If there’s one thing motherhood does, it’s give women a free pass to talk about poop, pee, va-jay-jays and boobies without even flinching. With a three year old and a one MONTH old in our house, all of these topics are discussed daily (well, maybe not va-jay-jays). However, it’s the last one that’s compelled me enough to make a blog post. And it has to do with the night and day difference in breastfeeding this time around.
For all of you moms who got the shock of your life when you discovered breastfeeding isn’t all rainbows and fairy princesses, have some hope.
Before Big Roo was born, I had this glorified, delusional image of how easy breastfeeding would be. It's natural so it must be easy, right? I confidently proclaimed to anyone who asked that I planned to breastfeed exclusively for at least six months. I wish someone would clued me in on the little secret. The reality was not so simple. After three months of stabbing knives to my boobs, endless pumping and exhaustion, I admitted defeat and switched to formula.
Fast forward to today. I've been breastfeeding for a month now with Little Roo and it's such a drastic difference that I'm almost in shock. I've been trying to pinpoint exactly WHY this time is so much easier. After some noodling, I came up with four reasons breastfeeding the second time around is a (mostly) enjoyable experience thus far:
I Had a Superfabulous Lactation Consultant at the Hospital
Boobs, meet baby. Baby, meet your source for breakfast, lunch, dinner, fourthmeal and snacktimes.
But when babies are born, they don't always know exactly what to do. That's why I found the lactation consultant from the hospital to be immensely helpful in kickstarting the breastfeeding bonanza.
When Big Roo was born, I remember looking forward to the lactation consultant coming to see me. I had just had a C-section and wasn't even sure of the best way to hold him to nurse. But the consultant was kinda harsh. She shoved Big Roo into position with matter-of-fact "look, this is all you have to do" attitude. I felt like a rag doll… but one with boobs to grab and shove into the baby's mouth. While I soon realized breastfeeding wasn't necessarily "gentle" all the time, I just felt like she was all business- come in, show me what to do, then leave. No empathy, no patience and few tips.
The lactation consultant this time around rocked. She was full of information, tips and most of all, patience. She came to see me when Little Roo was a mere four hours old and stayed with us for almost an hour. She showed me what to do, then let me try for myself as she popped out tip after tip. I watched Little Roo as he tried to latch on. He was making the right moves but struggling to actually latch and suck.
Just when I was starting to get worried that he wasn't "getting it," she assured me that he was doing great for being a few hours old. She pointed out the things he was doing right which eased my mind. When he finally latched, she pointed out how his body was perfectly aligned to mine, how his mouth was positioned right and all the other things to look for next time I nursed him sans her help. The consultant also showed me what to look for when he was doing it wrong (which definitely happened).
When she left, I really felt like I could do this! For reassurance, I had her come back twice over the next couple of days to ask questions and have her check Little Roo's latch and positioning while I was nursing. It was just the confidence boost I needed.
Although I haven't needed it yet, I won't hesitate to call a lactation consultant if I have any issues. It's OKAY to ask for help. If you don't feel comfortable with the consultant you have, then find another one pronto! This is your starting point for months or even years of breastfeeding so there's no mediocrity allowed.
I Know What to Do With My Magic Lady Body
Okay, so I can't take credit for that fabulous terminology (after you finish this article, go read this one called "Moms Gone Wired." This girl's writing will knock your socks off.) But three years ago, when I was a first-time mom learning to breastfeed, I didn't really know what to do. I devoutly read the week-by-week development articles and took a four-week childbirth class. However, I naively thought that breastfeeding would just happen naturally so I didn't put any effort into "learning" how to breastfeed.
Imagine my shock when Big Roo was five days old and I woke up with a sore, hot boob and a temperature of 102 degrees! Helloooo mastitis! Of course, I didn't know what mastitis even was until I placed a call to the doctor. But holy crap, that was the worst part of my entire postpartum experiene.
After that healed, I still had sore, cracked nipples nearly all the time. My boobs leaked like Niagara Falls. And once I broke down in tears when blood made its way into my my pumped breastmilk. While I didn't quite give up (yet), I unintentionally went into masochist mode. I didn't really know nearly all my problems were due to a bad latch. I assumed the stabbing knifes I felt every time I breastfed were part of toughening those puppies up! I also made things worse when my boobs got engorged because I didn't want to nurse him at that point. Oh the pain I put myself through.
