Breastfeeding Personal Posts

Breastfeeding: Two Babies, Two Experiences

When my daughter was born, breastfeeding didn’t come naturally. It was awkward & weird, especially with a whole roomful or virtual strangers in the delivery room. Fortunately my L&D nurse (who was someone I went to High School with-not as awkward as I was afraid it would be) helped me express a bit of colostrum and get her latched on.

As is so typical, my daughter lost quite a bit of weight rather quickly (well within the range of normal) and I bet it was largely because her birth weight was so grossly inflated by the bags upon bags of fluid I was given during labor. I didn’t have a single decent postpartum nurse after her birth, and I was very quickly told that I “had” to give her formula and if I didn’t, the pediatrician would “make” me. I was pretty beaten down after a crappy birth experience and zero sleep in days thanks to all the “checking” on me or my room mate, and I gave in. She took about 1/4 ounce of formula and refused any more. The photo of my husband feeding her the bottle is the only one I have of them in the hospital and I can’t stand to look at it. Not because I judge those who use it, but because of how I refused to stand up for myself and allowed myself to be bullied throughout the whole experience.

She was born just after midnight on a Sunday and we had to beg to go home on Monday-about 39 hours after her birth. My son was born 2 hours earlier, before midnight on a Saturday, and Monday was the normal time to be discharged-about 41 hours after his birth-go figure. A pediatrician came in the hospital room and reamed me out because “we fought so hard to get the two days in the hospital” and here I go setting woman-kind back 50 years by wanting to leave. Plus, I was a “first time mom” and “breastfeeding” (said like I had two heads.)

When my son was born, it was still awkward to be exposed in front of a bunch of people, but he latched like an old pro in the delivery room. It was like he was born to breastfeed, and a nurse told me it was because only one of us was learning this time. I had one fantastic postpartum nurse who told me not to worry when I asked how much weight he’d lost, that was why babies were born with chub! He actually didn’t lose any weight worth mentioning, and I do think it was because I didn’t have IV fluids during labor. I did still get the threat of formula though. At our hospital they make you fill out a chart with when they eat, how long/much and when they have wet or dirty diapers. They didn’t bring me the chart until he was more than 12 hours old, so they got all confused reading the chart, thinking he hadn’t had a wet diaper etc etc. I cleared that up and they left me alone!

Breastfeeding my daughter was so incredibly painful that for weeks, I would cry when she got hungry. I used soothies gel pads (now made by Lansinoh) and they helped, but it was still torture. I had just a few “yowza, that smarts” moments with my son, but any pain was short lived. I did see the lactation consultant in the hospital, but it was a total joke. She didn’t check latch or help in any way. What she did was fit me for a nursing bra, put it on me, latch it, say “that fits” and left me standing there saying “uuhhh…my breasts aren’t in it.” (She had the cups way up over my chest.) Even that was disastrous since I ended up with a band too big and a cup too small, which just got worse as my size settled down over a few weeks (note: my personal recommendation is to stick with stretchy sleep/sport type nursing bras for the first few weeks, and wait to get bras with band/cup sizes.)

My daughter was born Sunday after midnight, and my milk didn’t come in until Wednesday night. I have fibrocystic breasts, so they are normally lumpy. Wednesday, they became soft and smooth, and boiling hot, then turned rock hard shortly after! With my son, I never experienced a rush of engorgement, my milk just came in quickly.

A common theme for both is that neither cared for the bottle. We tried when they were newborns and they did OK, but we waited to long to try again and they refused. They’d rather go hungry. I suspect that my milk has excess lipase, so I hope to try to scald expressed milk next time. I know pumping/bottles aren’t necessary, but it would be nice to be able to go to the grocery store by myself without worrying about having a hungry baby at home. (My kids didn’t read the books saying they were “supposed to” nurse every 2 hours, LOL.)

Both kids were/are tiny and quickly fell off the growth charts (my daughter wasn’t on it until 2 1/2, my son got on it at his 2-year checkup!) Being a first time mom and breastfeeder, this meant she was subjected to numerous invasive and painful tests and procedures. Even though she was just fine per WHO growth standards, exceeding milestones and showing no symptoms, most doctors have no idea how to look at the baby, not the scale.

We had an old school doctor (who should have retired a long time ago) tell us to just give her cereal and formula in a bottle (at two weeks old.) Luckily we found the pediatrician we see now, who was far more conservative and said he’d “take IQ over weight any day.” He is far from perfect; he doesn’t really understand night or extended nursing (I just keep that to myself!) but he never mentioned formula. When my son followed the same patterns, he chalked it up to genetics and we went about our lives.

