When I found out I was pregnant again one of my first thoughts went to the challenges of breastfeeding. I could not get our struggles out of my head. Although I was excited to possibly get another shot at the whole thing I was nervous. I just didn’t know if my heart could go through another breastfeeding failure.
From the very beginning of Brigham’s pregnancy I decided the best thing I could do was to arm myself with as much information possible about breastfeeding.
I started doing research online, something I never really did when I was pregnant with Landon because, like I said, I thought breastfeeding was the natural thing to do. I had no idea how steep the learning curve would be.
But after reading a book and doing some reading online I realized just how many mistakes I made. Now, I really wasn’t mad at myself anymore at this point because I felt I was on a mission! But it was pretty astounding just how naive and ignorant I was about breastfeeding my first baby. Landon and I encountered so many road blocks. Little did I know that there were ways that I could have knocked those road blocks down. However, I tried not to focus on the past too much. Instead I kept my eye on the future – May 2010 when Brigham was due.
In my third trimester I decided to sign us up for a breastfeeding class. When we arrived at the hospital it was a class with about 20 couples present. When the teacher asked first time moms to raise their hands I quickly realized that I was the ONLY second-time mom in the classroom. I felt embarrased, ashamed, like maybe all those soon-to-be moms were thinking, what’s she doing here? Shouldn’t she already be a pro at this?
I left the class feeling deflated and overwhelmed. As we were standing in the hallway the teacher came up to me and asked about my story. I told her the shortened version of what had happened. That all too familiar lump rose up in my throat. Then she said something that really helped me feel better. She said that it didn’t matter what happened last time. What mattered is that I was trying again despite how difficult it was. And that takes a lot of guts.
Needless to say, I left that hospital with my head held high. I was a little scared to get my hopes up but I was feeling more confident than ever.
As I wrote in Part I, one of the biggest hurdles Landon and I encountered was the fact that we were separated for the first hour after his birth. Now, I know this was absolutely necessary to save his life and I’m grateful the doctors did what they needed to do. But still, I believe it made a huge difference in starting us out on the right foot.
Babies are said to be the most alert about 30 minutes after birth. In fact, their instinct to nurse is so strong that if you lay them on the mother’s chest they can scoot up to the breast and latch on their own. Now, this natural phenomenon has never happened to me. But I know from reading that it has for other women. By the time they brought Landon to me his blood sugar was already low and he was much too sleepy to nurse. He fell into a deep sleep and was never very alert for a whole month! My milk supply dwindled without his help to empty my breasts.
I hoped and prayed that Brigham would be born pink and screaming. It was my dream that he could be laid upon my chest within seconds of being born. Thankfully, we got just what we prayed for! Brigham came out screaming like no baby I’ve ever heard! He also came out with a voracious appetite :)
This photo was taken about a minute after birth. Shortly after, we were skin-to-skin and I put him to the breast for the first time. It was such a joyful moment for me.
I can remember with Landon I was very private when I tried to nurse him. I didn’t want anyone to see my chest. I guess I’ve never really loved that part of me and I was self-conscious. But this time I was like, who the hell cares! This is my body. These are my boobs. He’s nursing! I really didn’t care who saw. Letting my guard down a little was honestly one of the best things I did the second time around.
We had some challenges over night getting him to nurse. He got pretty sleepy and was hard to wake. I won’t lie when I say I pretty much fell apart the first time he wouldn’t latch. Everything that happened with Landon came flooding back and the waterworks began again. I distinctly remember telling Naaman to go get some formula because I just knew that it was over already.
The next morning a lactation consultant came in to see us. I was instantly defensive because of the not-so-great experiences I had at our last hospital. She asked me how things were going and I pretty much burst into tears on the spot. I bawled to her about my experience with Landon. How I had worked so hard to educate myself about breastfeeding before Brigham arrived. And how it didn’t matter how bad I wanted it to work. I was certain after last night it wasn’t going to.
Here I was falling apart in front of a total stranger. Big, fat tears and snot running from my nose. But she listened and nodded her head and truly seemed to care a great deal about my experiences.
She asked for permission to help me get him latched. I reluctantly agreed. She placed him in the cradle hold and gently helped me get him in position. And then – like magic – he latched on and began sucking and swallowing. It was seriously as if the clouds parted and the angels were singing. Yes, I know I’m being dramatic. But I had the biggest epiphany in that moment. I suddenly realized that Landon had never truly ever latched on in that month that I tried. It is a distinct feeling and one I had never felt before. But now, I knew what it was really supposed to feel like. I had finally succeeded.
From there on out he always latched on. Sometimes it would take a good amount of time to get it right. But man, when we did it was smooth sailing. He was a great nurser! I did get very sore in the first week. That’s one of the things that annoys me the most about breastfeeding advice. They always tell you it’s not supposed to hurt. But when you have a baby nursing every two hours you are bound to get sore and chapped! I was able to work through the pain with my toes curled and within a week things were much better.
I can’t tell you how exciting his weight checks were for me. To hear the doctor say that he was steadlily gaining weight made me feel as if I’d finished a marathon. Most the time I would find myself smiling down on him while he nursed. I was so happy that it was working but sometimes I still couldn’t believe it!
I also have to give a huge shout out to my sister Kelli. See, when I had Landon none of my sisters had given birth yet and my mom formula fed us so I had no one to confide in or ask questions. But by the time I had Brigham, I had a sister who had breastfed successfully. She was a HUGE support to me, answering all my crazy questions and listening to me as I tried to work through problems. I can honestly say I don’t know if I would have succeeded without her support. This was something I was missing during my first try and now I know it’s not just important it’s absolutely necessary!
At just about the two week mark I developed two large knots in my right breast. I figured it was mastitis, something I had read about during my research, so I called my OB and they gave me a prescription for antibiotics. They told me to massage and apply heat. I waited and waited for them to go down. Instead they got bigger and more painful. I went to the OB and she sent me straight to the ER. Turns out they were MRSA-filled abscesses. I spent the night getting my breast cut into and having the abscesses drained. SO MUCH PAIN. Not to mention that I would have to leave the wounds open and pack them in order to let them heal. Thank God my husband is a nurse because I couldn’t stand to remove the packing and then re-pack them. I would almost faint from the pain.
All along there were quite a few people who recommended I stop breastfeeding. Cue the waterworks again! I had worked so hard to get this to work and after all of that I would have to quit anyway! I was heartbroken! But it turns out that after doing a bit of research I did not have to stop breastfeeding. The abscesses were contained and there was no danger to the baby. Only pain for me, which I decided to work through. A little funny tid-bit about this. “Breast Abscess” is one of the most common search terms that leads people to my blog. I honestly think this is because there is very little information about breast abscesses while breastfeeding. It is actually uncommon with only about 3% of nursing mothers experiencing this (lucky me!). So even though I’m not an expert on many things it is nice to know that somewhere a mom who might be struggling with this could find comfort and information about it on my blog.
After that hiccup, Brigham and I had a wonderful nursing relationship for four more months. At that time I had to wean him because I needed to go on medication that was unsafe for breastfeeding. I have since learned that there are alternatives that could have prolonged nursing. But I can’t go back and I really don’t regret stopping when I did. My goal was six months and we made it five months. Not too shabby considering I never thought it would work at all.
I am proud that even through the pain, doubt and fear I chose to try again anyway. I nursed Brigham for the last time in October of 2010 and thought that I would never nurse again. Who would have thought that I would mourn the loss of breastfeeding after so many struggles?!
Little did I know we would get another surprise in 2013 :)
Part III coming soon