From Baby #1 To #2, Nothing Is Easy About Breastfeeding

No matter what your breastfeeding journey looks like, you're bound to hit a few obstacles along the way

When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter I became obsessed with educating myself on breastfeeding. I read books on the subject, watched videos and chatted with moms who had breastfed their babies.

As a young woman pregnant for the first time, I was nervous to jump into the world of breastfeeding. Every time I read an article I felt like I’d become even more unsure of myself.

Cracked nipples.
Mastitis.
Low supply.
Inverted nipples.

It was enough to make me sweat just thinking about it.

When my daughter Penelope was born I was able to put into practise my months of research. I have a video of the first moments when I became a nursing mother and they will forever be precious to me. It was natural and I quickly learned that no education can take the place of the maternal instincts that just kick in. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t perfect, but it felt right.

After a bumpy start, Penelope and I settled into a routine and she started nursing well. She was quickly in the 95th percentile and I was relieved and humbled to know that my nursing journey was turning out to be quite uncomplicated.

I remember thinking how lucky I was, knowing so many who had struggled with breastfeeding. Little did I know, but my own difficult journey was just around the corner.

When Penelope was about four-months-old she started losing weight rapidly and we started supplementing with formula. She lost interest in the breast and preferred her bottle. I remember feeling confused and torn, holding onto our nursing relationship even when she’d long let go. She continued to lose weight and by six months my doctor urged me to switch to formula completely.

I obliged, embarrassed that I had waited so long and caused unnecessary suffering. I felt like a failure and found I had many conflicting recommendations. It took me a long time to come to terms with stopping breastfeeding before I was ready.

When my second daughter was born I held our breastfeeding journey loosely in my hands, afraid to let it get too close to my heart. I didn’t want things to end the same way, but wanted to be prepared in case it did.

Breastfeeding for the second time came naturally and I noticed that my second child seemed to genuinely enjoy and find great comfort at the breast. Even when I tried supplementing with formula when she was losing weight, she rejected the bottle and continued at the breast. We battled low supply for a few months, but because we were both motivated we got through.

Today my youngest daughter is 21-months-old and still nursing multiple times throughout the day. It seems the older she gets the less she wants to stop. And although I am ready to end this relationship, she isn’t.

Sometimes I have to laugh a little at the turn of events.

I’ve chosen to continue to embrace our quiet moments together. Nursing a toddler is quite different from a baby and I’m learning to navigate the new terrain here too.

Georgia has even started demanding the breast she wants to drink from, refusing one side and readily accepting the other. At the public library yesterday she had a loud meltdown, screaming for Mommy Milk.

I wish I could tell myself four years ago to put the book down and just listen to my body and my child. I wish I could encourage myself, and every other mom, that there is no reason for guilt when it comes to nursing. I will not judge the mom who chooses to bottle feed from the start. Neither will I judge the mom with her toddler in tow, nursing uncovered on a bench.

You are not defined by the amount of milk you produce, the amount of time you nurse for, or even if you choose to nurse. Your relationship and love for your child is no greater, whether you choose to push hard through trials in nursing, or decide it’s best to turn to formula.

Breastfeeding is a choice that we should all be given the freedom to make and it’s a journey that will take each mom down a different path. My heart breaks for the moms that must let go of their journey before they’re ready, take the time to grieve, but do not let yourself feel guilt, shame, or failure.

To my daughter who I nursed for six months and my daughter who I’ll likely nurse for two years, I love you both the same, now and forever. 

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