Milkmaker | Ashley Petino

My story began in 2012 when I got pregnant with my son, Dylan. He will be 5 in December. I come from a family of lactation educators, and nurses so you could say breastfeeding is in our blood. 

My mother and aunts were an initial huge support in how I could arm myself with knowledge prior to my birth. So I hired a doula who also did breastfeeding education while I was pregnant. Huge help. To begin to navigate the unknown is surreal, but I did feel prepared. 

I had a long hard birth that lasted 72 hours ending in a cesarean. So, clearly not my plan. What women tend to not know on a massive scale is that your birth can so much determine the beginning stages of what breastfeeding will look like. 

Thankfully, I had some advocates at the hospital with me - my husband, mom, and doula - who got my son to me within an hour after birth to begin nursing. This was all at 3am during the week of Christmas. 

My milk took 5 long days to come in. But I was determined, so we worked on latching (using a nipple shield for 10 days after birth) and had a couple of postpartum visits with my doula. 

The beginning days are hard for any new mom. Add in birth trauma and nursing obstacles, and it's no wonder so many mothers feel isolated when dealing with what are normal breastfeeding issues. 

Alas, things finally did click, and we had an easy, loving nursing relationship for just about 2 years. 

Then, I got pregnant with my daughter roughly 6 months after I stopped nursing my son in 2015. And her story is remarkably different as most second children's are. No two stories are the same!

While she was also born via cesarean, we had skin-to-skin immediately and she latched with no help and no issues to this day. And my milk came in before leaving the hospital after about 40 hours! Almost 2 years later, she nurses before her nap. She will turn 2 in December as well. 

I went into motherhood saying "ok I'll nurse for a year, I can't be like my mom - how did she do it for so long w me and my sister?!" HA! 

What I could impart on new mothers who have the desire to breastfeed is that IT IS EVER EVOLVING. What nursing looks like  day 6 to month 6 are vastly different. And after 1 year, I would encourage women to continue for as long as the relationship works for you AND baby. 

I will always look back on these 4 years of nursing as one of the sweetest times in my life.