Friday, August 2, 2013

Why I Didn't Hate Breastfeeding The Second Time Around.

I have been wanting to write about my breastfeeding journey with Maclane for such a long time now but each time I would sit down to start writing, I would end up staring blankly at the screen willing the words to come. 

In case you're unaware, August 1-7th is World Breastfeeding Week and after receiving the following email from a reader, I thought that now is as good a time as any to try and write about my experience.  I don't typically share reader emails on here but I thought it might help set the tone for my post. You can read the post I wrote last year during this time here. It was pretty awesome to look back on seeing as how far we've come.

"I think it is so amazing that you have been able to breastfeed your second one for so long!  If you're up for it I would love a post that talks about the differences between the breastfeeding experience with your first and second.  I feel like you have alluded to it in the past, but that the experience with your first was starkly different?  I think it's so refreshing to see someone "normal" (aka not granola-y) breastfeeding so successfully!"
When I was pregnant with my first baby, I armed myself with every available resource that offered advice on pregnancy, newborns, child-rearing and breastfeeding. As I counted kicks, I soaked up information. Things to do, things not to do. What's best, what's not. To this day I still have nearly fifteen books downloaded to my Kindle, each of them flagged and highlighted with important pieces of information that I knew would help me be a successful breastfeeding mother with a happy baby who slept through the night. 

And then my son was born and just as all new mothers are told, it was imperative that he come to my breast immediately after birth, which, if your birth happens to be a C-section, ends up being about an hour later. He latched beautifully. I thought to myself, "I've got this! This is so easy!" I was on cloud nine. 

My milk came in just as the books said it would and came in it did. By the morning of day three, I was painfully engorged up to my chin. So much so that it made latching nearly impossible. Paired with a nearly ten pound baby who preferred sleep over food, I encountered my very first hurdle. 

Everywhere I turned lactation consultants were urging me to wake the baby even though in my gut I felt like I should let him be. I tickled his feet, stripped him naked, ran my finger up and down his spine and soaked him with cold wash cloths all the while he cried. At 6am the day of our discharge, a physician walked in and threatened that he would need formula immediately if he lost any more weight.  

"But formula isn't best, I thought!" No where in any of those books did it say that. So we persevered. I cried and he cried. In between tears, we met with overly pushy lactation consultants who manhandled both me and my baby. Through it all, I thought to myself, "but this is best." 

Four months later, I would finally come to understand that that isn't always the case. 

We were discharged from the hospital and against all orders, I found comfort in using a nipple shield. In those early weeks, I felt like all I did was nurse a baby and in retrospect  it's because that's all I did do. Like many new moms, I hesitated leaving my house for the thought of having to nurse him in public made me nauseous. Every two hours I would nurse him for what felt like an eternity. It was painful and it was exhausting and when I look back on our four month breastfeeding journey, I realize that neither of us were really happy about it. 

I looked at it like a chore. Something that I had to do for the sake of my baby because all of the books told me to. I didn't enjoy it and truth be told, neither did he. I pumped in between feedings. He preferred one side over the other and I forced him to eat from both. I pumped and fed through sore, cracked nipples, uncomfortable positions and an uninterested baby. My toes curl when I think back to this time. 

It was awful. 

Three and a half months into our journey, my supply took a dive. It became an issue of supply versus demand and I couldn't keep up with my hungry baby. I started him on formula and never once looked back. It was the best decision I could have made for the both of us. A year later I wrote this post, documenting what it felt like to be a formula feeding mother

I wouldn't change my journey with my first baby for the world. The decisions I made for the two of us made me a better mother. I'm grateful for the length of time that I did breastfeed him and I'm grateful that I was able to overcome the guilt I would feel starting him on formula. 

The only person who can truly make you feel guilty is yourself. It is because of this reason that I didn't set lofty breastfeeding goals with my second. I told myself, "let's make it to six weeks and reevaluate." I felt confident in the decision that if it didn't work out that it was going to be OK. That we would both be OK. 

I met with one lactation consultant after the birth of my second baby. After my first experience with them, I vowed to give them a second chance. Unfortunately, I was so turned off by this woman's bedside manner that I felt more comfortable seeking help from my nurses and friends who had been through the same journey. 

