August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and each mom has a unique story. For some lucky women it’s a breeze and for others, it feels like an insurmountable challenge. To kick off the yearly event, TODAY Parents profiled the journeys of six spectacular mamas.
I breastfed and I loved it!
Micol Zimmerman-Burkeman was blessed with a healthy milk supply and both of her kids latched easily. “I loved the intimacy of breastfeeding,” the Massachusetts-based education consultant told TODAY Parents. “During the daily grind of parenting, especially with a newborn, it is easy to fall into auto-pilot simply trying to get through the day. But that time with them, especially at night, allowed me to be fully present with them.”
Aura Skigen of Arlington, Virginia, had a similar experience. The physical therapist and influencer for EVER Skincare exclusively breastfed her two sons until they were 17 months.
“I loved the chance to bond with my babies,” Skigen, 40, said. It was also a chance for Skigen to forget about grocery lists, chores and exercise. “As a new mom, I tried to do it all,” she said. “Breastfeeding allowed me to really enjoy one-on-one time with my boys.”
Breastfeeding was hard — but I persevered!
Jen Saxton, CEO and founder of Tot Squad, overflowed a bottle the first time she pumped. “The nurses at the hospital said I had enough milk to feed the whole world!”
Saxton’s oversupply has led to multiple clogged ducts and a painful case of mastitis. “I remember at Mommy and Me class how everybody would describe their beautiful baby staring into their eyes while breastfeeding, and Charlotte was literally choking with my fast letdown.”
Though breastfeeding is “all consuming” and the LA.-based mom loathes pumping, she is proud of what her body can do. “I love that we can go anywhere and forget everything and as long as we have each other, we’re good to go,” Saxton, 36, said.
While Saxton has an overabundance of milk, Colleen Kurson had the opposite problem. When Kurson’s first child was born in 2012, she struggled with production despite pumping between feeds.
“I hated that my body wasn’t doing what I was thought it was ‘supposed’ to do,” the licensed mental health counselor told TODAY Parents. Things got easier when Kurson began supplementing with formula and her baby began gaining weight. “I saw it as vital to my newborn’s health and and was glad to take some of the pressure off,” she explained.
Though breastfeeding was “never a great experience” for Kurson, and she dreaded nursing in public, all three of her girls received breast milk for at least four months. “I stuck with it because I wanted to,” she said. “But I’m so glad it’s behind me.”
I didn’t breastfeed and I don't feel bad about it (and you shouldn't either)!
Breastfeeding may be natural, but it doesn’t always come naturally. Just ask Kristen Barry. “I simply did not enjoy having another human being stuck on my nipples until they bled. It was uncomfortable and I dreaded every feeding,” the freelance editor from Long Island, New York, told TODAY Parents. "I began to resent my son for wanting to eat. All I did was cry.
Ten days into motherhood, Barry, 37, mixed a bottle of formula and never looked back. “When I told my husband, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ he was beyond relieved,” she recalled. “He saw what the pressure was doing to me. I don’t know who was more relieved — him or me."
She did not even attempt to breastfeed her second child.
Joey Bartolomeo can relate to what Barry went through. Bartolomeo broke down in a pediatrician’s office after her son, Tully, was born in 2014.
“She asked how feeding was going and I started crying,” the Manhattan-based writer told TODAY Parents. Bartolomeo’s milk had not yet come in and Tully was having issues latching.
“I felt a bit like a failure right off the bat,” she revealed.
At the suggestion of Tully’s doctor, Bartolomeo rented a hospital grade pump, loaded up on breast shields and enlisted the help of a lactation consultant. But nothing seemed to work.
“Feeding times were very stressful for me, the baby and everyone who was around,” Bartolomeo, 45, said.
Bartolomeo stopped breastfeeding after a week and gave up pumping soon after. “There are so many of us who can’t do it, and that’s OK. We need to tell each other that. Our babies are being fed and that’s what matters,” she told TODAY Parents. “That is the message I like to pass on to all of my friends when they become new moms.”