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  • Writer's pictureGrace Ashley Images

World Breastfeeding Week 2021 | El Paso, Tx | Grace Ashley Images

Celebrated August 1st through August 7th in almost 120 countries, World Breastfeeding Week 2021 has come and gone. This week for those who spent any amount of time using their bodies liquid gold to nourish their baby. While many associate breastfeeding with latching baby to nipple, many also pump and bottle feed, syringe feed, spoon feed, or feed their baby through a tube. This is for those who fought the good fight and found alternatives or were able to continue on. There is no perfect science for any one body or baby, and no one journey is the same.

Each year, I invite as many breastfeeders who'd like to participate to come together for a group photo session. This year, my 5th annual session welcomed 18 mothers and 19 babies, All who were kind enough to share their journey with me

Luz - Leia 4yrs

Leia self-latched within the first hour postpartum during the magical hour provided to us by the birth center where my birth occurred.

She currently nurses rigorously 5 times a day: to nap, to wake up from the nap, to sleep at night, once at sunrise, and to wake up in the morning. She asks for more sessions depending on her emotional needs (sad, angry, in pain, ill, etc.)

She had to be supplemented with formula and breastmilk for the first two weeks (she was 4 lb 9oz). We did it with cups, spoons, and syringes. As I returned to work, she refused bottles; my stepmother could finally feed her with a dropper. At one year, Leia refused my milk in the drooper; I introduced cows milk in a cup and happily retired my breast pump.

We've gone thru engorgement, blocked ducts, thrush, me burning my breast in the kitchen, injury with a toy on her palate, nursing strikes, balancing work & nursing, lack of support, criticism, and judgment.

The best advice was to stop fighting to keep my life as before the birth, to just go with the flow and accept the new me as a mother.

My best advice is to deromanticize breastfeeding! To understand that breastfeeding in our society does not come natural or easy anymore, it is necessary to learn about breastfeeding from lactation professionals before the birth, to consult with a lactation professional any question or thought that comes to mind, and to build a circle with family, friends, consultants, and doctors that fully support and protect the breastfeeding process.

Most breastfeeding relationships end due to ill and outdated advice and misconceptions.

Bumps in breastfeeding can not be avoided, there are great and horrible days, but if you know why things happen and how to troubleshoot them, the breastfeeding relationship will only end when the mother and the baby really want it to end.

I have been a breastfeeding educator since 2004; it did not make my experience any easier, it just made me know what to do next, and many times I consulted my peers for advice too!

Stephanie + Jamari 11 months

We are exclusively breastfeeding and I’d be lying if I said it was easy.

From the beginning, I did all the things people say to do. Oatmeal, lots of water, all of it. And I had built up a great stash! But somewhere in my regulation I didn’t produce as much and some days I’m not sure if I have enough for the next day. But it’s like he knows and won’t eat so much so that I can catch up. He has bitten me a few times! But I wouldn’t trade this bonding for the world. I love him so much! I have let him fall asleep nursing. We co-sleep and he feeds on demand. I would tell any mother to breastfeed. You won’t regret it! Trust that your body knows just what to do!

Seslie + Elias 16 months

Elias and I have been breastfeeding exclusively from day one. I’ve never pumped and he’s never taken a bottle. I was 100% sure I wanted to breastfeed throughout my pregnancy. Around 30 weeks I was diagnosed with IUGR because he was measuring 3 weeks behind. I had weekly growth scans and NSTs until my doctor decided to induce me at 37 weeks due to zero growth from the previous week to the next. He went through all the risks with me, which included him not being able to latch on his own and/or needing to supplement due to low birth weight or low blood sugar. BUT He was born 5lbs 2ozs and immediately latched. He lost a few ounces before going home the next day but was above birth weight by his first pediatrician appointment! We had some issues with jaundice and fast letdown leading to him being a little colicky but over time he grew out of it!

