Totally different and completely the same.

by threegirlpileup

Welcome, Carnival of Breastfeeding readers!  This post is part of the June Carnival of Breastfeeding. The topic this month is “Breastfeeding: The Second Time Around.”

My two girls couldn’t have had more different starts to breastfeeding.  Cate was born after a long and difficult labor, having aspirated meconium.  She was deep-suctioned and whisked to the NICU.  Her oxygen saturation was below optimal, and I didn’t even try to put her to the breast until the next day.  At that point, she was having NOTHING of that, and so began an uphill battle to get her to the breast.  Thanks to the help of many wonderful professionals, we made it there, and were exclusively breastfeeding (no formula! no pumping! no  SNS!) by three weeks. (No lovely nursing pictures from those early days, let me tell you!)

Anna was a completely different story.  Although I had another unscheduled c-section, she was able to stay with me and go immediately to the breast.  Although I was still numb from my anesthesia, she latched right on and nursed like a champ.  Which is pretty much what she did for the next five years.

Asleep at the breast after her first nursing

With Cate, it took a long time to get into a groove.  In retrospect, it wasn’t until she was about six months old that she really settled into nursing—at which point she spontaneously gave up her pacifier and learned to nurse for comfort.

Anna, on the other hand, was a nursie (our family vernacular for breast) lover from the beginning.  She nursed long and often, and even today (more than a year after she weaned), my breasts are a favorite source of comfort.

Some of these differences are due to the rockier start we had the first time around.  Other differences are just due to their personalities.  While Cate easily cut back her nursing frequency at around two, Anna continued to nurse frequently day and night for literally years longer.  Knowing these two girls, this is no surprise to me. Anna is just more intensely attached to me than her sister ever was, and it played out in our nursing relationship just like every other part of our relationship.

But the differences between nursing my two girls are also about the differences in me.  I’ll never forget the first time they put Cate in my arms to nurse—I had no earthly idea what to do.  During those early days and weeks and even months, I was plagued with worries about everything from whether or not she was getting enough milk to whether it was okay to give her a pacifier.  I felt awkward nursing in public and was just meeting friends who were also breastfeeding their babies.  It was all new, and it was hard just because of that.

By the time Anna was born, though, I had been nursing for 3-1/2 years.  When they handed her to me the first time, years of practice meant I could latch her on without even really thinking about it.  Nursing my baby seemed like the most natural thing in the world.  And while we had a few bumps (my milk was very slow to come in), I never really worried about my ability to noursish my baby with my body.

I remember being at a well-baby visit with Anna, in which I agreed to have my intake questions asked by a young resident.  One of the things he asked me was, “How often does she nurse?”  I answered, “I don’t know.”  And I didn’t.  I really had no idea, because I was paying no attention to clocks—when she needed to nurse, I just pulled up my shirt and latched her on.  The poor doctor was entirely befuddled by my answer (especially since my baby was clearly healthy and growing well), so pressed me for an answer he could put down on his form.  Finally I said, “She nurses on demand, and feeds at least 10 times a day.”  This gave him something to write down, and then he was satisfied.

When I look back, there was so much I didn’t understand about breastfeeding before I did it myself.  Perhaps the biggest surprise was that breastfeeding was not just an alternative source of food for my baby; it was a way of mothering my children.  So of course, that mothering looks different for my two unique children, just like our relationships are different in other ways.  And what I brought to the table was so different the second time around—I was more experienced and confident, and had a supportive community in place. But the fundamentals were the same: breastfeeding was the central way that I nourished, comforted and connected with my young children.  Really, the rest is all details.

(The two photos above are by the wonderful Judith Kuegler.)

By the way, both my girls nursed until they were 5-1/2 years old, almost to the day.  So in some ways, they were exactly the same after all.

Please visit the other participants in the Carnival:

Lessons Learned by Takisha at Reporter2Mother

Carnival of Breastfeeding: The Second Time Around by Sarah at Good Enough Mum

Seven Reasons Why Breastfeeding is Usually Easier the Second Time Around by Tanya at the Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog

Second Time’s the Charm by Elita at Blacktating

Tandem Nursing by SBelle at Treasured Belle

Breastfeeding the Second Time Around by Caramelchica at Ambular Logic

Once More With Feeling by Zoie at TouchstoneZ

Once More With Feeling: Contemplating BBAC by Dou-la-la

more links to be added throughout the day!