Similar to Lawson’s birth, I had plans to breastfeed Sybil but didn’t give it much thought before she was born. I thought it would loosely follow my experience nursing Lawson (you can read about it here and here). Now I know every child and experience is unique.
Physically nursing started out similar enough. It took a couple of days for my milk to come in, but when it did I certainly felt like I had plenty of it. My nipples were sore and cracked. I developed mastitis within the first two weeks. Luckily this time I knew something wasn’t right and got on medication quickly.
(Side note: mastitis is the most painful thing I’ve ever gone through. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I dreaded nursing and would be in tears. Nursing should not be that painful. If you’re in extreme pain when nursing, get to your doctor asap.)
That’s where the similarities ended. Emotionally, I felt completely different. I didn’t have those moments of pure bliss where I stared into her eyes and fell in love. Looking back, I think there were a couple of reasons for this. One, Sybil nursed for comfort a lot (more on this below). Two, nursing a newborn with a toddler crawling all over you or crying for attention isn’t exactly relaxing. Three, I knew nursing wasn’t my only way of connecting with Sybil. With Lawson, I thought it was such a special bond we shared (which it is) and that bond would disappear once I stopped nursing (which it doesn’t).
HOW BREASTFEEDING MY SECOND BABY WAS DIFFERENT
Nursing for Comfort
Sybil had a lot of stomach issues and nursing became her comfort. When she grew out of her stomach issues, she started teething. Again, nursing was her comfort. She maintained a schedule during the day, but at night I nursed her around the clock. Seriously, sometimes she was awake and nursing every 90 minutes throughout the night. To say I was exhausted is an understatement. Because she nursed so often, it felt like more of a chore than something special.
With Lawson, I struggled to maintain my milk supply. Around 5 months old, he started losing weight. At 8 months, we started supplementing with formula. At 9 months old, he was exclusively fed formula because I was producing less than an ounce of milk. Since I knew milk supply could be an issue for me, I was much more proactive about maintaining my milk supply the second time around. I’m thankful I didn’t have any issues with supply when nursing Sybil.
I essentially was forced to wean Lawson when I wasn’t producing enough milk. Emotionally this was really difficult for me. I felt guilty that I wasn’t able to provide him with the nutrition he needed (he really could have cared less, which eventually made me feel better!) With Sybil, it was my choice. I started weaning her a few weeks before her first birthday by dropping a mid-day feeding. She was then nursing at wake-up, lunch, nighttime and 1-2x a night. We continued with that schedule for a month or so. Then I began dropping one feeding every two weeks. Finally, at 14 months old, her night/early morning feeding was the last to go.
I kept waiting for the perfect moment for the last time I nursed her. I wanted it to be special and then I finally realized it wasn’t going to be that way for us. So the night before I planned to nurse her for the last time, I explained to her it would be our last time. That I did love nursing her and was proud of how far we’d come from those painful first days and weeks. And then in the early morning darkness, I held her and nursed her for the last time, laid her on the bed next to me and snuggled up together.
Nursing is so much harder than I ever imagined it would be. It’s painful, time consuming and stressful at times. I’ve been on both sides of breastfeeding through that elusive first year and I’m proud of each experience.
Did you, or do you plan to, breastfeed your baby? What was your experience?
photo by The Lauren Style