Breastfeeding Week – Part 2: Not My First Rodeo

Breastfeeding is rough the first go around. You don’t know what to expect and you can’t understand how hard it will be. The sleepless nights, the time commitment and the tears. It’s enough to break any mom down in the beginning.

Breastfeeding the second? Knowing how hard it is?! These moms are our heros. These three moms make it seem effortless and we all know it isn’t. To make the choice to breastfeed after knowing the commitment is truly a selfless act.

It’s time to give moms credit when credit is due. We are so excited to introduce these three awesome moms and share their stories. Again, we hope that you can find a little of yourself in each of them.

Mom to Lois, who is 4 and was breastfed for 13 months,
and Sadie who is 2.5 and was breastfed for 22 months.

Do the best you can for as long as breastfeeding makes sense for you and your baby. I breastfed for nine months longer with my second baby than I did with my first but I am equally proud of both experiences.
Lois is our oldest and when she was born everything was new to me—parenthood, being a working mom, breastfeeding, etc. I also had a long commute to work, which meant my days often revolved around breastfeeding and pumping. It was hard and exhausting (especially the last few months when I was early in my second pregnancy) but we were determined—and by month 13, we were equally over it.

With Sadie, I had the knowledge I lacked the first time around and, after moving closer to work, I was much more accessible to her for the 22 months I breastfed her. Each experience was reflective of what works best and what could be managed at the time. You will know what is right for you and/or your baby. You might be over it after a little while…or not for a long while. Either works! Each breastfeeding experience might be vastly different than the last, but be proud of your effort regardless. You can do it!

Mom to two girls aged 7 and 4 year who were breastfed for a combined 38 months (over 3 years!)

Breastfeeding was one of the most challenging parts of motherhood to adapt to but also one of the most rewarding.  Between the cracked nipples, engorgement, clogged ducks, supply issues, my daughter being tongue-tied (yep it’s a real condition) and everything else that goes along with being a new mom, I thought I wasn’t going to make it.  But I looked down at that little face and felt that feeling only a mother can while she is nursing her baby and it gave me the strength to push through.

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Breastfeeding youngest while oldest breastfeeds her baby doll.  Proud momma moment!

Solidarity also helped me push through tough times.  I reached out to friends, nursing groups both online and in-person and we shared stories and learned from each other.  When my first daughter was about three months old, I attended the Big Latch On, which is an event where nursing moms get together and attempt to break the world record for most nursing babies at the same time.  We didn’t break the world record but I felt like we had won.  Knowing at that very moment that there were women all over the world experiencing the same things I was, and standing up for a cause we believe in was very empowering.  One day I will be able to tell my daughters this experience in hopes that it will give them strength as well.

Mom to Stella, who is 5 and was breastfed for 15 months,
and Margot who is 18 months and was breastfed for 15 months.

When I had my first daughter Stella, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I made sure to buy nursing tanks and included a Boppy and pump on my baby registry. In the hour or so after Stella was born, the nurse helped guide me in my first attempt at feeding her; miraculously, she latched on right away. I felt so lucky. Within the next 24 sleepless hours at the hospital though, I cursed my decision. Every latch was like a dagger, and I felt like a human pacifier. How could I make it to my goal of one year of breastfeeding? I remember the first night we were home from the hospital. I was hormonal and exhausted and my body was in agony. I cried and cried to my husband, who did what he could by changing her diapers and cradling her in between feedings while I tried to sleep.

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Breastfeeding on the go the second time around!

It took a couple of weeks, but soon I got the hang of it. My breasts weren’t as sore (unless Stella slept for a few hours and I needed her to eat to get some relief), and breastfeeding became a part of the daily routine. At times it was relaxing and beautiful, and other times it was isolating and a drag.

Much of the isolation came from being embarrassed about breastfeeding in front of others. I remember going to an anniversary party for my in laws when Stella was still very little. I wasn’t comfortable sitting at the table and nursing her in public, even with a cover, so I took her into a bathroom stall and nursed her while standing. I did the same thing at my mom’s birthday party, sitting in a chair in a hotel bathroom and nursing while I missed watching the band perform. Looking back at those moments, I feel pretty silly about them. But I was such a new mom, with so much to learn, and it was so early on in my breastfeeding journeys.

By the time my second daughter Margot came around, it felt like old hat. I knew to expect the tender nipples and the uterine contractions after those early days of feedings. I had a Milk Snob nursing cover, which made it especially easy for me to breastfeed in public and feel comfortable about it. I even nursed Margot during her baptism ceremony, my Milk Snob cover perfumed by the chrism from her forehead.

Even though new and unexpected surprises popped up the second time around (blebs, clogged ducts, a baby who wouldn’t take bottles of pumped milk), I had much more confidence in my ability to push through the early struggles of breastfeeding and make it out to the other side. It’s wild to me that I spent 30 months of my life breastfeeding my girls, wearing nursing tops or dresses with wide neck openings, stuffing nursing pads inside my bras to protect from leaking.

