August is National breastfeeding month and with a newborn at home and nursing my second baby it only seems fitting to share my experiences with Miles and now with Banks.
To be blunt breastfeeding is hard as a mother. Pun intended. This is my second time around and I still find myself asking questions I thought I already knew the answers to. Sometimes it feels like you need a degree from Mammary gland school of supply and demand just to do it. With all puns and jokes aside I want to share my experience with breastfeeding.
First and foremost FED IS BEST. No question about that and I understand breastfeeding is not for every mother. That is between mother and her child and no one else. To be honest I never really thought about breastfeeding my children. My mom didn’t do it and I honestly didn’t know much about it.
When asked if I was going to breastfeed I always said I was going to try it. I always said “try” because in my deep thoughts I thought what if I can’t? What if my baby won’t? I thought if I didn’t put pressure on myself I wouldn’t be so disappointed if I couldn’t. As mothers before our children even enter this world we put so much pressure on ourselves. Not only do we put pressure on ourselves but society puts even more pressure on us. I think that’s why support from other mothers is so heartwarming. No matter the different road we take to raise our children having another mother simply pat you on the back and say “its okay, you got this” can make your most overwhelming day feel a little less heavy.
So if you are new to breastfeeding I highly recommend joining a few mom groups. You don’t have to comment, you don’t have to agree or disagree with any of the information shared but seeing different stories and things that worked for this mom and not for this one helped educate me in the very confusing world of bf. Just knowing I was not alone gave me reassurance. Sure you will give the occasional eyeroll at the know it all mama but just know she’s struggling too.
The Beginning (Miles)
I had spent the last several months researching, following all the mom groups and asking as many questions to local breastfeeding mama’s as I could. I do feel like I was as mentally prepared as I could have been. At this point in time I was still looking at breastfeeding as a form of feeding your baby. I had not really understood the emotional impact it would have on my life and the relationship with my child.
Miles was born bright eyed and bushy tailed, he didn’t even seem to blink while laying on my chest looking up at me. I remember so vividly after he was born our families coming back into the room and my best friend walking up to my side. She looked at my baby so lovingly you could see the happiness in her eyes. In the true form of our friendship a sweet moment turned comical as Miles started rooting around on my chest and me completely new to this whole mom world asked “do you think he is trying to find my boob”? Her response in the most southern accent I’ve ever heard leave her mouth said “well put him on there”. To this day I laugh at her response. Following her directions I did just that. I put him on there.
Miles knew exactly what to do, he opened his mouth wide, flared his lips and latched on to my breast. To be honest at first it was a strange feeling. I think I was a little shocked at how natural is was for my newborn child to know exactly what to do only moments after being born. After my shock had passed I looked down at my baby, my son, he was suckling, nourishing his body and comforting his emotions. With my best friend still by my side and our families standing around talking amongst themselves about the new addition to our family, I felt like no one else was in the room except my baby and I. Like it had been for the last nine months.
A mother gets those greedy months of having her child completely to herself and not having to share that connection with anyone. That is how I would describe breastfeeding for me. A delicate moment between you and your child bonded skin to skin nourishing and comforting not only child but mother as well. In those first moments of breastfeeding Miles I felt comfort, I felt calm and at peace. I could feel his comfort, I could physically feel his love.
My journey breastfeeding Miles got off to a great start. He had a good natural latch which can be a big problem for mother and baby in the beginning stages of bf if baby does not latch properly. TIP- think fish lips, you want your baby to cover your entire areole. A good latch is a beautiful sight.
Miles loved to nurse. So much so during our hospital stay when asked to record all feedings the pediatrician quickly added Miles was nursing much too long and was using me as a pacifier. To be honest he kind of burst my bubble. I was proud recording my newborn nursing for 20 and 40 minutes. Little did I know in the days to come that pride would turn into physical pain. Miles was like a clock he wanted to nurse every 3-4 hours for a lengthy time. I tried and tried in those early weeks to feed him for 10 minutes every two hours to schedule his feedings and save my nipples some pain but my sleepy newborn was more interested in catching z’s then nursing. Miles liked his schedule and eventually my body heeled and adjusted to his “pacifier” ways. For twelve months I nursed my son every 3-4 hours sometimes for 10 minutes sometimes for 45 minutes . I was his paci and I was okay with that.
Something I was not as prepared for was a pumping routine. I remember when my milk came in, Miles was napping on my chest and I had fell asleep as well. When I woke up I went from the chest of a twelve year old boy to Dolly Parton and had knots that felt like gravel rocks. I was full. I immediately wanted Miles to nurse to relieve some of the pressure but because a newborns stomach is so small and I had so much supply he could not relive all the milk. I had to pump. Pumping is the WORST I absolutely hate it with a passion. I pumped and stored for work days and the occasional bottle for Jared and our parents to be able to feed him. I always kept enough storage to work without supplementing. I did not have some Rockstar freezer full of breastmilk but we survived 12 months by feeding by breast as much as possible and only using storage when we needed to.
