Column: Breastfeeding worth the struggle, even if it means asking for help

Photo credit: Deb Stephenson, DLS Photography.

Jennifer Cox is a communications graduate from the University of Windsor who is now a computer trainer for the Avon Maitland District School Board. She lives in Clinton with her husband and two children. She writes when she can find the time.


I’ll bet you didn’t know that it’s Canadian Breastfeeding Week. In honour of this, I’d like to share a story with you. And before all of you males roll your eyes and decide to stop reading listen up, this applies to you. Grandmas-to-be, future mother-in-laws, this applies to you too. One day you may need to support your daughter or daughter-in-law in her decision to breastfeed.

Successful, extended breastfeeding is not easy and it takes the support of everyone around the new mom. New moms need the encouragement and support of partners, families and friends to continue providing this priceless gift to their child.

I had a less than ideal breastfeeding experience with my first born. Although it was a very difficult time for me, I’ve since learned that it is not uncommon. During my pregnancy with my daughter, I was focused on preparing for labour and a home birth. I wasn’t so concerned with the what comes after. I was intending to breastfeed, there was no doubt in my mind that I would, it’s just that I assumed it would come naturally. How hard could it be?

Turns out it was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever faced. If it were not for a supportive midwife and the encouragement and support of everyone around me, including my husband, I would have given up.

For us, the first feeds went well, soon after my daughter’s birth. She was born shortly before midnight and after the midwives saw that all was well they left us to get some sleep, prepared to come back the next morning for a check in. That was when things stopped going well as far as breastfeeding. When I look back it seemed that on the second day she forgot everything she had done the night before. It was like she had never nursed before. There I was, a post partum, first time mom, and a baby who wouldn’t breastfeed. All of a sudden my confidence and empowerment from a beautiful home birth dwindled and I felt helpless, like a failure. Thankfully everyone around me was determined to not let me feel this way.

We tried all of the holding techniques. We tried skin to skin. She would start out nursing just fine and then she would just quit. As a last resort I pumped my milk and she seemed to drink really well from a bottle.  Put her on the breast and nothing. Of course I blamed myself for all of it. What the heck was wrong with me? In my mind, all I could see were images of peacefully breastfeeding babies cradled in their mom’s arms. And I wanted nothing more than that. My own mom felt my pain as she wanted so much to be able to help us get through this, knowing how much I wanted to breastfeed. This is where the experts came in.

After many frustrating attempts and many more tears – Elizabeth’s and mine – and much encouragement from an amazing midwife who would not let me give up – we had an appointment with a lactation consultant. I think it was my first outing with Elizabeth, driving us to the lactation consultant in Niagara Falls. She watched Elizabeth and I try to nurse and I don’t remember much more but I do remember we went home with a gadget called a nipple shield. I can safely say that I never knew such a thing existed. Imagine a thin piece of plastic, similar in texture to a contact lens. Then imagine it in the shape of an oversized nipple on a bottle, but with many holes in the end, just like a real nipple. The oversized nipple helps the baby learn to open really wide and to latch properly, also encouraging the real nipple to protrude more. It turned out to be just the ticket to help us and she began to nurse really well. It was not the most convenient thing in the world, let me tell you. Between trying to position her properly and trying to make sure the shield stayed on the breast where it was supposed to, I felt like a contortionist for the first few days.

Eventually we found our groove and after a few days things really started to improve. We still had some ups and downs. The nipple shield would fall off and milk would leak all over both of us. But I didn’t care. We were almost there. It was still frustrating as I didn’t feel confident going anywhere with her. It’s one thing to breastfeed in public but it’s a whole other thing trying to place a nipple shield before you can even start.

I will never forget the feeling I had the moment that we didn’t need the nipple shield any longer. I don’t recall the exact date but it was around the six-week mark. We had settled on the couch to nurse, managed to get everything situated, and then she knocked the shield off the breast like countless times before. But this time, within an instant, she was back on the breast happily nursing – without the shield. What a relief. I think I actually said Hallelujah out loud to myself. And of course I started to cry. I think I called my husband at work to tell him. I was so happy we had finally made it.

At the time, it felt like we had been struggling forever but it really was just a blip, a small amount of struggle that was so worth it. And I’m proud to say that I was able to nurse both of my children into their second year.

I know that we never would have made it without the support of my husband, my midwife, the community health nurses and my family. It is so important to listen to your own voice as a new mom. You know what’s best for you and your baby. If you need help, it’s there, it’s well worth taking it. You will never regret your choice to breastfeed and persevere despite what others may be telling you to do.

I know that there are circumstances when sometimes breastfeeding is just not possible but for the average situation, most problems can be resolved. I want to emphasize that new moms need support with breastfeeding. It doesn’t always come easy and there are many things that can happen that new moms are not expecting. I’m not out to make anyone feel badly for not breastfeeding, I just want moms to feel comfortable asking for help and I want the people around them to realize that it is worth the struggle if there happens to be one.

Breastfeeding provides so much more than the ultimate nutrition. I could write an entire column on the benefits of breastfeeding. A new mom doesn’t need the people around her to tell her to just give up on breastfeeding, that bottle feeding would be so much easier, or that baby is getting too old to breastfeed. She needs people to support her decision. She also might need someone close to her to tell her that it’s ok for her to need help and then to help her find it through places like the local health unit.

If you or someone you know is struggling with breastfeeding, below is an excerpt from a news release from the Huron County Health Unit with contact information.


The Huron County Health Unit is committed to helping mothers to succeed with breastfeeding their infants.

Health Canada recommends breastmilk for the first two years of a child’s life with the addition of solid food at six months.

Learning to breastfeed, like other parenting skills, can have its challenges. Encouraging words and expert advice from the public health nurse can help mothers to overcome these challenges and succeed. The benefits of breastfeeding can impact your child’s health for a lifetime.

Where to turn for breastfeeding and parenting support in Huron County

Exeter: Friday 9 a.m. to noon, South Huron Medical Clinic, 23 Huron St. W. 519-482-3416

Wingham: Tuesday mornings 9 a.m. to noon, 288 Josephine St. 519-357-4993

Clinton: Thursday mornings 9 a.m. to noon, Health Unit, 77722B London Rd. 519-482-3416

Goderich: Friday mornings 9 a.m. to noon, 180 Cambria Rd. Call for appointment, 519-524-6060. Drop ins also welcome.

Or visit online:


Written by on October 2, 2012 in Jennifer Cox - No comments

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