the little milk I pumped into a sterile bottle and he drank it all. Later that night he was back to latching on with no problem.
I wanted to share this because this whole experience is so emotional. I’m not even super emotional regularly. This is teaching me how important your village is and how much reassurance you need from your family and friends during these times.
Jamila Gales proudly welcomed her first child, Bryce Broderick Walker last month. She texted me an update after our initial interview a week ago from her hospital bed.
I’m super grateful for her story because in a matter of days her breastfeeding journey drastically changed.
The following interview was conducted hours after her vaginal delivery when Jamila was still in the hospital.
Congratulations Jamila! I know you’ve been preparing for breastfeeding since pregnancy? How has it been?
As soon as he came out they put him on my chest. He was ready to feed and immediately was looking for the breast.
That’s great! It sounds like he was born ready to eat. Did he have any hunger cues?
Immediately after delivery, his mouth was open. Then he started doing this sucking motion with his lips, so they put him on my chest.
Now that he's older than 24 hours, they want me to feed him every two hours and make sure that he's pooping. He's been doing very good with both.
In between, we do skin-to-skin for bonding. When I lay him on my chest, he can smell the milk and he latches on right away.
Wow, it sounds like you haven’t had any problems.
I gave birth less than 48 hours ago, so it hasn’t been too bad yet.
I didn't have any problems with him attaching to the breast. My major concerns were is there milk coming out and if I was feeding him enough?
I kept asking the nurses if he was getting full. They told me he was fine. His first meal is colostrum.
Colostrum is very thick and some babies have to work hard for it. Any discomfort or pain?
He has a pretty good grip, so I think eventually it may start to get sore. The hospital gave me a cream if it does.
My lactation consultant also visited today and she taught me the best ways to get him to latch on.
She noticed he wasn’t getting the full nipple in his mouth and she wanted to make sure it wasn't hurting me. She taught me how to position him correctly and it made a big difference.
What position has been the best so far?
I use a Boppy and we like the football hold or for his body to lay across the pillow [cradle/cross cradle].
Nice! So how often is he feeding now?
He’s eating 20 minutes on one breast and 20 on the other. He ate for an hour straight today and I had to keep switching back-n-forth.
I’m sorry, did you say he ate for an hour?
Yes! And it wasn't just pacifying, he was really feeding for an hour.
He's supposed to eat again now, but he's been sleepy. I think that hour did it for him.
I’m so happy to hear that your first breastfeeding experience is going so well. I don’t want to keep you, so is there anything that you want to share with other expecting moms?
I definitely encourage skin-to-skin right away. Even when I feel like I'm not feeding him, we are still bonding.
Also, pay attention to your body and your baby. Breastfeeding is new for all of us and it may take a bit longer to figure out how to nurse.
Thank you so much for giving us a sneak peek into your breastfeeding journey. We wish you the best!
About the interviewer: Dominique is super passionate about documenting our stories. She calls herself a breastfeeding journalist, so please let her know if you would like to share your story too.
By Dominique Graham
Skye Canuto was excited when she noticed her breastmilk supply did not change after returning to work. She is a first-time mom of 4-month-old, Summer. In this interview, Skye shares her tips on making a smooth transition back to work as a breastfeeding mom.
So Skye, how did you prepare to go back to work?
I knew I wanted to continue breastfeeding Summer. Before going back to work, I asked my boss if I could have a space so that I could pump twice a day.
What did your boss say?
He was really okay with it and made sure to give me a space and the allotted time to pump.
Where do you pump when you are at work?
I go into an office and I have a sign that says, “Do Not Enter.”
That’s great that you have a supportive boss. How did you know you needed to pump twice a day?
I thought about how many times I fed Summer during the day. I would feed her before I left in the morning. After three hours I would pump at work. I was able to get 4 ounces from each boob.
How did you know that 8 ounces was enough milk for Summer?
I was trying to pump while I was home on maternity leave, but it was really hard keeping up with the pump schedule while trying to care for the baby. So I stopped that. I just thought about how often I fed her and when she would go down for a nap. That helped me to figure out when I should pump and how many times.
So you were more focused on how many times you fed her, versus how much she drinks?
It was more just me trying to figure out how many times she ate. Because sometimes she drinks more, sometimes she drinks less. And now that she is eating baby food twice a day, I knew that would cut into some of her bottle. So as long as I pump twice a day, I believe it will be enough for her. And then, when I get home, she is usually ready to eat again.
So you only pump at work?
Yes. I don’t pump at home unless I get engorged. Other than that, I only pump at work.
How is bringing a pump to work? Do you have to bring it every day? Do you keep it there? Where do you store it? Where do you put your milk?
I pack a little lunch bag with two ice packs so that I can keep the milk cold until I get home. I like to take my pump home everyday, because I really like to clean it and make sure I am properly caring for it. I don’t want any bacteria or anything else to set in.
What model do you have and how did you get one?
I have a Lansinoh and I got it through my health insurance.
Is it a hands-free pump?
I have a hands-free one and a bra pump. I also have a hand pump, because sometimes when she is nursing, the other breast will leak at least an ounce. I try to keep that pump on me, so that when it does leak, I am catching it and not wasting any milk.
So I know you have a partner. I’m sure your your new pumping regimen affects your partnership?
Yes, my partner is a male. We’ve talked and I told him I have to do this because I really want to breastfeed my daughter for a year. He’s cool. He respects it. He drops me off at the office and gives me my 30 to 35 minutes. And then we go back out. After 3 hours, we drive back to the office for another session.
That is so cool that you have a supportive co-worker. So it’s kinda like he has a baby too!
Basically! We are in this together.
You mentioned you want to breastfeed for a year. Since Summer is almost 5 months, how do you feel about pumping at work for 7 more months?
I know it’s going to be hard, because it’s very regimented. You have to keep a good schedule and sometimes my job can be unpredictable. But I’m really trying hard to continue breastfeeding for a year.
Before our interview you also mentioned breastfeeding after returning to work is easier than you thought. What’s easy about it?
Having our family care for her, makes going back to work a lot easier.
It does always help to have a supportive family. Thank you for sharing your story with us, I’m sure it will help other moms preparing to go back to work. Do you have any other advice for new moms?
Take everything day by day and if one thing doesn’t work — try something else. Don’t put too much stress on yourself. Don’t take this too serious, because no one has the perfect way for raising a kid. It’s all about trial and error.
I’m going to cry. That’s perfect!
One more thing I forgot to add. Depending on your job, ask other moms who have the same kind of career as you, especially if they’ve done it before you. Sometimes they might have a technique, a trick or something that could help.
What have your co-workers suggested?
One of my co-workers suggested staying on a schedule by any means necessary. If you have to carry an electric pump with you in your [police] cruiser.
And if you have to sit in one of the tinted cars with your hand pump.
Make sure you stick to your schedule!
Thank you Skye for those encouraging words. I’m happy that your breastfeeding journey has been going smoothly. We look forward to a one year update.
About the interviewer:
Dominique is a Boston resident, a breastfeeding journalist and blogger behind DommiesBlessed.
Josselyne Noyes joined the Codman Square Baby Cafe when her oldest son was a mere two months old. She said the group was very helpful in her breastfeeding journey in allowing her to meet other mothers. She is currently pregnant and still walks to the Codman Square Baby Café with her now three year old son and one year old daughter.
Daily Milk hosts articles, posts and ideas from various members of our breastfeeding coalition!