In the early days of this blog I wrote about parenting and my own parental musings more often than I do now. It’s not that I lost interest in all that… it had more to do with reader feedback… on the days I donned my ‘mom’ hat, the comments and interactions and pageviews were dramatically lower. After a while, I took that as evidence that the mommy side of this blog wasn’t quite as alluring as the crafty/ DIY/ room makeover side. But… being a mom is 70% of my day. And with Baby Arthur… these days it’s more like 95%! I get it if many of you want to click away at this point, but for reasons I’ll get into later… today I wanted to chat breastfeeding. I know, I know… mucho parental. PROMISE I’ll be back to the projects and room reveals next post, but I wanted to reach out to my fellow mammas who may be struggling with nursing and to share my own experience after 5 run throughs! And it may not be what you think!
6 years ago when we met our very first pediatrician, Mark asked her how she felt about breastfeeding. Her answer was one that I often replay because it was so helpful to me as a new mom without a clue about nursing and latching and positioning, etc. She said that there’s no question that breastfeeding is amazing for both mom and baby alike. BUT… if it’s making you miserable, then how effective can you be as a parent? Point being, try your best, but if it doesn’t come together, don’t beat yourself up and move along.
Thankfully, after a few tricky days with Eleanor, we both figured it out and it’s been somewhat smooth sailing ever since. Until it clicked, I have memories of sitting there with a fussy baby with tears dropping on her pink cheeks because I didn’t know how to get her to latch on and eat. I googled nursing and was told to relax. To be calm. To tune out the doctors who told me she had dropped too much weight in the hospital. Not to obsess over whether the issue was her tongue or my nipples or what I was eating. Yeah…. riiiight. Turns out, there were infinite moving parts and I simply didn’t know which one to tweek to get this tiny creature to eat!
Ultimately, the two of us figured it out. I learned to trust myself, and she learned the drill. I was hours away from a meeting with a lactation consultant when it all fell into place. Three long days after delivery. It didn’t come naturally and it wasn’t something that completed me as a mom, but I’m so grateful that it worked and I was able to nurse my kids for the first 6+ months. For me, I appreciated the ease of feeding… once they shifted over to the bottle, it was just one more thing to remember for every outing (and expensive!). No question that being the boobs on demand every 3 hours was frustrating at times when I wanted to go on a longer outing without leaking through my shirts, but the convenience far outweighed the occasional logistics of pumping and getting a bottle ready in my absence.
Personally, I feel like nursing has made my babies healthier with a belly full of breast milk to help them fight off germs… but, I firmly believe that formula is amazing these days… just as nutritious and beneficial so I’m not going to sit here and preach that nursing is the only way to go. I know women who never produced milk, women who had augmentations and never had the choice, women who pumped the entire time, and women who nursed until their babies turned 2… every one of them are the bomb.com. They did what worked best for them and their babies and that’s all a mom can do, right?
Back to the point of this post… Here we are. Baby #5. After 24 collective months of nursing, Arthur and I are struggling. He’s getting there. But man am I glad I’ve been to this rodeo or else I KNOW I’d be completely distracted and preoccupied by it all. As my pediatrician rightly pointed out, I may have done this with four other babies, but this is my first Arthur. Breastfeeding isn’t all about mom. It’s a 2 person experience and these little babies have a lot to add to the equation.
What’s the issue with Arthur? At first he couldn’t latch because I was simply too engorged for the little guy to get a grip. Sorry to be graphic… with Baby #5, your body knows the drill and things kick in fast and furious! Lots of hot showers and a few times on the pump and I was finally deflated to the point that he could manage. But… he was still a little lazy to get going. It takes a number of tries for him to settle in and with 4 other kids screaming in the background, wrestling with a 2-week-old and putting up with the pain of an erroneous latch can be frustrating and exhausting. I’ve tried different holds, different support pillows, different angles… At his last appointment he showed some weight gain so that’s encouraging. If the frequency of diapers is any indication… he’s getting the hang of it, but even with some experience… it can get overwhelming!
New and soon-to-be moms, you will be swept away with all the advice and ‘shoulds’ and ‘here’s what worked for me-s’… most of the time, these words of advice and past experiences will be SO appreciated, but there will be PLENTY of times when you just can’t hear another pearl of wisdom. I wanted to share my experience not to give any tips for breastfeeding (although I’m HAPPY to share my experience in more detail if you have ANY questions…. just email me or leave a comment!) but to cheer those of you on who may just be starting out and feeling like nothing’s working. Stick with it. Trust yourself and your baby to learn together. Maybe you’ll have to supplement with a little formula to calm any worries about weight gain, but you’re more resilient than you think! And if you need a boost of courage to decide that it’s just not working… I got that for you too!
Give your baby a chance to settle in and wake up to the world a little bit. Give yourself a break. This is all new! Every baby is different, every breast is different. It’s hard! It’s not always this poetic and maternal experience. It can hurt and be demoralizing. But… it can also be this wonderfully peaceful time to stare and love on your newborn. You’ll notice little crinkles in your baby’s ear, you’ll relish the dainty fingers resting on your chest, and you’ll soak up the scents and sounds of your newborn in a quietly intimate way.
Don’t give up. Hang in there. Know you can do it! We’re all rookies on some level!
Update: I went to add captions to each photograph so you knew which child was which and I’ve already forgotten who’s who. Here they are side by side so you can play the same guessing game!
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