It's Working Project

“That is part of the reason I chose labor and delivery...I realized how important that first contact is for mom and baby.”

A Labor and Delivery Nurse Shares Her Own Breastfeeding Story


Suzanne Chan knew how to be a champion breastfeeder. “I am the one that they go to at work when they have questions,” she said. She works as a labor and delivery nurse at a Long Island hospital, and breastfed each of her first two children for 2.5 years. So she was unprepared for breastfeeding problems of her own with her third child.

“I have been breastfeeding pretty much for the last 8 years of my life with very minimal breaks in between,” she said. “But my last one was my biggest struggle. The first two were natural breastfeeders, it was great.” With her first child, Ava, Suzanne stayed at home. With her second, Marcus, she was going back to school full time for an accelerated nursing program.

“School was great,” she said. “They let me pump during classes. They made a room available to me, I somehow got through an entire year exclusively breast feeding.”

But with her third child, Lucas, Suzanne was working a full-time hospital schedule: three days a week for 13-15 hour shifts. “My job is incredibly stressful. There were days I was engorged, so busy, I couldn’t get anything out because I was so stressed out. At one point, my supply dropped significantly and I was trying everything to build it back up.”

It took incredible persistence on her part, including a week and a half of crying and encouraging her son to nurse. “He finally gave in,” she said.

But the lesson has stayed with Suzanne, especially as more women open up to her about their own breastfeeding struggles. “Everyone’s situation is unique and so personal. I tell them, it’s so mental. If you are stressed out it’s not going to come. I have moms who are staring at the pump and watching every drip drop. They don’t realize they are making it worse. That is why we say look at a picture or watch a video. Those things appeal to you emotionally. That is the connection you have with your baby. So many moms think it’s your boob and it should work right away and it’s tough.”

And for some moms, struggles with breastfeeding may mean coming up with a new plan. Suzanne spoke of a friend who struggled to breastfeed and needed to find an alternative. “I had to sit down with my friend and say, ‘You are doing everything, you are going crazy.’ She was trying teas, pumping hourly, putting the baby on the breast all day. She was crying to me and felt like a complete failure. She has to do what is best for her and her baby. She was miserable, he was miserable. She is a good mom, she loves the baby. We are all here to be supportive to one another.”

Suzanne still hasn’t decided when she will wean Lucas, if she will make it to 2.5 years like she had with her older two children, but she’s channeling her passion for supportive breastfeeding environments into her work.  “That is part of the reason I chose labor and delivery, helping the new moms. I realized how important that first contact is for mom and baby.” Suzanne has joined her hospital’s breastfeeding task force, to help the hospital receive “baby-friendly certification,” a tough certification to receive, which takes into account the percentage of exclusively breastfed babies.

“We try and do everything with mom and baby together to minimize separation,” she said. So far it seems to be working. And for Suzanne, even if she doesn’t make it to her goal time with Lucas, she knows she’s done the best she can. “I have a lot of really supportive friends who have said ‘you’ve done an amazing job, it’s okay if it ends. It’s okay if it stops.’ This is the last child, though. It’s the last time I’ll be breastfeeding.”