Along with the hatred of pumping comes the fear of a clogged duct or mastitis. I remember early on with Miles he would sleep for long periods of time and miss the occasional feeding and I was still confused as to pumping out the extra milk so I would get the occasional tenderness. A knot here and there. Nothing as bad as month ten of breastfeeding when I had a bout of mastitis. I was doing a early morning workout when I felt faint, my heart rate got extremely high and I had to just sit where I was standing. A friend, mother of three and a doctors wife in the next class quickly diagnosed me. I had had a tender knot for days and thought like before it was just a little clogged and would go away on its own. That time I had to have help of antibiotics. A TIP for mothers for clogged ducts, let your little one nurse as much as possible on the clogged breast nothing can relieve a clogged duct better than your baby. Heat compression, hot baths and showers can really help also. Mastitis is nothing to play with so if it does not relieve its self in a couple days I would go see your doctor.
Breastfeeding brings many joys. The bond you share with your baby. The convenience of not having to clean bottles constantly. And it’s also free! But sadly it can bring a lot of negativity as well. A huge controversy with bf that is widely publicized is nursing your child in public and or uncovered in public. My opinion as a mother who is and has breastfed. You do you boo. I choose to cover up for nobody but myself. It’s a personal choice as it should be. I never had any bad experiences with nursing covered in public so I can not share a personal story.
Something negative I did experience however was size shaming of my son. I am a fairly petite person. I’m 5’2 and both my parents are under 5’6. We are naturally smaller framed. My husband is 6’2 but even being taller was a thinner child and teenager. He didn’t weigh a buck sixty when we started dating in high school. Miles is naturally petite. He will probably never be a linebacker. So of course I got the occasional comment about how small he was, the “how old is he” the “do you breastfeed” and my favorite “how do you know he’s eating enough”. So my advice to the mother that child is not in the 90th percentile. You know what is best for your child, you know what they eat in a day, how often they nurse and if they are healthy and thriving. Miles hit every Milestone earlier than he was suppose to, he gained weight and grew inches in a steady healthy speed. He has drunk whole milk since he was 12 months old and he is still petite. Do not get discouraged by people outside your home because nobody knows your baby and what’s best for them better than you.
I made a personal goal for myself to breastfeed for 12 months. I knew shortly after Miles first birthday we wanted to start trying for another baby. Knowing I would want to breastfeed our second child I really wanted some alone time with my body. I had shared my body for so long with Miles I felt it was time. That did not make it any less heartbreaking. Those sweet, intimate moments between just the two of us had become my favorite time with him. Sure some feedings before work or before we were rushing out the door to go somewhere were not always as special because my child just needed to eat and life doesn’t always sit still for us to enjoy all those tiny moments with our children. Those times when life would sit still for just a minute, when I could look down at my child’s face, I could look at every perfect detail, run my hand through his hair, rub his soft face and watch him slowly slip into sleep. Those tiny moments that are much too short were my some of my favorite and most cherished times with my baby. So my next TIP is to enjoy as many of those moments as you can with your baby. It will not last forever but the memories of nursing your little one will.
The Beginning, Again (Banks)
Here we go again. During my last weeks of pregnancy many things were on my mind. One thing in particular was nursing my new baby. If breastfeeding would be as natural to him as it was for Miles. Could I do this again, successfully.
Rewind to twenty-three short days ago, baby boy will be one month old tomorrow! Banks entered this world strong and healthy by the grace of God. Shortly after they brought baby B back from the nursery all check out and cleaned up he was ready to eat. I will say Banks did not latch automatically it took a couple tries and a little help from me, taking my hand and pulling down his chin opening his mouth wider. He seems to have a smaller mouth than Miles did or perhaps 12 months of nursing Miles had changed my nipples a bit. I reminded myself as he struggled the first couple latches how lucky I was that Miles latched so easy and it was okay that Banks did not. I thought be patient, don’t get discouraged and help him. Your baby can feel your frustration. Getting upset will only make it harder for your baby to latch.
Thankfully after a little practice Banks was latching like a champ. I quickly realized his eating schedule was also going to be different. He would only nurse for five minutes sometimes less. I knew not to let him nurse no longer than ten minutes but wanted him to nurse longer than five. However he wanted to nurse that five minutes every hour. For the first week of his life we nurse every single hour. My milk this time came even quicker than before. I had to pump even before we left the hospital. Due to his excessive snacking those first couple weeks my supply and storage was booming. I have that Rockstar storage I never had with Miles. In twenty-three days I have saved over three hundred and sixty ounces plus nursing on demand. I joked with Jared if our house caught on fire to save the kids then the milk. I worked hard for all that liquid gold.
Banks is thriving! At his one week check-up he had already gained 4 ounces. Most babies lose weight in their first week. Breastfed babies even more than formula fed. To date he has gained over two pounds and grew two inches. He has now started to spread out his feedings but still enjoys the occasional early snack. Tomorrow will mark month one of breastfeeding Banks. I am hoping to nurse my second baby twelve months as I did my first. Hopefully I will be able to share our journey then.
For any mother hoping to breastfeed just remember to give yourself a break. Don’t put pressure on yourself or your baby. Take this new adventure day by day and be patient and enjoy the learning, the downs as much a the ups. You can do it mama, you were made for this!