One of the first decisions all moms have to make is how they're going to feed their babies. For National Breastfeeding Month, we interviewed a mom who decided to breastfeed. Lauren Sogor is the proud mom of a 10-month-old girl. From the joys to the challenges, she shares her experiences breastfeeding and offers her tips for pumping at work.
Lauren Sogor works in health policy communications and lives in Virginia with her husband, their 10-month-old daughter, two rambunctious dogs, and a cat.
Will you tell us about your decision to breastfeed?
I knew I wanted to breastfeed from the start because of all I know about the health and emotional benefits for baby and for me. Also, it's free! But I did give myself room to make a different decision if it became clear I could not breastfeed for some reason.
What's your breastfeeding goal?
I am aiming to make it to one year of breastfeeding exclusively (my daughter is almost 10 months old now), but I am open to continuing as long as baby is interested and my supply keeps up.
Did you take any steps to prepare to breastfeed before you had your daughter?
Yes, I took a breastfeeding class with my husband to get a better sense for what to expect and the supplies we'd need. I found the class helpful in terms of understanding the basics and helping my husband get up to speed. However, I will be honest that I don't feel it prepared me for the early discomfort of breastfeeding as much as I would have liked.
What's been the hardest part about breastfeeding, and how did/do you manage it?
At the beginning, breastfeeding was extremely hard and painful and caused a lot of anxiety for me that I did not expect. My baby has a high palate and she had a poor latch and wasn't transferring enough milk at first, so I had to supplement with pumped milk for the first few weeks. It was physically and mentally challenging, especially on very little sleep and in a weakened state (I was in labor for 35 hours and lost a lot of blood during delivery). The way I managed it was to keep at it and have faith that it would get easier, just as everyone told me it would. I also reached out for support. I hired a lactation consultant who came to our home twice, and I joined a La Leche League Facebook group to get support and words of encouragement. It took about three months before breastfeeding became something I felt confident and good about, and it was about six months before we really got the hang of it and the pain went away entirely.
Has anything about breastfeeding surprised you?
I was really surprised by how hard it was at first and for how long it was hard. On the flip side, I have been pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoy it and how much it means to me. I did not expect to feel as strongly about maintaining the breastfeeding relationship as I did and do, and I had no idea what a strong bond I would feel with my daughter as a result of breastfeeding. It's really amazing and special, especially when I reflect on how I have kept her alive and thriving with my own body.
How has your partner or family helped you with breastfeeding?
My husband has been unconditionally supportive of my decision to breastfeed and helped me through the tough times when I really didn't think I could keep going. At the same time, he always told me that it would be OK if I could not continue and supported my decision either way, which was really helpful and actually made me feel more able and willing to continue in the face of challenges.
What's it been like pumping at work?
For me, it's been easy because I have a very supportive employer and am able to pump at my desk while I continue working. One thing that's been really helpful for me is to set up calendar reminders for pumping sessions throughout the day. When those holds show up when colleagues want to set up meetings, I can protect my pumping time and stay on track. Another helpful thing for me was getting a battery pack for my electric pump so I could pump in the car during my commute to and from work.
Do you have advice for other women who want to continue to breastfeed but need to go back to work?
I would say to speak with your employer and come up with a plan that works for you both. Maybe there are meetings you can join by phone from down the hall so you can still pump on a schedule, or if you have glass doors in your office, try hanging a curtain or putting paper in the window. Most employers have to provide a private place for pumping that isn't a bathroom, so make sure to let them know that continuing breastfeeding after maternity leave is important to you.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with breastfeeding moms or soon-to-be moms?
Understand that this is going to be hard, but you can do it. Be patient with yourself AND your baby. While breastfeeding is natural, it does not always come naturally. It often takes weeks or even months for you and your baby to get the hang of it. Reach out for help when you need it. There are millions of other moms who have been through this and want to share their strategies for overcoming challenges. For me, in the end, it has been well worth the early pain and discomfort and I'm SO proud of how far we've come, but I couldn't have done it without support from others. You got this, mama!