some thoughts on nursing

I hope you see the humor in this picture with this post. This cow lives right around the corner from us and as I was looking for a fitting image I decided to picture her with this post instead of me or my children. :)

Well the title should be enough of a heads up for anyone not interested in this topic just to skip this post. But I want to write about this...and have wanted to since Elsie was one week old. And then last night I was with a great group of women at my sister's house and the topic came up again and confirmed that I want to throw my experience out there.

When my cousin Kathy's baby was just a week and a half old, I went to visit. And I said something like, "isn't breastfeeding the most amazing, beautiful and wonderful gift? I loved every second with Ivar."

I meant what I said. And I still feel this way with my whole heart. But then when I had Elsie I had a lot of trouble during that first week. And the words I had spoken to Kathy haunted me with every attempt to feed my baby. It wasn't feeling amazing, beautiful or wonderful. It felt more like ten million razor blades attacking me in one very sensitive spot all at once. It hurt so bad.

And I was awkward. I hadn't counted on having to relearn how to breastfeed with baby number two. I think I assumed I'd be well seasoned after ten months with baby number one. But Elsie was a new baby, and we had to learn everything again together.

My time feeding Elsie in the hospital went fairly well. Usually there was a nurse nearby who could help us get started. But even before we went home I felt less than confident. I had the lactation specialist come by and help. And that was sort of helpful, but I left the hospital concerned.

And as it played out the next 48 hours were really, really tough. Physically, it hurt like crazies. Can't even put it into words. Her latch was little, and I was exhausted.

But emotionally it was killing me. Elsie cried hard because she was hungry. And I knew I was the only one who could feed her. It was my job. And it wasn't working. So as she cried, I did too. It made me sad not to be able to do the thing that would help calm her down and fill her up.

Rory called the lactation specialist from the hospital and had me talk to her again. And we also called an independent lactation specialist we found through google who would do home visits. One was very helpful and the other just told stories of her own kids. Which was frustrating.

But before we had the woman come to our home, my milk came in and somehow Elsie and I started to figure out how to work together to get the job done. I wish I could say, "and then we tried... and it saved the day..." But it wasn't any one thing. I think everything just sort of clicked for us. (Though belly to belly is key. And I had to get rid of the brought Elsie up too high. And I started taking deep breaths and dropping my shoulders right before I brought her to my chest.)

In the end, we figured it out. But not without a whole lot of tears from both mom and baby. It was a really hard way to start out our days together.

However, now, five weeks later, I can confidently say it was all worth it. Of course it was. Nursing is such a treasured time. I love that every three hours I have to stop, put my feet up and adore my baby. And I love the miracle that happens every time I walk into her nursery half-dead in the middle of the night, and how when I see her I am instantly overcome with love and affection and happiness. I still fall asleep in the glider rocker as soon as she is latched on, but for that sweet moment when we see each other, it actually feels like love sweeps over the room.

That's what I was trying to tell Kathy that day. But I also should have told her that it can also feel like ten million razor blades too.

Two closing thoughts:

I was talking to my sister about this last night after everyone left her house. Annika tried for a very long time to get her first born to latch on. But nothing worked. She had lots of consultants help, tried the little tiny cup, but in the end Annika pumped every four hours for six months (!!!) and fed her with a bottle. And that worked too. It wasn't her first choice, but I remember being so proud of her and the stamina it took to pump six times a day and bottle feed every three hours and wash all of the equipment for the next pump. It was a true commitment. And then her next two babies latched on right away.

And finally, this is my personal story with breastfeeding, but I make no judgements on moms, no matter how they feed their baby. I am fully aware that there are tons of factors unique to each mom and baby that determine the best plan for feeding that little kiddo. And whether it was breastfeeding or bottle fed, there is no greater sound than a big juicy burp that lets you know this baby is well fed.


Renee said...

Great post, Becca! You summed it up exactly. We each have our story, but, yes, in the end it's all about the burp :) Love that!

Heather said...

Great post, Becca! This is something I am thinking about a lot as I prepare for my baby girl to arrive. Will it be easy for us, will be it be hard? Not sure at this point, but at least I can prepare myself that it could go either way. I hope, hope, hope that I get to experience the good parts of nursing! Thanks for your honesty.

Lacy said...

I love hearing other people's experiences! Thanks for sharing:) My first was my worst, razor blades for 9 straight I prayed continuously during our second pregnancy that it would be better, and thankfully it was 100 times better, every baby is different I guess:)

Becca Groves said...

Thanks Ladies.

Heather, I am so excited for you. Can't wait to hear your stories with your sweet little girl on the way. (I got a bonnet today in the mail from my cousin Kathy that made me swoon. Oh little girls. Their clothes really are 100 times cuter, no matter what people say!)

Jamie Willow said...

my first was hard...and then I got thrush. yikes. but I stuck with it and the feeling of accomplishment that I didn't give up was really great...and we nursed for 2 1/2 yrs...then along came Lucas and you are right, it is totally different and you have to start over...he's been an easy and fast nurser...I was all prepared to spend hours every day nursing him and finding things for Judah to do while I was indisposed...but alas, he never takes more than 10 minutes total and it's so different. crazy how that works. one more way we learn about our kids as individuals I think.
loved reading your story.