Can we just take a moment of silence to pay respect to the bountiful and hilarious title options that exist for a post about breastfeeding. They are good, reeeeal good. What’s also good is that this is just one mama’s story, my story. It’s not about breastfeeding vs. formula vs. any other vehicle used to provide sustenance for our kids. Seriously, high fives to all the moms who shoveled a happy meal in their kids’ mouths this week because heaven knows I did. Anyway, shall we?
Before I had kids, I assumed breastfeeding would be instinctual, that all the participants just had to show up and voila, baby was fed. I learned pretty quickly after Marin was born that it isn't always that simple. A few minutes after the doctor placed her in my arms, she nursed for the first time. All seemed pretty organic and she appeared to be nursing fine. Thankfully, a lactation specialist visited during our second night in the hospital and explained that Marin wasn't in fact latching correctly and, therefore, losing weight and not stimulating milk production. In other words, both participants were showing up, but baby wasn't being fed. Even now, I feel the tension of, "Was I not prepared enough? Did I not give her enough skin-to-skin time after she was born? Why didn't I request the lactation specialist earlier? Did the epidural affect her latching?" Thankfully, we got a great latch from her that night (with a bit of persuading little miss feisty pants) and baby wanted to EAT. Success.
My milk came in the day after we brought her home. That night I went to nurse her and was met with a screaming, frustrated baby who was struggling to latch again. I tried to coax her for a few minutes, but the more I pushed and the more she searched for a latch, the more flustered she became. I am beyond grateful my mom happened to be there. I remember looking at her with a look of sheer confusion for how I was going to feed my child. It was so nice to have her there to help me navigate the moment. After trying to nurse a really mad Marin, I finally decided to just throw together my pump and get some milk in a bottle. I pumped an ounce and plopped it in her mouth. All was peaceful. She was eating. The weeks after that continued to be challenging. She would cry for 10-15 minutes before each feeding. If she would latch, I would nurse her. After she ate, I would immediately pump so I would have a bottle ready in case she would refuse to latch at the upcoming feeding. Each feeding became an hour long process that would start all over again every couple hours.
What began with latching struggles, led to strong let-down issues where I would watch Marin choke as she tried to handle being milkboarded. (Hindsight, I realize that pumping was probably creating a greater supply and therefore a stronger let down. New mom foul number one million) After two-and-half months of nursing being an entirely draining journey, I told Andy, through tears, that if this kept up I just wouldn't be able to continue nursing. I was emotional about it because it felt like I was failing at my very first effort as a mom. It didn't have anything to do with breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding vs. giving formula, etc. It was just that the thing I chose to offer my child wasn't working and that felt defeating.
Thankfully, at around three months, Marin and I reached the mountaintop of nursing. She got it! I got it! She was latching and finally stout enough to handle the let-down with out air filling her belly and causing pain. We went on to nurse until she was 15 months.
There are a lot of details from the first few months that get a bit lost in memory, but I don't think I will ever forget just how much Marin and I really learned each other. Because turns out breastfeeding isn’t always just EAT. It was her personality and physicality meeting my physicality and personality. It was me learning to love her where she was and adjusting my own heart to meet her need. It was about gently pushing and knowing both of our limits. And my heart is filled with pride for how hard she worked to get it.
Brite, as the second child tends to be, was an entirely different story. When it came to those first hours after her birth, I made sure to slow down in the ways I didn’t know to do when Marin was born. I didn’t let anyone rush me out of the bed or room, rush her to her bath or the scale. I held her and nursed her off-and-on for a solid hour. We put nursing and skin-to-skin on the front burner. Once we were settled in our hospital room, I requested a visit from the lactation specialist right away. She came that night. Everything was jiving. Hallelujah! Brite was eating and latching amazingly, even finishing her nursing sessions in as quick as 10-15 minutes. And to this day, she still LOVES to nurse, maybe a little too much as we all know. ;) Of course every baby has their nursing quirks, little miss Britey the Bitey can attest to that.
Honestly, I’m so glad for both experiences. I wouldn’t change one crying, sweating, sleepless, google-searching, precious minute of any of it.
(Oh and just in case you need one, the nursing cover I’m wearing in the picture above is from a really amazing company called Copper Pearl, founded by two moms who know the ins-and-outs of products that truly make a mom’s life easier, as well as more trendy. The cover is a super stretchy, breathable material that wraps around mom to keep the dreaded, flailing baby, flash-everybody situation at bay. And all the babies said amen! Oh, AND it can also be used as a car seat cover or shopping cart cover, such a brilliant idea! If you need one for you or a friend, CopperPearl is graciously offering 10% off ALL their products for the next four days with the code WALLACHBABY. )