S1E13 Margaret’s Story | New Little Life Breastfeeding Podcast

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Show Notes

In this week’s episode, I am joined by Margaret, a mom of three boys and a military wife. We talk about nursing aversion, tandem nursing, latch issues, normalizing breastfeeding among other moms, and the struggles of breastfeeding within a military lifestyle.

Helpful Links

Adventures in Tandem Nursing book: https://amzn.to/3l92kUq

When Breastfeeding Sucks book: https://amzn.to/3vkpYSy

Breastfeeding Aversion Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/breastfeedingaversion/

Margaret’s Favorite Facebook support groups:

Connect with Margaret

Links from Allison

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Episode Transcript

Allison (00:00:06):

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, once again, I’m so happy today to bring you another story and lessons from a wonderful breastfeeding mother. Margaret is our guest today and she is a mom of three little boys– just like me. Yay! And a beautiful military family. She has such an interesting story and has overcome so much. She’s also very well-spoken about the difficulties she’s faced. In this interview today, she’s going to share her experience with nursing aversion, tandem nursing, latching issues, and some other struggles that come with having three very young children at home amidst deployments and ever-changing situations. It was so hard to end our chat because I really felt like catching up with an old friend and it was a really nice interview. I think you’re really going to love it. Before we get started today, down in the show notes you can find links from our chat with Margaret and all the things that she mentions will be down there. Also, you can find some resources from New Little Life, including a breastfeeding course, and a link to support the podcast on Patreon if you’re able. I just wanted to say a quick thank you to all of our current patrons for making this podcast possible. I love you guys. Couldn’t do it without you. You have a lot to learn from Margaret. So here she is. Hi Margaret. I’m happy to be talking with you today. Good morning to you. Good evening to me.

Margaret (00:01:59):

Hi Allison. How are you?

Allison (00:02:01):

Good. I’m so happy! Okay. We’ve been trying to connect to chat for a while. So I’m really looking forward to this. Can you start out today and tell my listeners a little bit about yourself, your beautiful little family, all that good stuff?

Margaret (00:02:15):

Sure. My name is Margaret. Me and my husband Blake have been married for six years. And we met while we were in college. We have three kids– all boys. Masi is five. Isala is almost three. And then the baby Alema is 15 months, 16. I don’t know. By the third kid, you’re not really keeping that close of track.

Allison (00:02:47):

You don’t have the cute pictures with all the little circle months anymore. At least not me. Actually. I have seen a few moms that keep it up and I’m slow clap to you because I couldn’t.

Margaret (00:02:56):

Yeah, I didn’t even do it with Masi, my first. So the standards just were starting out pretty low and we’re just way lower now.

Allison (00:03:05):

Mine’s pretty sporadic on Facebook as well. There’s a random three-month photo, and then a nine-month, and then a ten month.

Margaret (00:03:11):

Just like, “Hello, my baby’s still here.”

Allison (00:03:14):

Yeah. “Remember us? We’re still here.” Where are you guys living now? You guys are a military family, right?

Margaret (00:03:23):

Right. So we’re a military family. When we first got married, we were not military and we were in school in Hawaii. And then right after Blake graduated, he joined the Army. And so then we moved to Georgia while he was doing his training. Oklahoma, which is where me and you met. And now we are in Colorado Springs and we just got here a couple months ago.

Allison (00:03:46):

Cool. Are you liking that area? I’ve heard it’s a nice place to be.

Margaret (00:03:50):

It’s beautiful. Yeah. We’re really outdoorsy. So there’s tons of hikes and really fun stuff for the kids to do out here.

Allison (00:03:59):

We miss the mountains so much. So I hope we can get back to those one day.

Margaret (00:04:03):

It’s really pretty and we really like it.

Allison (00:04:06):

Alright. Well, let’s dive into some of your breastfeeding journeys. You’ve had some really interesting stuff with all three of your kiddos, and I think a lot of moms are going to relate really well to you. So let’s start right at the beginning. Your oldest, I would love to know if you had planned on breastfeeding. Did you grow up around breastfeeding? Where are you from actually?

Margaret (00:04:26):

So I’m actually from California. I kind of vaguely grew up around breastfeeding. My mom breastfed all of us, but only for a couple months with each kid. So I don’t really have any memories of her breastfeeding anyone. I remember seeing moms at church breastfeeding, but women at the church would always be covered or in the mother’s room. So I was kinda vaguely aware of it, but I didn’t really know a lot. So for myself, I actually didn’t really decide, I guess. I took a birth class, so I was really educated on the birth and labor side and I just didn’t really know anything about postpartum. So I just kind of went in with “We’ll try it. And then if not, then we’ll just formula feed.” It wasn’t really something that I consciously thought about.

Allison (00:05:24):

So it was just “Yeah, I’m going to do this. And if it doesn’t work, then we’ll do something else”?

Margaret (00:05:29):

Yeah. It was not a firm decision either way for me.

Allison (00:05:32):

Cool. So how did your first one go? You had him. And do you remember the beginnings of that? What was that like?

Margaret (00:05:39):

It started out great. In that first hour after he was born, he latched right away and did really well. He breastfed for 15 minutes. And then after that very first time, he just could not latch. He could not stay on. So he was born three weeks early– so not super early, not NICU early. But he had some jaundice problems and so he was really sleepy, so we just couldn’t get him to latch. I think I saw every lactation consultant that worked at the hospital and they would come, and help me latch him on, and it would be good. And then they’d leave and it would not be good anymore. So we syringe fed him at the hospital. They sent us home with a pump and some formula. It was a big struggle in the beginning.

Allison (00:06:34):

So when you went home, were you able to latch him and breastfeed? It sounds like they didn’t really resolve that issue for you in the hospital.

