With my firstborn I wasn’t sure how long I really wanted to breastfeed. I knew that “breast is best” and I intended to breastfeed for at least 6 months, and then reassess. I wanted to do what was best for my baby and follow the WHO guidelines. Of course even with all the fantastic books I read, I still found it hard in the beginning.
The first few weeks were difficult for a few reasons, the first being that Aidan was what you would call a “sleepy” baby. He wasn’t jaundiced enough to warrant light therapy, but sleepy enough to make breastfeeding very difficult and time consuming. It would take almost an hour and a half to feed him. Since we needed to feed him every two hours we were at our wit’s end and it was totally unsustainable. The best way to flush the jaundice from his system while the sun was hiding was to get more food into (and out of) him. We then made the difficult decision to supplement with formula while I tried to pump in between the mammoth nursing sessions. Luckily for us it was the right decision. Aidan started to wake up and nurse, and continued to be a champion nurser until he weaned around 19-20 months.
With Quinlan I naively thought that it would be easier. What I didn’t take into consideration was that while I may have been an experienced breastfeeder, Quinlan wasn’t. I also thought that since this birth was so different than my first, my beginning breastfeeding experience would be different. In the very beginning, it was.
When Aidan was born it was a long hard labour. Because he was in some distress at the end of the labour, Aidan was whisked away to be checked out by the paediatrician before I even saw him. It was at least 45 minutes before I got to hold him. I missed the skin to skin contact right after birth and I was incredibly anxious to get him near the breast to see if he would latch. I am glad he was able to be in Anthony’s arms for most of the time I was being stitched up. It was a great bonding time for father and son.
When Quinlan was born things progressed so quickly that any ideas I might have had for a birth plan went out the window. Well, I guess plan might be too strong a word for what I had in mind, an epidural and skin to skin contact with breastfeeding as soon as Quinlan wanted it. The epidural didn’t have any time to happen, but as soon as he was out Quinlan was on my chest warming up. They cleaned him up and almost immediately he went for the breast. He breastfed like he was born to do it. I really thought that we were home free. I was wrong.
Quinlan also was a little jaundiced and sleepy and had problems latching. It was during this period of a couple of weeks that Anthony was my rock. My hormones were way out of whack, I was in incredible engorgement pain, we couldn’t find a breast pump that had a flange big enough to accommodate my nipples and actually pump anything and I was an absolute wreck. If Anthony hadn’t been there I am not sure how I would have coped. Anthony finally found a pump that would work, and kept me sane in the middle of the night when it would take Quinlan and hour or more to actually latch. Again we needed to supplement so that Quinlan wouldn’t dehydrate, and to get rid of the jaundice. I felt like a failure.
Eventually Quinlan got a little bigger, learned to latch, and got on track. Once he learned to latch and eat Quinlan decided to shun the bottle in all forms. Since he was less than two months old Quinlan would not drink pumped milk, formula, milk or any dairy that didn’t come from my breast. At thirteen months he still will not take anything else except juice and water.
There are several things I learned from my experiences with both my sons. I will be posting my breastfeeding wisdom tomorrow as a part of the Parenting By Nature blogging contest, but I wanted to have my back story written first. I think that it is better to inspire a natural parenting experience like breastfeeding if it isn’t preachy and doesn’t gloss over some of the harder parts of the process. I also think that a lot of lactivists need to work on their delivery because they tend to come across as breastfeeding bullies. In my opinion you don’t win anyone over by making them feel bad about their parenting decisions.
It is distressing to feel disappointed in your body because you have trouble. It is terrible to feel guilty because in order to make breastfeeding happen you needed to supplement in the beginning. I am here to tell you that no matter what your journey, whether it comes naturally, if you need to pump, feed formula, supplement or some combination of them all, you will do what is best for your baby. It isn’t always easy and I, for one, am not judging the choices you have had to make.