I have a complicated relationship with breastfeeding. Things did not start well with Aspen. In hindsight, I can see that a lot of it probably stemmed from her time in the NICU, and being bottle-fed without my awareness. I wasn't prompted to pump much, nor was I given support while in the hospital so I could better understand what was going on, or what could happen as a result of my limited contact with my newborn daughter.
It took about three months before I could nurse Aspen without feeling uncomfortable. Up until then, every time she latched I wanted to kick my foot through the ottoman to alleviate the pain caused by nursing. It was awful. But I powered through because I'm extremely stubborn. I made peace with Aspen's growth chart because although she seemed small, she was consistently gaining weight and developing. I learned that sometimes well-meaning lactation consultants and pediatricians have an agenda they need to push and that can result in a lot of unnecessary stress for a new parent.
This time around, I was more confident. Not that I would rock at breastfeeding, but that I wouldn't let anyone bully me or make me feel like a failure. I went in with the knowledge that a baby can nurse for varying amounts of time and still be healthy. I went in with the knowledge that it was going to be hard right from the get-go, but that I could overcome it if I remained calm.
The first times I tried nursing Lincoln in the hospital, Kev had to rub my shoulders to remind me to relax. I talked out loud to myself, saying that Linc and I were both learning something brand-new together, so it was going to be tricky. I reminded myself that we would figure it out eventually and whatever decision we made would be fine. It was very difficult since he couldn't figure out the latch right away and he would cry about being hungry without being able to get anything.
And although we kept working on it, every time a nurse asked me about breastfeeding, they seemed displeased with my responses. It seems they got the feeling I didn't care how long he nursed and wasn't taking it seriously. I felt judged and was told that I should nurse him every two hours, regardless of Lincoln's interest, and that it should be about ten minutes per breast every time. That seemed completely ridiculous to me since my only experience was with Aspen, who nursed about 8-10 minutes TOTAL every couple of hours in her infancy.
Eventually, they sent the lactation consultant to my room. She told me weird things like, "boys just want to please their mothers so he'll be a better nurser than your daughter." And there was something about boys needing to wear pants all the time... ? I don't even know. Maybe she wasn't happy that I had Linc only clothed in the hospital-provided, long-sleeved top and a diaper... ? It was just the weirdest consultation I've ever had about breastfeeding. And she gave me pictures of foods I should eat in order to breastfeed better. Helpful! Meanwhile, my hospital diet couldn't even be guaranteed to be lactose-free during my stay so... The Friday that I checked out, the pediatrician on-call also made it seem vitally important that I get Lincoln in to see our regular doctor first-thing Monday morning to discuss nursing because, even though Linc didn't have any indication of jaundice or excessive loss of birth weight, I could certainly benefit from some dude advising me about boobs.
But I stuck to my guns and actually told one of the nurses it felt like everyone was harping on my approach to feeding my baby. I understand that it's important to FEED YOUR CHILD. And I was diligently trying. I will forever be grateful to one of my night nurses who listened to me and understood that trying to nurse a totally lethargic baby who wasn't hungry was very frustrating. She returned Lincoln to the nursery after a 5-minute feeding and said she would let him sleep as long as four more hours if he wanted before bringing him back to my room. It was just what I needed. I got a solid stretch of sleep and finally felt validated. And when Lincoln came back, he nursed for twenty minutes. WINNING.
Breastfeeding can be difficult to talk about without people getting offended because it is so personal. Not only is it a tiny bit embarrassing to just open up your shirt to strangers and let them help you shove a baby's face against your breast, but it's embarrassing to feel like your body is failing at something that's labeled "natural" and "instinctual." For me, it's a lot of hard work and problem-solving. It doesn't come easily.
Overall, it has been much more encouraging to breastfeed this time
around. It is not as painful as often, and Lincoln does nurse for longer
periods of time than Aspen ever did. We still have our moments when
he's screaming and won't latch and I'm exhausted and just want him to be
full and happy, but I'm better able to talk myself out of a meltdown
due to my past experiences. It has been worth the effort and I'm proud for maintaining my cool and being kind to myself.
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