Margaret (00:06:42):

No, they didn’t. And every time I saw a lactation consultant in the hospital, it was a different person. So there was no continuity of strategies or whatever. So they sent us home with a pump and some formula as backup. And because of his jaundice, they told us that he needed to eat every three hours max. But they also wanted me to try and latch him first on each side. So we would spend 5-10 minutes latching on each side. So that’d be 20 minutes total latching. Then I would pump, feed it back to him, put him to sleep, and then have a 30-45 minute timer for me to sleep until I had to wake up again and start the whole process again. And that lasted for two weeks, it was really rough.

Allison (00:07:35):

Wow. He recovered from his jaundice, I’m assuming.

Margaret (00:07:40):

It actually kind of persisted a little bit. So he ended up having to use that blue light that you wrapped around the babies because we were hoping that feeding and just being in the sunlight would make it go away, and it just wasn’t. He had to be in the blue light for a little bit.

Allison (00:07:56):

Yeah. Okay. So you said two weeks. Was there something different that changed at that two week mark that got a little better? Or what happened?

Margaret (00:08:03):

Yeah, so we kept going to lactation consultants. We were at a small school on the north end of the island, and all the lactation consultants were on the southern end. So that’s an hour drive one way. So three days postpartum, we’re driving back to the hospital to see the lactation consultants. And my husband’s a sleepy driver, so I was doing the driving. Which in retrospect was not a good idea at all. Three days postpartum, a week postpartum, you should not be doing these things.

Allison (00:08:41):

But you were desperate for help, it sounds like.

Margaret (00:08:43):

I was desperate for help. And I also didn’t educate myself about postpartum at all. So I had no idea that I was pushing myself way too hard. Yeah, so we kept going the lactation consultants. I think we went three or four times in that first two weeks, and it didn’t really seem to be helping at first. We got a new consultant and she noticed that he possibly had some lip and tongue ties. And so she recommended that we get those looked at. And she also gave us a nipple shield. And that was the turnaround point for us. That nipple shield was huge.

Allison (00:09:22):

Yeah. I’m actually surprised at how many moms I’ve interviewed so far that have used a nipple shield– either for a short or an extended period of time for what you’re describing. “We’re struggling. This is not working. I need something to kind of help the in-between.” Was it better with the shield?

Margaret (00:09:40):

It was way better because I’m more on the overproduction side of the milk. So having the nipple shield was just hugely helpful for him because it forced him to open his mouth a little wider. And so that’s when we were able to finally breastfeed.

Allison (00:09:56):

Oh, that’s awesome. I actually know a little bit about your story. So I was going to say wasn’t it smooth sailing from there? But not necessarily, right?

Margaret (00:10:08):

Not necessarily. We actually used the nipple shield the whole time. They told us, “Try to wean him off in a month or in two months.” And I tried and it didn’t work. And so I was like, “I don’t have time. I don’t have the energy to do this. The nipple shield works, so we’re just going to keep going with it.” So we used it for five, six months until he was done breastfeeding.

Allison (00:10:30):

Yeah. Wow. And anything else of note in with your first there?

Margaret (00:10:36):

No, it really was pretty good after that. It was busy because I was still in school. And so he was both pumped milk and directly at the breast. And with that, I did gain a little bit of overproduction. I think I was pumping maybe a little too much. And I just didn’t know. That’s something that I didn’t even realize until years later looking back. If he was sleeping, I would have to pump at eleven or midnight. That probably was me getting a little bit of dependence on the pump. But other than that, it was really easy. Nipple shields are a love/hate relationship, like in the middle of the night, trying to search for the shield on the bed.

Allison (00:11:32):

And they’re clear, you can’t find it!

Margaret (00:11:32):

So that part of it, I hated so much. Trying to wash them or whatever, losing it in the diaper bag because they’re clear. But it really helped. That’s the only way that we got through it.

Allison (00:11:44):

And then at six months, did you switch over to formula with him?

Margaret (00:11:49):

Yeah. So at six months I discovered a lump in my left breast. And so we went to see a doctor, it turned out to be a lactational adenoma. And I don’t know if you know what that is. It’s basically milk and pus has kind of gotten diverted and creates kinda like a water balloon situation. It was pretty big. It was about three centimeters long. So I had surgery to get that removed and I was hoping to keep breastfeeding after that. But the medicine that I was on, it was breastfeeding friendly, but he didn’t like the taste. And so for those two weeks, he didn’t breastfeed. I had a huge freezer stash, so he used that and was fine. But we just never went back after that.

Allison (00:12:37):

It just kind of what made sense for you guys?

Margaret (00:12:39):

It made sense and I was a student still, so it actually was perfect timing.

Allison (00:12:45):

Oh, interesting to hear you say that. That it just kind of worked out.

Margaret (00:12:49):

Yeah. It worked out really well.

Allison (00:12:51):

Did you have longer goals than that or was it kind of just, you were okay with switching over at that time?

Margaret (00:12:58):

I didn’t have any goals with Masi, so switching over was not a big deal.

Allison (00:13:03):

Cool. I love to hear that. I love it when it’s kind of an easy transition and you pivot and do what works for you and go on. Cool. So let’s chat about your second one. Let’s see. They’re two years apart. Is that right?

Margaret (00:13:17):

About two and a half.

Allison (00:13:18):

Two and a half. Okay. Was it easier with your second one?

Margaret (00:13:20):

It was in a lot of ways. I think the biggest way that it was easier was that I was just more educated. I knew what was happening. After Masi was born, I realized that I have this huge passion for birth, breastfeeding, motherhood, all that stuff. And so I started reading things about it, following accounts on social media– breastfeeding accounts and stuff. So I was just way more educated going into it the second time. So in that sense, it was just way easier. He didn’t have as much problems. He did have some tie problems, but nothing that was too bad. He breastfed great in the hospital. And then about the third day that we were home, I noticed that he was struggling to latch. So I just sent my husband to the store to get a nipple shield. And we just used that straight away and that worked for us. He only had to use it for about two months and then he self-weaned from it.

