We recently welcomed baby number two into our family. I’ve blogged before about the differences between my two pregnancies and how we tried to prepare our first-born for the impending arrival of her little sister. By the time the new baby was scheduled to arrive, I felt pretty confident that we were ready to handle the craziness that comes with having two small children. The only area of concern I had pertained to how I was going to actually feed the baby.
Breastfeeding was my first preference – we all know the benefits of breast milk – but with my track record, I was a little nervous to go down that road again. I feared that I’d have a similar experience and with a small toddler at home, I couldn’t fathom having to exclusively pump around the clock in order to give the new baby my milk. Like anything to do with parenting, there’s pressure to breastfeed (For six months! No, for a year! Two years!) but I typically try to ignore what everyone else says is “right” and focus on what’s going to work for myself and my family. I wanted to at least try again but knew bottle feeding would be more than OK, too, if that’s how things ended up.
We’re now six weeks in, and I am successfully breastfeeding my littlest bundle of joy. We’ve had a few struggles but for the most part, it’s going well. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:
Every Baby is Different
With my first daughter, nursing became painful very quickly due to what I now know was an incorrect latch. From the get-go, Leighton was a champion nurser. She latched right away, and it seemed like we both learned how to do it correctly rather quickly. Not to mention, Leighton was a half pound heavier and her head was an inch bigger than her sister which, I’m convinced, helped her feed correctly from the beginning. Bigger head = bigger mouth. I mean, it just makes sense.
Knowledge is Power
The first time around, I had a less-than-stellar experience with the hospital lactation consultants. This time, I knew what to expect and had an idea as to what questions I needed/wanted to ask while we were in that surrounding. By the end of Leighton’s first day, I made sure the lactation consultant stayed in my room for an entire feeding. I ensured her latch was correct and asked about different positions to make sure we were both comfortable.
Support is Key
Six days after she was born, I took the baby to a support group offered by the hospital. My milk came in on day 2 and toward the end of the first week, I was sore and getting concerned we were headed toward breastfeeding failure. I was a little leery at first but the support group was actually helpful! Who would have thought, right? They had me feed the baby while I was there so they could see and address any issues. We weighed the baby before and after her feeding to make sure she was getting enough to eat.
We had what seemed to be a two week honeymoon period with our newborn. She slept most of the time and nursed on both sides at each feeding like a good little girl. Around 3 weeks old, she got a little lazy and would fall asleep during feedings and end up nursing only on one side. She would wake up hungry after an hour or so, which meant she wanted to eat every 90 minutes. Not cool. This was also the time where my milk supply seemed to be increasing rapidly and I became uncomfortable when she wouldn’t empty each breast. Fearing engorgement and mastitis, I started pumping to get some relief. Pumping signals your body to make even more milk therefore we struggled with a forceful letdown, too. Leighton sounded like she was drowning at the start of each feeding, which made her very mad, obviously. Feedings became more stressful and I thought about throwing in the towel, but I stuck with it. She still tends to only want to eat on one side at each feeding but my body seemed to regulate a little bit to match her feeding habits.
I Still Don’t LOVE It…
I know breastfeeding comes natural to a lot of women. A lot of women would also say that breastfeeding is this magical time in their lives where they feel most bonded with their child. I’ve had to really put forth an effort to make it work and, honestly, I could take it or leave it. I thought for sure that if I could breastfeed successfully and comfortably, I’d experience the same euphoric feelings some moms describe when they’re nursing. But I didn’t. I don’t. Yes, I’m proud that I gave it another try and I’m very glad that it seems to be going well, but feedings aren’t my most favorite time of day. In fact, I’m still pumping every so often so my husband can give the baby a bottle, and I can give myself a break. Sometimes it’s downright daunting to have someone latched on to you 10 times a day!
What I love is watching her develop and learn something new each day. I love watching her sister run over to give her kisses and form a bond that will hopefully last a lifetime. And what I love most is that you can experience these things whether you breastfeed or not.