We’ve been extremely blessed that we’ve had such a great journey and that my husband has been supportive. It wasn’t always easy but definitely has been worth it. I have no intentions on weaning before his second birthday but am letting him take the lead from here on out. He loves his “milky” so I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

Jill + Anika 10 weeks

I almost feel like I shouldn’t say this, but breastfeeding has been incredibly easy and enjoyable for us!

Thankfully, my husband is home, so he keeps me fed while I keep her fed and I pump just enough to allow him to give her a bottle every now & then when I’m not available or just so he can bond with her. This is our first baby and I was so anxious about whether I was going to be able to breastfeed her or not because I had read so many stories about it being so difficult. I prayed often while I was pregnant that God would allow her to latch easily, my milk to flow at just the right amount and for us to be able to nurse at least a full year. She latched as soon as I offered right after she was born and even though we’re just 2.5 months in, I’m so grateful to have been able to make it this far already!

I think the greatest challenge I’ve faced has been the amount of time it takes for her to eat. I feel like all I do is nurse! When she goes down for a nap, I have to remind myself of what is really important for me to do in those brief moments because I don’t want to squander the time doing meaningless chores that could wait. At the top of

my priorities is, “eat nutritious food!” I have to eat if my baby girl is going to eat!

I also have a lot of anxiety around trying to get out and run errands without my husband available to give her a bottle because that means I have to map out all the logistics: where we’ll sit comfortably, will we be close to a restroom in case she needs to potty in the middle of a feeding (we’re doing EC (Elimination Communication), which is a WHOLE different beast for planning outings), how long will we be there, do I have enough water, is it hot, will I have any privacy. However, I have found it helpful to have her on somewhat of a schedule when it comes to naps & feedings so when I know when we’re getting close to the time she’ll be hungry, I can go ahead & scope out my spot & start setting up shop.

Another challenge for me was even just thinking about trying to get back to working out while nursing. I have a friend who likes to double up her sports bras for extra support, but that caused me to experience a clogged duct, so I would definitely recommend not going too tight unless you absolutely have to. Further, I need to make sure I’m eating and drinking enough to maintain my milk supply as well as my energy to work out. Electrolytes are crucial for both of those endeavors, so I like to treat myself to a Body Armour Lyte, coconut water, or just some warm lemon salt water once a day.

I have been so blessed with family and friends who have supported me on this journey by offering hand-me-down nursing attire, asking specifically how I’m doing and how nursing is going, recommending resources (like the Breastfeeding Garden!), sharing their stories, and taking care of things for me while I prioritize nursing my girl. If raising a child takes a village, then so does nursing one! I certainly couldn’t do this alone, so my best piece of advice is to get people around you who value your goals, listen to their stories, accept their help, advice, and encouragement, and thank them.

Kamarin + Ethan 14 months

We had a bit of a rough patch trying to breast feed.

Ethan was born 36w5d. Although he was almost full term, he was little at 5lbs 12 oz. He wasn’t breathing at first so they had to warm him up before he could come to breast. His jaundice levels were too high and he went straight to the NICU where he stayed for 8 days. He wouldn’t latch on until he was 2 months old on July 4, 2020.

He has successfully had breast milk for all 13 months of life.

I’m an over producer of milk and have donated over 300oz of milk to different mamas here in El Paso.

My advice for other mamas out there is to do whatever you can that is healthy for both you and baby, whether it’s breastfeeding until 3 or until they’re 3 days old. If you can mentally and physically handle please do it. There were many times when I wanted to stop when I was exclusively pumping for two months. I couldn’t stand being tied to a machine for 30mins every 2 hours. It was depressing.. I’m so blessed my son was able to finally latch.

Definitely get the haaka it has been a lifesaver and cooling pads for your nipples especially once they start getting teeth.

Jennifer - Abigail 2yr

We’ve been on our breastfeeding journey for almost 2 years!

I had great support in the hospital ensuring the first latch was a success. My doula (Rachel Curtis) is an IBCLC, and she was a huge part in our BF success during the postpartum months. I still reach out to her with questions almost 2 years later. I also met Libby Berkley, another IBCLC, who runs “El Jardin - The Breastfeeding Garden”, and that has been the best support system!

