Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Breastfeeding: Then and Now

I started this post months ago but never got around to finishing it. I figured that on the cusp of her first birthday, now would be a good time for that...

I blame the fact that I wasn't successful in my efforts to breastfeed Evan on one thing and one thing only...that I believed in a major misconception about breastfeeding, "because it's natural it must also be easy." I'm sure for some women (and some babies) it is, but it wasn't for us, and I was definitely not prepared for that reality.

I think I've blocked a lot out from the first week of Evan's life, but I know there were a lot of tubes and syringes, and shields, and pumping, and frantic calls and visits to our lactation consultant. Oh, and crying, lots of crying. I honestly can't even remember why it wasn't working, something about his suck. His suck was really weak and he wasn't getting enough milk. Nursing while caring for a newborn is hard enough already, throw in all of that other stuff, along with a good helping of the baby blues and I was drowning. And the worst part was that my belief that breastfeeding would be easy caused me to feel like a huge failure when it wasn't.

At the time, switching to formula was the right decision for us and it was a huge relief once I finally decided to accept it. But, I think that if I'd had more support (I don't mean Jeff, he was great,) and if I'd been better prepared for the speed bumps, I might have outlasted all of the difficulties.

Having gone through all of that with Evan, I was much more prepared when we had Aida. I had a list of all the things I wanted to do differently and probably the most beneficial of those was to get support and get it fast. At the first sign of difficulty, on that third day when she was tired and lactation started to suggest interventions, I panicked. But this time I called a friend who's also a La Leche League leader and a breastfeeding super star. She talked me down off of my ledge and gave me the pep talk I needed to keep going. I didn't end up needing to use any of those interventions with Aida, but I had the confidence I needed to power through even if I had. I've been calling and texting her with questions, or anytime I need encouragement, ever since.

Aida has always been a good nurser, but even still, I wouldn't say it's been easy. It's work, and don't even get me started on pumping! But I've loved every second of it. This time around I knew it would be work, I was better prepared for the challenges and I had the strength to face them. Yes, she didn't sleep through the night until 7 months. And yes she spent the better part of 6 months crying every evening (unless I was nursing her.) And yes there were times that I resented my husband for being able to leave the house any time he wanted. But when she's curled up next to me in the morning, none of that matters.

She's almost 12 months old and still nurses about 4-5 times per day, and I'm still her first choice for comfort. I'm hoping to wean her off of a few of those by the end of the Summer, but we'll see. So far she's not a fan of whole milk unless I put it in a bottle, so we need to work on that first. And I'm not going to rush her. She can be very demanding, so I'm sure she'll have an opinion on all of this. Not to mention all of my recent, "can't she stay a baby forever" hang ups. Maybe it's me I'm trying not to rush :-)

I wouldn't trade either experience. Evan was a great baby, he slept through the night at 12 weeks, and 'weaning' was effortless. But I also remember the first time that Aida nursed well, and how relieved and overcome with joy I was because I was going to be able to breastfeed her. It's been a great gift. And for however long it lasts, I'm going to cherish it!


Lauren Stahl said...

Well said and good job. It's true Tom even said to me a few weeks ago when I said I didn't understand why more people dont breast-feed and how some time you have to make sacrifices, I currently cannot eat anything that has milk or milk protein in it, and Tom sId, well if it was easy more people would do it. You never think of something that is supposed to be natural to be difficult, but it sure can be! So way to go on your year with aida and enjoy the summer with her!

Stacey said...

That gave me goosebumps jeanelle! Congrats for such a successful breastfeeding experience. :-)