Not once did I feel flustered or like I was doing something wrong, feelings that I remember so clearly during my very first meetings with the LC's in the hospital after my first baby. Looking back, it was one of the more critical decisions I made, an almost turning point in our journey. 

Six weeks came and went in the blink of an eye and again. Much like the first time, these weeks were filled with that feeling of "oh my god my nipples are on fire" each time the baby would latch but I just kept reminding myself that it gets better. It gets easier. So I set another goal for myself. Three months. 

I texted with my girlfriends, one of whom I met through blogging and I am so grateful for her support. She was my breastfeeding cheerleader if there ever was one and the support and guidance she provided was a god send. 

I grappled with an overactive letdown, often choking my baby during the first few minutes of our feedings. I fought supply issues and turned to Fenugreek tea and supplements to help boost it. Again, I had a baby who favored one side over the other but this time, this time I didn't force it. 

I turned to Google and researched whether it was possible to feed a baby from only one side and I'm here to tell you, you can do it. It is possible.

Three months turned into six months and six months into a year. I spent five nights away from my baby and worried to high heaven that my supply would tank and that he wouldn't want to nurse when I returned home. I pumped like a mad woman while at a blogging conference and dumped bottle after bottle of milk down a hotel sink just to keep up my supply. 

This month, August, marks our fourteenth straight month of exclusively nursing. If you had asked me back in June of 2012 if I thought we would make it this far, I would have laughed. I am so proud of us. I'm proud of myself for sticking with it and not allowing myself to feel stressed out or inadequate or uncomfortable at any point in our journey. 

I also allowed myself not to feel guilty if for some reason we weren't successful. 

Being a second time mom, I didn't have the time or the luxury to stay at home all day and feed the baby around the clock. In a way, my second was luckier in that I was forced outside of my comfort zone. I've nursed him on a boat, on a plane, a zoo train, in the park, in the mall and out to dinner with friends and family. I feel like I'm reading a Dr. Suess book, but it's true. I've whipped my boob out in more places than I ever imagined. 

Because he was my second and didn't always have my undivided attention, we were able to bond in the few moments each day that we would sit quietly together and nurse. I am so grateful for these moments. Sometimes we would sit and my oldest would choose a book to read. Other times we would color, play on the iPad or watch a movie. During the early days of non-stop nursing, I would pull out a special "box of tricks" to entertain him while I couldn't attend to his every need. 

Here we are. Fourteen months later, exclusively nursing. I have always led by his example, fed him by his demand. Whether for comfort or to satiate hunger, I nursed him. 

Now, instead of questions about how well it's going, I'm constantly being asked as to when we're going to stop and the truth is that I have absolutely no idea. I'm hoping he will self-wean, whatever that entails. Remember, this is all new territory for me! 

Do I want to be nursing him when he's two years old? Not necessarily, especially not for nutritive purposes. Hopefully, by that time, I'll be pregnant with our third and maybe that's the jump start we'll need to self-wean. 

Deciding to breastfeed and continuing to do so required the support and understanding of friends and family. It required time, patience, dedication and stick-to-itive-ness. It required the patience, understanding and support of my husband. After all, for the first four months of our journey together, my whole life revolved around breastfeeding the baby. From plans with family and friends to wardrobe choices and beyond, breastfeeding played a huge roll in many of those early decisions. 

I don't know what made this time so different from the first. I was different, the baby was different. We were both more laid back. I let go of things that stressed me out and didn't press on when I felt like it wasn't good for us. Like choosing to only feed from one side. That was one of the best decisions I could have ever made. I didn't stress over feeling like I had to feed from both sides. I fed from one and pumped exclusively from the other. Was time consuming? Hell yes. Exhausting? Absolutely. For over six months I kept at it and in doing so, I was able to build up a stash of more than 1000 ounces of milk. 

Sometimes you just need to give yourself permission to fail in order to succeed.

I'm often asked if I feel badly for my first. If I feel as if I had shortchanged him something, a small part of me, perhaps. The honest answer is no, not for a second. As I mentioned earlier, I was a much better mother to him after I decided to choose formula. I was more patient, less anxious, able to focus more on him than on the struggle to keep him full and happy. I looked forward to our moments together, sitting on the couch, him holding my fingers as I held his bottle. I can distinctly remember the day he started holding his own bottle, how disappointed and sad I was in that moment. Like mothers who aren't ready to wean, I wasn't ready to give up my responsibility to him, even it just meant mixing a bottle of formula and holding it for him. 