As my daughter ate more food after she turned one, she gradually and naturally reduced her nursing frequency. My son on the other hand, was always a constant nurser! Our daughter was/is a high needs and rather difficult child, and we had no interest in having another any time soon. At my annual checkup when she was 18 months old, my doctor prescribed combination birth control pills. She said that the estrogen could “reduce milk supply” but I really wasn’t worried. Little did I know that it wouldn’t “reduce” my supply, it would make it disappear! In hindsight, I know I could have stopped the pills and relactated, but I developed a nursing aversion and found it to be so godawful torturous, I just wanted it to be over. She continued to dry nurse (mostly before bed) for 3 1/2 months, and finally weaned at 21 1/2 months old. I suppose it was slightly bittersweet, but I was beyond ready, and relieved to be done.

When I had my son, I was bound & determined to let him self wean, but again at around 18 months (no birth control this time), I started to find nursing physically and emotionally irritating. I had resumed my cycles when he was around 15 1/2 months old (10 with my daughter) but I wonder if the aversion started when my fertility actually returned? When he was 22 months old, I became pregnant with the baby I’m currently cooking. I didn’t have a lot of soreness initially, and I ate oatmeal, drank water and took supplements, determined to get through the pregnancy without losing my milk supply.

Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, around 8 or so weeks, my milk supply dwindled, then disappeared. He pretty suddenly stopped asking to nurse; he had been nursing first thing in the morning, at least 1-2 more times before lunch, 2-3 times in the afternoon, once or twice in the evening, and again before bed, so 6-9 times a day. He would latch on now and again, either falling asleep right away, or making a face and pulling off. He started to go days, then a week or more between nursings, eventually nursing for the last time a few days before his second birthday.

I do miss that special bond and cuddle time, but the nursing aversion has again made me rather glad to be finished. The hardest part for us is that my son is a non-napper. He will fall asleep in the car, and he’d fall asleep nursing, but I just can’t put him down. He had gotten into the habit of falling asleep during his afternoon nursing, and I’d just hold him and let him sleep. When he stopped nursing, we didn’t have that time anymore. For a month or so, he’d be really crabby, then fall asleep in the car when we picked my daughter up from school. Unfortunately that’s less than an hour round trip, including waiting in line, and I’m not able to transfer him from the car to his bed.

When school let out, we lost that nap too, so he just gets incredibly crabby in the afternoon. When swim lessons began, he’d fall asleep on the 15 minute car ride (around 6 PM) and he was so tired, he’d sleep while I took him out of the car, walked down to the pool and sat down through the 45 minute swim lesson! On non-swim lesson days, he’s started to fall asleep face down on the floor, on my lap, anywhere! I still can’t get him to nap in bed though!

I’m hoping that nursing baby #3 will go as smoothly as nursing my son, but I’m still worried about the nursing aversion I seem to develop around 18 months. I want the baby to wean on his/her own terms, but I hate for my last memories of nursing to be horrible and awful ones!

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Maria Moser
Maria is the mother of 3, writing about cloth diapers & going green. You'll often find her juggling her preschooler and typing 1-handed in between sips of cold coffee. Maria works with many companies within the cloth diaper industry and beyond, providing social media management, product development and other services.
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  • August 10, 2011 at 10:12 am

    I think it’s interesting you mention the physical/emotional aversion to nursing. I experienced the same thing with both of my kids, at about the same time- around 17 months. With both, I continued to nurse, but I was actively using that time to wean them – shorter nursing sessions, distraction, etc. With #1, I figured it was because I got pregnant at 16 months, we nursed until about 20 months. With #2, I didn’t get pregnant until about the same time as he was actually done nursing, about 23 months. To say he was done nursing is not right, I guess, because 6+ months later, he still sometimes asks to nurse. He wasn’t ready to be done, but I sure was.

    I had figured I would do child-led weaning, too, but nursing at about 18 months onward seriously made me want to jump out of my skin. I would literally twitch and shift around, wanting to push the child away. Not a very happy place. I wish it weren’t that way for me – not opposed to extended or tandem nursing, but clearly not in the cards as yet.

    I hope your next (and mine) have more satisfying ends to nursing!

    • August 10, 2011 at 10:31 am

      I really suspect it is hormonal. Even though my cycles returned, perhaps I wasn’t actually ovulating? (Which I somewhat suspect due to charting.) I’ll be honest…while I’m not “glad” you experienced it, I’m glad I’m not alone!!

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