My advice to anyone wishing to breastfeed or struggling - get help from an IBCLC! It’s great to have women in your life who have breastfed, but nothing beats the help of a professional, they’ve seen everything!

Miriam - Ivanna 1yr

Breastfeeding has been a crazy journey for me.

I thought it was something that came naturally but no, bleeding nipples, feeling hungry al the time and my baby latching every hour the first weeks, I was exhausted! For me, to join a group of Facebook called “the badass breastfeeders of El Paso” was a big support! I realized that all this new things to me were common in all the woman’s...

Now finally breastfeeding comes so natural to me, and the bond I made with my daughter is the best feeling, I feel so proud of us to come this far, everything I learned it was totally worth it!

Zipporah - Nalah 1yr

My breastfeeding journey was rocky at first do to a lip and tongue tie.

We went through ups and down to where I was scared to breastfeed because my nipples hurt so bad. My right boob was bleeding and was open to see my inner flesh. Then I told my doula, Jaimie Walker, she didn’t think it was that bad until she came over one day saw my nipples and told me to air them bitches out. Then she suggest a nipple shield just until got the tongue and lip tie reverse.

I was damn near done with breastfeeding at that point, but was super determined to breastfeed, so I kept going even after my nipple about fell off. But we got her a better latch after the tongue and lip tie revision. My nipples started to heal, she started to eat better, and we both start to feel more confident about breastfeeding.

Kathleen - Jenna 17months

I have been nursing my daughter for 17 months now. I honestly did not think we would make it this far.

When she was born, it took a week before my milk came in. I talked to an IBCLC at the hospital. She told me that I had several risk factors that resulted in chronic low milk supply. I was highly disappointed, but I was determined to provide breastmilk for my newborn. I triple fed (latch, formula by dad, and pump) every 2 hours for a month. She would get so frustrated that I was lucky if she would latch for 5 minutes.

I relaxed on triple feeding once my husband's paternity leave ended. It wasn't sustainable. I was tired and it took a toll on me. I weaned off pumping very slowly, scared that I would lose the little supply I had. I changed tactics on offering to nurse. I attempted to latch when she got sleepy. It took a few weeks but it worked! We also found a lip/tongue tie that got corrected at 5 months. I was able to completely stop pumping a month after the tie revision.

To this day, I nurse my daughter to sleep, for comfort, and on demand.

Lorena - Ydalla 2.5yr

This is my first breastfeeding journey.

I knew that I wanted to do it, but I was terrified that I would not be able to or that something would go wrong. It was intimidating but once I was able to latch her on both sides it became super natural (yet exhausting at times). Even so, I prayed that I could at least breast feed her for 3 month-- fast forward to today and she is now 30 months old and still loves and soothes with "booby."

Brianna - Rosa 11 months

First latch was right out of the womb. Rosa latched herself as I had no idea what to expect or how to do it as a FTM. We have been blessed with a smooth and consistent journey, and are currently still breast feeding just as strong. Now that she has 2 teeth, I’ve learned no cookies with mommy milk.

Trust your body and baby. I see many momma’s worried they aren’t making enough milk (which is a real concern because we all only want the best for our babies). I’d suggest talking to a lactation consultant for advice and tips. Luckily, my step-mom is a LC and was able to educate me throughout the process.

Terry - Sofia 18m

Sofia is my 3rd baby.

With every child, my breastfeeding journey has gotten longer and longer. 1st was 3 months, 2nd was a year, and Sofia currently at 18 months. It hasn’t been all peaches and cream, more like kicking and screaming (me). Breastfeeding is HARD but so rewarding too. My advice is one day at a time, and one week is better than no weeks, one month better than one week one year better than a month etc. Do what you can and don’t beat yourself up.

A fed baby is a good baby.

Milan - Ezrael 15 months

After being born, my son took to nursing immediately; he loved it, as did I.

