My career has been shaped by my own personal experience with breastfeeding.
My first born had plenty of difficulty with breastfeeding. I experienced cracked, bleeding nipples for the first 4 weeks, 3 episodes of mastitis, candida infection and oversupply which caused increased engorgement. I saw a lactation consultant at the hospital where I delivered, and when she was able to instantly get my baby on my severely engorged breast, I was beyond grateful. I knew at that moment I wanted to do this. I wanted to help moms feed their babies.
By the grace of God, many books purchased, and questions asked, we managed and she was breastfed for the first 11 months of her life. Not until she was 8 years old and I began to learn about tongue tie as a new lactation consultant did I realize she was tongue-tied and took her right away for evaluation. When my suspicions were confirmed it began to all make since. We spent years in speech therapy, behavior therapy, special programs due to her autism diagnosis and countless hours and money trying to figure out how to help her. She was thriving but deep down I felt something was missing. After a sleep study revealed she had sleep apnea due to tongue tie, we began undoing the damage caused by her many years living with this tie and an obstructive airway. Charlee does not have autism–she is tongue-tied, and she can’t breathe. This along with her little sister’s difficulties began my journey into specializing in helping mothers with babies who have been diagnosed with tongue-tie.
Her sister now 2 years old was immediately diagnosed with tongue and lip tie. She was treated at 14 days old. Breastfeeding was still difficult despite the early release, immediate bodywork and oral muscular therapy. Alora couldn’t sustain a latch without a nipple shield and feedings always hurt. She would tire easily and feed every hour. Reflux began to set in with a vengeance. We had a major laundry problem! After 3 months of this and my return to work, bottles were the only answer and I became an exclusive pumping mom, pumping 10 times a day at first. Now I had two babies, the pump and Alora. Keeping my supply up was a constant worry and endless task. Pretty soon we began breastfeeding less and less, as Alora was developing an aversion to breastfeeding. She also started to struggle with bottles and went back to feeding every hour. Her tongue-tie had reattached and a speech therapist revealed her low oral tone was improving at a very slow pace making sucking and milk transfer very hard. We opted for a second procedure to correct the tongue at 4 months old. Immediately the reflux stopped and some breastfeeding was restored. I saw every specialist I knew to help with her muscle tone, ANS regulation, tongue function and even sought out other experienced lactation consultants for advice. Alora breastfed for 9 months and received my breastmilk just past her first birthday.
My breastfeeding experience was not what I envisioned. I was a professional, I was an IBCLC but my baby was never exclusively breastfeed. I fought for it with all I had and wanted to stop many times but I would never let myself. My goals adjusted and I was in the end happy that she was exclusively breastmilk fed. She made me a better lactation consultant. I learned so much in her first year and I have something not every consultant has: EMPATHY.
It is my passion and purpose to aide in preventing my story from reoccurring for as many families as I can touch. I am truly grateful to find this purpose and to be able to help families struggling to feed their babies the way they choose. Not everyone gets to do what they love for a living and I thank God every day for my struggle because it is of value to my clients and their families.