Allison (00:14:28):

Cool. Yeah. Did he have ties then? Did you get them revised or were they not too big of a deal?

Margaret (00:14:34):

So neither of the ties we got revised. So with Masi, I had our pediatrician look at them and he said, “Yeah, he definitely has ties. But I don’t think that they’re severe enough to need to be revised.” And being a first-time mom, I know any better. I didn’t know how to advocate for us. So I just said, “Okay.” And we just went with it. I know that sometimes if they don’t get revised, it can cause teeth problems and other stuff. Luckily it hasn’t caused that for either of them. But yeah, so with Masi it didn’t get revised. With Sala, I did get a referral to see an ENT. He also said, “Yeah, so he definitely has some ties.” But both my boys were really chunky. And I think part of that is the oversupply and the nipple shield just makes it way easier because the suction of that nipple shield just kind of pulls the milk out. The doctor looked me straight in the eyes. It was a male doctor. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Yeah, so we’re not gonna revise it.” And I told him that even through the nipple shield, I was still having breast pain from his latch. And he looked me straight in the eyes and said, “I’m sorry that you’re having breast pain, but since he’s gaining weight appropriately, I’m not concerned about it. So we’re not going to revise it.”

Allison (00:16:04):

Okay. And how did you feel about that at the time?

Margaret (00:16:08):

Really upset. Yeah. Because I was like, “You don’t have boobs. Breast pain is a big deal.”

Allison (00:16:16):

Especially if there’s a problem, why wouldn’t you get it revised? And as a specialist, it’s not that hard, right?

Margaret (00:16:23):

Yeah. It’s supposedly not that hard. I don’t know. So neither of them got revised.

Allison (00:16:28):

Okay. Did your pain get better with your second one?

Margaret (00:16:31):

It did get better. About the time that he stopped using the nipple shield, it just got better. I don’t know if I just got used to it or he adjusted his latch and it got better.

Allison (00:16:43):

Sometimes when they just with age, things just get better, you know? So it’s hard to say. Yeah. And how long did you end up breastfeeding your second? Was it longer than your first or was it a little bit different experience that way?

Margaret (00:16:58):

Both. So it was way longer. When he was born, I had the goal to breastfeed for at least two years, like the World Health Organization recommends. So I was hoping to breastfeed for at least two years. And then after that just kind of play it by ear, you know? I really wanted to gently wean him or let him self-wean, but I really wanted to make it to that two years. So everything was going pretty good after those first couple of months, and we’re doing great. And he was about nine months old and we found out that we were pregnant with a surprise baby. Totally threw a wrench in everything in a good way, I guess.

Allison (00:17:44):

No, for sure. But the surprise ones, they sneak up on you and then you readjust your whole life plan. So what did breastfeeding look like at that point?

Margaret (00:17:57):

I literally listen to podcasts like this all the time. Birth and breastfeeding podcasts are like my jam. I’d heard of tandem feeding and stuff like that. So it was a hard adjustment, mentally, for me to adjust to “This may not work, but let’s try it.” Because he was only nine months old, so he was not ready to wean emotionally. He is a hundred percent my “milkies monster”. He’s the kid that will nurse all the time, if you would let him. So I just had to switch goals and I was like, “We’re still gonna try for the two years, but if we don’t make it, you know, some people dry up during pregnancy. You know, anything can happen. If we don’t make it, it’ll be okay. But we’re still going to try. We’re going to try our best and just kind of see what happens.” So I still breastfed him through the whole pregnancy. There was nothing really exciting about it, I guess.

Allison (00:19:11):

Were you tender at all? A lot of moms complain about nipple tenderness, especially in the beginning.

Margaret (00:19:16):

I was not tender. I didn’t really notice a difference in terms of tenderness. But I was just exhausted. Pregnancy plus breastfeeding and him being so young, him still breastfeeding a lot during the day. And we co-sleep and he was breastfeeding still almost all night. So that just would put a huge strain on my body and through the whole pregnancy, I was just exhausted all the time. But it was okay.

Allison (00:19:49):

How did your OB react to that? Did you get any flack for continuing to breastfeed during your pregnancy? I know some healthcare providers are okay with that and some are really not.

Margaret (00:20:00):

Right. So actually the first two boys were born in a hospital and then with the third, I went with a midwife at a birth center. And Lenora was great. She really supported us and we had talked about it. We kept talking about it through the whole pregnancy and she was totally good with it. She was like, “As long as it’s working for both of you guys, then keep going.”

Allison (00:20:24):

Awesome. I’m so glad to hear that. Yeah, that’s great. Do you think your baby noticed a difference? Did your milk change at all? Did he ever give you a hard time about nursing at any point in your pregnancy?

Margaret (00:20:37):

No. If it did change, he didn’t care. If it disappeared like it does for some women, he didn’t care. I don’t think it did, but no, he definitely did not care. Nothing changed.

Allison (00:20:50):

So I’m really interested to know what happened when your third was born. What did breastfeeding then look like? You’ve got this milk monster. Who’s not giving it up for any reason and now a newborn. So start at the beginning. What does that look like?

Margaret (00:21:07):

Well, a little bit before the baby was born, maybe two or three months before the baby was born, he was still nursing literally four or five times in the middle of the night. He’s the milkie monster. He’s a comfort nurser. Whereas Masi was not a comfort nurser. So that was a huge adjustment, even in the beginning, just realizing, “Oh, he’s going to nurse. As long as I let him.” Versus Masi would just kind of unlatch when he was done.

