Those that know me well (or really, even a little bit) will most likely tell you that I am both an overachiever and an over-researcher. So of course, when I was pregnant with my first, I researched everything – eating, sleeping, carseats. I went to childbirth classes and baby classes and breastfeeding classes. By the time my son arrived, I felt prepared for birthing and mothering a tiny human. The first day with him was amazing. And then the second night, after being up for too many hours, little sleep, and too many people in our hospital room he nursed and nursed and nurse. And cried. So freaking much. This pattern continued for five days. Constant nursing, no sleep, and lots of tears from both of us because my milk just wasn’t coming in. I was at the beginning of my journey with postpartum depression and covered in hives from PUPPS, and my apparent inability to make milk was starting to put me over the edge. How could I be a good mom if I couldn’t do something as simple as lactate?!
In what may have been my husband’s most brilliant moment ever, he suggested I try to call my best friend’s sister, Riley, a doula, who in my husband’s words “helps people give birth, cloth diapers, and does that babywearing thing. I’m sure she knows about breastfeeding!” Luckily, she cared enough to call me at midnight to help me with getting a good latch and brainstorm ways to help my milk come in. 12 hours later, my milk was in, my son was happily nursing, and all was well! Or as well as things can be when you’re the sleep deprived parent of a 5-day old baby. She also turned me toward the La Leche League of Madison meetings and their Facebook group.
Nursing my son was probably the main thing that helped me get through the first year of my son’s life. I had postpartum depression, I had to return to teaching and research towards my PhD when my son was 5 weeks old, and I constantly heard many unsupportive and negative comments about our parenting decisions. But, in those midnight moments nursing my son back to sleep, and during the day when milk would drip out of his mouth as he gave me huge post-nursing grins, I felt like I was doing something right. We were both happy and peaceful, and those are some of my favorite memories of the baby period.
That’s not to say everything was rainbows and sunshine. Trying to nurse in public for the first time is awkward and intimidating. The various phases of distracted baby are a pain. Waking up with engorged breasts is painful. Biting hurts. Pumping at work kind of sucks. Constantly being covered in milk makes you feel like you’re never going to get your shit together and be normal. William reverse cycled at daycare so nursed every two hours all night until he was one. Thinking about family and acquaintances commenting on how long we’ve been nursing, when we’re going to stop, how it’s gross, why don’t we just a bottle, why can’t so-and-so just feed the baby raises my blood pressure still. My Mom, my husband, my supportive friends, and LLL leaders and members really helped me overcome various nursing challenges, and I really could not be more thankful for all of them.
This time around, nursing is completely different. Although she was early, I was able to hold Constance and nurse her immediately after birth. My milk came in right away. I’ve never felt like I was clueless about breastfeeding and would never succeed. Unlike my son, who nursed all the time, Constance nurses simply for food and not for comfort. Although William will regularly tell me that “she probably needs some mama milk” every time she cries. Often, our nursing sessions take place while reading to William or putting together Lego sets. She pulls off frequently when she hears William or my husband enter the room because she really just has to give them a beautiful grin. In our pre-bed nursing session, she often gets a sweet kiss on the forehead from her brother before he heads off to bed. However, like the first time around, I’ve gotten lots of support from other mothers in troubleshooting nursing issues and trying to meet our goals. And, just like before, I really do appreciate the quiet moments in the middle of the night where it’s just the two of us and she’s able to drift peacefully off to sleep in my arms.