Monday, June 6, 2011

Lessons Learned

If you know me, you know I'm passionate about breastfeeding. This is my first post for the "Carnival of Breastfeeding Readers" where I've joined other women bloggers in sharing our experiences as nursing mothers. I learned about this from one of my favorite blogs, Blacktating. The June theme is "The Second Time Around". Links to posts from more bloggers are at the end of this post.  Happy reading!

I have two wonderful children. My oldest who is now three, was nursed for eight months. His 14-month-old sister is still nursing with no clear end in sight.  The breastfeeding experiences of the pair couldn’t be anymore different, except that I was determined to breastfeed both.

I remember the first time I held my son, James Charles. I remember the warmth of his 19 1/2 inch body in my arms moments before he was whisked away to be weighed and inspected. I’d planned to put him to my breast right after his birth, but I’d forgotten to take my shirt off during the intensity of my labor.
My heart still breaks when I watch the video of after he’s handed back to me.

I’m holding him; my face still swollen from the remnants of pregnancy. Family is standing around so excited to see the newborn baby. But my sweet 6-pound, 3-ounce boy was on my chest rooting, trying and wanting to suck. He was squirming, letting me know he smelled his nourishment. He was hungry and so ready, but I had an audience and needed to remove my shirt. I was uncomfortable, so it was a while before I put him to my breast. I believe it was close to an hour.

I had problems getting him to latch properly at the hospital. I didn't truly know what to expect. And just when I thought I got something right, the next nurse told me something different from the last one. I also had several visitors and I quickly realized that it was overwhelming, making it difficult to relax and focus on bonding with my baby.

I thought I sort of knew what I was doing when I got home, but it started to get really challenging once my milk came in.  I was really engorged by the third day and I couldn't get him to latch properly. We made an emergency run to the store to buy a pump. (We’d planned on already having it, but James Charles was three weeks early).  That didn’t immediately work. My husband was getting frustrated because our boy was screaming in agony. Frazzled, I spoke on the phone with the nurses from my pediatrician, but nothing was working. Not the football hold, not the cradle hold. Nothing. And I was in so much pain. I ended up giving him some formula from the hospital.

I was briefly devastated, but then became even more determined to make breastfeeding work. My mother came to visit and things finally clicked a few days later. He had nothing but breast milk from that moment on until he was six months old. I loved watching him doze off, satisfied after a good feeding.

A year was my goal, but I started having supply problems when he was around 7 months. I now know it was because I was occasionally supplementing and pumping when I should have been nursing, among other things. The bottle was easier for him.

Our nursing period came to an end one Sunday morning in the church nursery.  James Charles turned away repeatedly when I tried to nurse him. I got the hint. He was eight months old.

Everyone told me it was great that I went that long with my son, but it wasn’t good enough for me. I told myself that things would be totally different with the next baby.

I gave birth to my daughter, Audrey, after less than three hours of labor. She nursed for the first time about 15 minutes after being born. She latched like a champ. My husband and I had Audrey to ourselves for more than an hour before she made her debut to the family in the hospital. I was a lot more relaxed this time around.  And I was even more prepared in my response to any challenges that could undermine my goal to breastfeed.

First, I turned down the formula the nurse tried to give me in a diaper bag as I was being discharged. Then I told myself I would get help from a lactation consultant in person if I needed help. No more phone calls.

And that time came. My milk came in with a vengeance. I was engorged and in pain. At least Audrey was thriving and definitely getting enough milk with her barracuda-like sucking action. Still I knew her latch needed tweaking. So I sat down with our pediatrician’s lactation consultant for a good hour figuring it out during her next doctor’s appointment. Within days, the soreness slowly faded away and nursing became second nature.

I knew not to panic when she wanted to nurse every hour and a half because she was going through a period of cluster feeding. I learned to confidently nurse in public. I learned to take her to bed with me and get some sleep while she was nursing. In fact, nursing on-demand is so convenient to me that it “backfired” when I tried to get my husband to give her a bottle while I was gone.  She refused bottles every time we tried. We just accepted it and moved on. She finally took a sippy cup when she was around 7 months old, the same time she started solids.

James Charles was two and a half when I had Audrey. It was a juggling act during those first few weeks, but I was fortunate in that he loved to help and was able to entertain himself during Audrey’s feedings at home. Sometimes he would talk to her and rub her hair while she was nursing. Sometimes I would read short books to him.  And some days he watched a little more television than I would have liked, but we all survived.

I was brave enough to start taking the both of them out when Audrey was about two weeks old and that helped make the transition to two babies easier as well.  James Charles just learned to stay close to me when I was feeding Audrey.  Good thing she didn’t take a long time to eat!

My breastfeeding experience the second time around has been a breeze in comparison to my first time around. I read even more and get a lot of support online from other nursing mothers.  It’s really needed now since I’ve entered the “extended” territory as Audrey’s 14 months old.  Nursing is just part of my life as anything else, but not everyone understands that.

Some family members have started asking when I’m going to wean, and telling me it should be soon. Before, I would have gotten overly emotional and maybe even angry.  But I know they mean well and Audrey is my child when all is said and done. There were times when her brother had a stomach bug, my husband’s had the flu, even I was weak. Audrey did not get sick. She’s only had the common cold and it’s gone away quickly. No ear infections so far. I believe nursing has helped keep her healthy.

I occasionally post on a mother’s forum. I was wondering how I should talk to James Charles about breastfeeding before Audrey was born. The best advice I got was to just tell him that nursing is how babies eat and leave it at that. Pure and simple.

Check out other posts from bloggers on this topic :
Blacktating: Second time's the charm
Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: Seven reasons why breastfeeding is usually easier the second time around
Ambular Logic: Breastfeeding the second time around
Good Enough Mum: Carnival Of Breastfeeding: The Second Time Around
SBelle: Tandem Nursing
Three Girl Pile-Up: Totally different and completely the same
Christine's Contemplations: Nursing styles between siblings
TouchstoneZ: Once more with feeling
Dou-la-la: Once more with feeling: Contemplating BBAC


caramelchica said...

My heart broke for you, reading about your experience at the hospital with your son! I'm so glad you got a healing experience with your daughter!

Takisha said...

Thanks so much caramelchica!

Elita said...

I wish they would just let the IBCLCs deal with the breastfeeding moms in the hospital, not the RNs. Every time a new nurse comes on shift, you get new (and many times still inaccurate) information. I know there can be some variance in beliefs even amongst IBCLCs, but at least they've all had the same breastfeeding training and typically know best how to help a mom get started with breastfeeding!

Christine said...

First .... LOVE her name! :) My first is named Audrey too.

Second ....... so sorry your son had such a rough time. It's hard not getting the support you need, especially when you don't know what you need.

LCs, CERTIFIED LCs, are awesome and a underutilized service. I'm glad you got to sit down and spend some time with one for your daughter.

Zoie @ TouchstoneZ said...

I love this post. Our experiences as breastfeeding mothers run the gamut and it is wonderful to read about them. My heart goes out to you for your commitment, hardships, and triumphs. The photo of your son kissing his sister just melts my heart

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I'm so glad that you've had such an easier time with your daughter. You've clearly made good use of all the lessons you've learned along the way!

Anonymous said...

and p.s., welcome to the world of toddler nursing! You're in good company!

Ronda said...

I had a similar experience with my children. I breastfed Linda Alyce for 15 months or so, so I understand the pressure "outsiders" put on you to give it up.