S1E9 Nakelle’s Story | New Little Life Breastfeeding Podcast
In this week’s episode, I am joined by Nakelle– a mom of three. She had three wildly different experiences with each of her children. We talk about making the decision to switch to formula, nipple shields, and combating mom guilt.
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Hey everyone. It’s Allison here with New Little Life. I’m an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a nurse, a doula, and a mom of three little boys. Here on the New Little Life podcast, we’ll talk with real moms about their breastfeeding experience– the good parts and the bad– and share real and practical advice about breastfeeding. Connect with and learn from other moms and professionals to help you meet your breastfeeding goals. Hello again! Today we’ve got a great interview with someone that is very close to my heart. I was around when Nakelle was breastfeeding her first child, which she’ll tell you about. And I remember very clearly some of the feelings that I had watching her struggle, and I felt so inadequate to help her. I was a nurse, working at an OBGYN office at the time, which I absolutely loved. But it was in those moments with her that I realized that I knew nothing about breastfeeding and I couldn’t even help someone that I loved, which was one of the main reasons that I went into nursing in the first place. So she’s a big reason that I started my lactation training back in 2010. And it’s the love of helping moms like her that has led me to continue on to where I am today. So she will always hold a really special place in my heart for that reason. Before we get started today, if you haven’t already subscribed, if you will go ahead and do that so you can keep listening to these great interviews with these moms. And if you don’t mind also leaving me a review on whatever platform you’re listening on, just even clicking the five-star button can help me get more content to people that will enjoy it and that can benefit from it. So I appreciate you supporting the podcast in that way. Let’s start today’s interview. Alright, here we go with another interview. We’ve got Nakelle with us here today. Thanks for talking with me today Nakelle.
Yeah, you’re welcome.
At the time we’re recording this, this is just after Thanksgiving. How was your Thanksgiving in these COVID times?
It was okay. We were just all here at home– my husband and myself and my three kids. And we just had our own little Thanksgiving here at our house and it was not stressful and we still ate too much and have a lot of leftovers.
It’s crazy. I think a lot of the holidays this year are gonna look different for a lot of families everywhere. So ours was very similar. Very quiet, just our family, but it was nice.
It was nice.
Well, I’m really looking forward to talking with you today about your breastfeeding experiences. Would you mind just starting telling us about you, your family? Just general.
Yeah, that’d be great. So I got married to my husband in 2008, so that’s a while now. I was really young when I got married. I was 19 and my husband was four and a half years older than me. He is four and a half years older than me. And then a couple of years after we got married, we had our first kid, Carter, who’s now ten. And then a couple of years after that we had our second baby, Connor. He’s eight now. And then a couple of years after that, we had our last baby. We had Olivia and she’s five now. We live in Olympia, Washington. My husband works in healthcare. I’m a public school teacher and all my kids go to school.
Your kids are a little bit older than mine, but I’m looking forward to the day when all of mine are in school like yours, although the school this year is crazy with all the virtual stuff. It’s a lot to manage. Well, let’s talk about some of your breastfeeding experiences. Let’s just start with your first one, Carter. And I would love to know before we talk about him, why you decided to breastfeed and had you ever been around breastfeeding before that? So had you ever seen anyone breastfeed or did you take a class or what kind of made you want to try that?
So with my first, I had zero experience. My mom didn’t breastfeed any of her kids. And so even when I was a younger child, when my younger sister was born, I knew how to whip up the baby formula in a bottle and feed a baby. So that’s what I knew was bottle feeding with formula. And so when I had my first baby, I didn’t have a ton of previous knowledge or experience because I just had never really been around it. Even then in 2010, which is only 10 years ago when Carter was born, there wasn’t as much widely available information on the internet as there is now. And so even if I had searched or done research, I would have been reading books or asking medical professionals for assistance. When he was born, I wanted to breastfeed because I had taken a birthing class and I was like, “Cool, this sounds great. And it’s cheaper. So let’s give this a try.” When you have a baby in the hospital, I had a lactation person come in and talk to me and kind of tell me how to do things a little bit. And so I tried that. After she came in the hospital, I was like, “I can do it. We’ll give this a try.” And then we went home and of course it takes a couple of days for your milk supply to come in. And I felt like Carter was starving. He obviously wasn’t latching well because when we went in for our two-week postpartum checkup for him to check his weight and stuff, they asked if I wanted to talk to a lactation specialist. And I said, yes, because I’m bleeding, there’s wounds. It took a while for my milk to come in as it does for every woman. And so I didn’t know what to do. Carter, I felt like he was starving. So I was supplementing with formula, kind of in this zone of, “I don’t know what to do. It hurts really bad.” So when I went in for that two-week thing, I showed the lactation specialist. It was particularly on my left side. I showed her my nipple and it was so cracked. It had like this cut like straight down the middle, almost like cutting my nipple in half. And it was deep and it was bleeding and it just wouldn’t heal. And she was like, “You could try these nipple shields, but nobody really likes these things.” And pretty much “If I were you, I would just stop.” And I was like, “Okay.” So I did. And so that was my experience with breastfeeding with my first baby. I tried it for two weeks. It was excruciatingly painful. I didn’t know what I was doing. And so I gave up and it was fine. Luckily we had the resources financially to be able to afford formula and to take care of it that way. And so we were very fortunate. But that was a pretty rough experience for my first try.
