Since it is World Breastfeeding Week, I figured it was about time to reflect on my breastfeeding journey the second time around.
It’s crazy that I helped her grow from day 1 with my own body, and we made it a year!
Let’s set the scenery differences:
With George, he was rushed into intensive care almost immediately after birth. I didn’t see him until 24 hours after he was born. There was no option of feeding him when he came out of the womb. I was pumping from the start. Not to mention he was in the NICU for 10 days, and he honestly didn’t actually feed from me until he was released. Because he started with bottles, we had a very rocky start.
With Daphne, she naturally started within the hour of her birth. She took to it like it a champ. The only reason I started pumping was to get my supply going since she was so little.
With George, shortly after he was born, I picked up and moved over two states, started a new full time job, and started house hunting while Tom was trying to get out of the Army. This is stressful when you don’t have a newborn.
With Daphne, I already had a job, and we weren’t moving. The Army was very much in the past. Enough said on the level of stress I was experiencing.
With George, I had no idea what I was doing, which with my personality causes a lot of anxiety.
With Daphne, I had some idea of what to expect, which made me go in with no expectations.
And that my dear friends, is the biggest reason why I was able to breastfeed Daphne for a whole year.
I went in expecting nothing.
Since I set the bar so low, I didn’t have any anxiety about anything as far as nursing her went. With George, I cried almost every day for his first four months, until I decided to supplement. With Daphne I think I cried just once due to breastfeeding.
Because I was more go with the flow, I was able to actually enjoy the time I had with Daphne.
I wouldn’t go as far to say I loved breastfeeding…
It was still a pain to be confined to my office three times a day and manipulate my schedule around it. People expect you to move your schedule around, but I held fast this time around that I would get it 3 times a day. Sometimes this makes you feel guilty that you are being selfish and that it is coming off that work is not a priority. It is hard to find the balance some days.
It was still a pain to have to lose sleep to nurse her before bed and nurse her when I woke up. It would have saved so much time to just give her a bottle.
It was still a pain to have to plan our outings around her feeding schedule and making sure that anywhere that we went was nursing friendly.
However, I felt a new sense of confidence and power this time around. I was able to recognize what an awesome feat it was to help nourish her with each feeding.
This time we were able to exclusive nurse for 6 months, and we continued to nurse (with one formula bottle a day) until she was 13 months.
This time I did things like nurse in front of people other than Tom. I nursed in the middle of the zoo and baseball stadiums. It was like I was able to let go of the anxiety of it, and was able to just do what nature intended.
I also call it a triumph that I actually nursed her after she got several teeth. I never imagined I would continue once she got teeth, but for the most part I didn’t have issues. She only bit me once, and that is a pain I never want to relive again.
Here are some other practical things that were helpful going into this experience:
- Having a sanitize option on our dishwasher-This cut down so much time in cleaning bottles and pump parts every night. I would just rinse things out, and pop them in the dishwasher instead of laboring for an hour each night hand washing everything.
- Reusing pump parts throughout the day by keeping them in the fridge-Also cutting down the time cleaning bottles and parts each night.
- Have extra pump parts. I think I had enough to get through 4 days before using the same ones over.
- Getting a hands-free pump bra-Totally worth the investment.
- Blue Gatorade-I still had supply issues in the second half of this journey, but I do think the Gatorade helped.
- I never kept track of how long we were feeding. With George I had an app and tracked it all. This time having the freedom of just following her lead made it much less of a chore.
- This time I didn’t worry as much about what I was wearing. I wore dresses and work clothes that typically weren’t nursing friendly all the time. I just accepted that I would be half naked in my office while I was pumping. I love my wardrobe, so just bringing a cardigan and having a blanket that I could put on while I was pumping was enough to make it not so cumbersome to undress each time I needed to pump. This meant I didn’t feel so frumpy and drab with a small selection of clothes because I didn’t care. I spent too much time fussing about those little things the first time around.
- A nursing cover like this was a blessing. So much easier to use than any of the covers I tried with George.
I wouldn’t say I came to love breastfeeding. Pumping I think dampers any kind of affection you could have towards this responsibility. It really is an investment of time to commit.
However despite that, I will say that I cried the last few nights I was breastfeeding Daphne. I never realized the bond I had with her during that time until it was almost gone. I am very proud of how far we came as a duo, and that I was able to have that time with her.
I also did struggle with some guilt when we stopped because she refused to drink anything for a week or two after I ended nursing. I felt like she was on a strike for severing that relationship with her. But it was time for me to move on. My supply was really low. I was barely making a bottle with four 30-minute pumping sessions each day, so it wasn’t worth my time and effort at that time. I didn’t want to get to the point that I got with George where I was angry and resentful with the process. With George I spent 2 extra months more than I should have trying to make it work, and making everyone in the house miserable because I was struggling so much. I knew this time that was not a road I wanted to go down again. So we ended on a high note after making it a full year!
Breastfeeding is hard. It demands a lot out of you-time, energy, your body, etc. My first experience was difficult, and I could have just said no this time around. However, I am so glad that I tried again. Was every moment easy? No. It still sucked at times (literally). But I was able to get more out of it, and thus Daphne got more out of me (also literally).
I will never forget the overwhelming sense of pride to be a mom when I nursed Daphne in front of a room full of other nursing moms at the Royals’ stadium. I seriously was so overcome with joy at what we were all accomplishing that I almost cried right there. It was a really powerful moment for me. It was beautifully humbling to be in that room. There were new moms and seasoned moms, some were pumping and some were with our babies straight at the source, all of us with our boobs out doing the best we could to take care of our kids all the while watching a Royals game. A priceless moment that motivated me on many occasions throughout this past year.
So again my advice is to go in with no expectations and just do what you can do. Your baby is not going to hold a grudge (in the long run) that you kept them fed whether that is with formula or breastfeeding. I stopped at a time with both kids that made sense and worked for us.
I am proud of myself with the 4 exclusive months/7 total months of breastfeeding with George. And I am proud of myself for the 6 exclusive months and 13 total months of breastfeeding with Daphne. Neither one makes me a better or worse mom. I am grateful that I had the support to try this breastfeeding adventure. I am proud at the success we had with it, and was able to acknowledge when it was no longer the best option.
It’s all a triumph.
I will leave you with the lyrics to a classic 90’s sitcom theme song….Step by Step…It says it all as far as how I approached breastfeeding the second time around.
Day by day
(Day by day)
A fresh start over
A different hand to play
Only time will tell
But you know what they say
We’ll make it better
The second time around