“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.
Daily Milk hosts articles, posts and ideas from various members of our breastfeeding coalition!