This post is a continuation of the previous post on my first breastfeeding journey. Isn’t it crazy how different it can be with each baby? As a type-A person, I tend to want things to go a certain way, or to at least know in which way they are going to go so I can be prepared. Too bad having babies is nothing like that! It’s more like, just when you get it all figured out, they change. Or you figure out how one baby is, and then you have another who is the exact opposite! That is how it was in almost every way with my first vs. my second.
As I mentioned in her birth story, my baby A was born naturally and without pain medication in a birth center. So right off the bat, life started very differently for her. And this time when they handed that fresh babe to me and told me to try to latch her, I at least had some idea what I was doing! Honestly, breastfeeding with her came very easy and very naturally in the beginning.
But it wasn’t long before she started arching her back and screaming for the majority of her waking hours. And most of the hours were waking hours. We could only get her to sleep if she was swaddled snug, being shushed, and bouncing on the exercise ball. She wouldn’t take a pacifier and it took her months to find her thumb. At some point, someone advised me to try changing my diet to see if food allergies [passed through my breastmilk] might be the cause. So I started by cutting out dairy. Not super convenient for a cheese-loving vegetarian. I also learned that dairy can stay in your system for up to two weeks, so it takes a while to see a change in an exclusively breastfed baby. And you really have to cut it out completely to be effective. It seemed to help slightly, but she would still have her moments. So next I cut out soy, in addition to the dairy. The combo of those two things cut out of my diet made all the difference for her! And so we were able to continue our breastfeeding journey with these dietary restrictions for me in place.
Not that it was easy. I honestly had trouble getting enough healthy calories into my breastfeeding body at times. And by the time we had the food allergy thing figured out, it was time for me to go back to work again. Again with this baby, I went back after the [US] standard of three months. I wasn’t training for a marathon now; I actually took it really easy in the exercise department. My focus was on producing as much milk as I possibly could, for as long as I possibly could. But even with all the things I learned the first time, I struggled to produce. Working and pumping and being away from my babe for an average of 10 hours a day was just brutal for our breastfeeding. This is, in part, how I came to create my vegan, soy, and gluten-free breastfeeding friendly oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.
At this point, on a personal level, I began to break down. I loved my career so much, but there was some bullshit going on at my job. It had something to do with hostility around the fact that I was a mom of young children, but I don’t want to spend too much time on the particulars.. Meanwhile, I was sitting in traffic for an average of an hour each way, each day, making two stops to pick up and drop off each of my kids, trying to be involved with them and make time for my husband and generally just feeling completely strung out. I guess it was somewhere in this time that my body gave up trying to produce milk. It was very much like the last time, she couldn’t get enough when we breastfed and my amount I could pump was dwindling every day. Eventually there was nothing when she was 11 months old. I had done a much better job of pumping and stashing extra both during my maternity leave and after I went back to work, so I still had a bit in the freezer that helped as my body produced less. Then I had a very generous friend who offered to donate her milk to me to get my baby to the one year mark on breastmilk.
I was proud of myself for getting further with this baby than my first, but yet still devastated to not make it to my goal. Maybe it’s again my type A personality that wants to do things a certain way, and when I can’t, I feel like a failure. There’s maybe nothing worse than not living up to your own expectations. But again in retrospect, I am proud of myself for making it as far as I did, given all the circumstances. It’s actually pretty amazing what I was able to do, considering.
With each baby, I have learned and grown, in so many ways. Breastfeeding is just one of those ways. The final part of my breastfeeding journey will be up tomorrow.
Side note: I unfortunately also have almost no photos of me breastfeeding my Alessandra. It is heartbreaking now to me, given the short time we had that gift together. The top image is the only one I could find, which is from her birth. And here she is today, in all her sassy glory, at 2.5 years old.