Spartan Spotlight Stories
This series highlights Spartans through the Spotlight Stories around issues that are important to the MSU WorkLife Office. The series is starting with new parents raising infants and breastfeeding. Other topics to come will include building community at MSU, eldercare, flex schedules, raising teens and more. The goal is to build community at MSU, show people they are not alone, bring awareness to important stages of the lifespan and promote a family friendly policies and workplace.
Jennifer R. New, Assistant Director of Academic & Student Affairs, Coordinator of Study Abroad Initiatives at MSU provides her insights on breastfeeding and tips for success.
What led you to your decision to breastfeed?
We try do as much parenting as possible based on what research tells us about what is best for our children’s physical and emotional growth and development. While I didn’t know a lot about breastfeeding from experience, we had read a lot about the benefits of breastfeeding so I knew that I wanted to at least give it a try.
What is the most important part about breastfeeding to you?
The part I valued most was the built in time for just me and my child. I absolutely love having this time each day when it’s just me and them and it’s calm and quiet and I can look at them and talk to them. No matter how busy my day gets or how stressed I may be, it forces me to stop, breath, and appreciate my incredible humans and the relationship that I’m building with them.
What was the most challenging thing about breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is the most challenging thing that I have ever done in my life. That is not talked about enough. It is only in very recent years that I’ve seen the media portray the difficulty of it instead of glamourizing it and making it look like something that’s simply easy and natural. With my son it was dealing with a tongue and lip tie, multiple bouts of thrush, clogged ducts, nursing strikes, etc. When he was one week old I was on an almost constant cycle of nursing and then immediately pumping and cup feeding him just to make sure that he was getting enough, which is incredibly stressful for a first-time mom. With my daughter I thought I’d be an old pro, but every nursing relationship is different. She had a dairy sensitivity and I had to give up anything with dairy in it for a year. I breastfed my son until he was 2.5 and my daughter and I are still going strong at 25 months. The challenges change constantly, but overall the experience has gotten easier and easier.
What type of support helped you in your breastfeeding success at home or at work?
I have received so much support on my journey! With my son I was really struggling at first. I went to the Capital Area Baby Café and worked with a lactation consultant there to get some immediate help. She referred me to another consultant and they even worked to send her to my home to give us more support. She is the one who caught his lip and tongue ties and referred us to a professional who could revise them. My husband has been nothing but supportive and encouraging. He picked up additional tasks around the house and has continued to do them throughout my breastfeeding journey. When I’m up several times at night with a teething toddler that just wants to nurse, his simple acknowledgement of how tired I must be makes all the difference. When I finished nursing my son, they threw me a “nurses party” with a cake, balloons, and gifts. My office has been fantastic as well. My supervisors allowed me the time to pump several times a day and even the ability to visit my children at daycare during my lunch every day so that I could nurse them.
Did you breastfeed when you returned to work?
I did. I pumped until each of my children was a year old and then I weaned from pumping but continued to nurse them on demand. I’m happy I did it, but it was certainly one of my least favorite parts of the entire experience. Pumping can bring with it a lot of pressure to make sure you have enough milk to provide for your child the next day. It also forced me to build a daily schedule in the office that worked around my pumping schedule. I appreciate that I was very lucky to have had the flexibility at the office to be able to do that.
Were there any barriers or challenges that you had to overcome?
I think not having a support system specifically with regards to breastfeeding was an enormous challenge initially. I didn’t know what I was doing and I didn’t have lot of people to ask. Books can only help so much. Joining the Breastfeeding in East Lansing Facebook group was a huge help for me, because it immediately put hundreds of women going through similar experiences right at my fingertips. It was a safe and judgement free zone to ask even the silliest or most basic questions. I think it removed a huge barrier to breastfeeding for me.
What advice do you have for new breastfeeding moms?
Use all the resources. Take the class. Read the book. Get help at the hospital. Get help at the pediatrician. Join the Breastfeeding in East Lansing Facebook page. Talk about your struggles and your frustrations and try to realize that it gets easier. It really does! When you have a hard day (or week or month), know that the challenges come and go. Try to find joy in the experience but also allow yourself the grace to be ok admitting when it’s not so joyful and being at peace with that. Be truly proud of yourself for your breastfeeding journey, whether it’s a week, a month, or years.
Did you go to breastfeeding classes?
I did, though Sparrow. I also read a couple of books before my first child was born. They prepared me a sense, but in reality you can’t be truly prepared for the incredible responsibility and equally incredible joy that comes with this experience.
Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you could?
I would find a support system with knowledge of breastfeeding faster than I did. And I wouldn’t freak out over the littlest things.
Jennifer R. New
Assistant Director of Academic & Student Affairs
Coordinator of Study Abroad Initiatives
Michigan State University
College of Communication Arts & Sciences
Office of Academic & Student Affairs
Read Other Spotlight Stories
- Being a new parent: Leanne Hancock Hardisty
- Breastfeeding: Jennifer R. New
- Breastfeeding: Kitty Douglass-Harris
- Being a new parent: Michael Zaborowski
- Being a father: Jake Kasper
- Being a step parent: Gayle Nelson