Allison (00:21:37):

Mine have all been different in that way as well. So I can totally relate.

Margaret (00:21:40):

So a few months before the baby was born, I was like, “Okay, I can’t nurse both of you guys all night long.” I’m relatively small breasted. It’s not going to work. My boobs just don’t stretch that far. So I started trying to teach him to self-soothe a little bit. I would do just every other feeding when he woke up in the middle of the night, I would just pat his back and try and get him to go to sleep by himself. We had some moderate success with that. And then the baby was born. So since Alema was born at a birth center, the older two boys got to be there– which was the most amazing experience. And it was really good for them. And I think it was the best for the younger two for that transition. Because they never had to be separated from me. They didn’t have to spend three days apart. And they got to come up. They were actually downstairs during the actual pushing part, but then they got to come up right after and see the baby. Isala was sleeping when the baby was born, but when he woke up from his little nap, he got to come up and cuddle with me in the bed. And all three of us just kind of slept together and it was really great. So that was at the birth center. And then when we came home, we started tandem feeding. It’s a ride, but you know.

Allison (00:23:14):

Okay. What did that look like? What did that look like in the beginning especially?

Margaret (00:23:18):

Okay. So in the beginning, it both made things harder and made things easier. So in the way that it made things harder was– first of all, I always fed Isala in one position. We didn’t really do a lot of different positions before the baby was born. He mostly just sat in my lap and would just feed. Whereas now I have two, there’s a lot of juggling involved. I would try to get the baby latched first and then Isala might be kneeling next to me on the couch or something. So even just that part was a little bit hard for him to get used to different positions that he had never even done before.

Allison (00:23:57):

And he was a little bit over two years old?

Margaret (00:24:04):

No, he was 18 months. He was older, but not verbal. So that took some adjustment, you know, a newborn is a lot. Luckily he didn’t have any latch problems. Thank goodness.

Allison (00:24:23):

Did you use a nipple shield with your third as well?

Margaret (00:24:25):

I had one ready. But we didn’t end up having to use it. So that was good.

Allison (00:24:33):

Did you have one breast for the baby and one breast for the toddler? Or did you switch it up?

Margaret (00:24:38):

I would try to switch it up. You know, mom brain memory especially in the newborn days is not always there, but I would try to switch every feeding just to keep things even. So I didn’t have one breast producing more and getting uneven. So just the juggling and trying to figure out positioning was hard in the beginning. There was a lot of pillows involved, trying to get everyone ready. But what really helped in those first 2-3 weeks when your milk is settling and you’re just so engorged and painful that I could have him come in after the baby and draw out some of that milk. Relieve some of that pressure.

Allison (00:25:25):

Oh I never thought about that.

Margaret (00:25:26):

And especially since that’s what he wanted to do anyways, it was really helpful. I was still engorged obviously, but that was the first time that I wasn’t just crying with the pain of engorgement because I had him to just release a little bit of that pressure. So that was really nice.

Allison (00:25:45):

How was your supply? Did you notice a difference in that baby? Did it even out quicker where you had the help from the toddler?

Margaret (00:25:54):

I think it definitely evened out quicker. I wasn’t paying super close attention to it, there’s so much going on. I had three kids. My husband was also deployed at that time.

Allison (00:26:05):

Was he deployed for the birth?

Margaret (00:26:06):

Yes. So he was supposed to get to come home for the baby to be born and baby decided to come two days before Blake was coming home. So luckily we had a backup plan. My sister was living with me at that time to help with the kids. This was before my brother moved in, but my sister was living with me and then we had another friend. Military friends, you’re just forced to be so close and get so close so fast. So then we had another friend come and was my secondary person. So she was there for the birth and she was also there to help with the kids while we’re at the birth center. So yeah, he watched on FaceTime. Bless his heart.

Allison (00:26:55):

What was that like for him? I mean, I’m sure you’ve talked about it. I’ve seen a lot of this happen in the military. So what kind of feelings are brought there and then you go home with three kids on your own. I’m sure you had help.

Margaret (00:27:10):

It was a lot, it was definitely a different vibe. Being at the birth center is all women. Both my support people were women, my midwife, and her assistants. It was so it was just super female empowerment. And that was awesome. But when it came down to it– the pushing part– I think that’s really where not having Blake there kind of hit me mentally. And that was a huge struggle. So he cried. He definitely cried while he was watching, but since it’s on video, he can deny it. So he says he didn’t cry. He was supposed to actually be working that day and they let him off so that he could be on the video call.

Allison (00:27:56):

Well that’s something, I guess. I feel like the military tries, but it’s a hard life for sure.

Margaret (00:28:01):

Yeah. It’s a hard balance for sure. It was definitely a disconnect for him, I think. I mean, it’s hard to be the partner watching in person and I think it’s even harder to be the partner watching over a video call.

Allison (00:28:20):

When you can’t do literally anything. Oh, wow. It makes me want to go and reactivate my doula days and turn the corner of that.

Margaret (00:28:30):

And of course, because it’s the army, the only place that the wifi was working was in the common area of his barracks. So he was smart enough to be facing the wall so no one could see me giving birth.

Allison (00:28:46):

Did he have headphones on, hopefully?

Margaret (00:28:46):

He did, but people kept walking by. And so he would be super serious, watching the birth and then he’d be like, “Hey, how’s it going? Okay. See you later.” And then like come back to us.

Allison (00:29:01):

Oh gosh. And he’s crying. People are like, “Dude, are you okay?” Oh my word. What a crazy experience. All right. So how old is your second one now? Are you still breastfeeding your second and your third?

Margaret (00:29:19):

Okay. So now the kids are– Oh my gosh. Almost three. And 15 or 16 months, somewhere in that area.

