Breastfeeding: Third Time’s A Charm

It’s difficult to believe that August has already come and gone. As if COVID-19 isn’t enough to keep us on our toes at all times, Mother Nature decided a derecho would be another way to keep us guessing this year.

Amidst all the chaos, here’s a reminder that August was National Breastfeeding Month!

My heart aches for the mamas out there who lost their freezer stash or backup breastmilk because of the power outages. I know the age-old saying is that we shouldn’t cry over spilled milk, but if you want to cry about spoiled breastmilk, I don’t think anyone would blame you.

Breastfeeding: Third Time's A CharmIt wasn’t until my second baby was three months old that I was able to increase my supply enough to have any excess milk to freeze. I was so proud of that 6-ounce bag of milk that I took a picture of it, printed it, and put it in my son’s baby book.

What I had always thought would be a seamless, natural process ended up being much more difficult than I could have anticipated.

It’s almost bewildering to me now that I had never heard anyone talk about the fact that breastfeeding can be (and usually is) very painful when you first start. I was not at all prepared. My first breastfeeding experience fell so short of my expectations, and I cried so many times that first week out of guilt, pain, and exhaustion. I felt like a complete failure.

It was right around this time that a friend posted on Facebook that she had just completed a year of exclusively nursing her twins. I remember being in awe of the magnitude of that accomplishment.

I also remember thinking, “She breastfed TWO babies for an ENTIRE YEAR. I can’t even manage to breastfeed one baby for one week. What is wrong with me?”

Then, my mom told me something that changed my entire perspective. She said, “You know, you were formula-fed from Day One. It’s not as big of a deal as you think!”

For some reason, I had always assumed I was breastfed.

It was like a light bulb went off inside my head. Here I was drowning in guilt, feeling as though my child would be “less than” if I wasn’t able to give her breastmilk. Yet I had lived a completely normal and healthy life thus far despite never having had a drop of it!

I decided to stop breastfeeding when my daughter was 3-4 weeks old and I still believe it was the best decision I could’ve made at that time for my mental health and to ensure my daughter was getting proper nutrition. No regrets.

I found out much later that my oldest is “tongue-tied”. This is a fairly common condition (it affects 5% of newborns) and it restricted her tongue’s range of motion, causing the breastfeeding process to be incredibly painful. It made it difficult for me to be able to withstand the pain of an entire feeding, so she was rarely getting enough colostrum or breastmilk to be full and content.

So when I gave birth to my son just 15 months later, I was wary to give breastfeeding another try.

To my surprise, it was SO much easier this time around! 

I realized that with my oldest daughter, the pain I experienced wasn’t normal. It wasn’t something I should’ve just been able to “get over”. There was some pain at the beginning of my second breastfeeding journey, but NOTHING compared to the first. The pain was bearable and lessened the longer I nursed my son. I easily reached my goal to breastfeed for three months.

The third time around, I was finally a veteran and knew what to expect. Breastfeeding was finally the natural and simple process that I had always hoped it could be. I exclusively nursed her for six months.

It’s funny how my views on breastfeeding changed with each child.

At first, I viewed it as much more inconvenient than formula feeding. By the third time around, I remember thinking how wildly convenient it was to not have to go downstairs and make a bottle every time my baby woke up. 

With my first two, I hated having to go alone to a room to nurse during family functions and felt “left out”. By Baby #3, I relished that quiet alone time with my newborn. It was a welcome break from chasing her older brother and sister around!

All of this to say: If breastfeeding is much harder than you ever anticipated, you’re not alone. You’re not a failure if you decide to go a different route.

If the experience is more painful than you ever expected, there may be underlying issues! If it didn’t work with the first baby, don’t be afraid to try again with baby number two! And even if it never works, “fed truly is best”. No guilt, no regrets.

When your child goes to kindergarten one day, look around at all of his or her classmates, and see if you can tell me how all of them were fed as infants. (Spoiler alert, you won’t be able to!) Breastfeeding can be beautiful, wonderful, and fulfilling. It can also be exhausting, painful, and disappointing.

My guess is that it’s a combination of all of those things for most moms.

For me, the third time was a charm.

What was your breastfeeding experience like? Did it get easier each time? Tell me your stories in the comments below!

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