We were sitting together on the hospital bed, Adelaide and I, one of us smiling at how much easier birth was the second time.
But she hadn’t eaten in awhile. And the white board indicated it was time for another feed. And she was starting to stir.
I opened my robe and helped her tiny little mouth find something to eat. And my whole body tensed in pain.
Ben watched, from the other side of our hospital room, and as the tears streamed down my face he asked bluntly, “are we really doing this again?”
That question was the permission I needed to stop.
To choose something else for our family this time around.
To choose a different newborn experience.
To choose my sanity + happiness + comfort over the nutrition of this newborn.
And it was so much easier than I expected.
I wondered how I’d ever be able to make a choice that was second best for my baby. With Lincoln, even choosing to pump instead of nurse, and eventually to stop pumping and switch to formula at 5 months was HARD. And this time the babe in my arms was hours old and I was already planning on giving up on the liquid gold of breastmilk.
I have read the studies. I have poured over all the facts of breastmilk being better than formula for babies. And it is. If the only difference between two babies is what they’re fed, the one with breastmilk is going to be more emotionally stable, test better, and have a (slightly) higher IQ.
But do you know what else is important for a baby? (not to mention for my toddler at home and my husband who had sworn off babies the first time around) A happy, functional mom.
The studies also show that babies with happy functional parents are better all the way around (I haven’t actually read those – but I’m assuming — especially because learning is emotional, I loved this book about baby brain development when I was pregnant with Linc).
I’m not sure I really bonded with my first baby until I quit nursing. I remember long afternoons on the couch, whispering through clenched teeth with tears streaming down my face that I loved him, that I loved my little Lincoln. Because I did. But also because I needed the reminder through all the hurt.
And with Adelaide, I couldn’t wallow in pain alone on a couch all afternoon. I couldn’t be up for 5 hours pumping + bottle feeding each night. I had a toddler to love and I HAD to be more functional this time around then I was after Lincoln was born.
So I stopped. I pumped a little bit in the hospital to help my milk come in. I let her latch a few times over the next week. I pumped at home until my mom left and there wasn’t someone to give Lincoln + Adelaide attention.
I didn’t count milk ounces or wake up to pumping alarms. I didn’t dread nights or force feed myself to keep supply up.
I played with my kids. I smiled and laughed and snuck off to the bathroom to deal with the rest of post partum recovery.
Having a newborn was still a lot of work but it was happy and exhausting work, not dark and heavy and scary… and it reassured me that making the best choice for my baby wasn’t necessarily making the best choice for my baby.
I’m sharing this because if any of you are struggling with this I wanted you to know you’re not alone. I have heard countless stories about the joys of breastfeeding and I hope those stories encourage moms to try and nurse their babies. Because nursing is awesome. But those stories didn’t help me A few of you pregnant with #2 reached out to ask about breastfeeding because you know how much I struggled with it the first time. Well, I didn’t struggle with it the second time because I didn’t do it for more than 24 hours 🙂
TMI: The damage done from nursing Lincoln for two months was significant enough at Adelaide’s birth that nursing was initially much more painful that I’d experienced with baby #1. The lactation consultant explained eventually I’d get use to the pain but that with the tissue damage and new tissue growth, it wasn’t a matter of toughing it out for the first few weeks – the discomfort when nursing would last for much longer than that. Turns out I would rather birth a baby every morning than have to nurse one for the rest of the day. I HOPE that next time around my experience is different. But it might not be, and motherhood is still joyous and wonderful and worth it.
From what I’ve heard, nursing is painful no matter how it goes. For some it gets better quickly. And for some it doesn’t. We all respond differently to pain and if you need permission to choose something happier for your family this is it (but also, if you just need to stick it out for another week… hang in there, just think about all those bottles you won’t have to wash!).
Sometimes doing what’s best for your baby requires looking at the whole picture.