Allison (00:29:34):

Are they both still nursing?

Margaret (00:29:35):

They are not.

Allison (00:29:37):

Okay. So tell us about the end there, I’d love to know.

Margaret (00:29:42):

Yes. This is where it gets juicy I guess. The first couple months of tandem feeding them were so good. It was super hard– like everything worthwhile in motherhood is– but it was good. It was helpful. I think it really helped that bonding between the younger two.

Allison (00:30:06):

Did they always nurse together? I was going to ask you that.

Margaret (00:30:08):

They did not always nurse together. They would frequently nurse together in the beginning, but I just didn’t love the juggling part of it. So as much as possible I would have them nurse separately. So in the beginning I was just nursing all the time, essentially, because you’re nursing the newborn and then the toddler was like, “Let me get in on that.”

Allison (00:30:40):

Okay. We just took a tiny break to settle the tiny people. Give us the juicy part, because now I had to wait even longer to hear it. Okay. After the first few months of both feeding what happened?

Margaret (00:30:54):

Right. So I’m going to go back to the first few months for a little bit. It really helped the bonding between them, especially with the toddler being so young still and still such a mama’s boy. I think that really helped him not feel like “I’m missing out on something or I don’t get to nurse anymore because the baby has to nurse.” So as much as possible in those first few months, I did my best to let them both nurse. They didn’t always do it together, but I did my best to let them both nurse so that he wouldn’t feel he was just getting pushed to the side of the new baby. And there were some really cute moments in that. Them holding hands while they’re both nursing and stuff like that. And even newborn milk is a little more fatty. so Sala got chunky those first couple months. His face got all chunky from all the milk.

Allison (00:31:51):

“There’s so much milk! I love it!”

Margaret (00:31:54):

Yes, he was totally excited by all the new milk. And he got a little bit chunky, which was so cute. So those first few months were really good. And then about three or four months after the baby was born, my supply’s settled down, got into a routine. And that’s when nursing aversion started setting in for me.

Allison (00:32:23):

That’s a real thing for a lot of moms. Can you explain a little bit though about what that means, what that looks like?

Margaret (00:32:29):

Yes. I can totally explain about it because I think it’s something that is real, but it doesn’t get talked about a lot. I kind of had heard of it, but I didn’t really know anything about it before I went through it myself. So nursing aversion, it can happen to anyone. It can happen to anyone just breastfeeding one kid. But it’s pretty common– from what I’ve seen– in tandem nursing, especially if you’re nursing kids of different ages. Because their latches can be different. A lot of times a toddler latch is a little more shallow and they’ve got teeth.

Allison (00:33:08):

Yes. They are very different latches. I totally agree.

Margaret (00:33:11):

They’re totally different latches and they’ve got teeth– which Sala was never a biter, but just the presence of the teeth. So nursing aversion, it’s super hard to explain, but it’s just all of a sudden you have these negative feelings towards nursing. And typically it’s when you’re actually nursing. So when he would latch on, my toes would curl. It was not painful, but it was almost like a nails-on-a-chalkboard type feeling. It was cringy. I would get angry at him and want to throw him across the room, anything to get him off me. And that’s pretty common response too, is just feeling anger and this huge frustration. And it was totally that nails-on-a-chalkboard feeling. I just could not stand to have him latch.

Allison (00:34:12):

It just makes your shoulder come up. And you’re just like, Ugh. A lot of moms describe it as a wave of feeling. It just waves through you and you can’t control it. Did you also feel that with the baby or mostly just with the toddler?

Margaret (00:34:30):

No, I never felt it towards the baby. It was always towards the toddler. Once it started, it was pretty much every session with the toddler was the aversion, but it was stronger when I was nursing them both. And I don’t know if that’s because my body could feel the differences in the latches or whatnot. But it’s a really rough thing to go through because as soon as he would unlatch, then you get these huge waves of mom guilt. You feel bad that “Why do I feel so mad?” And the anger immediately dissipates, once you unlatch.

Allison (00:35:10):

Wow, and it turns to guilt and sadness.

Margaret (00:35:12):

Right. And it turns to guilt and all this shame. And so it’s super hard. Sometimes I would yell at him while he was latched. I would just yell “Get off me.” And it’s so hard to go through and there’s just not enough people talking about it.

Allison (00:35:30):

How did he react to that? I’m sure he noticed a difference.

Margaret (00:35:34):

I’m sure he did. He still was not really verbal at that time. So in the beginning I was just trying to push through. I would do something to distract myself. I did a lot of breathing techniques. Once I noticed that it was stronger when they were tandem nursing, I almost completely stopped nursing them together because it was too hard. And there were a few times where I hate to admit it, but I forcibly got him off me. I just couldn’t take it anymore. But I would try to do things to distract myself. I would scroll on my phone or I would do a lot of breathing or counting. Count to 10 and then take a deep breath, start over. Because he was still so young, he wasn’t even two yet. And so I just didn’t want to– there’s so much mom guilt.

Allison (00:36:32):

Oh, I can’t even imagine.

Margaret (00:36:34):

I’m sure he did, but I didn’t want him to notice. I didn’t want there to be negative associations to nursing for me or for him. And so I really, really tried for a long time. We just kind of pushed through. Once I stopped nursing them together, like I would only nurse them together if I absolutely had to, but usually I wouldn’t. And that helped a bit. It helped significantly, I would say.

Allison (00:37:05):

Yeah. How long did you continue to nurse through that? And what did it look when you weaned? Did you wean sooner than you wanted to with him, because of that?

Margaret (00:37:14):

We actually had just weaned since we’ve been here in Colorado– which we’ve only been here since September. So we’ve only been here for four months. So he just recently weaned.

