Our interview series taking a look at how each mother's breastfeeding journey is unique. This week we're profiling Michelle Tran, a NYC mom of 2 boys under the age of 2.
1) How was breastfeeding different with your two sons? Both my sons were 6 weeks early and they were both in the NICU for 18 days. Breastfeeding for me was a struggle with both, initially. My first son, Robert was actually born while I was on a business trip in San Francisco so the whole situation was very stressful. The hospital wasn’t very supportive either about breastfeeding so my milk didn’t come in with my first son for a really long time. And so my supply was really low with Robert and it was a struggle. I took everything under the sun, I drank gatorade, I took fenugreek, I power-pumped. I tried everything and I could never get more than 2 ounces when I pumped. Breastfeeding was also a challenge because he took a while to latch and I had to use a nipple shield. I actually almost gave up when I was in the NICU because there was a nurse, who had placed him on me once and he freaked out and was crying and she kept on forcing it and so I started crying and it was just a horrible experience. I spent days feeling so upset about it. It still brings me to tears just thinking about it.
With my second born James, who also came early, I knew I needed to get my supply in right away. I was at NYU and they were a lot more supportive. They had me hand express and pump right away. I also spent more time with him and I pumped every two hours for about 3 weeks so my supply came in sooner and he was able to latch a lot sooner. My experience with James has been a lot easier and emotionally it feels a lot better too because I’m able to provide him with enough supply.
2) What was your experience like going back to work while continuing to pump and breastfeed? I went back to work after 4 months with Robert. It was a bit difficult because I had supply issues, but work was very supportive. I work at Blackrock and they really set you up for success when it comes to breastfeeding and pumping. I had a very supportive manager who understood that I needed to take breaks away from my desk. They had set up a full lactation room with different stalls. In each stall was a hospital grade Medela pump and a work station so you could do conference calls, check emails and you never needed to break up your work day. I used to do conference calls often while I pumped. They also supplied water, granola bars and cleaning supplies.
I also traveled for work a lot. I had to figure out where to pump and found myself pumping in bathrooms and on the plane but I didn’t really feel comfortable pumping at my seat. And getting breastmilk through airports was another issue. It wasn't easy but I found a lot of support. I went to a lot of conferences and the people there were always supportive, they would set me up with a room or private space to pump. There are more women leaders now who bring up the issue and it's definitely more common to see pumping moms at work.
3) What did you do to take care of yourself after your baby’s birth? I definitely gave more of myself to my first son, Robert. As a first time mom, you’re more unsure of yourself, so you really do spend the majority of your time really focused on your child, researching everything extensively. I didn't have much time for myself and my health suffered postpartum. I had gestational diabetes with both, so with Robert, I was really excited to eat again after his birth, I went overboard and had too much pizza!
With James I was better at taking care of myself postpartum. I’m making sure that I eat better, work out and take better care of myself. I also take time for myself emotionally; there’s no shortage of me going out with my girlfriends now. I make sure I have those nights and I make sure I spend time with my first son to give him his own special time. It’s much easier now because I know what to do with James, so I spend less time worrying.
4) How challenging was it postpartum with your wardrobe and getting dressed? With Robert I had no nursing friendly clothing. For work I used to wear a lot of long dresses, that don’t give you access to nursing or pumping. I needed to buy nursing friendly clothing but there wasn’t a lot out there that I liked. I have a more modern clean style and I found nothing. What I did find just fit weird so I am always on the lookout for really great pieces to invest in because I know I’m going to wear them often, especially as I nurse.
5) How do you feel about breastfeeding in public? I’m very comfortable with it as long as I use a cover. Robert hated the cover though, so it was always difficult trying to find a private spot. And because he had trouble latching it was all the more difficult. With James it is pretty easy. We were waiting for Santa last week and I was feeding him in line. In NY I feel like a lot of places are really great about breastfeeding. People are very open and accepting of it. Thankfully I haven’t had any bad experiences.
Thanks for sharing Michelle! Any other moms that would like to share their story, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: Chris Tran at christranmedia.com