This time around, there's still some soreness and the occasional cracked nipple but now that I know what to look for, I've been able to curb many of the issues before they even start. I know to pump if I get too engorged for Little Roo to latch. If I notice hard spots, I know to massage them out while nursing so I don't get clogged ducts. I know to make Little Roo re-latch if he's sucking wrong even if it ticks him off.
In addition to physically knowing what to do, I'm also more mentally prepared. I accept- no, embrace- the fact that my body is a machine. In all honesty, it goes to show what a miracle our bodies are… but I didn't see it like that last time. It seems that now I don't mind the "work" that comes with breastfeeding as much. I know the middle of the night feedings, sore nipples, limited caffeine intake, etc won't last forever. I'll be able to laugh it off if I leak in public instead of freak out. I'm enjoying the bonding time instead of wondering where the hell the body from my past life ran off to.
I Bought and Borrowed the Right Supplies
While our mothers may scoff ("we didn't have all that stuff when *I* breastfed years ago. I also walked 10 miles in the snow to school."), I found that breastfeeding is tons easier when you've got the right supplies. Last time, I had a few of current-day must-haves - a Boppy, a breastpump (if you plan to bottle feed), nursing pads and nursing bras. This time, I went a step further. Nursing shirts (especially tank tops) put my boobies in easy reach… ideal when you have a shrieking baby doing his best impression of a desperately hungry baby bird.
A close friend gave me a really cute nursing cover too. It's already come in handy a few times while out in public. I also purchased a hands-free pumping bra-- it looks hilarious when it's on but it keeps those suckers in place so I can be the multitasking queen that I am. And I don't even know if the hydrogel pads existing three years ago but what a freaking relief those are for soreness.
While none of these are NECESSARY, they sure make this breastfeeding life a helluva lot easier.
I Released Myself from the Self-Induced Quarantine
For some reason, last go around I was a glutton for punishment. Breastfeeding meant holing myself up in my house. I always fed Big Roo from a bottle when in public. At home, I nursed him behind closed doors when friends or family were there instead of using a nursing cover and enjoying the company. When I pumped milk, I'd quarantine myself to the glider in Big Roo's room… away from Daddy Roo, the TV or anything remotely stimulating.
Due to the pain and uncertainty of my ability to breastfeed, I didn't feel comfortable enough to just go with it. It made me frustrated. I got sick of being a slave to the boobs.
But this time, I realize I don't need to camp out behind a closed door to breastfeed. If he needs to eat while I'm out, I carry my nursing cover. I pump in the living room in front of the TV or while chatting with the hubs. I nurse in front of friends during playdates instead of hide out in my room. I'm more comfortable being a mommy (had three years of practice, right?) and I'm more comfortable breastfeeding.
Bonus! My iPhone
Yep, my iPhone is one of the things that makes breastfeeding easier. How exactly? Well, first I downloaded this free app called BabyBix to track my breastfeeding. I simply hit a button that says "Left Side" and it starts tracking Little Roo's feeding. It's magic! At night, I don't have to flubber around in the dark for a pen and paper to track his feedings. While I may not always need to write this stuff down, in these early days I can hardly remember which side I started feeding him on just a few hours before.
Oh, I can even track how many ounces I pump a day. The BabyBix app also comes in handy when I'm off running an errand. When did I feed him last? Just check the app and I know about how much time's left ticking before I need to feed.
The other thing I love about my iPhone is keeping myself busy during the nighttime feedings. I try to be all business with Little Roo at our night feedings so he quickly goes back to sleep. So while I feed him in the dark of night, I check Facebook, play Words with Friends, read the latest news and browse Twitter.
So, I'm only a few weeks into my breastfeeding experience round deux. So far, it's happy boobies= happy baby= blissfully happy mama. And maybe a rainbow too.
What's your best breastfeeding tip? Was there anything that was different the second time around? Or that you learned from your first child?
Original post by Melissa, breastfeeding ninja. When she's not breastfeeding or chasing a three year old around, she's blogging about motherhood and the great outdoors at adventuroo.com.