The story of a MOMS clients’ breastfeeding journey is special and unique for each woman, yet, also familiar and shared.

For any mother, the decision to breastfeed is part of the incredible journey of motherhood.  From the moment “breastfeeding” is mentioned (lactancia in Spanish and nuôi con bằng sữa me in Vietnamese), many women express fear, concern and anxiety.  Hearing the painful tales passed on from others, the horror stories alone would be enough to steer one clear of any desire to breastfeed.  When Lydia, a MOMS client, first encountered her Maternal Child Health Coordinator while pregnant, she too shared her fears about breastfeeding and what she had heard from others.

“Breastfeeding is too hard and too painful.”

“You are going to have to eat a lot more or be on a special diet to produce enough milk.”

“You should just use a breast pump.”

“Or better yet, just bottle feed your baby.  Now that’s so much easier”

Daunted by these stories, Lydia thought breastfeeding just wasn’t for her.  Yet, having the opportunity to speak one-on-one with someone who would listen and provide information was helpful.  One by one, Lydia learned that many of these comments were widely held myths about breastfeeding.  During prenatal breastfeeding class taught by Martha, MOMS Breastfeeding Coordinator, the same questions and fears were echoed by Lydia’s peers.  In class, she learned about the changes in her body during pregnancy, the benefits of breastfeeding and how much “health wealth” it would bring to not only her baby but for herself.  Lydia was motivated by this new knowledge and made the decision to breastfeed her baby.

Yet, after delivering her baby, it was a whole different story.  As it turned out, breastfeeding was much harder then she ever imagined.  In fact, trying to help her baby latch on to her breast was nothing like the serene experience she envisioned.  It was difficult for Lydia to receive the guidance she needed while in the hospital and she fought back tears each time she tried and failed.  She asked herself, “Shouldn’t I know how to do this?  Shouldn’t this come naturally to me?”

Every time she attempted to breastfeed, the pain was unbearable and by the time Lydia arrived home from the hospital with her husband, she was beginning to think that perhaps the “myths” were right.  Disheartened and discouraged, she called Martha and expressed her frustration—why? Is it me?  Should I give up?  Martha made a visit to Lydia’s home and provided further counsel.  Both Lydia’s mother and mother-in-law were present during Martha’s visit and were not shy about their opinions, “Just use formula. It’ll make the baby fat, healthy and strong,” they said, “Formula is practically the same as breast milk anyways.” Martha explained to them that there was nothing as beneficial to the baby as its mother’s milk—absolutely nothing.  Martha brought patience upon patience and provided the encouragement to continue one more day.  Martha also invited Lydia to come to MOMS Breastfeeding Support Group.

When Lydia arrived at the support group with her baby, she recognized many mothers from her prenatal breastfeeding class as well as new faces.  Martha announced that the support group was a safe space to share and ask questions.  As the women begin to talk, Lydia listened intently and did not even realize that tears were rolling down her cheek until the mother next to her placed a hand on her knee.  As each woman shared, Lydia felt like they were re-telling her very own story.  The weight began to lift from her shoulders.

Another client spoke but her words were not of anxiety and strife but of hope and strength.  She spoke of her struggles but how happy she was to breastfeed—how close she felt to her baby and how much love she never knew she could feel for her child.  Lydia felt overwhelmed with relief and emotion as the women looked at her and nodded knowingly.  They knew without even a word spoken.    Martha answered any and all questions and provided hands-on instruction and guidance to Lydia and her peers in the group setting. The other mothers affirmed Lydia and encouraged her to continue breastfeeding.

After a few weeks in the support group, Lydia is now a very different mother.  It is Lydia who speaks encouragement and affirmation to the new mothers.  There is a self-confidence and vibrancy in her eyes that is visibly noticeable.  Through the community she found at MOMS Orange County and the support of Martha, her Maternal Child Health Coordinator and her peers, Lydia’s confidence as a mother has been restored and her breastfeeding story continues to give hope and support to others.

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