Breastfeeding – It Gets Easier With Experience

I feel like a boob. That’s how I felt the whole time I was breastfeeding my daughter. Between hour-long nursing sessions and more than a month of back-to-back cluster feedings, I was constantly faced with new challenges when it came to feeding my baby. Fortunately, things can be different when it comes to having multiple children.

Bailey - always ready to eat.

Bailey – always ready to eat.

With Bailey, she was a great eater from the start. She knew how to latch on and had no trouble with it. If anything, the difficulties we faced early on were mostly due to my own inexperience and lack of know-how when it came to positioning  her comfortably. (To this day, I’ve never been able to master any but the cradle hold.) My milk came in and there was plenty of it. Aside from the general inconveniences and challenges that accompany first-time moms, breastfeeding was going really well. That’s not to say it was easy, of course. Not by a long shot.

At six weeks postpartum, I was back at work full-time. That meant nonstop pumping and tons of stress as others were caring for my baby (What time did they feed her? Did they feed her? Was she getting enough attention? Were they leaving her to cry when she needed something?). As you may already know, stress is a mortal enemy of milk production. The more I was away from her, the higher my stress level climbed and the faster my milk dropped. I turned to every tip and bit of advice I could find about increasing my milk production.

After checking with my doctor, I drank nursing tea and took blessed thistle. I added handfuls of fenugreek supplements to my daily routine. I drank water – a lot of water. I snacked continuously on days when I needed to pump. It was a constant battle to pump enough bottles for the babysitter every week.

And then there was the pain that came with first-time breastfeeding. And it was painful. I quickly learned to cherish my lanolin cream and always kept it within arm’s reach. There were times when the air itself was too painful on my maimed milk jugs. If you’ve ever wondered whether it hurts to have a baby latched onto your boob, believe me; it does. For a while anyway. Eventually, the pain lessened and finally disappeared altogether.

After the trials I encountered nursing Bailey, I prayed it would be easier with my second child. My theory was that since my boobs had already served a tour in the trenches, they would now be hardened against a newborn’s suckling death grip. As it turns out, there was something to my theory, after all.

Here's Parker. Just a happy little guy.

Here’s Parker. Just a happy little guy.

Parker was a pro from the beginning. He has more of a “Get out of the way, mom. I know what I’m doing” approach to breastfeeding. And what I wasn’t prepared for – what actually shocked me – was that when he latched on for the first (and second and third) time, it didn’t hurt… at all.

In fact, I never needed the lanolin cream I bought this time around. Not only that, but Parker is what the doctors like to call an “efficient eater”. That means he averages about five to ten minutes on each side and gets everything he needs. He may eat more frequently than Bailey did (usually every two hours during the day as opposed to Bailey’s three), but he’s still a great sleeper.

Another difference I noticed this time around is my approach to nursing in public. With Bailey, I spent many an evening sequestered in another room nursing while company was over. Likewise, I generally spent the first forty minutes of our dinners out sitting in the car. I would hide my breast under nursing covers or burp cloths in fear that some unwitting bystander would walk past my window and get a sneak peek of the two centimeters of skin that may or may not have been showing through the tinted glass.

Whether it’s because I’ve finally mastered the art of nursing without letting anything show or the fact that now I have two kids and so can’t afford the luxury of pressing pause on my life every two hours, I really just don’t even care anymore what others think about me feeding my hungry child in public. I’ve ditched the special nursing shirts that pull down from the top and opted for a wardrobe of regular clothes that can be lifted easily from the bottom. This way Parker hides my zebra-striped belly while his head and the top of my shirt cover everything else.

While I still struggle to produce enough milk for pumping, it’s nowhere near as trying. I’m less stressed because I know now what types of things are worth worrying about and which aren’t. But my favorite parts of nursing the second time around are the lack of pain (seriously, I have no pain!) and the shorter feedings. Clearly, this is just my experience and every mom, child, and boob is different. But if it happened this way for me, it can happen for you, too.

If you struggled with breastfeeding the first time around, don’t discount it with your next. Each child may present an entirely different experience and you may find it much easier in the second round. But please know that no matter what choice you make about feeding your child – breast milk or formula – that decision is yours and I support you!

Did you struggle with breastfeeding your child? Was it different with any of your other kids?

, , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.