Breastfeeding has been such an amazing experience for me. I was able to power through the early weeks, and truly embrace my full breastfeeding journey with my son. You can read more about all the benefits I experienced here. I knew from early on I wanted to commit to breastfeeding, and to me that is the biggest reason why I stuck with it. My mind was made up early on that no matter what this was something that was beneficial for both me and my son!
This is why I am so excited to introduce our next Warrior Mama, Kealy from Little Bear Care. Kealy has such an amazing breastfeeding journey with ups and downs, but through and through she powered on to meet her goals. She chose to do whatever she could to do what was best for her baby, and learned so much from her experience! She now helps countless Mamas with their journey as a Certified Lactation Counselor! Read on for her amazing breastfeeding journey, and some totally awesome tips for nursing Mamas!
1- Tell us a little bit about yourself? Where are you from, how many children do you have, and how old are they?
I’m a Nurse, Certified Lactation Counselor and a mommy! I have a wonderful husband who is in the military, so we move around a lot. There are many places that feel like home to me, but the best one is just where my family is. I have a daughter who is a year-and-a-half and I’m 7 months pregnant with my second!
2- What was your biggest challenge with your breastfeeding journey?
My biggest challenge was just figuring it out! We struggled so much in the first 3 months. My daughter had jaundice which complicated feedings. She also had a severe tongue tie that we didn’t find out for a week. Her tongue was attached to the bottom of her mouth all the way to the tip. We “revised” that (which means cut it). She was in pain for the next 4 weeks and we had to stretch her tongue out every 4 hours around the clock. It was exhausting, and painful for her.
Throughout those struggles, we just couldn’t get breastfeeding down. I struggled with oversupply from pumping so much. My daughter had nipple confusion from the bottle and breastfeeding hurt her tongue. It was incredibly challenging trying to figure out how to latch her on and have a successful breastfeeding session. Things got a bit better after the first 6 weeks, but it took another 6 weeks to finally breastfeed successfully.
3- What made you stick with it, after 3 difficult months?
I think part of it is that I’m stubborn. I knew how good breast milk was for my daughter and I just wanted it to work so badly, and I always admired women who could just breastfeed anywhere and made it look so easy.
Additionally, my husband had a severe allergy to dairy when he was a baby. He stopped breathing twice when he was exposed to it and I was afraid the same would happen to my daughter. I didn’t want to give her formula if I could help it. (Turns out my daughter DOES have the same allergy)
3- What change did you make, where your breastfeeding journey finally started working?
There were 2 HUGE changes I made. The first one was finding support. I contacted a lactation counselor who helped us figure out what was going wrong. She sat with me, explained things to me, and offered me suggestions to get on the right track. She was extremely helpful and supported me in all my decisions.
The second thing was knowledge. I really had no idea that there was so much to know about breastfeeding. I started researching and finding out so many things! Then when I became a Certified Lactation Counselor, I learned so much from the ladies that taught me and from the coursework. It was fascinating and helped open my mind to all the problems women might face breastfeeding and how many ways there are to overcome those problems.
4- How long was your breastfeeding journey?
My daughter received breast milk for a year! I was so proud of myself after that year. It wasn’t easy but it was so worth it.
Around 6 months, I had been worried about my milk supply. I was feeding and pumping (which I know now isn’t necessary). Even though my daughter was breastfeeding well, she sometimes would be extremely fussy or prefer the bottle. I kept doubting myself and thinking I was doing something wrong.
My close family and friends who’d breastfed before never breastfed longer than a few months. They encouraged me to just stop breastfeeding and start using formula, because they could sense my worry. They suggested giving soy formula. So I stopped breastfeeding and started soy formula for about 4 weeks. Then, I took my class to become a Certified Lactation Counselor. It twas horrifying to learn about how bad soy formula was for babies, and was ashamed for having quit breastfeeding. I tried to latch on my daughter at that point but it was too late. She never latched again.
BUT I decided to pump and relactate. That’s a whole story of its own. It wasn’t easy but I was able to get my milk supply back within about 2 weeks and then I pumped for the remainder of the first year of my daughter’s life. My story isn’t the perfect breastfeeding story by any means. I struggled but I hold on to the fact that I did the best I could for my daughter. I was so proud that I gave her breast milk for almost the whole first year of her life. And I realized that my struggles with my breastfeeding journey early on, relactating, and exclusively pumping actually help me when I counsel moms that face similar problems.
5- How did you get started as a location counselor?
I’m a nurse so I was able to attend a course for healthcare professionals. I love being a nurse because it opens a world of possibilities and opportunities to learn. Building on my knowledge of anatomy, patient care, and nursing skills I was able to learn all about breastfeeding from world-renowned experts. The course was fascinating, we learned about countless studies, different breastfeeding problems, and how to care for a breastfeeding mom and baby.
After becoming certified, I decided to launch my online business. I focused on offering breastfeeding support online and over the phone to women all across the country, and made many friends that are military spouses so I’ve been able to help them through their struggles. I still offer online support and now offer breastfeeding classes. My goal is to be available to moms everywhere- online and over the phone. Answers aren’t always easy to find so I want to be that option.
6- What challenges do you see most women facing with their breastfeeding journey?
The biggest challenge I see women face is doubting themselves. They don’t know if they’re doing the right thing, they don’t know if they’re producing enough milk, and they don’t have the strong support they need. Moms know their baby better than anyone and when they have the right support system, it makes all the difference.
When moms are confident in their choices, no matter the choice, things turn out so much better! Whether they decide to breastfeed, pump, or formula feed they are much more content when they have confidence! Moms are just trying to do the best they can for their babies and when they rest in that and have support, their journey is much easier. When a mom believes breastfeeding is the best choice for her and her baby, having support and confidence helps her overcome the challenges she faces to be successful.
7- What advice would you give to other Moms encountering challenges?
Don’t doubt yourself! You are a good mom and you’re doing your best. Be confident in your decisions and you’ll be able to look back on them with confidence. Find people around you that support you and encourage you.
8-What is your favorite thing about motherhood?
That’s a great question! I think it’s just being able to love my daughter the way no one else can. I love seeing her grow and learn. When she skins her knee, I love that I can comfort her like no one else can. It’s such a blessing to give life to a little person, and to watch and help her grow into a big person!
This Mama won’t quit!
I just love that Kealy didn’t quit with her journey. Instead of giving up with her struggles, she educated herself as much as possible, and found a solution that was best for her and her baby. No one’s journey will be perfect or the same. Being able to recognize that and finding your own breastfeeding journey is what makes every moment so special.
Learn More about Kealy
Kealy is a Registered Nurse, Certified Lactation Counselor, and most importantly a mommy! Her own breastfeeding struggles gave her a passion to help moms throughout their breastfeeding journey. She offers one-on-one lactation consultations, breastfeeding classes, and shares her knowledge to equip and empower moms. If you’re interested in talking with her or taking one of her breastfeeding classes, visit www.littlebearcare.com.