The title of this post could also have been “Breastfeeding, Third Time the Charm”. Or maybe even “Breastfeeding: Here We Go Again”. However, I like the optimism of “A Fresh Start” as we finally experienced our own breastfeeding success.
If you have been following A Heavenly Home over the last three years, then you know that we experienced breastfeeding challenges with both our first and second children.
I was hoping that “third time’s the charm” would come true as the birth of our third child neared. Not that I believe in luck. I was just praying that the Lord would see to it that this time I would be able to successful nurse one of our children… Without having to rely on pumping.
However, this time I was preparing to pump from the start. We did not want to end up in a similar situation as with our second son. (See Breastfeeding Challenges, Round Two.) We are still not sure if the trouble was with him or with me or with both of us. Either way, I was devastated so this time I was not going to get my hopes up. I was preparing to pump from the start, if needs be.
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Breastfeeding a newborn
Our third son (Pumpkin) was born extremely quickly. (You can read about that here.) At 6 lbs 15oz, he was our largest newborn yet and latched well from the start. One pediatrician said there might be a slight tongue-tie the morning after he was born. However, by his follow up appointment a few days later, another pediatrician said there was no sign of it.
Either way, Pumpkin had no problems latching, staying latched, and being overall a pretty happy newborn. He did favor one side over the other for the first two weeks. This may have been due to tightness in his neck, a more comfortable position, or not as intense let downs. I’m not sure.
Perhaps because of his better latching, but my milk came in much faster this time than with our first two. I was leaking milk all over the place and almost all the time! I ended up buying Lacticups to put in my nursing bras and camis. With the Lacticups, all of the milk I was leaking would not go to waste.
Our breastfeeding success story
That is actually how I started collecting milk instead of pumping! Since the nursing was going so well and I was afraid of sabotaging it, I did not start pumping until about four weeks postpartum.
Around that time, I was waking up about 5:30 in the morning painfully engorged. So I began doing one early morning pumping session while the baby slept. (Except for when he was cluster feeding, because then he would wake hungry around that time.)
As I write this, there is now a rather healthy supply of expressed milk in our freezer. I feel we are ready for when I return to work in two weeks. We have also tested out a bottle a few times so we know he will eat from a bottle as long as he does not hear or see me. (If he hears or sees me, he will refuse the bottle because he would much rather snuggle with Mama.)
Words cannot adequately express how grateful I am to have been able to experience a more normal breastfeeding journey. Now I understand what my mom meant when she told me, after a month of trying to nurse our first and finally giving up, “Breastfeeding should not be hard. I am so proud of you for trying, but it is okay to let it go.”
Is it a bit challenging at the beginning while baby is learning to latch? And because you are learning how to position him/her? Yes, and yes!
Sometimes frustrating from the neediness of a hungry newborn who won’t let you sleep? Yes.
A tiny bit uncomfortable from the near-constant holding of the baby? Sure.
But tremendously hard or extremely stressful? No.
I admit, about the end of week two postpartum, the sleep deprivation was starting to get to me. Can I be brutally honest with you? The sound of a newborn crying bothers me when I am not well-rested. I get flustered and upset when a newborn won’t stop crying.
Not everyone is like this but, for me, it may be a holdover from when our second, Pickle, was born. Looking back, the birth experience was a bit traumatizing and I don’t think I properly processed it. Then he would not sleep for almost 6 or 7 weeks, he scream-cried all the time, and I did experience postpartum depression.
So anytime Pumpkin started crying, I could feel my blood pressure rising. I was afraid that we would end up repeating what happened after Pickle was born.
Around week three, we discovered the side-lying breastfeeding position. It was a game-changer! I could rest my aching body and feed the hungry little one at the same time.
Cluster feeding in the evening was no longer a problem or stressful. I would simply take him upstairs, lie down, get comfortable, and watch Netflix. (I binge-watched the entire Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise shows!)
Meanwhile, my husband would feed our older two boys dinner, entertain them, sometimes take them out back to play. Then as it neared bedtime, we could switch. My husband would hold the baby while I took the older boys through their bedtime routines.
And successful nursing between 5pm and 10pm meant that he began sleeping longer stretches during the night. (Yes, our little Pumpkin cluster fed for almost five hours straight.) At first, it was two hours, then two and a half, and then three. By a month old, he was typically sleeping four to four and a half hours straight.
Now at almost two and a half months old, he is typically sleeping six hours straight!
Of course, not every night is perfect, but it goes “right” often enough to make a huge difference. And I truly believe that the side-lying position was the key to that success. I could rest comfortably and even doze lightly while he nursed. Even if I had to wake up multiple times during the night, I was not completely exhausted.
