Angie Forsett, wife of Baltimore Raven’s Justin Forsett, and former member of the United States National Volleyball team, has a “fake it till you make it” attitude about breastfeeding. A star athlete in her own right, she’s one of the most inspiring moms we’ve ever met, and her message about breastfeeding? So inspiring, in fact, that we made them both Champions for Moms in 2014 and invited them to speak at the W.K. Kellogg Foundations’ First Food Forum in 2014. We’ve reprinted her speech below because it’s THAT GOOD. At the time, their only son, Judah, was 13 months. Their second son, Zion, was born on Valentine’s Day 2014 – practically in the car on the way to the birthing center …READ ON!~
From the First Food Forum
I don’t want to share too much about the problems I faced in the early days of breastfeeding – a shallow latch that led to nipple soreness, a nurse that offered me formula instead of help in correcting Judah’s latch — because I’d rather share about what has helped me most to still be nursing my 13 month old son.
The first is mindset. As an athlete, I have to work on my mindset all the time. What that looks like is staying focused on the game, in the moment, and positive. Telling myself I can handle it, today is this day only. You also need to have the right expectations — I knew that facing some breastfeeding challenges was NORMAL, it might be difficult but I could do it even if I had to take it a few hours at a time. These are the kinds of attitudes I relied on to help get me through the beginning when my son had a shallow latch and we struggled. And in the end, I came to know once again, that I was stronger and more powerful than I thought. In fact, women are stronger and more powerful than they think! There is no workout that is more challenging than an unmedicated birth and breastfeeding in my book!
The second is role models. I was blessed. My mother breastfed me and was there to support me all the way. I know that this is rare, that most of our mothers were robbed of the opportunity to nurse their babies. In fact, I know that our whole culture was robbed of the opportunity to nurse our babies. What we can do is make sure that we are tapping into as many role models as we can, whether that means our sisters and our friends, celebrities, or athletes. It means finding ways to help more mothers tap into the role models in this room! You are role models!
The third is trusting my instincts — what I knew was best for my baby. I had done the research, chose a midwife and a doula, and benefited from my own mother’s experience, but still there were people and influences around me who might have thrown Justin and I off our plan if I didn’t trust my gut. When the hospital kept pushing formula on my brand new son with no other explanation than he “seems hungry,” I said “no thank you”. I knew that protecting his gut was a priority and that introducing formula, if he didn’t really need it, was not protecting it!
And the fourth, but certainly not the last, is having a partner who has backed me and my game plan 100% the whole way through. I had no idea that even with all of the support from my family, and with all of the preparing that I did, that there would still be these huge disconnects between the message “breast is best,” and the reality that there are Booby Traps lurking behind corners you didn’t know existed once that baby is here. I needed the person who was right there with me in the middle of the night, this baby’s father, to trust me and my judgment. And he delivered on that completely. Together we have made a great team.
We recently sat down with Angie to learn more about her breastfeeding experiences.
BfB: You birthed your second son, Zion, practically in the car on the way to the Birthing Center….was early breastfeeding as seamless as that? Did you have any initial or later challenges?
Angie: Ha!! Breastfeeding was a breeze compared to that craziness! Zion latched right on like a pro..he was very eager and this time around I helped him get into correct positioning. Yes, he favored one side over the other and I struggled with some clogged ducts. I asked my doula what to do and I just nursed him on the clogged side, it was painful but only for a few days until the clog passed. Editor’s note: for more information on clearing a clogged duct, click here!
BfB: Each breastfeeding relationship is different. How has breastfeeding Zion been different from breastfeeding Judah?
Angie: With Judah I was just in awe that my body produced milk! I would look down at him snuggling up to my breast and just look in disbelief that I was his sole source of food. He didn’t take a pacifier so I was his comfort too. Z is different because he has a best friend named thumb! Hahahaha. So while I still get to gaze into his eyes as I watch him drink milk from my body, he comforts himself with his thumb. Maybe he will be my independent child.
BfB: Some say that breastfeeding is a spiritual experience — do you feel that it has inspired change in you?
Angie: Maybe not spiritual but I would say empowered. It’s crazy that we are able to meet all of our babies/ toddler needs by using what our bodies natural abilities. Even though I went through ups and downs nursing, I was always determined because I knew that body was meant to do this! Being an athlete you have to be confident. I’ve always been confident in my athletic abilities so I used that same thought process with nursing. I use to tell myself “fake it till you make it” when I was having a bad day in the gym, so when I had a rough time nursing I would encourage myself and think about the power that I possessed in being able to nurse my child. It’s a wonderful, awesome experience that has strengthened my resolve in all aspects of my life.
BfB: What motivates you to stick with breastfeeding? What keeps you going when the going gets tough (busy mom to two)?
Angie: I don’t like washing bottles! Like seriously, I like the ease of just feeding wherever without having to do any prep work. Also, the health benefits for both myself and the boys. It’s just so crucial in these early years that they receive the most nutrient dense foods and our milk is the perfect source! Nursing is a treat for me, I love it. Even when I’m tired, nursing doesn’t take any more energy out of me, and it actually gives me a chance to chill out and focus on what I have to do next.
BfB: Any funny or poignant moments of Judah while Zion nurses?
Angela: I weaned Judah at 20 months so I didn’t expect him to want to nurse when Z arrived. When I would nurse Z, he would lift my shirt and try to latch on! He was so cute that I thought about just letting him back on, but then I didn’t want to open that door because there would be no closing it.
BfB: What’s your best memory of Judah breastfeeding? And what’s going to be your best memory of Zion breastfeeding?
Angie: Around 6 months Judah began to squeeze my breast to have the milk come out faster. It was hilarious to me, he would tap it and squeeze as if he was drinking a Capri-Sun. I still remember looking down in disbelief that a baby would know to do that. Z attempts to have the nipple and his thumb in his mouth at the same time! It’s amazing that he’s able to pull that off!
BfB: What would you say to an expecting mom who is considering her feeding options but has reservations about how to make breastfeeding work in her busy life?
Angie: Get in a community that supports breastfeeding! I think that many women think nursing will be easy and in some cases it is seamless but in many it’s not. And for those that struggle, you need people around you that can give advice or encouragement to continue. Our lives are busy and complicated, but if you have people around you that are constantly uplifting you and telling you can do it, you will be more successful. Be transparent and voice your struggles and triumphs – you’re never alone in this journey!