His latch, however, was shallow resulting in extreme pain, blistering, cracked and bleeding nipples. At about day 6 postpartum, I decided to pump to give my nipples a break. From then on I was primarily pumping, but would latch at least once a day on each side. I tried maybe twice to switch to nursing cold turkey, but the pain of his shallow latch on my right breast would be unbearable so I would switch back to pumping. At 6 months postpartum, we finally successfully and painlessly switched to exclusively nursing and have not looked back. He is 15months old and we continue to breastfeed, but let me tell you: nursing a toddler is not easy! That said, our breastfeeding journey has been incredibly difficult but the most incredible bond and very empowering!

Martha - Levi 15 months

I am currently nursing my third baby. I've had different nursing relationships with all three of my kiddos.

My oldest nursed until 16 months. She weened herself when my milk changed while pregnant with our 2nd daughter. My middle baby girl was a struggle. We had a hard time with her latch in the beginning but worked through that. I had a few painful milk blebs and we nursed through those. We made it 13 months. She was done and so was I. I knew we weren't done having kids so I wasn't too heart broken about ending my nursing journey with her.

With our third, our boy, our caboose, I prayed and prayed our nursing bond would be a good one. I needed one more good nursing baby for my mommy soul. Levi is definitely a boob baby. He loves to nurse even though we're down to one or two times a day. Occasionally he still gets up in the middle of the night and I'm completely okay with it. It’s such a blessing to have birthed and nursed three beautiful babies. Not only has breast milk fed my babies but we've used it in their eyes, on their skin for little rashes, and of course nursed them back to health when the sickies have hit our house.

Advice I always give new momma's is to stick with it and you'll be so happy you did. Once you get through those first two weeks you're good to go. The benefits of nursing definitely out weigh the struggle.

Desiree - Violetta 8m

In all honesty, I believe breastfeeding is one of the most hardest yet most beautiful, rewarding thing that I can do with my body for my child and I am so blessed to be able to do so. I gave up on pumping. I felt like it was very draining for myself and I used up a lot of my day, so I stick to nursing. But I applaud the women who continue to do both! That is amazing.

I have used my breastmilk in my baby's baths, for minor scratches and wounds and man, is it really liquid gold. I am in the process of creating soap with a friend of mine. It's so amazing what the female body can create. I have also made all of my babies food using the nutribullet baby and I include my milk in everything I give her! She loves her customized “milkshakes”. I love everything about breastfeeding and I'm so honored that I’m able to.

Trigal + Bodhi 4 months

I started off really strong milk-wise. I had a lot of colostrum and felt really good, but I didn’t realize baby didn’t latch on correctly.

It took a couple of positions but we finally figured something out! My only tip would be calm any anxiety baby will sense that and feed into it - also sleep regression is real and it affects feeding no one ever told me how much!

Victoria + Lincoln 4 month

From day one I struggled to get my son to latch.

I had help from lactation consultants and felt better but once we left and got home, I could not get him to latch on my own. It was very heartbreaking, but I didn’t want to give up. I spent the first 5 weeks after his birth going to weekly lactation consultant visits. The first 3 weeks my son couldn’t latch without a nipple shield. It was frustrating because if he wasn’t able to latch on quick enough he would get upset and there was no calming him down or latching him on . So we would give him a pumped bottle of milk. Between pumping and trying to latch him on I considered giving up but I just couldn’t. When week 4 hit, it was just an instant change he was able to latch on like he had never before.

Now he breastfeeds every 3 hours, unless we are away from each other then he gets a pumped bottle. It truly been a wonderful, hard, joyous, frustrating journey, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s amazing being able create a baby with your body and sustain that life with your body once they are here . It’s created this unspoken connection between my son and I that no one will ever understand.

Don’t be scared to ask for help. The lactation consultant I saw was so helpful and understanding. I would also recommend different positions my son will do a cradle hold for one boob but only a football hold for the other. Find what positions are most comfortable for you and baby. If you need more support or feel that you don’t have the best support or information at home join a local group for breastfeeders or a facebook group. It can make a worlds difference.

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