by Memorie Gladstone, IMH-E®, CD, CLC Lead Outreach Doula
Hello, my name is Memorie Gladstone. I am an enrolled member of the Blackfeet tribe, a wife, and mother of four, soon to be five children. My breastfeeding journey started in 2003 when I became a proud mother of my eldest child. As a young new mother, I unfortunately did not have the lactation support that I needed, but I did not let that interfere with my commitment to breastfeeding. Growing up I witnessed my aunt tandem feeding my younger cousins, and this left a lasting impression on me when the time came to breastfeed my children. Throughout my breastfeeding journey, regardless of the lack of support, I continued to breastfeed my daughter for two years. Her growth stayed above the 90th percentile and the bond we created in this process was priceless. A lot of people thought I was spoiling my daughter and told me I should let her cry it out instead of always giving into her needs, but I didn’t listen to them and continued with our journey.
Five-years later, my second child was born via cesarean and was given formula in the hospital which created a barrier. It took a little longer to get my milk supply up because we missed two feedings. I continuously put my son to the breast, pumped, and didn’t give up. Our journey lasted for over a year, and he then weaned himself off of my breast. I was pregnant with my third child during this weaning process and the hormone change in my body also changed the flavor of my milk, which my son no longer desired and would nurse sparingly throughout this time. Eighteen months later, my third child was born and this time it was a bit of a struggle to breastfeed. My son was born several weeks early without the strength to stay at the breast, so pumping and extra stimulation was needed to build my milk supply. For the first three months of my son’s life, I pumped every 1.5 hours. I supplemented formula on top of my breast milk, but by three months he was able to fully breastfeed. There were times I was so exhausted during my recovery from a cesarean and wanted to just sleep through one pumping session, but my amazing husband encouraged me to keep going and our son needed my breast milk to thrive.
Through this journey, my WIC office witnessed my dedication to breastfeeding and suggested I apply for the first Breastfeeding Peer Counselor position to enter our indigenous community. I followed their suggestions and low and behold, I was offered the position. I learned a great deal about lactation during that chapter of my life and in 2014, when my fourth child was born, I fully breastfed him for three years. I received a lot of backlash about him being so old and still breastfeeding, but everything I learned about lactation informed me that he needed my breast milk for his brain growth, oral development and to build a strong immune system.
It has been over 18 years since my breastfeeding journey started and I am now a Certified Birth Doula, Lactation Counselor and Endorsed Infant Mental Health Specialist. When I started my journey, I never knew how life-changing it was going to be, not only for myself, but for my children. We now have a close bond, their immune systems have stayed strong, and they all have been on high levels for growth and education. I tell everyone I owe it all to breastfeeding. The stimulation, attachment and bonding we go through during this process is vital for the rest of their lives.
Through my breastfeeding journey, I found my profession and now give the support that I once needed to mothers in my community who are now facing the same barriers. Every child was different and there were so many hard moments, but I would do it all over again—it’s such a small timeframe in our lives and has prepared my children for the rest of their lives.
Learn more about the challenges and successes of breastfeeding from Valley caregivers:
- Overcoming the Challenges of Breastfeeding by Kathrina Chow, RN, IBCLC, a member of the Filipino community
- Celebrating National Breastfeeding Awareness Month by Sarah Davis, Clinic Supervisor, Kent Primary Care
- Celebrating Breastfeeding Success at Valley by lactation consultant Megan Stevens, DNP, RN-BC, IBCLC