Why The Second Breastfeeding Journey Was Easier
Breastfeeding is a wonderful journey, infinitely bonding mother and baby together in an effortlessly natural, nourishing way - at least that’s what pregnant mothers are told.
Breastfeeding is a wondrous experience, full of ups and downs, and is a great way to bond with your baby. Its benefits are numerous, it’s much cheaper than formula feeding, and it gives your baby a great start to life in the outside world by providing them with nutrients and antibodies to fight illness.
However, despite everything I was taught about breastfeeding during my first pregnancy, it just didn’t work out for me. I used to feel intense guilt about it, but now almost 10 years later, I can see the many reasons why I had a difficult time. And thankfully, my breastfeeding experience with my second baby was much easier.
With my first baby, it seemed like the deck was stacked against me from the start. For starters, I was a young, single mom, without a lot of support. I did the majority of my research on breastfeeding on my own, reading all the books and attending classes before the baby’s arrival. Based on everything I had read, it seemed like breastfeeding the only logical option, and that it would be effortless. Little did I know, nursing a baby is a lot of work!
In the hospital, my baby struggled with his latch. I saw many lactation consultants, who basically had to coach me through each nursing session, helping me coax the baby’s mouth into the right position and helping me find a comfortable way to hold him. A nipple shield helped (something I didn’t even know existed before a nurse brought me one!), but I became so dependent on it that it was very hard to wean him off of using the shield even several months later. The next obstacle I had to face was his constant crying and difficulty settling. The hospital staff reassured me and told me that maybe the baby was frustrated because my milk wasn’t coming in fast enough (I didn’t know what a reasonable time frame was for that), so they brought me a hospital-grade pump to use, and I pumped every few hours around the clock. They also had me supplement with formula (which I didn’t know would hurt my milk supply). My milk finally came in, but then the next hurdle became more obvious: the frequent spitting up. Instead of getting to the root of the excessive spitting up, they assumed that maybe he was allergic to the regular formula and switched to soy formula. Because of all the incorrect information I was given in my baby’s first few days of life, my breastfeeding journey was doomed from the start.
When I got home, I bought a breast pump and continued pumping around the clock between feedings. I hardly slept between pumping sessions, nursing sessions, and cleaning up the excessive spit-up that would happen after almost every feeding. I continued to struggle with the baby’s latch and relied heavily on the nipple shield, which I feel was probably responsible for the two miserable rounds of mastitis I suffered through. When I returned to school, I continued to pump in my car between classes, which was also awkward and miserable. I tried to stick through the pain until I reached my goal of 6 months breastfeeding, at which point I abruptly quit and my baby happily transitioned to formula. More importantly, I was happy for the first time since he was born.
Seven years elapsed, and I got pregnant with my second baby. This time, I was determined to be more educated, more confident, and more relaxed with breastfeeding. I did a ton of research again, quickly realizing all the ways I had set myself up for failure the first time. I bought a new breast pump and all the accessories I might need, and by the time I gave birth, I was well prepared as long as the new baby was along for the ride. The first few days in the hospital were tough, as to be expected, but the baby’s latch was good from the start. I used a nipple shield to help with the pain, knowing that I would wean him off of the shield as quickly as possible, which I was able to do about a week later. In the hospital, I did not pump, I did not supplement with formula, and I did not use a pacifier. I focused on establishing a good start to breastfeeding, and it worked! My milk came in on the second day, and he ate like a champion from that point on.
I waited several weeks before I began pumping, didn’t obsess over trying to get him to take a pacifier, and because I wasn’t returning to work or school, I didn’t set alarms around the clock to pump and store milk. I took my time and focused my energy on each nursing session. I didn’t rely on anyone else to feed the baby except for me, and although this method doesn’t work for every family, it worked for me. After the first month, I believe it was effortless, it was enjoyable, and it was beneficial. For the first time, I truly felt all the wonderful things I had been taught about breastfeeding.
I love the closeness that breastfeeding provided between me and my son. We breezed through my first goal of 6 months, steadily moved on through 12 months, and reached my final goal of 18 months, at which point I began weaning him. Looking back, I feel pride and gratitude that I was able to nurse him for so long. He grew to be a very healthy, strong boy, and I know that I can take partial credit for that because of the way my body nourished him.
Knowing what I know now, I can say with confidence that breastfeeding isn’t for everyone - but even if it doesn’t work out with one baby, it’s ok to try again with the next. Chances are, it will be much easier, you’ll be more confident in what you’re doing, and you’ll feel more equipped to reach out for help when needed.
Parenting is awesome. Sleep is overrated. Every day is an adventure.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.