In about two weeks, I will be returning to work. This time my freezer is packed with pumped milk. I would definitely call this a breastfeeding success story!
Transitioning back to work
It has been a little while since I wrote the above portion of this post. I have been back at work for three weeks now, and it has been an easier transition than I expected.
My emotions were running a bit high the weekend before I started back. I would much rather be home with my family than stuck in an office across the city for eight hours, five days a week. I miss playing with them, eating meals with them, singing silly songs, etc. On a good day, I see my boys for three hours (about half an hour in the mornings and two and a half hours in the evenings).
Not ideal but, unfortunately, necessary.
My first week back, I pumped three times (once before leaving for work, 6am, and then at work about 10:30am and 3:30pm) and my husband would bring Pumpkin to me at lunchtime for a nursing session. This helped him ease into my absence and he eventually stopped fighting the bottle during the day.
Between the three sessions, I pumped about 18 oz a day. It would be used for the next day’s supply along with one 5 oz bag of milk from the freezer.
My second week at work, I pumped four times and my husband only visited with the baby on the two days he was already in the area visiting his parents.
I am just ending my third week at work, and I have noticed this week that without my midday visits with Pumpkin, the amount of milk I pump at work has dropped by 2 oz.
It could be a natural decrease – maybe Pumpkin is drinking more when he is nursing at home, maybe it is my body re-regulating to his needs now that he is nearly four months – but I am drinking the lactation tea every day now just in case. I will also increase my oat-consumption a little.
Where we go from here
We are only about four months into this breastfeeding journey, but I am very encouraged. I feel blessed to have been given this opportunity – an experience I did not have with my first two children.
Being able to nurse has made it a lot easier to get out of the house. I am not tethered to the pump. We went back to church far earlier this time, and I could continue to teach the Cradleroll class on Sabbath mornings. We can visit family or even restaurants without worrying about a rigid pumping schedule and if we have enough bottled milk.
Being able to nurse is, in many ways, liberating!
What I learned from breastfeeding
I pray that my experiences are encouraging to other mothers who find themselves in a similar situation. Just because your first baby (or two) did not or could not nurse does not mean that all your babies will be that way.
You might just have a breastfeeding success story of your own in your future.
My advice would be to prepare to pump by getting a good, double-electric pump (I have this type) and having all of the supplies you need on hand.
However, give breastfeeding via nursing a try when the baby is born and don’t give up too quickly.
Be bold, ask for help
While still in the hospital or birthing center, ask to see a lactation consultant (if one is available) for guidance on breastfeeding, positions, latching, etc. Also, ask the lactation consultant and/or pediatrician to check the baby for a tongue-tie.
I recommend seeing a lactation consultant if:
- baby is shaking his or her head while at the breast,
- unlatching frequently,
- is only doing short, fast sucks (without any long sucks),
- or your nipple is noticeably slanted (like a brand new tube of lipstick) after baby releases.
At the baby’s first check-up (usually within a week of being born), I would suggest asking the pediatrician to double-check whether or not the baby has a tongue-tie. If your pediatrician does not encourage your breastfeeding efforts and provide good advice, find a new pediatrician.
Breastfed babies do tend to lose a little more weight than bottle-fed babies during the first week to week and a half at home. Keep putting baby to breast as often as you can. However, if you or your pediatrician are concerned even a little bit, talk with your pediatrician about supplementing a feed to get baby back up to desired weight.
It can take a while for both you and your baby to get the hang of breastfeeding via nursing. Find a position that works for you both! When your milk comes in, it can be a little difficult as the pressure of a letdown may be too intense for baby. If you think that might be happening, hand express some milk or pump for a few minutes before nursing the baby.
If you try everything and baby still is not nursing well, it is okay to try an alternative method of feeding the baby. I had to with our first son and our second son. As my mom said: breastfeeding should not be a nightmare but running into challenges is surprising normal! It is okay to try something else.
A healthy baby is best
To me, breastfeeding success comes in many different forms. I was able to pump for 10 months with my first son, and he started to nurse (a little) on his own around thirteen weeks. With my second son, he nursed (sort of) for the first two weeks, was fed with donor milk, and I was able to pump for 8 months. It was tough but I call it win!
With my third, I pray for continued breastfeeding success for however long I am able to provide him with this milk. I have learned through my journey that it is okay to try different things and to do what is best for my baby, myself, and my family.
A fed and healthy baby is best* – and so is a rested and healthy mama.I have learned through my journey that it is okay to try different things and to do what is best for my baby, myself, and my family. Click To Tweet
*A special thank you to my older sister who gave me those beautiful words of encouragement when I was struggling to accept that I could not nurse my oldest baby.
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