That’s so interesting. I don’t think that is uncommon experience, especially 10 years ago. I agree that stuff was just not quite as easily available as it is now. Was that a hard decision for you to kind of switch over to formula? Or was it “this is what I know anyway, so I’m okay with it”?
I think I had to hear it from a lactation specialist for her to say, “If I were you, I would stop” because then it took all the pressure off of me. I felt at peace with it. I just really was stuck in this zone of not knowing what to do, if this is what it’s going to feel like forever, I just didn’t know what to do. And so having her say that to me, just kind of freed me up to make the decision that “This is okay, he’s getting formula anyway.” We were going back and forth. And so it was fine for me.
Sometimes it just takes a professional to say, “You’re okay if you want to make this decision.” It makes it a little bit easier. It’s not a bad decision. It’s not even giving up. It’s just a change in direction. But I can totally imagine that feeling of just, “I don’t know what to do. My baby’s hungry.” Was he gaining weight okay?
He was fine gaining weight. It just was so painful. And I remember even I was getting so engorged because it was so painful to breastfeed him. I would go to pump and the milk would come out orange because of all the blood that was tinting it. It was just so painful. So I think for that pregnancy and that baby and that circumstance, it was the right decision for me to move on and to do something different.
Absolutely. And so how was it with your second one? It sounds like that wasn’t the funnest experience. Were you a little nervous to breastfeed the second one? Did you even want to?
Yeah, so I didn’t really have any expectations. I was living in a completely different state when I had my second baby, completely different circumstance. But when I was at the hospital, I remember telling the lactation specialist that I was talking to my experience that I had with my first baby. And I told her, “I don’t want to experience that again.” And she said, “Well, we’re going to send you home with some nipple shields and let’s just see how that goes.” And that like transformed my total breastfeeding life. Being able to even just have them like supply that for me. So I didn’t have to like go out and search for it and know what I was looking for. They just gave me a nipple shield and I began to start getting those same kind of owies on my nipples with my second baby. But because they had given me the nipple shield, I was like, “I’ll just try this.” And I used it and it didn’t hurt. It allowed my nipples to heal in the way that they needed to. And I was successful. I was able to breastfeed my baby. I did end up supplementing also with formula with my second baby, because when he was 11 weeks old, I did my student teaching and he had to go to a babysitter. I only had like one opportunity during the day for my student teaching to pump. And so it wasn’t enough for him to be just solely breastfed. And so as time went on with my student teaching, I would breastfeed my baby at home when I was there with him and I would pump during the day. Halfway through my student teaching, I had to switch to another school because that’s how it works in music. I had to do an elementary portion and then a secondary portion. And so when I switched over to my secondary portion, I no longer had time available for me to pump during the day. And my milk supply was dwindling. And so eventually I just stopped because my milk supply was drying up because of lack of use. At least in my mind, I thought that is what was happening. As I look back after my third baby and more knowledge that I gained, I probably could have kept going and then it would have been fine. But that’s what happened with my second baby. I felt really proud of myself. I can’t even remember how long I breastfed him for, but it was significantly longer. I would say between four and six months is how long I breastfed before I gave it up. But it was a much better experience. And had my schooling been in a different time, I would have been able to be successful for the whole first year of his life.
Sometimes life is life, you just have to adjust and that’s great. Do you remember how long you used the nipple shield? Was it hard to wean off of it?
So for my babies, it wasn’t. At the beginning, I would use it exclusively, I would not nurse without it. But then as my skin got stronger and maybe more calloused to what was happening to it, I would start with the nipple shield on, get things going, and then I would remove it and have the baby latch just mouth-to-skin. And then eventually I wouldn’t even need the nipple shield. So it just was kind of like a gradual phase-out of using the nipple shield, I guess.
