Postpartum University® Podcast

Breastfeeding Trauma and Planning for Postpartum with Jessi Sletten

August 15, 2021 Maranda Bower, Postpartum Bliss Coach  Episode 21
Postpartum University® Podcast
Breastfeeding Trauma and Planning for Postpartum with Jessi Sletten
Show Notes Transcript

For full show notes go to

Jessi Sletten is joining us today on the podcast. She is a trauma-informed Postpartum Empowerment Coach, a Certified Lactation Counselor, and a Certified Postpartum Nutrition Coach. She helps moms exchange surviving for thriving through creating holistic postpartum recovery plans focused on healing, nourishing, and bonding.

The story that Jessi is sharing today is eye-opening to the trauma you can have during postpartum breastfeeding. She has so much to share about her journey on healing in postpartum after her first baby, all the way to her journey of having baby number two. Come listen in and make sure you don’t miss the free resource that she has for moms-to-be. Be sure to share any thoughts you have on this episode in a review and follow so you don’t miss the weekly release of episodes!

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In this episode, I’m sharing with you:

  • Introducing Jessi
  • Sharing her story 
  • Focusing so much on the birth plan and nothing after that
  • Struggling with breastfeeding
  • Helping moms feel empowered before they feel like they’re drowning
  • Too much focus is on the birth & not enough on the healing after
  • Wanting to breastfeed & how it goes sets the stage for postpartum
  • Not being able to breastfeed made her feel like a failure
  • Breastfeeding trauma
  • Trauma is in the eye of the beholder
  • When what you had envisioned falls apart
  • I cannot let my past dictate my future
  • Work with a lactation professional 
  • You can't move on until you've healed yourself
  • Nutrition healed me from the inside out
  • The shame attached to postpartum trauma
  • Prepare the tools and the support systems beforehand
  • Check out Jessi’s class called Surviving to Thriving: Creating Your Postpartum Plan Masterclass

- Holistic Postpart

Feeling inspired and ready to learn more about how you can actively revolutionize postpartum care?

We all get it: postpartum and the years after having a baby is no walk in the park. But you know what? It isn't just about depression or anxiety either.

Hey, my friend! I'm Maranda Bower, a homesteading mama with four wild kids. My life's passion and education is all about supporting mothers and providers in understanding the science, the art, and the sacredness of healing after birth. What we know as common sense in the postpartum years has many women feeling just plain awful. It's time to bring back the truth and get you the tools you need to heal and thrive in motherhood and beyond.

Hello, my friends. Welcome to the postpartum circle podcast. I'm Maranda Bower and I have here a special guest with us. Her name is Jesse Sleaton. She is a trauma-informed postpartum empowerment coach, a certified lactation counselor, and a certified postpartum nutrition coach through my postpartum nutrition certification program. So, I'm telling you guys, she is legit! And she helps moms exchange, you know, surviving for thriving, through creating holistic postpartum recovery plans that are focused on healing, nourishing, and bonding.

So, welcome, Jesse!

“Thank you. I'm so honored to be here. I'm excited.” 

Well, I have had the privilege of working with you for some time, and I love watching your family grow as well as your business. In today's episode, in honor of breastfeeding awareness month, why don't you tell us a little bit about what you do and what got you so passionate about this?

“Yes, so my journey is, like most of us, a very personal one. I got into the postpartum field after having my first son. I experienced things that I didn't prepare for. I really, really focused so much of my time and attention on my birth plan and really what that would look like, what I wanted, you know? I did all my research when it came to how I wanted to deliver and all these things, and I just had this image in my mind about how my own birth into motherhood was going to happen. And when the time came, I actually really struggled immediately following the birth of my son. I was so excited to start my breastfeeding journey, and I had done all the classes and done all this prep for breastfeeding, but it didn't go well for me. We had a lot of really hard struggles from the moment I tried to latch in for the first time. And so, that really impacted so much of my experience in postpartum because I really believe it was kind of a catalyst into my mental health following the birth of my son.

“I really struggled with that journey, and I became passionate about learning everything I could to help support my own breastfeeding journey but also helping other moms through those same struggles. My passion really was to try to help mitigate that experience for other women because it was very isolating, and it was very disappointing. I just felt in some ways that I had failed, even though I knew on a logical level that that wasn't true. It felt like my body was failing me, and that wasn't the truth. But it's really hard to see that when you're in the moment. So that experience really led me to want to make an impact with other moms in the postpartum realm and try to help them feel empowered before they're drowning. And so that's really kind of what brought me to where I am today and why I'm so passionate about working with moms in this really vulnerable time.”

