It might be cliché to say, but the story behind every breastfeeding journey is highly personal and unique.
With each story comes a chance to gain new perspective on what people have or are experiencing. And while each breastfeeding story is individualized, there are universal feelings that come with breastfeeding that can help us feel more connected to the world around us.
Leslie Owens has an incredible breastfeeding story to share. Her own journey not only changed her perspective on breastfeeding as a whole, but it also led her to her life’s calling in supporting other women on their own breastfeeding journey.
Here’s Leslie’s story…
“I am embarrassed to admit this, but before I had kids, I thought breastfeeding was weird, especially breastfeeding a toddler. I remember having a pediatric home health case as a nurse where a mother was tandem feeding a newborn and a two-year-old, and I was blown away! Of course, that all changed when I had my own children, and clearly it impacted me enough to at least desire to breastfeed in some capacity. Fast forward 15 years and I have breastfed three children well into toddlerhood!
Whenever I was pregnant with my oldest son, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed because as a Nurse I knew about the health benefits, and I knew that I wanted the special bond that breastfeeding brings. I was very determined to breastfeed him. I had a stack of breastfeeding books (that the procrastinator in me never read until he was born haha). I gave birth to him at a freestanding birth center, attended by a Certified Nurse Midwife. Those were the two things that were very important to me whenever I was pregnant with him: I wanted to have a natural birth, and I wanted to breastfeed.
I am a Taurus, so to say I'm very stubborn is an understatement.
I'm the kind of person that if you try to talk me out of doing something that I want to do, especially if I know that I'm right or this is the right thing to do, it does not discourage me and only makes me more determined. So basically, if someone tries to talk me out of doing something that I want to do, I'm either definitely gonna have to do it or die trying. It becomes my life mission to prove them wrong. The best way to guarantee I will do something is for someone to doubt that I can.
Don’t believe me, just watch. I don't know if that is a positive character trait or character flaw, but that's who I am.
My first child was a challenging, high needs baby. He cried a lot. He was a beautiful, perfect baby, but he cried a lot and he nursed allllll the time. I was the first in my family to have a grandchild so I had my mother, my grandmother, and my aunt all telling me that I should just give him a bottle. My mom was saying I was really tired and she wanted me just to give him a bottle so that she could help me to feed him. She also wasn't sure if he was getting enough breast milk or if there was something wrong with my milk to make him so fussy. I remember feeling like I was the target of an intervention because I was getting calls specifically about how I was feeding him. This infuriated me and also fueled me to press on because I knew I was doing the right thing for him and for us.
I don't know if I really interpreted it that way back then. Now knowing what I know now and doing what I do for a living as an IBCLC, it has helped me to realize that sometimes when it's like that, it's really more about them. When you have a family that's not supportive (especially if they didn't breastfeed), it's really more about them than it is about you.
We never really talk about the fact that a lot of women carry grief and regret if they didn't breastfeed, or if they tried and it didn't work out.
For whatever reason, it often leads to them projecting, and they want to discount that breastfeeding is good or that it matters and discount that it’s something you should do if you can.
My stubbornness and determination led me to breastfeed him for two years while simultaneously becoming so passionate about birth and breastfeeding, that when he was 3-years-old I became a Maternity Newborn Nurse and Lactation Specialist, and eventually an IBCLC. My husband and I went on to decide to have “one more baby” that ended up being twin boys who at the time of writing this are approaching 3-years-old and still breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding was my favorite thing about my oldest being little, and the one thing that I was able to enjoy because he was a challenging infant. Babywearing and breastfeeding were by BFF’s. Once he got to be a toddler and beyond, he's always been the perfect child. I wanted to experience that at least one more time because I was in my late 30’s at the time.
What inspired me to become an IBCLC was not getting the support I needed and knowing that if I was not so strong willed, I would have taken the path of least resistance and given up, like many women do every day.
I wanted to support other women to be able to successfully breastfeed and not to have that experience robbed from them.
Breastfeeding really meant and means a lot to me. I know that it means a lot to a lot of other women and maybe they don't have the kind of support at home or the kind of knowledge or education, and most of the time they just quit. It is so rewarding to know I have the ability to make an impact on how many mamas overcome breastfeeding obstacles and how many babies are getting human milk who otherwise would not. It is very nostalgic how a life event from 14 years ago led me to my calling.”