Cool. So you had a pump with your second one. Do you remember what kind of pump it was? I always like to know and know if you liked it.
I had the same pump for my first and my second. But I don’t remember what it was. It was white and blue. I don’t remember the brand of it. Sorry.
Maybe a Spectra or something. That’s a really common,
I think I bought it at Walmart, so it probably wasn’t anything fancy.
I remember when I had my first, I went back to work after him too. And I used a pump that was gifted to me from a friend because insurance companies weren’t covering back then and it was hard to find them. And I don’t know, it was just different, that’s crazy. That was only six years ago, but things have changed so much. Even since then. And then your third one, can you tell us a little bit about breastfeeding Olivia?
So Olivia, she was probably my most successful breastfed baby. I wasn’t working, I wasn’t teaching anymore. And so I was just completely a stay-at-home mom. And so I was able to basically just dedicate my life to feeding her whenever she wanted. I did start with the nipple shield at the beginning and I probably used that for like six months, a good solid chunk of time. I used the nipple shield because I was not going to go down that road of owies on the nipples because that’s not fun. So she was also born in Washington state, but shortly after we moved to Utah and we lived there for a couple of years and I breastfed Olivia until she was two. I remember taking her to her two year well-child visit with the doctor and the doctor asked, “How is she eating? What is she eating? Is she using a bottle? Are you breastfeeding?” And I said, “She’s eating great. She’s eating all of our food. And she’s not breastfeeding anymore and no bottles.” And he said, “When did you stop breastfeeding?” And I said “Yesterday.” So it was like that two year mark, that was it. I was done, but it just felt really natural for her to go that long. She never took a pacifier. And so I was her comforter. I pacified her. A lot of times when she would nurse, it wouldn’t necessarily be for sustenance. It would just be for comfort. And luckily I was in a position, in a state of mind, where I could give that to her.
Yeah. I remember a couple times you mentioned, especially when she would have a meltdown or she would get hurt or something that it was easy to just comfort her with the breasts.
And sometimes it was a pain because if we ever traveled, I remember going camping and having to like just breastfeed her all night long because she wouldn’t sleep unless I was nursing her. And it wasn’t that way when we were at home. Just for some reason, whenever we were away from home, she just needed that extra comfort. And that wasn’t comforting for me. It was not comfortable, but at least I was able to do it. And so that was a success for me.
Wow, that’s great. Do you think with that third one you just kind of were more comfortable and knew what to expect? Or was there something different about your experience in the beginning that helped you to breastfeed for so much longer? Do you think it was situational? Be curious to know what you thought.
All three of my experiences were so different. But I think with that last one, it was the experience that helped me to be more successful. I knew I had pretty much total failure with my first. I knew I could be successful because I started to be successful with my second. And so with her, I felt confident. I didn’t really set a goal and say, “I want to breastfeed for this long.” It was like, “I want to try breastfeeding and see how long I can go before I have to stop.” And luckily I was able to go a really long time.
I think that’s a great mindset for any mom. “Let’s get started. Who can I call if I need help? And let’s readjust as the situation needs.” So that’s awesome.
It was helpful too, because I always felt like if I had any questions I could call you and say, “Allison, is this normal? What is happening to me?” And it was good to have a calming voice, say, “Oh, that is normal or no, that’s not normal or it’s going to be fine. You’re just being dramatic.” But it’s good to have somebody to talk to that knows what they’re doing.
Even if it’s just another mom that’s done this before that can say, “No, you need to call your doctor.” Or like you said, “You’re being dramatic. It’s fine.” Did you ever catch any flack from other moms for not breastfeeding? I feel like a lot of times moms can be a little judgmental of when their experiences look different than yours. Did you ever have any run ins with someone that said something or that judged you for choices that you had made?
Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any specific time where I can say, “Oh, this woman was judging me.” But I can recall having those feelings. So I can recall feeling those feelings of judgment and maybe it never happened, but I was afraid of it happening because it does happen. For some reason is the first in mom guilt. If you aren’t feeding your baby “the right way”, that’s the number one thing you have to do when your baby is born is feed it. And if you’re not doing it “the right way”, that that causes a lot of guilt and pressure. And so I remember being afraid of people judging me, but I don’t have any specific memories– luckily– of someone judging me. Doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It was just so long ago.
I think we’re often hardest on ourselves anyway. And I think moms that switched to formula feeding, like you sometimes quote it as a failure or like giving up and switching this way, but it’s really just a change of path. You know what I mean? It’s not like you failed that you have to do the second best. I’m so grateful actually that we live in a time with Western medicine that we have options. Can you imagine before they had things to nourish babies appropriately, you’d have to give your baby to a wet nurse is what they used to do. But I’m grateful that we have so many options to feed our babies and help them grow. Was your partner supportive? Were they on board with decisions you made?
