** Please note: I am pro-breastfeeding, but I understand there are multiple reasons why a woman is unable to or chooses not to breastfeed. All thoughts and opinions in this post are in regards to me and my child only. They are NOT a comment on you, your baby, or your situation. **
Growing up, my mother would often reminisce about breastfeeding me as an infant. She loved it and seemed to have a romantic view of how beautiful the experience was. It inspired something inside of me and I knew from a young age that I, too, would breastfeed my children. Of course, I didn’t know then that 1) having children was not a given and 2) neither is breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is hard. Let me acknowledge that. It is hard, hard, hard, especially in the beginning. It is not always, sometimes not often, the beautiful picture my mom painted. It can be messy. It can be frustrating. And it can be HARD.
And yet, I knew I had to try. I wholeheartedly believe that breastfeeding is the right thing for my babies. For most babies. It has benefits for both Baby and Mom that formula cannot provide. (Side note: I do not believe formula is the devil. I recently read a book that seemed to make that argument and I couldn’t finish it, it upset me so much. If you want or need to give your baby formula, do it! Don’t feel guilty about it. I know not a single formula-fed baby who is any worse the wear for it.) I feared failure when it came to breastfeeding. I feared having one more reason to hate my body (which I surely would, if it failed me and my child in yet another way). But I was determined and committed too. Partly for financial reasons and partly because I did believe in the importance of breastfeeding, I vowed to stop at (almost) nothing to make the breastfeeding thing successful.
Thankfully, it all worked out and I breastfed Cupcake until she was a year old. I would have breastfed longer, except we were ready to start trying to make another baby and my periods had not yet returned. (No surprise there. Go figure.) I am now breastfeeding Skittle and, as far as I can tell, things are going just as well — better, really — for us.
Somewhat embarrassingly, I talk about breastfeeding a lot. My mom hears about it. My friends hear about it. My cousin hears about it. My husband certainly hears
me complain about it. I discuss it so much not only because I’m passionate about it, but because right now, I spend five to seven hours (or more?) of my day with a baby at the boob. So I guess it’s only natural. A lot of my day, every day, is devoted to it. Monitoring intake. Monitoring output. Isn’t that the mark of a having a new baby in your home? Even when it’s not your first?
I am often asked if breastfeeding is easier the second time. I can’t speak for others, but it has been for me. A bit like riding a bike, or so the cliche goes. You worry you won’t remember how to do it, but low and behold, you do. It’s been some time since I last did this (about two years since I weaned Cupcake) and yet, holding a baby in the crossover or cradle hold, helping her to find the nipple, positioning Skittle on the Boppy to allow me to simultaneously eat dinner and check my e-mail…it’s all come naturally. Sigh. Of. Relief.
I suppose some of the ease of this is because I have more confidence this second time. I am able to do it because I know I can. I did it once before, after all. This time, I was less stressed in trying to get Skittle to latch that on that first day in the hospital. Less concerned when she would sometimes only eat for a few minutes. I didn’t fumble in trying to hold her in the right position. I didn’t need the help of a nurse or lactation consultant. I just figured it out on my own and didn’t question my ability to do so.
That’s part of why it was so easy. I think the rest of it can be contributed to having a baby who just knows what to do and has from the beginning. I don’t know if it was the natural birth or the luck of the draw, but Skittle has been a champion nurser from the very start. She latched on within the first couple hours after birth within minutes of me trying and has been eating well (and pooping and peeing well, too) ever since.
And yet, every baby and every situation is different and there still have been a few surprises this time. Such as:
- With Cupcake, I did not find breastfeeding very fun in the beginning. In fact, I detested it. It was unbearably painful (I had thrush, which really did threaten my resolve to breastfeed for the long haul). It took too much time. I always felt unsure of myself. It was just not very enjoyable at all and, indeed, it was a long time before it became that way. But with Skittle, I have enjoyed it from the beginning. With the exception of a few long days of sore nipples (which could be contributed to my large nips and Skittle’s tiny mouth), it has been nothing short of wonderful and relaxing and easy. Which was unexpected and lovely. I’m so thankful for that.
- I have successfully learned how to breastfeed in public without using a nursing cover. I have never hesitated to nurse my babies in public places, but now I can do it without the burden of covering up. Some people figure this out with their first babies, but not me. I tried to hide myself as much as possible with Cupcake. But not with Skittle. No, she has dined on Mama’s booby everywhere from a friend’s house during a party to a restaurant to the airport to the movie theater so I could watch About Time to Starbucks during a meet ‘n’ greet with a blogging friend (you know who you are! xoxo!), and never once have I gotten a funny or nasty look from those around me, as I always feared I would. What a nice surprise.
- I have worried about my milk supply much more than I ever did with Cupcake. I think this is the result, once again, of knowing too much. Since Cupcake’s birth, I have been diagnosed with PCOS (by default) and I know now that women with PCOS often suffer from low milk supply. I had no problems with supply while breastfeeding Cupcake, but that hasn’t stopped me from obsessing over it now. I am a stay-at-home mom, but I pump every day in order to maintain my supply — even though I probably don’t need to. Skittle will be eight weeks old tomorrow and I already have over 100 bags of milk (5-8 ounces each) in our freezer. Now that I’ve typed that out, I realize how ridiculous I sound. I’ve gone overboard, haven’t I? Way, way overboard. Imagine that. Me, going overboard. Shocking, isn’t it?
So clearly, regardless of how “easy” it has been so far, I am always able to find something to worry about. I’m good at that. But right now, I know that regardless of my supply (which is probably perfectly adequate), it is enough for Skittle. Cupcake’s pediatrician used to joke that I must make cream instead of milk because Cupcake grew so fast. By the time she was two months old, she had gained five pounds. Babies should double their birth weight by the time they turn six months. Cupcake did it in half that time.
And so it seems that Skittle is on track to do the same. At two weeks old, she was already a pound above her birth weight. She lost 10 ounces after birth (as every baby does, give or take a few ounces) and, so in the span of ten days, she actually gained a pound and a half. Amazing! I don’t know how much she has gained since then (her 2-month appointment is scheduled for next week), but I do know that she’s a different baby now. She doesn’t look like a newborn anymore. She is all chub and smiles. In just three weeks, she went from this:
So she’s growing. Obviously. She’s growing and thriving and that’s all that matters. Proof that my boobs are enough. That I’m enough. I guess.
No matter what, there’s always that bit of doubt, isn’t there?
One kid or two or ten, there’s always that doubt.
But doubt or no doubt, I will go on breastfeeding. I’m proud that I’ve been able to do it. Do it when it’s easy and do it when it’s hard and do it when it felt impossible. And I’m thankful that I have a baby who can do it and boobs that can do it and a situation that allows it.
Finally, my body has done something right.
And here again, I have another reason to love it.