I continue to love and appreciate the moments we have nursing. Sometimes they're crazy, chaos-filled moments and other times, like in the minutes before bedtime, they're the best, most calming minutes of my day. 

When he was a baby, our moments together allowed me to trace every inch of his body with my fingertips. To follow the curve of his neck down to the tip of his chin, a trip I could take now with my eyes closed. I watched his hair grow to curl along his neck and his fingers dance along the neckline of my shirt. As his chest rose and fell with mine, I would lean over and inhale the familiar sweet smell of his head. 

Fourteen months later and I still do this. 

Just the other day I was having a conversation with a few friends and family members as I was holding the baby and the entire time he had his hand down my shirt, we're talking up to his elbow, checking to make sure, of course, that his drinks were still there. The moms that were standing with me laughed. We all did. They had been there and it wasn't uncomfortable at all, save for the purple nurples he was giving me. 

I didn't hate breastfeeding the second time around. It wasn't a chore or something I felt that I had to do. I'm so grateful for the successes and triumphs that we've had along our journey. It has been an adventure full of highs and lows and I wouldn't change it for a minute but if you had asked me fourteen months ago if we'd be where we are today, I absolutely would have laughed. 

Now? I'm laughing at my lopsided boobs. 

*all pictures taken via from Instagram account detailing my nursing journey with Maclane
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  1. I love this, AP! Such a wonderful and encouraging post for nursing mamas and nursing mamas to be. Way to go mama and Mac!

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am writing you from Greece, I am expeecting my second child within the next days and I did't manage to briestfeeding my first as much as I wished! I want to try it now again but I felt that I would fail again..until I red your post!
    I don t Know if I would make it finally, but I am going to try and be more optimistic!

  3. I'm so proud of you mama. You're amazing. Both your boys are perfect and you made the right choices for BOTH of them!

    I breastfed Noah exclusively for 10 months and WISH I could have done longer but like you said, it was becoming stressful for both of us and my supply couldn't keep up. So we switched to formula (before he weaned at 10 1/2 months!) and he's perfect too. :)

    We do what we know is best for our babes!! Happy breastfeeding week :D

  4. This post so touched me! Thank you for writing it! I have nursed (at least briefly) all three of my kiddos, and with each one, my milk supply was lousy. The longest I was able to do it with any of them was 5 months. After so much guilt (my own doing, no one else's), I was determined to change my perspective with baby #3. I set out making small goals: 2 weeks, then 4, then 2 months. We made it for work for 10 weeks until the milk "well" ran dry. Was I sad? Sure. But we did the best we could and my little man is happy, satisfied, and pleasantly plump! Such a different experience this (final) time, and I'm so grateful for it.

  5. Love this! I have a similar experience and we just celebrated my seconds 1st birthday last week. Still nursing! My husband asks when I'm gonna stop and I honestly cannot answer him. I don't even know how to wean if I wanted to! Xoxo

  6. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I am SO proud of you Ash! SO PROUD of you. I know that it was SO HARD for you the first go-around and for you to give it another shot with Maclane, was both brave and inspiring. I'm so glad I could offer support and cheerleading to you! It was my pleasure! I keep having this overwhelming desire to become a lactation consultant, but after looking into it, it would take me YEARS! But it's something I"m truly passionate about. Maybe one day! Mac will wean when he's ready. I started with cutting out the day time feedings, then the morning, and then let him cut out the night. One night he just fell asleep and that was that. Never once asking for it again. I hope yours goes as smoothly and sweetly as mine did. I love you and I'm so thankful for our friendship and I'm so proud of the mom and wife that you are!

    BIG HUGS!!!!!

  7. I have so many of your same issues including Pax only willing to take one side which means the terribly time consuming effort of feeding and pumping. So encouraging to read this and know that you, and other women, go through this same thing and that it can be done! I do love nursing Pax and having those sweet moments you put so well into words. Thanks for this post!

  8. I love love love this! It's so inspiring to me how many people have a different experience with their second than their first. We got to 6 months and I wish it had been longer, but I just couldn't keep up and my body hated the pump. You give me hope that next time will be easier, but you're absolutely right in that formula is ok too!