I think your story resonates with so many women because I know, for my own self and what I see in my clients, it's like when you spend so much time prepping for the birth, we don't spend any time prepping for postpartum unless it involves our baby, like buying the best stroller, the car seat, getting all the gear, but nothing really about healing. And then, it's like when breastfeeding doesn't go well, nothing goes well. Everything becomes significantly harder. And I can attest to that in my own journey.

I remember specifically, after the birth of my son, it was a week later, and my mother-in-law came to visit, and she was so upset with us. That energy—she wanted to be at the birth, she missed the birth, and then it was quite the mother-in-law experience at the time. Thankfully, I'm remarried and have an amazing mother-in-law, but it was really difficult. It was really challenging, and that energy in itself—I mean, my husband at the time was with me, and my baby latched, and it was like the worst thing in the world. And from there, I was just a bleeding wreck, and my whole baby postpartum fell apart. And so, maybe you can speak a little bit to that experience that we've all seemed to kind of share and resonate with.

Is that true for what you've experienced when breastfeeding doesn't go well? 

“Oh my gosh, yes. And I think this story is different for all of us, right? Like knowing our goals at the beginning, some of us choose not to want to breastfeed at the beginning, and that's fine. So that's not at the center of our experience. But for those of us that are wanting that experience, that really see it as setting the stage to our motherhood and being able to carry on from nourishing and growing this life force within our body to birthing that life force, and then to sustain the growth still with our bodies again. We just have this built up, and I feel like that's such an experience for so many moms that I work with. It's just that it sets the stage for their postpartum. It really does.

“And it's like that, I have this memory of when I was in the hospital after I delivered my son and I was so exhausted. I was induced for my first labor and it was a very long labor. And I was able to deliver vaginally, which was my goal, which was wonderful, but I was so spent. And I remember just like the pure exhaustion of trying to get him to latch and just it wasn't going well and I was in pain and I had all these experiences. I was so tired that I ended up dropping my son when I was trying to latch him. And thank God it was just inches from my breast to my lap in the hospital bed. But it was so traumatic for me that it was just like, oh my God, not only am I failing not being able to nourish my child, but now I have damaged him in some way by dropping him. And I just like, it was just this downward spiral of feeling more and more disappointed and angry at myself and like my body was failing me. I was failing my son and it just was, you know, that horrible cycle. It just like kept getting worse from there, you know? And I didn't see a way out. I didn't know how to try to get past that.

“And it kind of goes back to that control when you feel so out of control, you try to control everything and it just ends up, you end up not being able to control anything, you know? Because it's just, it's so hard. But yeah, I definitely see that and working with the women that I work with too, it just seems to be such a relevant theme is that breastfeeding is tied to that experience of how postpartum begins, you know?

Yeah, I appreciate you sharing that so, so much. And a lot of that I see in your work and the things that you are posting and in regard to pregnancy, I'll back up, in regard to breastfeeding trauma. Yes. And the importance of releasing it for future breastfeeding journeys. And so, a lot of times you're not working with first-time moms. That actually, you know, it's kind of rare even for myself to work with first-time moms. It's not until the second or third when they finally click, right? And they understand the significance of these pieces and planning for their postpartum and healing for their postpartum and getting that support. And I'm seeing this in your work as well and the things that you're sharing and posting about breastfeeding trauma.

Maybe you can speak a little bit on to that and the significance of it and really what we can do if that's something that we've experienced and we're in the throes of, you know, pregnancy and about to do this thing again, right? 

“Yeah, absolutely. And I think trauma, it's such a loaded word, right? And trauma is in the eye of the beholder. I don't know if you've heard that saying before, but that's something that's so true, you know, because when you're speaking about it, not a lot of people are like, what do you mean breastfeeding trauma? Like it just seems so odd unless you've had that experience because, you know, I really think that as women who really value what breastfeeding would mean for them as a mother and what that means for their child and that whole postpartum experience, when that doesn't go the way that you've built it up in your mind and you just see that what you had envisioned is just falling apart and you just feel like things are just falling apart around you that it's impactful. It has such an impact on how you feel about yourself, how you feel towards your child even, and then you start having these intrusive thoughts around your self-worth in just how you are feeling in so many ways.

