An interview with Deanna Barnes
Deanna Barnes works in Chicago in advertising technology sales and lives with her husband of twelve years and her three kids: Avery (age 8), Bennett (age 6), and Greyson (age 3).
We sat down to talk about her breastfeeding experience and how it changed with each baby. From setting breastfeeding goals early to pumping all across the country, this resourceful working mom knew from the start that she wanted to breastfeed each baby for 12 months. Here’s her story.
Can you tell me a little bit about your breastfeeding journey?
I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I come from a Black mother who did not breastfeed – maybe it was her generation, but it wasn’t a focus. She knew she was going to formula feed before she left the hospital. I breastfed all my children for a year, and as a working mom that definitely had its challenges.
Two things takeaways from breastfeeding:
- Breastfeeding is not as intuitive as you would think. I needed help in the hospital with a lactation specialist. I needed help when I got home with a lactation specialist. It’s not intuitive. I can remember crying but pushing through.
- Secondly, the first kid teaches you a lot. We really learned it all together. With my second and third, I had some great lactation specialists who said: “Every baby is a different dance partner,” and I just remembered that throughout the process whenever it got hard.
Are there any moments that stand out when you think back on breastfeeding?
Those 3 a.m. quiet nights, nursing in a rocking chair while listening to a podcast. I remember just thinking, “This is really nice.” As many challenges as there were along the way, when it came time to end, I was very sad.
There is no bond like the bond created when you’re breastfeeding. I knew I was going to miss that time together. That’s why I love the infant and newborn stage so much — you don’t get that back and it’s just the best time.
Was it challenging to be caring for other kids while also breastfeeding your second and third kid?
Oh yes. And don’t forget to throw a pandemic into the mix. When I had my first two, I was the working, parenting mom. I pumped in airplanes and Amtrak stations, in bathrooms and hotel gyms and cars. There was so much transporting of milk. I’ve had my milk dumped out by the TSA. There were many challenges.
But when my third kid was born, I had to do all that and navigate a new job. I had a two week orientation in New York with a three month old at home. So I pumped and used Milk Stork to ship all my milk back. It was a lot. I had alarms on my phone so I could pump at work, it required time management and planning. But if you’re a mom running a household you’re used to all that planning.
What specific issues did you face along the way?
Like I said earlier, it’s just not intuitive! I didn’t intuitively understand the latching part and it was so painful. But I had lactation specialists who taught me all kinds of different methods. That education aspect is important. We’re so vulnerable at that stage and open to everything. My biggest challenge was just knowing what to do, understanding supply and demand, etc. I feel so fortunate that I got that education because I know a lot of people don’t.
Did you ever have a moment where you thought, I can’t make it to 12 months?
Never. I had a freezer of milk. I feel very fortunate that I had enough supply. Every body is different, but I never had to supplement. I did everything possible so that I could make it to a year. And if there was a challenge, I always thought, “Ok how can I fix this?”
Do you have any messages to people who are preparing to breastfeed? Either for the first time or for another child.
Every kid is a new dance partner! Remember that, so you don’t put so much pressure on yourself. You have the kid who falls asleep on the boob and the other one who drinks drinks drinks. And don’t succumb to the pressure. If you feel you’ve reached the end of your journey in three months, kudos! If it’s one day, that’s great. Three months is better than nothing. One day is better than nothing.
It’s a lot to be a mom and take care of a little being. So do what works for you. In the end, the baby wants you happy and healthy and mentally stable first. Make the decisions you need to make to feel mentally stable and present.