For the first part of my oldest son’s life, I lived a fog of tiredness. I was sleep deprived and the transition to motherhood was hard. Before “O” was born I dreamed about how much a would love nursing my baby. We went to a birth class and they had us practice holding up fake babies into nursing positions. It all seemed easy and I looked forward to it until…
My baby couldn’t nurse.
Unfamiliar with “normal” nursing, I thought it was my fault, and that something was wrong with my body or that I just wasn’t good enough at it. When he was born my baby had difficulty latching, and then they gave me a shield to help him latch, and they said he would eventually latch on his own, but he never did.
I met with lactation consultants, friends with experience breastfeeding, my doctor, and even went to breastfeeding support groups, but I still couldn’t feed him without a nursing shield. I still disliked breastfeeding greatly, and it caused me a lot of stress. They were concerned about “O’s” weight gain for a while.
He was a fussy baby because he was always hungry, and he never was able to get enough milk. I thought my supply was low, so I took supplements and ate all the right things, but it never seemed to work. He would take forever at each feeding. Usually, a full feeding would take about an hour. At night, he would wake frequently. I remember at one time in his life, he would sleep two hours, wake up, and I would nurse for an hour and then it would take another hour to calm him back down. That’s two hours alternating asleep and awake each night. I dreaded nighttime because I would feel so alone and anxious about nursing.
After many attempts at increasing his weight, we supplemented with formula. As difficult as it was to give him any formula, it was the best choice at the time. We also consulted with an ENT (ear/nose/throat dr) and discovered he did have a tongue tie but at that point he was adjusting fine to our new formula routine and the tongue tie was loosening on its own. My milk supply was lower at this point as well. I was also soon to go back to working full-time, and he would be bottle fed with a combination of pumped breast milk and also formula.
So I continued my nursing journey with “O”, but I would often feel sad when I would have to tell people that I supplemented “O” with formula. I felt like I needed to defend myself, When people made comments about other babies like “Chunky babies are so adorable” or “Look at the rolls on that baby.”, I felt sad. My baby never got these comments. Had I failed my skinny little baby?
“O” weaned off all breast milk by 7 or 8 months and went to full formula feedings until he was 1. However, when I was pregnant with “L” (born March ’16), I was very anxious and concerned about breastfeeding. I was worried about having another baby that was tongue-tied. I was worried about being up all night and then not being able to nap in the day because of “O” not napping much anymore. I talked with the midwives and wrote it in my birth plan that I cared a lot about how breastfeeding would go and I wanted it to go better.
So on March 9 at 10:35 pm, baby “L” was born, and I had to decide put aside all my deep hurts about what I thought was a failure to breastfeed “O”. In that moment I held my new baby “L” and decided to try to nurse him. With the help of my midwife, he latched and nursed skin on skin for a whole hour after delivery.
Since then “L” has proven to be a great nurser. He has shown no signs of tongue tie, and is a bigger baby. He is an efficient feeder and does not keep me awake all hours of the night. He has made nursing enjoyable, which is something I never experienced before.
I went to “L’s” 2 month appointment, and I reminded the doctor of my struggles with “O”, and she really commended me for deciding to nurse this baby. She said a lot of women give up on baby #2 and don’t try to nurse if it’s been a tough go with baby #1. And as I’ve reflected on her comments, I think she’s right on.
With baby “O” I struggled so hard to do everything right that I failed to see the real goal should have been to do everything best for my particular baby. Totally breastfeeding my first may have been what I thought was the right thing, but for that particular baby supplementing him was best. With baby “L” what has been best for him is breastfeeding, and I’m grateful it has been an enjoyable experience for both of us. I’m glad I had the courage to give nursing a second chance. I don’t take this experience for granted knowing how hard nursing can be.