“And it can really impact your next experience on being able to say, ‘Okay, I cannot let my past dictate my future.’ And I think that's something that's really important to try to understand and work through when you have that breastfeeding trauma is just because you've experienced something the first time, that does not mean that history has to repeat itself. Now, there might be some physical obstacles that you have to work through. And that's why it's so important working with a lactation professional who is really trained on these issues. Because I think so often moms are told that something is physically wrong or that they're doing something wrong. And then that's just one more thing that gets in the way. It impedes their ability to have a successful journey. Even if that journey and the success of that journey might look a little different than what you anticipate, babies come all different and same with our breastfeeding journeys. They're never all the same. And there's always going to be different things that you have to work through. But I always try to say, if you've had an experience that was traumatizing in your past with your breastfeeding journey, don't let that hold you back and create almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy of how your next breastfeeding journey could go. Because I think if you don't resolve those feelings and allow yourself to feel them and work through them and journal about that experience and talk out loud to other moms about your experience, then that healing can't happen. And you can't move forward. There's going to be that emotional wound that is still there that impacts the physical side of things and how that process might work with your next breastfeeding journey. So, resolving that is so crucial.”

Yes, 1000% yes. 

And not just with breastfeeding, I mean, that's something that can extend for labor and birth and for the postpartum period in general. And even in pregnancy, we don't even talk about pregnancy trauma as much, but there's so many different key pieces that you pulled out in just that short time.

And so, I hope you guys go back and re-listen to that if you need to. Maybe you can share with us a little bit about your own experience because you had, you know, this first experience dance, and you recently had another little one. So maybe you can share your journey about how you've come to heal, like what that was like and what you've done. Oh my gosh, it's like night and day. It really, really is. And I know that sounds so like cheesy, but I mean, this is why I'm so passionate about it because of my own healing journey.

“I can see and I've experienced the possibility of being able to work with someone like you, Maranda. I mean, honestly, meeting you is just, I couldn't have gotten to where I am without your guidance and your experience and being able to speak mother to mother. And you know, I came to you as a professional wanting to build my business, and it was so life-changing because you were like, ‘You know what, I see some trauma that we need to heal in yourself before you really can help heal other moms,’ and it was so true.

“And so, you know, I came to you, I said, ‘I want to do this business, I have a passion for it. Here was my experience.’ And we started working together and it was like, you know what, I came to realize from your guidance that you can't, you can't move on until you've healed yourself. And so working with you was incredible. I was able to really just make sure that my own self-care was at the forefront of my pregnancy from the beginning.

“And actually, I was with you before we had even conceived. We had been trying to conceive for over a year. I've had quite the journey to get to my second baby. And when it finally happened, we had already been working together. And so it was such blessed timing because I was able to really focus in on my nutrition. I was able to work through that trauma that I had experienced my first time and identify things that I didn't realize were affecting me even.

“And how I had subconsciously kind of built these walls around myself to try to protect myself from experiencing that again for the second time. Breaking down those walls and rebuilding something that was stronger, having my nutrition healing me from the inside out, and having my ability to sit and really be with myself and allow myself to feel the feelings I was feeling. For so long, I had almost had this shame attached to it. Like, ‘Oh, I can't believe I experienced feeling that way. I don't want to think about it, let's just move on.’ And that's not healthy, right?

“It doesn't allow that room for growth. You have to feel your feelings, you know? And that's something that you taught me. Like, it's okay to sit down and just ugly cry on the floor with your kids, you know? Like, if that's what you need to do to allow that release, it's so powerful letting that release happen and being able to acknowledge it. You can't change it, but you certainly could acknowledge it and be able to say, ‘What has this taught me, you know? And what can I learn from this instead of being ashamed about it or letting it rule how I move forward, you know?’

“Instead of letting it hold me back, how can I let it fuel me for this next pregnancy and this next postpartum experience and breastfeeding experience? And it was night and day, like I said. I mean, just being able to work through that, having my own healing a priority, having my own nutrition be at the top of my list, my rest. Rest was huge for me. With my first postpartum, I suffered anxiety, postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression. And I suffered with it for over a year. I never reached out for help. I was ashamed. I was ashamed of not being able to be that supermom, that perfect Insta mom, you know, and it kept me from healing.

“And so addressing that finally head-on and being able to have a plan and have that support to be able to have the postpartum that I always wanted with my second son was just, it's just amazing. Like I still get goosebumps just thinking about how beautiful of an experience it has been. So I appreciate you saying this. I was not expecting this to come up in this episode. I'm so grateful that you shared this mainly because, and I see this all the time, like if you're a professional and you're working in this field and you have some lingering things that are going on within you, it's going to impede your ways of supporting women and healing their bodies, plain and simple.”