Allison (00:37:29):

So you pushed through that for a long time, eight or nine months. Is that right?

Margaret (00:37:33):

Yeah. That sounds about right.

Allison (00:37:36):

Did it ever get better?

Margaret (00:37:36):

Yeah, it got better a little bit. It was almost he was cluster feeding as well during that newborn stage, after a few months, he went back to his normal nursing schedule– which was just bed time, nap time, and maybe once or twice during the day. And at night. He was also still nursing at night. Yeah. There was a period– maybe six weeks– at about baby’s five or six month mark. I think that’s kind of the point where siblings typically realize, “Hey, this baby’s not going anywhere” kind of thing. And so I think he was struggling with that a little bit where for about five or six weeks, he was nursing six times during the night. Wow. Plus trying to nurse the baby– who luckily was a pretty good sleeper and would only wake up three or four times.

Allison (00:38:36):

But your toddler was nursing more than your baby.

Margaret (00:38:40):

Yeah. And that was also at the beginning/ height of the aversion. So that was not fun. But yeah, so we pushed through for a really long time. And then Blake came home from his deployment. I think baby was about seven months old. Anyways, so this whole time, I have my sister living with me and then my brother living with me. But basically I’m doing this by myself.

Allison (00:39:14):

Oh, so your husband only came home just for a couple of weeks around the birth and then went back? Oh, so he wasn’t coming home to be home. Oh, my word.

Margaret (00:39:23):

He was home for 10 days.

Allison (00:39:28):

Oh my gosh. Sounds normal for the army, but…

Margaret (00:39:32):

Because he got that 14 day leave, but it included travel time. So we got 10 days.

Allison (00:39:40):

Okay. So you’re doing all of this on your own too. I mean, I’m so glad your sister was there with you, but it’s not the same as a partner.

Margaret (00:39:47):

Right. And both my siblings when they were living with me were working and there’s only so much they can do to help, especially nighttime routine. That was on me. That was 100% all me.

Allison (00:40:06):

Was your oldest with you too? Were you all three co-sleeping together?

Margaret (00:40:07):

Yes. We still all three co-sleep together. It was a lot. That was a lot.

Allison (00:40:16):

Oh, my word. You had your hands so full. If you get gold stars for hard stuff in motherhood, I would slap one right on you because that’s amazing. I can’t believe you continued to breastfeed your toddler through that nursing aversion. That’s some really intense stuff.

Margaret (00:40:31):

Yeah. It was really intense. Really intense.

Allison (00:40:36):

Did your little one wean from the breast at the same time?

Margaret (00:40:41):

No. So he’s still breastfeeding. So about when Blake came home, I don’t know what it was about having him home, but I finally just gave myself permission to relax a little bit. So we started weaning at that point, super slowly. I think Isala was two at that point. I can’t remember, anyways. Yeah. He was a little more than two. And so we started just doing super gentle weaning. I would let him nurse and then I would count to 20. And so he would get to nurse until I got counted to 20. And then his session would be over kind of thing.

Allison (00:41:26):

Did you count out loud for him?

Margaret (00:41:27):

Yes, I did count out loud for him. He still was not super talkative. I mean, he was only barely two. But they understand a little bit, so we started doing that. So we weren’t cutting down on the number of sessions, but we were just making it shorter. Just the mental aspect of like, “Okay, we are moving towards weaning” helped my nursing aversion so much because before, I was letting him nurse for as long as he wanted and I was doing my best to just kind of let him do whatever he wanted. And him being the milkie monster, he was totally taking advantage of that. And so during the aversion that was so much, and then just giving myself permission to not stop completely, but just move towards weaning totally helped my mental state, enormously. It probably took us four or five, maybe six months to completely wean. Because the aversion, it didn’t go away, but it was way more manageable, once I started slowly cutting down. That mental aspect was a big key for me. And so we were able to wean over a long period of time. And so it was really gentle for both of us.

Allison (00:42:52):

Which was kind of your goal from the beginning, right? It sounds like he may have never weaned me if you hadn’t helped him along.

Margaret (00:42:58):

Oh, probably not.

Allison (00:42:58):

But you did get to kind of do it in a gentle way. And that’s great. So your little one is still nursing, yeah?

Margaret (00:43:07):

And I actually was just thinking about it a couple of days ago, in preparation for this podcast. But the toddler only weaned, I think it’s been three weeks, maybe a month since he last nursed. We really ramped it up once we got here because I was just tired. But even once he was cutting down, nursing two is still a lot. It’s a super recent thing that that we’ve weaned, but I think it was really good. And he will sometimes still ask for milkies, especially around bedtime. I’m not opposed to nursing him once or twice if he really, really needs it, but we just try to comfort him and usually he’s okay. You know, I’ll comfort him for a few minutes. We’ll cuddle or hold hands or whatever, and then he’s okay.

Allison (00:44:08):

Did your milk supply adjust pretty evenly when he stopped? I mean, you still had the baby nursing. Did you notice anything there?

Margaret (00:44:14):

I didn’t notice anything and we weaned so slowly that I didn’t really notice anything. I hope it wasn’t traumatic for him. I don’t think it was. He still is obsessed milkies. He will still come and cuddle my boobs, which before motherhood I would have thought is the weirdest thing. I think he’s kind of switched his attention to the baby now because he really loves to help the baby nurse. So he’ll come kiss him when he’s nursing or come look really, really close and say like, “Oh, baby’s nursing. Baby’s drinking milkies.” And I’m like, “Yep, he is.” But he pretty much doesn’t ask for anything more.

Allison (00:45:03):

That’s sweet. My second one also had a hard time giving up the breast cuddles. And for me too, I’m like, “this would be weird except for that I’m the mom and I totally get this.” Looking from the outside. Yes. I will never again judge a mom whose child loves to just touch their breasts for comfort.

