Mama Fierce: When Breastfeeding Doesn't Work Out

As a brand who works to support breastfeeding, we talk a lot about empowering women to confidently breastfeed their babies and how important it is that women feel supported the choices they make about how they want to be a Mom.  There is an important aspect of this conversation that we don't talk about enough: when breastfeeding doesn't work out and supporting a mom's choices when she is in this situation.  I'm super excited to be speaking with Plus Size Style Guru, Briana Hernandez from Mama Fierce today who has volunteered to open up about her experiences with breastfeeding and moving on.

Briana rocking the Reptile Tunic available for pre-sale now during the  Plus Size Kickstarter Campaign!

Briana rocking the Reptile Tunic available for pre-sale now during the Plus Size Kickstarter Campaign!

You mentioned in your writing that you had hoped to breastfeed but it didn't work out. Can you talk a little bit about your experiences breastfeeding and what didn't work for you?

I had a perfect storm of badness right after my son was born. My milk didn't come in very well. I could only pump three ounces out of both breasts combined. I had two epidurals since my first one crapped out at eight centimeters and I already have back problems. So as I was trying to breastfeed, my back would spasm. It took two nurses to get me into a comfortable position so it became apparent this couldn't be a thing I could do independently, which was important since my partner was due back at work in six short weeks. After the first night home, I could just tell my son wasn't getting enough. I pumped for a week after that but my milk was still lagging so I threw in the towel. The most heartbreaking thing about it was that I thought breastfeeding would be so liberating. I pictured myself just whipping it out any time I needed to and being militant in taking no disrespect for it. But because it was very difficult for me, it ended up being something to hold me back. The point for me wasn't to have to suffer through it, and that's exactly what was happening.  

Did pregnancy and birth change your attitude toward your body?  Did your experience breastfeeding alter this at all?

My pregnancy was pretty easy and it made me feel invincible and limitless. With breastfeeding, I definitely confirmed my body has limits! And there may have been a little shame since I just expected this to work for me like it works for so many women, but I also knew I was not alone. That really helped. But I'd say the thing that messed with my body image the most was motherhood in those first few months. I'm so driven by personal style and I suddenly didn't have the time or energy for it, nor were any of my clothes easy to throw together, which was crucial.  

"This is why Leche Libre resonates with me so much. If I had invested in nursing fashions like this, it wouldn't have felt like a waste when breastfeeding did not turn out to be my friend. At least I would have been left with some poppin' pieces!"

"This is why Leche Libre resonates with me so much. If I had invested in nursing fashions like this, it wouldn't have felt like a waste when breastfeeding did not turn out to be my friend. At least I would have been left with some poppin' pieces!"

I'm glad to hear that you knew you weren't alone. How or where did you find this support?

I luckily had family and friends who either chose to formula-feed right off the bat or went to it after breastfeeding didn't work out for them. These people were obviously very supportive of my decision to stop. 

Did you ever feel judged by other moms for not breastfeeding?  And if so, how did this make you feel?

Absolutely. I remember posting one of the first pictures I have ever taken of my son on Facebook. In the picture, he was having a bottle and someone commented with, "That's not a boob" and nothing else. That felt pretty judgy and invasive. It reinforced all the unkind things I was saying to myself--that I gave up too easily and that I wasn't sacrificing enough for my baby. Luckily, I knew deep down that was all bullshit. 

"The most heartbreaking thing about it was that I thought breastfeeding would be so liberating. I pictured myself just whipping it out any time I needed to and being militant in taking no disrespect for it. But because it was very difficult for me, it ended up being something to hold me back."

Was there anything you can think of that would have made your experience easier? 

What would have definitely made my life easier at that time is to have talked about breastfeeding as if it weren't a guarantee. Sure, it was talked about as a choice, but no one ever told me it might not work out for me. Maybe if that conversation had happened, I wouldn't have been left with a half-dozen nursing covers I would never use and nursing tops I would never wear (because holy crap, where they fugly). This is why Leche Libre resonates with me so much. If I had invested in nursing fashions like this, it wouldn't have felt like a waste when breastfeeding did not turn out to be my friend. At least I would have been left with some poppin' pieces!

Thank you Briana for sharing your story and truth with us. As mother's we're all doing our best and the more we can support each other in our choices and paths, the stronger we'll all be!  Please support our Plus Size Kickstarter campaign to make sure these poppin' pieces get made! 

Mom Feature: Allison

We are so excited to introduce Mom Features, a series of interviews with Leche Libre moms. Topics such as public breastfeeding, personal style and plenty of tips from the moms will be covered in the feature!

Meet Allison, a Chicago mom and her cutie, Nora. Allison discuses the struggles of being a plus breastfeeding mom and her postpartum body image.  

Allison wearing our Nursing Sweatshirt in Navy- click image to shop

Allison wearing our Nursing Sweatshirt in Navy- click image to shop

1. How would you describe your style? Do you have any tips for breastfeeding moms?

I have always been attracted to hour glass silhouettes--wrap dresses, pencil skirts. Fun prints and bright colors: cobalt blue and coral. Stuff that accentuates my curves. My tip to breastfeeding moms is to keep hydrated. Always have a glass of water on hand.

2. As a postpartum woman, how did your body image change with motherhood?

I had a traumatic birth experience and took about two months to heal so my relationship to my body changed dramatically after my daughter, Nora Jane, was born. I needed clothes that I could wear comfortably, that allowed easy access for breastfeeding and for the medical professionals who were taking care of me at home. I spent about 8 weeks in a long shapeless black skirt, a breastfeeding tank, and chunky sweater. By the time was I fully healed I barely recognized myself. It's been 15 months since my daughter was born and I've started getting used to my new body, dressing for fun--not just function and dipping my toe into a renewed social and intellectual life.

3. How long do you plan on breastfeeding?

I'll breastfeed as along as it's working for both of us.

4. What has been your biggest challenge as a breastfeeding mom? How do you overcome it?

Because I was sick and on several contraindicated medications, our start to breastfeeding was pretty rocky. I pumped and my daughter was on a combination of donor milk and formula for the first couple months. I'm very grateful for the lactation support I received in the hospital and at home. On the night of Nora's birth, I was in the ICU and she was in the neonatal ward with her dad. An LC broke all the rules and secreted her up to my room so we could bond and practice nursing. I'll always remember that kindness. We also had a lot of success going to a weekly lactation station--basically the weirdest yoga class ever--with moms and babies lined up on mats nursing quietly.

5. What has breastfeeding in public been like for you? Has it been mostly positive, or have you had any negative experiences?

 I've had pretty positive experiences breastfeeding in public. 

6. As a plus woman, how has it been trying to find stylish breastfeeding apparel? Has this struggle made breastfeeding difficult?

 As a well-endowed woman, its not easy to be discrete so you just do what you've gotta do. Leche Libre clothes definitely help me feel cool and confident while nursing in public.

 

Thanks Allison for being part of our first Mom Feature!