And so when I work with professionals and when I support business owners, that's the first thing that I talk about. I just created, you know, a brand-new training, the Holistic Postpartum Nutrition for Professionals. It's an amazing training. And the first thing I say in there is, "You have to apply this to yourself. You have to apply this to yourself." And so if you're a professional out there listening to this, know that that is your number one step. And if you're a mom listening to this, note that this is a huge part of your healing journey is where your provider, your support team, like where are they in their healing journey?

“You know, they don't have to be completely healed just two steps ahead so that they don't carry that energy for you, that's absolutely huge.” 

So I appreciate you saying that. And sharing your journey with us, it's been quite a journey to watch.

"So one thing that you have always recommended is really preparing. Like you're super passionate about this, is preparing for this postpartum time. And I know that you have some really amazing goodies coming up for us. And so maybe you can share a little bit about prepping for postpartum and what you have in store for us."

Yes, I'm so excited. I try to do a quarterly masterclass or workshop that's totally free to help support moms create an empowering postpartum experience for themselves."

And that is tied back to what you said: preparing as much as possible. Now, don't get me wrong, birth happens, and things can go crazy, right? Just like with a birth plan, you can't be tied to your birth plan as set in stone. But if we can at least prepare the tools and the support systems that we need, that are crucial for us to be able to focus in on our own healing during the postpartum time, it makes such a difference. Such a difference. Because then when we're in the thick of it, when we're tired and overwhelmed, we can go back to that plan we created when things were a little less stressful. And we can say, "Okay, who was my lactation support that I wrote down and identified ahead of time because I'm running into latching issues?" Or "Okay, who was gonna help with the carpool for the older kids because I had to get stitches or I had an emergency C-section?" or whatever might have happened that threw off your original plan. You had these structures in place and you thought about that and put the time into it ahead of time.

And so this workshop is really all around creating what I call the five-pillar postpartum plan. And I walk through each one of those pillars and their importance and what you need to do as a preparing mom to ensure that your postpartum is going to be supported and that your self-care, your healing, is at the center of your postpartum experience. And so I love this master class; it's always so fun for me to do. I do it live as an offering, and then I record it so that I can set that out as kind of like a freebie offer for moms who are wanting to prepare for their postpartum before they're actually in the thick of things, in survival mode. It's really what I call my "Surviving to Thriving: Creating Your Postpartum Plan Master Class" because that's really the goal of it — to try to keep you out of that "barely surviving" mode and into a time of bonding, healing, nourishment, and recovery so that you can really have a postpartum experience that you are enjoying. And so I'm excited to be able to offer that live session recording for anybody who is needing that kind of support.

Yes, so if you are pregnant and listening in, or maybe even in the first week or two of your postpartum experience, this is a must. You have to go check out Jesse's work here because what she is doing — we have so many decisions to make in pregnancy and postpartum — often takes us out of our body and into our brain. And we're not able to truly enjoy this sacred, yummy time that postpartum really is. This time to bond, when we're having to make all of these decisions and plan B's and figure out what we're going to do when we have these responsibilities, it really takes away from the overall experience. And quite frankly, it takes away from your own healing. And that impacts your life, your hormones, through menopause. And so it's so, so important to really take the time to plan through and make a lot of these decisions in advance. Which is really what you're doing. And here are some tools that you want to have on hand, so that when postpartum comes, you're not running off to Target; you're not doing all of these other things. You're able to sit back and do the enjoying part, which is exactly what you should be doing postpartum.

"Exactly, I couldn't agree more. Yeah, exactly."

I have a freebie for everyone. I'm going to make sure that that is attached. So everybody here is going to be able to find your link in the show notes. Thank you so much for being here, Jesse. I really appreciate your time. I love your energy and all the work that you are doing. I'm also going to be sharing your social media handles and where to find you because the content that you are posting is phenomenal. I love you and everything that you're doing, so thank you so much.

"Thank you! I've had a wonderful time chatting, and I'm excited. Thank you!"

Thanks for tuning in and taking the time to learn about how to support your body in deep healing. We don't do this work just for us, or for you. Your healing impacts your children, your relationships, and your community. We do this work because the health and vibrancy of our world begins with its mothers. I hope you've taken some valuable information today and applied it to your own life. 

If you aren't sure where to begin, reach out about working together one-on-one, or at minimum, learn about my postpartum nutrition plan, which is where I start every single one of my clients. And you can do that by going to Hope you enjoyed this episode. Let us know by leaving a review, and we will see you next time.