Establishing Breastfeeding: My two very different experiences


As of right now, I have experience breastfeeding two babies. Each experience couldn't be more different. I'm sharing this memoir to let other mothers know that every experience and every baby is different. Sometimes this difference is experience. Sometimes it's education. Sometimes it's baby. Sometimes it's something else no one ever thought they'd experience.

I was lucky that my experience breastfeeding my second born was much easier than the first. Sometimes though, experienced mothers find their third or fourth child is the most challenging to breastfeed. That's okay. With the right support most challenges should be manageable.

So here is my story. Take it for what it's worth.

June 1 the bigger little bear made his grand entrance to our world. Nothing went right. I ended up with a cesarean for breech presentation, we didn't get skin to skin, I didn't meet him for hours, we battled weight loss, engorgement, the most agonizing nipple pain, post partum depression, oversupply, mastitis, clogged ducts, thrush, and ultimately the discovery of a tight upper labial frenulum and a posterior tongue tie.

It was not an easy journey, to say the least. Everything that I had planned and prepared for seemed like a waste. My confidence was shot. I really wanted to give up. But I pushed on through. With support from my mom and husband, my doula, my local La Leche League group, and a doctor 8 hours away from where we lived, we were able to make breastfeeding work for us. I was able to strive toward my goals, and reach my short term goals. Unfortunately, what I did not have was a supportive pediatrician or lactation consultant at the time. I felt as if they were not listening to me and brushing off my experience because I was just a dumb first time mom. I'm positive however, that if I hadn't had a strong support system at home, I would not have reached my goals. I would have grown bitter toward breastfeeding. I would not have become a person dedicated to ensuring other moms have solid support, even if I'm the only one in their lives providing it. Providing support doesn't even require a knowledge of breastfeeding, but merely a respect for a mom's journey, goals, and experiences. Then again, a little breastfeeding knowledge to help guide her doesn't hurt either.

Fast forward. The big little bear had weaned around 18-19m while I was pregnant with the new little bear. We didn't reach our ultimate goal of the World Health Organization's recommendation of two years, but I was damn proud of how far we had come after all we went through in the first three months.

The new little bear made his arrival at the end of May (their birthdays are exactly a week apart!). This time my entire pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding experience was the polar opposite. I achieved a VBAC after 36 hours of labor, over 30 of which was powered through without medical pain relief. Talk about exhausting and a challenge of it's own!

I gave birth to a generally healthy 9lb 5oz baby boy (a full pound heavier than his brother's birth weight) with whom I was able to experience skin to skin, an amazing golden hour and a much smoother transition to Earth. I quickly noticed he had a very prominent lingual and labial frenulum. We struggled to nurse for a bit, but we got things going and so far, have not had to revise the oral tethers. But this time, we battled jaundice. My milk took much longer to fully come in (came in around day 4/5 very slowly as opposed to the fast and furious arrival of milk on DAY 2 the first time). Thankfully, I had a pediatrician who did not push formula or supplementation because although my milk wasn't totally in, baby was slowly regaining weight (and then when milk came in quickly gaining weight! He's a monster). The jaundice experience was very stressful for me and I found some great information through the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine! They have public access protocols for many different health situations with guidelines on how to preserve the nursing relationship in medically complex scenarios.

We still struggle a bit with a strong let down, and reflux, but my 3 month old is 16 pounds and happy all the time, so I feel like we're doing okay this time.

Moral of the story? Just because you struggled once doesn't mean you always will. Just because your situation is less than ideal doesn't mean you can't find a solution that works for you. Develop an amazing support system. Get educated. Advocate for yourself. Maybe the second time wasn't easier because of circumstances but rather because of my experiences and new knowledge? Who knows. Maybe it was a combination of things. What do you think?

What kind of challenges did you face with early breastfeeding? Did you find younger children were easier or harder to nurse than your first breastfeeding experience?

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