From first latch to weaning and everything in between, breastfeeding is often a long, winding road. Though each woman’s trip down the breastfeeding lane is different from the next, they all share similarities or markers, if you will. Speaking about them and commiserating over them connects mothers, calms anxieties and opens valuable dialogue about various times in your baby’s feeding journey.
I got to interview Veronica Horner, founder and mom boss in charge of Maia Moda, a super chic nursing wear label—because who better to comment on the stages of breastfeeding than someone who’s made it her business to learn about and address one of nursing mother’s biggest pain points: what to wear?!
Veronica, a mother of one (soon to be two!) started the fashion line alongside Gerta Fresheri. The brand is manufactured in the United States in a factory owned by a woman and run by a brilliant all-women staff.
Here are her thoughts about the six unique scenarios breastfeeding women may experiences.
1. Welcome baby: The first latch
Veronica: Ideally, the first latch is recommended to occur within an hour after giving birth. I was honestly shocked when I first learned this, but it makes sense. If all goes well during delivery, why not get started?
It’s a time to savor the sweet moments after birth, be skin to skin and offer comfort for your little babe after he or she enters the world. So, don’t stress and worry if you are doing it right, producing enough milk, etc. There is plenty of time for that.
2. Whose boob is it anyway? Dealing with cluster feeding
Veronica: Ahhh, cluster feeding. I hope you have a comfortable nursing chair!
Cluster feeding is when your little one is non-stop feeding, sometimes with seemingly NO breaks in between. It generally comes in phases and can start as early as 10 days.
Although exhausting, your baby is feeding more often to increase your milk supply to accommodate their growing appetite. This is when your breastfeeding schedule—if you had one—will go out the window. But just remember it's completely normal and natural. I remember during this time I was also extremely hungry, due to producing so much milk, but I was feeding so often I didn’t have much time to eat. At one point, my husband was spoon-feeding me my cereal while I was breastfeeding—that’s what I call team work!
Photo by Ivette Ivens
3. It’s complicated: Breastfeeding issues
Veronica: Unfortunately, there are a number of issues a breastfeeding mom can encounter at any phase. It’s rare that there won’t be some hiccups, so keep in mind that it is all very common and surmountable.
Problems can include sore nipples, mastitis, engorgement, thrush, issues latching and more. I’m not here to solve your challenges for you, but instead to tell you that you’re not alone.
I think the best advice I ever got from my lactation consultant is that it shouldn’t hurt and when it does there is an issue to be solved. If you do have a problem, I think the best thing is to reach out to a certified lactation consultant to help you; La Leche League is a great resource. Although a little Googling can give you some ideas, there is so much misinformation out there that a certified professional is always your best bet.
4. I’m coming out: Breastfeeding in public
Veronica: The first time you breastfeed in public can be a little intimidating, but I promise it gets easier every time!
Breastfeeding should be something that fits into your life as opposed to the other way around. I know with my short two-hour breaks between feedings, getting baby dressed, out the door and back for the next session was just unrealistic. Women should feel empowered to breastfeed in public how they see fit—with a cover, no cover, discreetly, un-discreetly. A mother’s comfort is most important, and each woman should decide for themselves what is best for her and baby.
Personally, I’ve never had an issue breastfeeding in public. I would breastfeed at restaurants, in parks, at yoga class and more. I was never made to feel uncomfortable by others and always felt very welcomed.
I was lucky. However, I know that isn’t every mother's experience. Therefore, every nursing mother should know that she has the right to breastfeed wherever and wherever, within 47 states in the USA.
Out of the remaining states, South Dakota and Virginia exempt breastfeeding moms from public indecency or nudity laws and, unfortunately, Idaho is the only state that has yet to pass similar laws. (C’mon, Idaho—keep up!). It’s awful if a mother has a bad experience with the public, however, she is on the right side of the law.
5. Going back to work: Bringing home the bacon and the milk
Veronica: Bring out the pump! Going back to work while nursing can complicate things, but the more prep you can do beforehand the smoother it will be. Talk to your boss, get the right equipment, do some practice runs with your bambino and, most importantly, take care of yourself! In the grand scheme of things, the time you'll be pumping at work is quite short. If it means you need to take it a little easier than usual, be kind to yourself and let it be.
6. The final stage: Weaning
Veronica: Congrats, Mama, you made it! After all those late nights, milk spills and sore boobs, you and baby are going to start the weaning process.
Whether it is mom-led, baby-led or sometimes just life-led—it will happen at some point. I remember feeling like I had been breastfeeding forever, but when my child finally decided to wean it all seemed to go by too quickly. He ended up going cold turkey at 11 months. Who knew he had it in him? The most difficult part can be dealing with the emotions of it all.
Take comfort in knowing you aren’t alone and as every phase ends another one begins. Now pass the wine!