  9. Good for you for sharing. I need to do a post about my choice NOT to breastfeed.
    People are so judgemental and I truly believe whatever decision someone chooses is what is best for them.
    I think there is WAY too much emphasis and pressure put on Mother's to breastfeed and a lot of times is causes more stress for them and their marriage.

  10. Oh, I just loved this post. And I really needed to hear it as I look forward to hopefully breastfeeding my third child.

    I had a similar experience with breastfeeding except for the lengths of time. With my first I only made it a month and suffered with HORRID mommy guilt for a full year after quitting. So much so that when I would see another mom BFing her baby I would cry because I failed :( It was awful.

    When I got pregnant again I was terrified that I would fail again. But I armed myself with every piece of information I could before he was born. We had our struggles but I was able to BF him for five months before I was forced to quit due to taking medication that was unsafe during breastfeeding. I am SO proud of myself that I didn't quit even when it was tough and painful.

    Now, this time, I have no lofty goals. Six months. That's it. If we make it beyond that I will be pleased as punch. But I'm not going to beat myself up about it. Formula is not evil, like I made myself believe. Both my kids had it their first year and they are intelligent wonderful little boys. If I have to dip into formula again (for my sanity) I will gladly do it.

    But I do look forward to the nursing bond again. It was wonderful while it lasted.

  11. I applaud you for continuing to breastfeed!!

    My experiences, though, we the opposite. I really did love breastfeeding both of my boys, but the second time is the time I felt like it was more of a chore. With Bennett, we actually slipped into a pretty good BF routine right away, we had our challenges of course, but for the most part, it was a breeze. He nursed until he was almost One, and then he pretty much weaned himself.

    With Easton, we had challenges from the get go. He had a hard time "getting it" for a few weeks, but we stuck it out and he became a champion nurser. The problem I had was the toddler. He took advantage of his brother's eating times and would make the biggest messes and get into ALL THE THINGS... knowing it wouldn't be as easy for me to stop him. By 8 months, I was just done nursing the baby. Luckily, I had 3 months of supply in the freezer (I pumped like crazy), so he still had BM until he was 11 months, then made a smooth transition to cows milk and table food. Some times I wish I would have breastfed Easton longer, but overall, I'm happy with my decision!!

    (totally sorry about the huge comment!!) lol

  12. Thank you so much for writing this! My experience with my first was not the best with breastfeeding. I'm now 29 weeks pregnant with twins and despite the fact that EVERYONE seems to tell me how crazy I am to even think I can breastfeed them, I am determined I can do it.

  13. Thank you for writing this post! My experience breastfeeding my first child was not good either. I'm now 29 weeks pregnant with twins and despite EVERONE telling me I'm crazy to even think I can breastfeed them, I'm determined that I can do it. You give me hope.

  14. I had a VERY similar experience with my boys. I nursed G for 17 months and ended up gently encouraging him to wean before we left for a trip. By that point, he was only nursing for about a minute or less on each side anyway. One night, I showed him that we could still snuggle in the rocking chair at night, and he was happy to stop. It was a very peaceful tears from either of us! I pray for the same for you when you are both ready.

  15. this post was so reassuring to hear for when one day i have baby #2. I was able to breastfeed for 3 months, up until I went back to work. Some days I wish I would have stuck with the pumping to be able to do it longer, but hearing your story makes me believe that with #2 i will be able to go even longer if I just relax and let things happen naturally.
    the sweet life of a southern wife

  16. I'm a longtime reader, but wasn't reading back when you wrote about your struggles nursing Carter. They are just about the exact same as mine with my now-giant 3 1/2 month old, who I just stopped nursing. I went back and read that old post and I swear I could have written the exact same thing -- I couldn't keep up with him and started to loathe my pump. When I stopped breastfeeding, I felt like a whole new person. Great to know I'm not alone and even better to know that I can still succeed when another baby comes along.


  17. So beautiful AP!! I only wish I had read your struggle with C a few months ago when I went though that with Brooke! Everyone and everything kept telling me that I would make enough milk, but she was always crying...the day I gave her formula, she was her happy old self again. Thank you for sharing your wonderful stories. It gives me hope for the second time around too! What an accomplishment you and Mac have. Happy BF week!!

