Trying to nurse your baby can be humbling.
That’s how first-time mom Lacie Taulbee describes it, cradling her daughter, Rowan, with a downy head and ruffled pink onesie. Hardly anyone else in Taulbee’s family chose to breastfeed, so she’s learning as she goes.
“It's not just: ‘Latch your baby and you're going to breastfeed. It's all going to be great,’” she said.
Sometimes it’s painful. Sometimes she has to re-latch baby Rowen when her little mouth doesn’t get a deep grip.
“And it's not easy,” Taulbee said.
Being able to connect with other nursing moms has made a world of difference. That’s what keeps her coming back to Community Hospital’s weekly breastfeeding support group, focused on helping with nursing and also navigating life as a parent.
“You come here vulnerable and other women are like, ‘Oh, I understand you,’” Taulbee said. “And to be understood, it makes things a lot better.”
That Tuesday morning, the group was meeting at Lincoln Park in Grand Junction, with a dozen or so mothers laughing and chatting as their babies nursed. For McClees Stephens, being part of the circle felt special, important.
“Like, how many times do you see women sitting around just exposed, breasts out, feeding children?” she said. “You don't see that very much in our culture, sadly.”
Stephens and her son, Tiago, have the same big smile. When she arrived at the group that morning, she weighed “Baby Chi,” as she calls him, then breastfed him.
Then it was time to weigh him again, to see how much milk he actually took in.
She carefully laid him down on the provided scale, and he looked up at her with his big blue eyes.
As the digital numbers came into focus, Stephens frowned.
“Yeah, a sad .3 ounces,” she said, before a cheery voice corrected her.
“Three point four!” Dori Malone called out, meaning Baby Chi had eaten 3.4 ounces of breastmilk and was right on track. His mom looked relieved.
Malone is always happy to give that kind of reassurance. She and fellow Community nurse, Ali Reynolds, started this group together in 2019. They’re both International Board Certified Lactation Consultants, or IBCLCs, trained to help with all kinds of lactation issues.
Malone has worked with babies who have a hard time latching and mothers who worry they aren’t producing enough milk. Sometimes women grapple with social stigma surrounding breastfeeding, even in their own house.
“Some moms come to our support group and they're saying, ‘My family's pushing formula. I have to cover up. I have to go into another room when I'm breastfeeding,’” Malone said.
At the group, and also in the maternity wing, she wants to show women that breastfeeding is possible, even if they’re the first in their family to choose to do it.
Mother to three grown children, including twins, Malone knows how lonely parenting can feel. She had her first baby in Germany and for a time raised her small children in Colorado Springs, while her husband was stationed overseas.
She likens young motherhood to the intensity of college finals.
“That’s a week. This is forever,” she said, with a knowing laugh. “This goes on and on and on, and it is daunting. It is. You've got the hormones from your pregnancy. They’re balancing out. You've got sleep deprivation.”
And yes, she said, “it’s very emotional.”
A single mom named Molly, who wanted to just use her first name, feels it’s especially hard with your first baby.
It’s the transition from not having anyone need you, “and you’re just doing whatever you want all the time, to all of a sudden, having another human that is attached to you and needs that closeness,” she said. “It can be really difficult to adjust to that.”
For her, that famous saying really is true: It takes a village.
“And the village is not there,” Molly said. “You have to go look for it, and you shouldn't have to go look for it. It should be more readily available to you, I think.”
Because of this village, she was able to get through her breastfeeding challenges, and is proud to say she’s never used any formula with her baby, who is practically a toddler now.
But everyone’s breastfeeding journey looks different. Some mothers who come to the group supplement with formula. Some use it exclusively. Some want to breastfeed for years, others for months
A big part of this group, an “instant community,” as one mom described it, is letting mothers know that’s it all OK.
“It’s all beautiful,” said mother-of-two Veronica Felix. “It’s all parenting and motherhood.”
Along with individual lactation consultations, this group is part of why Felix has been so much more successful with breastfeeding her younger daughter than she was with her first.
These women were there for her when she was wading through those foggy, early postpartum days with her younger daughter, Juliet. Back then, the group felt like therapy.
“Like, we're all going through the same thing,” she said. “And it's tough, but it's also amazing,
Community Hospital’s breastfeeding support group has moved indoors for the winter. It meets from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays, usually at the hospital, with one monthly meeting at the Middle Wellness Center in Grand Junction. The group’s founders have also started a group that meets at Delta Library on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon and an online group that meets Mondays, also 10 a.m. to noon. For more information, contact Dori Malone, at (970) 644-3369.
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