Breastfeeding is an experience that feels like forever in the trenches, but looking back, was such a brief moment in the girls’ lives and mine. I remember feeling sadness when it was over, but it was also a sense of accomplishment. And relief. And it was worth it.

Breastfeeding Week — Part 1: Our Stories

Breastfeeding Week is August 1st through 7th. In order to celebrate this (because breastfeeding is definitely something worth celebrating) we asked our loyal readers to send us their best breastfeeding stories. And boy did you all deliver! We had so many amazing stories that we decided to break them up into 4 different blogs including:

* Not My First Rodeo – Stories from moms that have breastfed more than one child

* You Have to Find the Humor – Stories from moms who tell their stories in humorous ways (even if it wasn’t funny at the time)

* No Judgement Zone – Stories from moms who made decisions based on what was best for their child(ren) even if it meant they might be judged by others

Breastfeeding looks different for every mom. Some moms are super successful and are able to breastfeed for a long time, some moms do everything they can to breastfeed for a few weeks, and other moms decide that pumping and bottlefeeding works best for them. We have tried to find stories that highlight all of these different kinds of breastfeeding journeys and we hope that you can find at least a piece of yours in one of them.

In order to start this off we thought it was only fair to share our own breastfeeding experiences. Enjoy getting to know us a little better and let us know if your experience  was similar to ours or totally different!

Mom to Ben who is 2.5 years old and was breastfed for 15 months

I never once thought that I wouldn’t breastfeed. In my mind this was a way to save my family money and bond with my baby. I prayed that it would go smoothly, but what I have learned, is nothing is smooth. Everyone’s breastfeeding journey is completely different.

This is what life looked like. Nursing bra and milk coma baby.

When Ben was born I had a pretty hard time. He just wouldn’t latch in the hospital. For the first two weeks of his life I had to finger feed him (think taping a small tube to your finger while pressing down so he would get the milk). I stuck with it and around three weeks little Benny got it. It seemed like that’s the amount of time it really took for my milk to actually come in.

Going back to work and breastfeeding was the hardest. It was a very stressful situation in which I was just pumping enough milk for the next day (it went on like that for another nine months). I should have tried and built up a supply before work, but with breastfeeding him constantly I just didn’t want to take the time to also pump. At work, I am lucky enough to have my own office so all I had to do was close the door when I needed to pump (although – that sound!). That didn’t stop people from walking in. Oh, well. After you have a baby you quickly have to throw modesty out the window.

Breastfeeding literally takes over your life for the time that you decide to do it. When I went back to work it went like this: breastfeed him before I left, pump four times at work, breastfeed two more times at home before he went to bed and do at least 1-2 nightly feedings. It’s not for the weak. It takes a lot of your time and dedication. I am sure glad I did it, but looking back I don’t know how I made it through!

Mom to Ryan who is 9 months old and was breastfed for 9 months

I just finished breastfeeding Ryan a few weeks ago and it was definitely bittersweet. Our breastfeeding journey was full of ups and downs but I am so glad that I went through it. At the beginning Ryan wouldn’t latch. Then when he started to latch (with a nipple shield) it would take him FOREVER to eat. Like, 45 minutes on one boob and I would still have to pump the other boob so that it didn’t explode. Which meant that it was taking me over an hour at each feeding! That just wasn’t working for me so I started to pump and bottle feed. That took a long time too, so I decided to pump a few times a day (and bottle feed) and breastfeed a few times a day.

Patiently waiting for Mom to finish pumping

When we went to the pediatrician for Ryan’s 2 month checkup the doctor asked how breastfeeding was going. I told her what I was doing and she said, “don’t you feel like you’re missing out because you’re not breastfeeding him? There’s nothing better than a baby looking up and smiling at you while they’re nursing!” Was I seriously being shamed by the pediatrician!? First of all, I WAS breastfeeding him (just not for every feeding) and second of all, he was getting fed in a way that was working for US. I was not thrilled and luckily our practice has several doctors and I haven’t had to see that one again (we had other reasons for choosing the doctor we did, but that’s for another post!)

Ryan and I finally hit our breastfeeding stride around 4 months where he would latch perfectly (without a nipple shield) and drink in a timely manner. I would still pump first thing in the morning and the last thing before I went to bed, though. This helped so that his last feeding would be a bottle (which helped him to sleep longer) and I would get some extra milk so that I could have bottles if we were out and about. Along with breastfeeding I also gave him one bottle of formula a day so that I knew he was getting enough calories (he was in the 3rd percentile for weight and we were trying to plump him up a little bit). When Ryan turned 9 months old I unfortunately lost most of my supply so we decided to just use formula for all of his feedings.

Like I said, ending breastfeeding was bittersweet. I was very excited to pack up the pump and nursing bras, but I do miss that time to bond with him. Our breastfeeding journey was pretty complicated and we had to try a lot of different things before it really worked, but we figured it out in the end!