Friday, June 17, 2011

Breastfeeding Take Two - Making the Unnatural, Natural

"There are no failures - just experiences and your reactions to them" -TomKrause (motivational speaker)

Wednesday I went over my experience with breastfeeding my son. I ran the gamut of emotions with it. I came out the other end wishing I had done better, but so thankful for what I had managed. With my daughter, I knew that I had to give it my best once again, but I was rather afraid of failure. September of 2010, Baby Boo was born. The birth experience itself was totally different than my first. I had a rather uncomplicated VBAC and pushed for less than 20 minutes. Once she was out, she was immediately placed on my chest where she remained for over an hour before she was cleaned and checked by the midwife. I got the same baby high that I had the first time I held my son, and Baby Boo latched on beautifully within a few minutes.
My precious girl just a few minutes old

It was a wonderful first day yet again, but I wasn't naive enough to think it couldn't change. Sure enough, a little past the second night, the pain started. Baby Boo was more ravenous than I remembered her brother being. She was doing a number on my nipples. I braced for the worst once again. In the hospital I saw a lactation specialist who once again told me that I was doing everything right. Not convinced, I made an appointment with a different lactation specialist outside of the hospital's system. She confirmed that her latch was textbook perfect. I guess I was just particularly sensitive so I braced myself for the next several weeks worth of pain. Sure enough, it took a whole 6 weeks worth of the razor-blade-to-the-nipples feeling for me to have a good breastfeeding experience. Just like last time, my breast pump was my best friend and made continuing even possible.

As much as the pain factor sucked big time, that was not my biggest concern. I was super worried that my baby would not do well on my breast milk, just like her brother. It didn't help that Baby Boo was smaller than my first at birth by a whole pound. She had less that she could afford to lose. I insisted on a weight check after 1 week to see how she was doing. She had gained over a pound since birth so clearly she was doing well. At the 6 week appointment, she was still doing great and I was so relieved. She still looked so petite to me but she was gaining properly. At that point I was able to set aside my own fears of "failure" and enjoy feeding my baby. So I did!
1 month old Baby Boo looking petite but growing at a good pace.

Almost 6 months old - filled out considerably.

Feeding Baby Boo was absolute bliss after that. I felt so connected to her, and I am proud of myself for sticking to my guns. I was able to experience sides of breastfeeding that I never did with my son since we stopped at a relatively early age. Distracted nursing is a frustrating though somewhat amusing example. Not amusing at all is teething in the last month and a half. I am proud to say that we made it to 6 months exclusively on breast milk. Past that point, she started solids, and did the very occasional bottle of formula. I do love my pump for helping me through the painful early weeks of breastfeeding, but I hate pumping. At the 6 month mark I decided to stop making an effort to pump which meant that my stash in the freezer started to dwindle.

While I am home (or out) with the kids most of the time, there are several occasions each week where someone else watches my kids. For example, my in-laws have a day with the kids every Monday from about 3-8pm. I like to go to the gym and use their daycare, and I prefer to leave them with a bottle rather than be interrupted in the middle of a class to go feed Baby Boo. I like to have a social life and on occasion, leave the kids with my parents to go spend time with girlfriends. . . or go on a date with my husband. All these away times started to add up and once I stopped pumping I had to introduce some formula. I admit I was sad about her first bottle, but I am not sad about it anymore. It is what it is and my little girl is thriving much like her brother.
In her 8th month, she started to become more difficult to feed. She was VERY distracted most of the time which meant I would have to go to a quiet, often dark room just to be able to get through a feeding. That can be a challenge with a rambunctious 2 year old in the mix. Baby Boo has always been rather rough, and that was only getting worse with age. I was having occasional flash backs to the early weeks sometimes. Slowly we have been doing more and more formula and only do 1 (maybe 2) breast-feedings a day now. I think we may be done fairly soon.

I thought I would be more upset about it, but I'm not. I think I have learned to let go enough by now that I don't stress about specific goals. I gave it a very good run with her and loved the experience. I feel validated personally since she is did so well being exclusively breast fed. In retrospect, I sometimes wonder if I just didn't give it enough of a chance with my son. That is a bad road to go down though. The past is what it is. There is no point in wallowing in regret. I learned from my experience and was able to turn the next into something very positive. Whenever I have another child I will once again give it my all and hopefully it will go as well as it did this time.

I am thankful that I was able to breastfeed both of my kids for at least a while; there certainly are plenty of women who have legitimate reasons for not being able to. It is amazing to me how unnatural this natural process has felt at times. Many women require help with breastfeeding, particularly in the early weeks. Heck, I'm positive I wouldn't have made it very long without my breast pump and that certainly is as unnatural as you can get. On the other hand, once I hit my stride with breastfeeding my babies, it felt like the most amazing and natural thing in the whole world. Definitely worth the pain of the first few weeks for me, but I can understand why it isn't for everyone.

Now that I am close to done with breastfeeding her, I am looking forward to having my body back. People who haven't breastfed before may not understand that concept. The hormones during breastfeeding can be wild which affect you physically and emotionally. Though life is never the same again after having children, it is nice to feel like your old self in at least some ways.

Addendum - We made it past a year!


  1. The kids are adorable! :) great job on breastfeeding thus far, and with Kaelan too. We can only do our best. and some is better than none! My second experience in labor and breastfeeding was so much easier. That's just the way it goes.
    you're a wonderful momma!! :)

  2. Thanks Robin. I always admired how long you managed to pump at work for P. You are a rather amazing momma yourself!


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