  18. I love this so much. Our stories are so similar. I had a terrible experience with G & a pushy and rude LC. I was so turned off & gave up after 4 weeks. I gad no expectations with Griffin and went SO smoothly. I was so sad when he self weaned at 7 months. I remember crying on the couch knowing it was my last time with him...I still miss those sweet moments!

  19. Great post! It's fantastic that you can be so real and accepting of yourself in your breastfeeding relationship with both your boys and it's just as awesome that breastfeeding has been such a better experience for you the second time around.

    Though E is my first, I can identify with a lot that you wrote here. From the only nursing on one side (which she recently started doing) to wondering when she might wean (I'm sure that some of our friends and family are wondering the same) to looking ahead to the next baby.

    Happy World Breastfeeding Week! We can laugh at our lopsided boobs together. :)

  20. Love this post! I EBF'd Audrey until she self-weaned at 18.5 months (she's now 21m). I thought she'd never do it, but she just decided when she was ready! Although, last week she looked down my shirt and asked for milk! LOL.

  21. Thank you for sharing this!! I bf mine for 13.5 months before she self weaned. I also had to 'lopsided' issue and took fenugreek like it was candy. But it was definitely worth it.

  22. I love this. Remember when that time cover controversy went down and you couldn't imagine nursing a baby past 1? ;) I also love the mention of #3!! I had to wean C around 15 months to get my period back so we could start trying for #2. He was fine with whole milk during the day and there were some tears at night but only a few nights. A sippy of water and the soothing sounds seahorse helped. I don't regret one moment of it. My #1 concern with my next adventure is being able to nurse them both for a year.

  23. YAY! I've been meaning to write & ask you about this! I had a similar experience with Charlie that you had with Carter and throw in a major bout of colic and living in a 1 bedroom condo...but I never really let myself feel too guilty because it was just better for BOTH of us that he was a formula baby. Now that I'm pregnant with #2 I'm hoping to be more laid back & relaxed about it, hoping for a less traumatic labor & delivery, and, now that I know just how hard it really is, hoping that by managing those expectations that I can be more successful breastfeeding- at least for the 1st 3 months ;) Rock on, mama! xoxo Erica

  24. Way to go, mama! I'm so glad you're having a good experience!
    I didn't breastfeed my first born, who was born early, but I have no regrets. I did breastfeed my second child for 11 months before she gave it up, and again with my third. It was so much easier the second time around, especially during the first few weeks! My third child and I made it to nearly 14 months before she self-weaned. And then I got pregnant again. Boom. I'm hoping it's just as easy this time!

  25. Yes, yes, and yes!! Your story about nursing Carter hits very close to home. I had the same issues… baby was losing weight, was threatened with having to stay in the hospital an extra day, pediatrician wanted me to supplement with formula, but the lactation consultant was telling me not to, was told to wake the baby every 3 hours… uggh. Very stressful for a first time mom! Also, I had an overactive let down and my son would cough and sputter at the beginning of every nursing session. I ended up pumping for a couple minutes to help with the overactive let down, then breastfed, then gave my son what I had pumped in a bottle. I was literally feeding or pumping all.the.freaking.time. Finally, I went to pumping exclusively and was able to continue even after returning to work. Very proud that I made it 8 months. I love this post! Way to go AP!

  26. I only lasted 4 months nursing my first. Like you, having the right support around me - and feeling far more confident in my body's ability and my choices - made all the difference the second time around. I'm so glad you're having a better experience. Viv self-weaned around 12 months, but I'm hoping Asher will go longer. How long, I don't know, but just longer.

  27. So glad you shared this! My sister had a tough time at first, but after getting a shield he finally latched. One day the shield fell off during nursing and he just kept on. Eventually we all hit a point where we wondered if she'd have to go to the high school to nurse him during recess, thankfully he self weaned:)

  28. just discovered this post. i am still nursing our 13 month old and found i may be in the early part of our baby #2 already... i know you're with #3 now... has that affected your nursing of M2?? Thank you!

  29. this popped up at the bottom of your recent post so of course loving all things AP and the M family i had to read it. and you wrote it the day C was born! awwww. i was in labor and you were blogging ;)
    i hope i have a great success next time around!
    how do you do it now with M and C?!


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