Margaret (00:45:25):

He still does the shirt thing. He’s almost three. And he still does the shirt thing with his hand down my shirt.

Allison (00:45:29):

Yeah. Yes, I can totally relate. That’s so funny. I’m so grateful that your third one was a fairly easy nurser. And that you didn’t have some of the same struggles as your other two while you kind of dealt with everything else that was going on. Okay. The time really got away from me. I could talk to you forever. You have such an interesting story. And I think a lot of moms are gonna really relate well to you. So as we close up here, can you tell me, let’s start with the hardest part of breastfeeding for you or maybe just the thing that if you did it again, you’re not going to look forward to. And then I’d also love to hear your favorite part. Especially from what you’ve been through, kind of with every one of them, something a little different. So let’s start from there.

Margaret (00:46:19):

Let’s see. I think there were probably two hardest parts in all my years of breastfeeding. I think the first hardest part was just those first couple of weeks with Masi, with my first. And I think a huge part of that was I was just so unprepared for postpartum in general, that having all those extra issues with him nursing just made it that much harder. When I was pregnant with him, that first pregnancy, I took a birth class and they talked super briefly about postpartum, but not at all. I’m not a huge Type A person. So for me, the birth class was enough for me to feel educated. So I felt super educated about birth and labor and all that stuff. And I had no idea about anything postpartum. I took a pair of pre-pregnancy leggings with me to the hospital that first birth.

Allison (00:47:21):

Like, “Yes! I’m going to go home in these!”

Margaret (00:47:26):

Yes. And then that obviously didn’t happen. And so I made Blake wear his old clothes and I wore his clothes home from the hospital. I literally had no idea about any of this stuff. No one told me about postpartum bleeding about all these things. And so that all just kind of compounded and made that those first couple of weeks super hard. And I was a student and I would not do this again, but I went back to classes one week postpartum. And so it was just a lot. I didn’t have any nursing bras when Masi was born. I thought that you could just pull down a regular bra and feed from it.

Allison (00:48:12):

Yeah. This is the stuff that no one really tells you, huh?

Margaret (00:48:15):

No one tells you. So that was not the case. I tried that, it didn’t work.

Allison (00:48:21):

They’re not made to stretch. Yeah.

Margaret (00:48:22):

No. So those first couple of weeks, while I researched and ordered some bras and waited for them to come in, I was coming home from class and stripping completely top-naked to feed him and do that whole routine of latching, it wasn’t working, pumping, all that. It was a lot, it was a lot.

Allison (00:48:45):

And then seeing lactation consultants. Doing that in the hospital, trying to make it work. Oh my gosh.

Margaret (00:48:50):

So I would say that was super hard. And one of those things where you’re in it and you don’t realize how hard it is or how hard it was until you’re looking back and you’re like, “Whoa, I took on too much. I wasn’t prepared for this.” And it’s kind of that fog. You’re in that fog, just next step. So that was the hardest part. One of the hardest parts, I think. And then it just got so much easier with the other ones, because I knew about postpartum. I prepared myself so much better. Set myself up way better. The other hard part was obviously the nursing aversion in a totally different way. Because it was still overwhelming, but it was overwhelming in a different way. It was more emotionally overwhelming. Yeah.

Allison (00:49:43):

It’s a lot of feelings to work through, the nursing aversion part and then also the guilt and the shame. And “Why is no one talking about this? How do I fix this? No one understands.”

Margaret (00:49:53):

Right. And when we talk about breastfeeding, it’s all rainbows and cupcakes. And no one’s talking about nursing aversion and wanting to literally push your kid across the room. That’s a lot. So that was hard in a totally different way. But I would say that those were both probably equally hard parts of breastfeeding for me.

Allison (00:50:23):

And what about your favorite? What kind of things did you just love about breastfeeding? I’d love to know.

Margaret (00:50:29):

I love so much about breastfeeding. Well, one, I love the bonding between me and my babies. And I loved how with the tandem nursing, it bonded the two of them and really made that transition so smooth. I think it would have been a whole other story if we hadn’t had that nursing to kind of bridge that transition. I mean, there’s so many things to love about breastfeeding. I love just when I stop and think about like, “Oh. Oh my gosh, my body’s doing this.” Especially with postpartum bodies, there’s so many things to feel insecure and negative about. That just to stop and think, “Oh my gosh, I’m doing this. My body’s doing this” is amazing. And so whenever I’m having those moments of doubt and like, “Wow, I still can’t fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes… X amount of unnamed years later.” Just to stop and be like, “You know what? That doesn’t matter. That’s not important. What is important is my body grew these human beings from scratch– from two cells. And now my body is feeding and nourishing these babies”. It’s mind blowing in the best way possible.

Allison (00:52:08):

I could totally agree. I love that as well. How long do you plan on nursing your third little one? Are your goals different now that you’re in a different place in your life? Or you just going to see how it goes?

Margaret (00:52:20):

I think we’re still just going to see how it goes. Yeah. So I still had the goal of two years with him as well. And then just kind of keep going from there. I’m kind of a crunchy mom, I guess. My husband always makes fun of me and says that the more kids we have, I just get hippier and hippier. I don’t know how long we’ll breastfeed, but with my first, the thought of breastfeeding a three or four year old was super weird. But now that I’m here and I’m a lot closer to that, I don’t think it would be a big deal. If it works for us, then it works for us. And it doesn’t really matter what other people say.

