In Part I, I described my horrible experience breastfeeding my firstborn and how after four months I gave up. I was stressed out. My baby was stressed out. It wasn’t working.
I am so glad to say that round two has been totally different! Part of it must be due to Baby Number Two’s easy temperament, but I think other factors are lower stress, and a shift in my attitude and mothering methods.
By the time I became pregnant with my second baby, so many things were different. I had quit working full-time as an editor and started working part-time as a ballet teacher. We had moved back to our hometown where our amazing parents live. I had drastically improved my health by breaking my addiction to sugar and taking the supplements I needed. So, in general, everything that had made my first pregnancy and post-partum really difficult had changed and I had great hopes that breastfeeding would improve the second time around as well.
When Lucy was born, I was braced for several months of exhaustion and colic after the challenges of Benjamin’s first year. But, my worry was for naught. The moment Lucy arrived in the world, she was calm, happy, and loved to nurse. I’ll never know if it’s simply the way her little soul was formed or if she was relaxed because I was relaxed. Like my firstborn, she spits up constantly (at 5 months it’s improved some) but she isn’t bothered by it the way he was.
Now I know what everybody was talking about when they said I would love breastfeeding!
I think sometimes babies are challenging due to health issues like reflux or simply temperament, but I do think there are things mamas can do that help make a good breastfeeding relationship possible. Here’s what I did different the second time around (I was greatly influenced by the mother-baby togetherness ideas in Sheila Kippley’s book The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding):
No more working full-time. Quitting work for baby number 1 wasn’t an option. My husband was two semester’s away from his degree and me working that year was the best choice for us at the time. However, being able to be home with my babies this time around has made the experience so different and wonderful. I haven’t had to pump one time because I’m always with my baby. Now, I know working mamas who have pumped for over a year so that their baby will be exclusively breastfed. It is possible and those mamas are amazing. I’m NOT saying you have to stay home in order to be a good mama, I’m just saying that the breastfeeding experience is much easier for me since I’ve stayed at home.
No pacifiers, no bottles. Just offer baby the breast. Benjamin was given a pacifier when he was one day old and a bottle at 3 weeks. I think that had serious negative consequences for our breastfeeding relationship. So far, Lucy doesn’t know what a bottle is.
Nurse baby to sleep and co-sleep so that nighttime feedings are a breeze. With my firstborn, we only co-slept for the first few weeks and after that I would have to get up out of bed so many times a night to pick him up out of his crib, nurse, rock him back to sleep, and (hopefully) place him back in his crib still sleeping. Most of the time, he woke up the second I set him back in his crib and I would cry because I was just so tired. Lucy is 5 months and we’re still co-sleeping. I nurse her when she starts to rustle around (she doesn’t even have to cry) and after 5-10 minutes we’re both asleep again.
Have support. Living in the same town as family has made a world of difference. An exhausted new mama doesn’t really need somebody to tell her that breastfeeding is great and she should keep doing it. An exhausted new mama needs somebody to cook dinner or watch the kids so she can nap and have the physical and emotional energy to nurse.
Get comfortable nursing in public. I remember when I was pregnant with my firstborn someone asked me, “You’re not going to, like, BREASTFEED everywhere, are you? I saw a woman breastfeeding on a train once! I was so gross. I can’t believe she did that in front of everybody!” I’m not sure exactly what she expected the poor woman to do. Let her hungry child scream? Is that preferable to other passengers? Anyhow, that conversation and others made me ultra-sensitive to making other people uncomfortable by feeding my kid. Long story short: I’m over it. I’ve nursed baby girl in restaurants, concerts, Mass, adoration, work, the park, banquets, parties, the Nutcracker, weddings, you name it. I can take her anywhere.
Don’t wait for your baby to cry. Offer baby the breast often. If your baby is crying for food they will be frantic and nursing will be difficult. Let baby nurse at the first sign of hunger. I usually offer Lucy the breast every two hours or so, that’s what’s working for us.
Try to remove stress from your life. A stressed-out mama means a stressed-out baby. I’m sure this isn’t a universal rule, but it’s true in our household. I was SO STRESSED as a new mama, working full-time, a thousand miles away from family. I think Benjamin would have had challenges no matter how relaxed I was, but I’m sure my stress made all his issues worse.
Nursing a happy and content baby to sleep has to be one of the sweetest experiences of life. I watch her eyelids flutter and finally close, her arms relax, and her feet cease to wiggle as she falls into precious sleep. I wouldn’t trade it for anything and I’m so glad I got a second chance.
Photo credit: Jade Pierce Photography. She’s seriously amazing. Jade photographed my beloved friend Eleanor’s wedding a couple of weeks ago and took some shots of me and Lucy. I was in the wedding party and getting wedding photos taken with Jade was a blast and all the photos I’ve seen are gorgeous. So, if you’re in TX and in need of a lifestyle or wedding photographer, look her up!