Breastfeeding is one of those love/hate parts of motherhood that makes for a sticky subject to discuss on the blog. With our first daughter we started off beautifully, problem free, and had what I would have considered a magical breastfeeding relationship. Aubrey had a great latch, I never had any pain, and for the first two months she gained weight perfectly – even faster than normal. However, during month three problems arose. You can read all about our experiences in this post, and this one, and this one. I’m sure you can imagine that if our issues warranted three posts worth of writing and reflection, it was no small thing. So when my pregnancy with Eva started to wind down, there were a number of people that hesitantly asked if I would be breastfeeding again. Breastfeeding struggles don’t just affect mom, or just mom and dad. Sometimes they affect everyone involved in you and your little one’s lives.
The short answer was, yes I would be breastfeeding again, providing I was able to, but this time it came with a caveat. A promise to myself. This time I would not allow breastfeeding to become the stress and struggle it was last time. If it worked out, great. If it didn’t, I would happily embrace formula and rest happy in knowing I was absolutely doing what was best for my baby, and myself.
We’ve just reached the two month mark, the time that things went south with Aubrey, and things do feel different this time. I obviously don’t know how things will go from here, and I pray they continue as well as they have so far, but as I was nursing little Eva to sleep tonight, it sparked some thoughts about how things are this time around versus the first time.
This time I trust my body. This may have been the biggest problem in mine and Aubrey’s struggles. And unfortunately I feel it was fostered and festered by the pediatrician we had at the time. It’s a natural fear for breastfeeding mothers to worry about their littles getting enough to eat. You don’t get to see your milk in a bottle being emptied. You rely on those wet diapers, regular poops, a seemingly satisfied baby, and normal weight gain (which is only verified at doctors appointments unless you just happen to have a nice baby scale at home). The first time your baby is still fussy after nursing you immediately assume it’s because they are still hungry. If their weight gain slows, you immediately assume it’s because you aren’t producing enough. Pretty much, at least in my case, anything and everything that wasn’t just right led to my assuming my supply was not sufficient and my baby was unhappy and hungry. It didn’t matter how many articles I read that swore my body would produce for the needs of my child, I just knew that wasn’t true for me. This time around, I know for a fact that those articles were all right. Last time I was scared every time I pumped for fear that Aubrey would want to nurse right when I finished and I would be “empty.” This time I’m actually happy to pump before or at the same time as Eva nursing because I know my body is working to produce whatever she needs, to keep up with the milk that is being removed every time we pump or nurse, and the extra nursing and pumping can only help my supply.
This time I am not so rigid about a schedule and the eat, wake, sleep routine. I love a schedule. I think schedules are one of the best things you can do for your baby, but even more so for yourself. They allow your little one’s metabolism to regulate and their sleep to get organized meaning they learn to eat full meals at a time, and sleep well during naps and at night. Schedules allow mom and dad to actually be able to make plans and have a life. Schedules are magical. But schedules are meant to be more like guidelines I’ve decided, and this time around I’ve viewed them as such. I am a big Babywise advocate, and I strive to keep Eva on a routine that loosely follows the prescribed schedule. However, if she wants to nurse and it’s not the delegated time to nurse – I nurse, and I don’t worry about it. If she is still sleeping when it’s 8:00am and I was supposed to be feeding her at 7:00, I enjoy the extra sleep, and I don’t worry about it. If I need a nap, Aubrey is napping, and the only way to get Eva to nap is to let her nurse while I lay down and snooze, I catch those zzz’s, and I don’t worry about it. If she is fussy and nothing else will do, I nurse her, and I don’t worry about it. I nurse her to sleep every night, and I don’t worry about it. Do you get where I’m going with this?
This time I am more proactive about my supply and my freezer stash. I made sure to start pumping within those critical first two weeks. I started taking some herbal supplements to help give my supply a boost, even if I didn’t need it, because it gave me peace of mind, and it never hurts to have extra milk (and I’ve already managed to save over 400 extra ounces of milk in my freezer stash!). I pump regularly. And I’ve planned for the very likely possibility that I won’t be nursing in the traditional sense for a full year. We have a couple of trips planned for later in the year that Eva won’t be able to attend and I doubt I will be able to maintain a supply having to just pump during those extended times. That’s what the freezer stash and formula are for, and I’m more than ok with it.
This time I don’t really care if I make someone uncomfortable if I am nursing. I don’t hang my boobs out for the world to see, but I almost never use a cover anymore. Nursing cami’s have opened up a whole new, coverless world for me, and it’s awesome. I see ads and campaigns for normalizing breastfeeding everywhere I look these days. I don’t want to start a debate, but I don’t think we are normalizing anything by overly covering ourselves, or on the other extreme by hanging our boobs out for the world to see and expecting people to not react. Feeding our babies is normal, and breasts are made for that purpose, but I don’t think we can deny that they have a sexual purpose too. And that’s ok. I often think the best approach to normalizing breastfeeding is to just, act normal when you’re doing it. No one in my family breastfed really, and understandably the first time around both my father and I were pretty uncomfortable being in each other’s presence when I nursed Aubrey. I’ve realized this time the bigger deal I make of it, the more awkward it is for him, and for anyone that might not be familiar with breastfeeding. It’s not their faults, and forcing it in their faces doesn’t really help. I go about my business, hoping I don’t have a nip slip, but not really stressing if I do, and so far it’s been much better. I’m happy to report my dad and I are actually able to have full conversations now during Eva’s feedings and neither of us seem to bat and eye. I think people are as comfortable with your breastfeeding as you are, and I’m happy to say I am much more comfortable with it this time.
This time I don’t have any expectations. I’m super happy if breastfeeding works out better this time around. I’m also happy if it doesn’t and we turn to formula. I’m happy if we make it nursing for a year, but I’m also ok if it’s just six months. Aubrey didn’t love nursing, Eva really does. Nursing Aubrey was a very structured and new experience, nursing Eva is just another thing, and I don’t think too much about it.
This time I’m trying to take it all in and enjoy it. Feeding your baby is a beautiful thing, whether it’s by bottle or breast. Last time every feeding session brought so much anxiety it wasn’t until we quit breastfeeding that I was really able to relax and enjoy feeding Aubrey. I’m so thankful that hasn’t been the case this time. If I can, I go into the nursery and rock Eva while she nurses, and I sit back and take that time to chill out, zone out on my phone, read, or just watch her little face. This is our last baby, and after my previous experience I understand that my nursing time could be cut short, so I don’t want to take any of it for granted. I still don’t love having to get up in the middle of the night, but I also don’t mind it too much either. The day (night) will come, probably all too soon, when she won’t need me at night anymore. I will welcome it with both relief and a bit of sadness. But for now I’ll continue to basque in the pink salt lamp glow of the night, listening to her funny little grunts and watching her contented face while she eats. Those are our own special little moments that no one else gets to enjoy.
I hope this offers a little encouragement to someone out there. I hope wherever you are in your breastfeeding journey that you can find peace in that place and with yourself and your body. We mothers all just want what is best for our babies, and though it may look different to each and every one of us, we can unite in that common goal. Good luck out there mamas!