Yeah, I feel very fortunate to have my spouse. He has always been very supportive of the decisions that I’ve made in regards to feeding our babies. And he never made me feel bad or question my decisions. He was always behind me 100%.
That makes a big difference to have that support right at home.
So two questions here for you. I would love to know what you thought the best part of breastfeeding was. And also maybe the hardest part of breastfeeding. I know you’ve had a lot of experiences both ways. Let’s start with the best, let’s start with the good stuff.
I think my favorite part of breastfeeding is just the connection that you get with your baby. I think you can have that same connection bottle-feeding your baby because I remember feeling the same feelings with my oldest, even though I wasn’t breastfeeding him. But I just feel like you’re so connected– literally physically connected, but also biologically your hormones– I don’t know what they’re doing– but they make you feel loved towards your baby. And so that’s my favorite part of breastfeeding, for sure.
Yeah. And maybe the hardest part for you. Was there anything that you just didn’t like?
Yeah. The first two weeks I think is the hardest. It’s when your milk is coming in, when your skin is sore, when things are engorged and not comfortable. I think that is definitely the hardest part. I think if you can get through those first couple of weeks, you can be successful. For sure.
I think a lot of moms feel that way the first couple of weeks. There’s such a big learning curve for you and for the baby. What was the best advice you ever received from another mom or from a lactation consultant, pediatrician? Do you remember anything in particular that changed the way you did things?
Oh, this is reaching into the cobwebs of my memories. I can’t think of anything specifically. I’m sure there was because all of my experiences were so different, so I’m sure there was some advice given that helped. But I think the thing that did help me the most was just having the proper mindset. It got better for me each time. With my first baby, I was like, “I don’t know what I’m doing.” I felt so like, “Oh, everything hurts and it’s bad. And I don’t know what I’m doing.” With my second. I was much more cautious, but still open to things. And by the time my third baby came around, I was like, “Well, just go with the flow and see what happens.” So I think having an open mind is really important.
A hundred percent right there. Just one one more question before I finish up here, but do you remember what it was like to wean your babies? Olivia carried on the longest, but even the other two. Was that a hard process for you? Or do you remember like the last time you breastfed your baby? Was there anything special about that?
So with my first baby because I was so engorged already, I didn’t really notice the difference. And things just eventually stopped. The milk just eventually stopped. And it was a relief for me because the engorgement went down. With my second baby, I definitely remember stopping because I stopped right in the middle of when things were going well. And I remember looking up online how to make my milk dry up and all of these things. And so I remember getting swollen again and then eventually the milk tapering off and going away. With Olivia, it was less noticeable because I did nurse her for so long that she wasn’t needing milk to sustain her. And so my milk supply had already decreased by the time I was done. And so eventually with her, it just stopped. It took a long time for the milk production to stop, but I didn’t get like engorged or swollen or anything. It just piddled away.
Did any of them give you a hard time about that? The first two switched over to bottles, so they probably didn’t mind. But was that hard for Olivia to give that up?
She would still ask. I’d have to find videos. She had this little phrase that she would say that basically meant like “Feed me”. She would come up to me and she would like pull on my shirt and say like, “Feed me, feed me.” And I’d have to be like, “Nope, no more. It’s gone.” And eventually it stopped and she wouldn’t like get upset, but it was more of a habit for her than anything else I think at that point.
Lastly, is there any advice that you would tell a new mom who’s planning to breastfeed? Anything that you think would help them getting started or carrying on?
I would just say take it a day at a time. And if it’s hurting, evaluate what’s happening and ask for help if you need it. Every situation is different, like in my circumstance it didn’t work out for one and a half times. And if you’re finding yourself in that situation, it’s okay to let go. But if you are finding success and it’s working for you, then go for it and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.
That’s perfect. A perfect little note to end on. So thank you so much for taking the time today to share your experience. And I think you had some really wise words in there. Just having such different experiences with all three, I think is going to help a lot of other moms just with some realistic expectations and kind of learn what to do and come to peace if they need to make another choice.
Yeah. Thank you for having me.
You can find all the links and stuff we talked about today down in the show notes. You can find out more about New Little Life and what we have going on on the YouTube channel and things on my website, which is newlittlelife.com. And don’t forget to leave a review on whatever platform you’re listening to. We’ll see you next time. Thanks Nakelle.