This is the second post in my series celebrating World Breastfeeding week. To read the introductory post and ground rules for discussion, click here.
This year, World Breastfeeding Week is all about communication. If we communicate with each other, sharing our successes and struggles, we create a wonderful community of support for each other. And even more important is communicating with future generations of mothers about the joys of nursing. Because I saw my mother nurse, I never wondered if I would nurse my children. For me, it was a certainty. So this week, I’m sharing a few nursing stories with you as my way of celebrating WBW 2011. Enjoy!
Nursing the Second Time Around
Our second baby was born on February 4th of this year. In the months leading up to Andrew’s birth, when friends asked how they could pray for me, I specifically requested prayer regarding nursing.
Nursing my first baby was a real struggle. Last year, I shared with you the difficulties I had in getting her to latch as well as the lack of support from the hospital staff, which led to an even worse situation and weight loss for my daughter. With the support of my family, two lactation specialists, and much prayer (and tears!), we had a huge breakthrough at two weeks old, and I enjoyed nursing my daughter until she was 17 months old.
After all we had gone through with Isabelle, I was pretty fearful of experiencing the same thing the second time. But God answers prayers. Andrew was born via c-section (due to Isabelle’s c-section birth, since she was breech), yet my nursing experience was completely different with him.
When Andrew was brought to me for the first time, I began nursing. He immediately latched on with no problems. I was amazed at the energy and fervor that my newborn had for nursing. I don’t know what made the difference. It could be my experience, the baby’s personality, or even weight, since he was 8 lbs. 5 oz. and Izzy was 6 lbs. 14 oz. As my husband has said before with other life events, “I don’t care how God did it, I just know that He did.” Andrew nursed like a champ.
After that first time, we tried various holds to see what would work best for Andrew. Even though I’d nursed before, it felt awkward nursing such a tiny baby again. The nurses tried the biological nurturing position, also called “laid back nursing.” If you’ve never tried it, read up on it and give it a try, especially with a newborn. I think Andrew opened up his mouth for a better latch when we used this position. But I had a hard time doing it on my own and being able to see exactly how he was latched, so I often went back to my favorite hold, the clutch hold, which one lactation specialist said would probably always be easiest for me.
A good nurser = one tired mommy!
Our challenges with Andrew were completely different than with Isabelle. The kid wore me out! He constantly wanted to eat, giving me only about an hour and a half break in between nursings during that first day. My doctor even commented on Andrew’s constant nursing. Every time he stopped by to check on me, he had to wait in the hallway for me to finish nursing.
I wanted to do “rooming in,” since I know it’s best for establishing a good breastfeeding relationship. But I was also recovering from surgery and I was completely exhausted, so when the nurses offered to take him to the nursery, I said please & thank you. I fell asleep immediately! I was worn out, but so thrilled that he was nursing well.
Andrew did really well in the nursery. Since he was away from me, he didn’t desire to nurse quite as often, and I was able to sleep for about 2 or 3 hours at a time. We kept him with us the next day until it was time to go to sleep again.
The 24 Hour Milk Service
The second night we had struggles that really concerned me. Suddenly, my baby didn’t want to latch! He was crying when the nurse brought him to me, and only the use of sugar water would get him to latch on and nurse. I was afraid that this was the beginning of a real problem, so I called the lactation specialist.
She explained that this was actually completely normal with some babies who were good nursers. The problem was that he would get so hungry and upset that he could not latch on. If I could nurse him before he got worked up, then he would latch just fine. So that night, I declined the nurses’ offer to take him to the nursery. Instead, I pretty much nursed him constantly. Sometimes, I would put him in his bed for about 30 minutes, but otherwise, I kept him attached and dozed while he nursed in the biological nurturing position.
At some point during the fog of those first few days, I remember thinking that this scenario is precisely why many women have to give up nursing early on. It’s exhausting! It’s also easy to think that the baby is starving because he wants to nurse constantly. It’s actually the baby’s way of helping your milk to come in quickly. Nursing on demand will make that happen. I’m all about scheduling a baby, but not at this age.
I keep logs of when my babies nurse for the first month or so, and in those early days, I was nursing him 14 times a day. Sometimes he nursed only 11 times. You do the math! I hardly slept! But it was worth it to establish a good nursing relationship, and after the first week or so, it’s much easier to nurse a baby than to get up and fix bottles.
Andrew continued this trend of nursing constantly until he was a few days old, when my milk came in. It arrived much quicker this time. Another result was that he hardly lost any of his birth weight. Doctors expect the baby to be back at birth weight at their 2 week checkup. At Andrew’s 4 day checkup, he was already at 8 lbs. 3 oz., just two ounces shy of his birth weight. And at two weeks, he was well over 9 pounds. Our pediatrician was quite pleased!
During those first couple of weeks, we also became really good friends with a pacifier. Pacifier use can hinder good nursing, but it can also be a welcome break for a mom who doesn’t want to be the baby’s pacifier, since it meets baby’s need for non-nutritive sucking. Even when he was only hours old, our nurse commented on his high need for it. Indeed, the pacifier has never been a hindrance for good weight gain for Andrew.
I dealt with a little bit of chapping that first week, but it was nothing that a little bit of Lansinoh couldn’t fix. Once he was about a week and a half, it was gone.
Andrew also showed me that it was possible for a newborn baby to nurse in 15 minutes and still thrive. I would’ve been very concerned about his quick nursing habits if I didn’t know that he was gaining weight so well. Since I have a busy two year old to keep up with, it’s nice that Andrew can eat so quickly.
Six Months and Beyond
At six months, nursing has continued to be easy peasy. Andrew is exclusively breastfed, meaning no supplementing and no solid food yet. He nurses on both sides in 5-10 minutes, max. The only “problem” we have is that he won’t take bottles, but that’s a problem I can deal with. Pumping bottles is pointless anyway when the baby eats as quickly as Andrew does. He is currently having a growth spurt, so I’m nursing him every two hours or so. That’s the great thing about a schedule. Anytime he deviates from it, I can tell he’s having a growth spurt, so I just accommodate his increased appetite until the growth spurt ends. They typically last about two days. Since his surgery, this is the first time his growth spurt came “on schedule.” Babies typically have a 6 month growth spurt, and Andrew will be 6 months on Thursday.
I firmly believe that God gave Andrew such a hearty appetite to prepare him for his emergency lung surgery at nearly 6 weeks of age. It was quite a challenge, but I learned that it’s possible to maintain milk supply and continue nursing even when baby is on a feeding tube for a while. I’ll share that experience tomorrow.