I posted over a year ago about how my inability to breastfeed Jax left me feeling abnormal and inadequate. Even 1.5 years later, I was still reeling from my birth experience and the PPD/PPA experience that went too long untreated.
Looking back now, 13 months after that post, I am absolutely amazed at how much different I feel.
Every single time I nurse Jory, even when I'm nervously trying to discreetly nurse in public, I'm in awe and thankful that this time has been so very very different. Sometimes I just sit there and smile like a fool, because I can't believe how wonderful the past two months with her have been.
With Jax, I woke up to my alarm every 3 hours in the middle of the night to call the NICU and check on him, then hooked up to pump in bed where I sat there and cried for 30 minutes at a time. I then got up to clean and sanitize 10 pump parts and pour the milk into a storage bag, which always left me worried about my dwindling supply. I planned my life in 3 hour increments so that I could be home to pump, as pumping in public is basically near impossible (although I definitely did more than my fair share of it when I had no other choice).
With Jory, I grabbed my snuggly baby from her bassinet right beside my bed and held her close as she contentedly nursed and I silently cried some of the happiest tears of my life. When she was finished, I just held her close and enjoyed even more newborn cuddles as we both went back to sleep.
So very different.
Of course, the first month of breastfeeding Jory was not without its challenges. I'm pretty sure people who say "breastfeeding should never be painful" are big fat liars and/or have never nursed a day in their life. As a very wise friend stated "OF COURSE it's going to hurt. If someone sucks your pinky finger for 30-60 minutes at a time, 15 times a day, every day, even that would be sore. And this is your nipple, so of course it's going to hurt." So true.
The first 2 weeks were the worst. I really wish someone had sat me down and informed me of the reality of how painful it would be before I had babies. Aside from the uterine contractions, which I know are necessary but feel like the punch-you-in-the-gut labor pains, the topical pain of those first few weeks can seem unbearable. I may or may not have had to stop holding Jory's head/neck with one of my hands because the pain of her latching on would make me want to pinch her head a little. I'm totally kidding, of course, as I would never pinch my newborn's head, but someone else tell me they can relate?
During the second week, I developed a blood blister larger than a raisin, which terrified me to nurse with because I was just sure she would rip it off. My OB called in some cream for me (called Triple Nipple) to use and it literally went away within a few hours. The stuff was $75, but apparently, magic. That & lanolin became my best buddies.
The first two weeks were also when we were struggling to get Jory over her jaundice, and the only way to do that is to poop it out, which means that she needed to eat. The problem was that she much preferred sleep over food at that time, so every feeding was a struggle to keep her from drifting off. The sleepy phase finally ended sometime around 6 weeks, I believe, and she only rarely falls asleep while eating now.
Once the first month passed, it stopped being painful for me completely. I can honestly say, pushing past the pain of the cracked and bleeding nipples, blood blister, etc was all worth it, and it doesn't hurt one little bit now to nurse. It's inevitable to have those thoughts of oh my gosh I'm going to quit right now but I'm thankful I stuck with it because it really is wonderful. I mean, not only is it healthy for mama & baby, but it's also a huge money-saver. Formula seriously adds up, y'all. It was also tempting to just pump and not nurse, but after exclusively pumping for 7.5 months with Jax, I'm all too aware of the supply issues and HUGE pain in the butt that generally entails, so those memories also helped me power through.
Every time she has milk on her tongue, I worry that it's thrush (which I had with Jax). When I do try to pump to stock up my freezer supply, and don't get a whole lot, I worry about supply issues (which I had with Jax). I'm still feeling like there's no way it can be this good, but so far it just is.
When I was pregnant with Jory, I read up on breastfeeding positions, latches, problems, supply issues, etc. I felt like if I equipped myself with enough knowledge of the topic that it could work out for me and help me be successful. However, I don't really know that that did much, since as with most aspects of parenting, it's something you just have to experience to understand, but it probably helped boost my confidence. During my last trimester, I read tweets from this mama (who had just had her second little girl at the time) that her breastfeeding experience was so much better the second time around, and I'm not gonna lie, that made me 100% hopeful that I could be as lucky. And I was.
So I guess the point of this post is to encourage mamas who struggled the first time around. It really and truly can be amazing, and I suppose with the saying "every baby is different", every breastfeeding experience is different as well.