Allison (00:53:11):

I’m so glad you said that because I feel like that is kind of a general vibe in our culture that feeding older kids by the breast is really weird. But I agree that once you’re a mom and you’re in that place, it all of sudden becomes like, “Well, nothing special happens because my child just had his second birthday. Nothing is magically different.” And I think that once you experience that– and especially if you have a child that’s nursing well, and that loves it– the thought of taking that away is weirder than the thought of feeding a little bit older child. But it is hard to kind of understand that until you’ve been in that spot or someone that you love and has explained this to you has also been in that spot.

Margaret (00:54:01):

Yes. I was actually just thinking about when we first met. And that was when my second was a newborn. And I remember this one time we were in the mother’s room at church.

Allison (00:54:14):

I think we actually met in the mother’s room at church. I’m not even joking. I thought about that the other day. I’m pretty sure I met this girl breastfeeding our babies. We had our backs turned. And we flipped around and we were like, “Hey, we’re friends now.”

Margaret (00:54:28):

Yes. I was just thinking about it because I had that goal to make it to the two-year mark. But you were the first person– I think your son was 18 months at the time or somewhere around there.

Allison (00:54:44):

He’s getting close to 18. He was he was definitely not a baby.

Margaret (00:54:47):

Yeah. He was not. And so I had this goal and I was part of Facebook groups and stuff. First to get support that I just didn’t have in my real life. But you were the first person that I had seen in-person nursing an older baby.

Allison (00:55:03):

That’s so interesting.

Margaret (00:55:05):

That was so cool for me just to see like, “Okay, it’s one thing to meet other moms on the internet who are doing these things you want to do. It’s a whole other thing to see it in person and be like, “Hey, I know her and she’s not weird.” I mean, not in a bad way.

Allison (00:55:23):

No, not that weird. But like you say, an 18 month old is not a baby, but they’re still getting so many benefits from breastfeeding. Mine was not ready to be done, just like yours was not. And it was working for us. I couldn’t even make it through a three-hour session of church without having to feed him. But that’s just what worked for us. I think having mom friends kind of in the same area of life as you are can be so beneficial. So whether you find that at church or in your work community or in your local community or school moms or anywhere that you can find people that are in the same place as you. I think is only going to make your experience better and just kind of help you all meet your goals together. See another way to do things and take a little from this person and this person and find your own path and make it work for you.

Margaret (00:56:24):

Yeah, totally. So I’m part of a lot of mom groups and I follow a lot of different accounts on Instagram and stuff like that, because I don’t have a lot of people in-person who are doing these same things as me. But I’m also pretty open about telling people, “Hey, I still– well up to a month ago– I still nurse my almost three-year-old.” Hopefully, that I can be “you” for someone else.

Allison (00:56:51):

Oh, I love that. And the more we hear about it and the more people are open, like you, to talk about it. I think the less weird it gets. Because honestly it’s not that weird. Especially when you’re in it yourself, it becomes a new appreciation for “This is not as weird as I thought before I had kids, looking at these moms doing this.”

Margaret (00:57:13):

I’ve only had a few negative responses from people. It’s not the first thing I bring up when I meet a new mom friend. Like, “Hi, I’m Margaret. I tandem feed.” But I don’t hide it. And typically when I tell people, I’ve mostly only gotten positive responses. And I think that people, especially other moms, are more curious than anything. And so I found, especially when I’m talking in-person with one of my mom friends, they’re less likely to judge and they’re more likely to just be asking me questions because it’s not something that we see a lot.

Allison (00:57:54):

Oh, wow. I love that. I know me and I’m kind of assuming you too. I have no problem answering questions, especially when they’re approached in a really kind and genuine way. I would tell you basically anything, if you came and asked me, “I’ve never seen that before. Why did you decide to do that?” Even if they said it with some judgment, but I could tell they were trying, I would have no problem with that. Do you feel the same way?

Margaret (00:58:19):

Yeah. I feel the same way. The only negative responses I’ve gotten have been over social media.

Allison (00:58:26):

It’s a lot easier to hide behind your screen.

Margaret (00:58:28):

Yes. But all my in-person interactions with my friends have been really good and I have no problem explaining why I’ve decided to do tandem nursing. And I love to highlight how it’s helped them transition. And a lot of moms are like, “Yeah, I totally get that. I wasn’t nursing my older kid anymore. And the transition was so hard so I can see why you’d want to do anything to make that easier.”

Allison (00:58:57):

I love it when you get that empathy from other moms, even if they did something different. But then you still say, “Wow, that makes total sense to me. Good for you.” Perfect. Well, Margaret, thank you so much for talking with us today. We’re almost at an hour of recording time now. Probably be a little shorter after I edit it, but I have so many more questions. We might have to have you back on in six months and see where you’re at. Oh my goodness. This was so fun. I really appreciate it. We’ll put some fun links down below. We’ll put a link to my online breastfeeding course to kind of help you prepare. You mentioned that that was a hard thing for you with your first one. Any other mom groups or something that you think would be helpful. I’d also love to put those down there and share with anyone listening today.

Margaret (00:59:45):

Yeah. So there’s a group or there’s an account on Instagram called breastfeeding aversion. And that’s where I first heard about nursing aversion and stuff that. And she experienced it herself and found that there was no resources out there for moms. And so she wrote her own book that I think came out a year ago. I have not read it, but it’s on my to-read list. But even just following her account has been so helpful just to be like, “There are other moms going through this same thing as me.”

Allison (01:00:25):

Perfect. We’ll make sure and put those down there and any other tandem feeding resources you have. I would love to share those.

Margaret (01:00:30):

Yes, I do have some.

Allison (01:00:33):

Perfect. Yay. You can also see everything else that New Little Life is doing on my website, which is newlittlelife.com. And don’t forget to leave a review on whatever platform you’re listening on. We’ll see you next time. Thanks again, Margaret.

New Speaker (01:00:44):

Thanks so much, Allison.

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