Spotlight on Women's Health
An Interview With a Breastfeeding Mom: Lily Clay
August 14, 2016
Here's the deal with breastfeeding: It offers some great benefits for you and your baby, but it's also a big commitment. Choosing to breastfeed is a personal decision, and for first-time mom Lily Clay, breastfeeding was the right decision for her and her baby. In celebration of National Breastfeeding Month, we talked with Lily about choosing to breastfeed and the challenges she's faced. She also offers her tips for success.
Lily Clay is a proud first-time mom to a growing baby boy named Jonah. Lily's goal is to breastfeed Jonah until he's 12 months old. As a new mom, she's learning to juggle a baby and breastfeeding in the midst of everyday life, including going back to work.
Q: Will you tell us about your decision to breastfeed your baby?
A: For me the decision to breastfeed was pretty easy. There are so many health benefits associated with it — immune system support and reduced risk for asthma and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) — that it was important to me to give it a try.
Q: Did you do anything to prepare for breastfeeding before you had your son?
A: My husband and I took a breastfeeding class offered through our local hospital. It was really great for both of us to have an overview before our son was born so that we had an idea of what to expect. Even though my husband wouldn't be directly involved in the process, it was good for him to have the basic information so that he could help and support me. I also did a little bit of reading about breastfeeding, and I made sure I had the things I would need — a support pillow, nursing bras, covers, breast pump, etc.
Q: What was the most helpful resource for you?
A: I think the most helpful resource was the class that my husband and I took. It gave us a really great overview of what we'd need to know. It covered everything — how to get the baby to latch and to break suction, different breastfeeding positions, how often to feed, what to expect in diapers, and of course the health benefits. Taking the class in advance gave us a chance to digest the information before our son arrived, and it cut down on the amount of new information we needed to take in while we were in the hospital.
Q: What were the first hour/days in the hospital learning to breastfeed like?
A: The first hour after our son was born was kind of a blur, but it went smoothly. My plan was to have a natural birth, but after pushing for several hours without progress, the plan had to change. I had a C-section instead. I was kind of out of it and tired when they brought my son to me in the recovery room, but he didn't have any problems latching, so we got off to a good start right away.
During our stay in the hospital, my husband and the nurses were so supportive. My husband got our son in and out of the bassinet whenever he needed to be fed, because I was recovering from surgery. The nurses helped us get set up for some of the feeding positions we had learned about in class, making recommendations for C-section-friendly positions and positions that allowed me to get a little rest. We also had a log to fill out to track feedings so we could have a better idea of whether or not our son was getting what he needed.
Q: Did you face any challenges when learning to breastfeed? How did you handle them?
A: I think my breastfeeding experience has gone pretty smoothly so far, but one challenge I faced for a month or two was that my son would get upset when he fed on one side. I looked online for some information and found that the problem wasn't too uncommon. In my case, the milk flow was too fast for the baby to handle. I tried a recommendation I found online — I started him on the opposite side and moved to the faster side once he was well into his feeding. The few times he refused the faster side completely, I just pumped after he fed to keep things even. Now that he's a few months older, he seems happy with the faster flow and doesn't have problems on either side.
Q: Do you ever nurse in public? If so, do you mind sharing your experience?
A: I have nursed in public, but I prefer not to. I usually try to nurse him right before going out so that there's a smaller chance that I'll need to. I'm not really comfortable nursing near other people, and I've been able to avoid it so far. The first time I needed to nurse him while out in public was in a restaurant, and a family came in and sat right behind me just before I was about to start. I got nervous and retreated to the car. I felt more comfortable when I had to nurse him in a park during a walk, and I didn't have any problems. Most times, though, our "public" nursing sessions have been in my air-conditioned car. It's cooler than being completely under a cover and a bit more private. My son and I are both happy with this arrangement.
Q: Before you started breastfeeding did you have any insecurities?
A: I didn't have any insecurities about breastfeeding, but once I got started, I wasn't 100% confident that I'd be able to build up a freezer stash so that my son could be fed when I was away from him. In the beginning, he wanted to nurse so often that I didn't know when would be a good time to pump. Eventually, I started pumping right after he nursed or if he refused one side. Now that I'm back at work and he's sleeping for longer stretches at night, it's much easier to decide when to pump.
Q: Has your partner or family helped you with breastfeeding?
A: My husband has helped out a lot with breastfeeding. In the first few weeks when I was recovering from my C-section, he continued to bring our son to me and arranged pillows to support different feeding positions. He still helps out by asking if I need anything while I'm nursing our son and handles washing bottles and pump parts while I'm busy with the bedtime feeding.
Q: You recently returned to work. How did you prepare?
A: Besides building up a freezer stash, I didn't do too much to prepare to go back to work. I knew I would need to pump, and I found out from co-workers that there is a room in our office building for breastfeeding moms. This arrangement has worked well so far. My husband and I could have put more effort into getting our son to take a bottle before I went back to work. We knew he could, but he was inconsistent. Those first few days were stressful, but we all survived. Now our son takes bottles without a problem!
Q: Will you tell us what it was like getting your breast pump through your health insurance?
A: Getting my breast pump was fairly easy. The most difficult part was figuring out how to get it, but my insurance company answered all my questions and got me the information I needed.
My insurance covered the full cost of a manual and electric pump. They also gave me the option to pay for upgraded pumps, which I did. There were specific pharmacies that I had to order them from, and I wasn't able to get the pump before my son was born, but I was able to make all of the arrangements in advance. Once he was born, all I had to do was call to get it shipped. The pharmacy required a prescription for the breast pump, and my doctor's office was able to handle that electronically so that was an easy step.
I would definitely recommend a breast pump to other moms, whether they go back to work or stay at home. They are portable, easy to set up, and easy to clean.
Q: Do you have any advice for soon-to-be moms planning to breastfeed?
A: My advice for soon-to-be moms would be to learn some basics ahead of time! There's so much to deal with and adjust to in the first few days of your baby's life. Set yourself up to have to take in as little brand-new information as possible. Taking a class or doing some reading is a great way to familiarize yourself with the process so that you can feel more relaxed when it comes time to actually do it.
Also, do what feels best to you when it comes to nursing your baby in public or even just in front of others.
Have questions about breastfeeding? Visit the breastfeeding section of womenshealth.gov or It's Only Natural. You can also talk to one of our breastfeeding peer counselors by calling the OWH Helpline at 800-994-9662, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.
If you're having trouble breastfeeding and could use a little encouragement, here are some ways to handle common breastfeeding challenges.
The statements and opinions in this blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health.