When pregnant with Gwen, one of the things I looked forward to most was getting to establish a nursing relationship with another baby. I nursed Evalyn until she was just over 15 months old. Fifteen months and eight days, to be exact. The end of my nursing journey with her was a difficult one for me – it was emotional and sad and overwhelming. I will always cherish that relationship we shared, while we shared it.
Now, at three weeks and a bit into Gwen’s life, I’m starting to build that same type of relationship with her. And I’m so pleased to say that nursing has been so much easier this time around – different, in many respects – but yes, easier.
My two daughters each had a very different first 24 hours of life. With Evalyn, those first 24 hours were ridden with first time mom anxiety over the unknowns and were spent trying to get her to have a good feed or two. She was sleepy and uninterested and I had no idea what I was doing. Gwen, on the other hand, was a different story. Her first 24 hours were spent with me wondering if she’d ever stop feeding. From her very first latch, she has been a professional breastfeeder. In fact, during her first feed, just minutes after her birth, the midwives asked me if I was still nursing Evalyn since Gwen was gulping much more than is common for a first feed – so they wondered if my milk supply was still established.
By 12 hours of age, I felt like Gwen and I had reached a point in our nursing relationship that it took Evalyn and I weeks (maybe even months…) to get to. I could nurse in a side lying position that very first night, I could latch her on my own without someone helping me, I could latch her in the dark during the night. Heck, I could feed her with a shirt on – a major success for day 1, in my opinion.
All of these things were issues that proved difficult in those first few weeks with Evalyn. She always had her hands in her mouth and needed them to be pinned back. I didn’t know what a good latch was supposed to feel like. I dealt with cracked, bloody nipples, that caused her tummy troubles. I couldn’t nurse on my left side without re-opening the wound, so was relegated to nursing one side and pumping the other for a while and then nursing in weird positions for a few weeks so I could allow myself to heal without giving up nursing on the left side completely.
But this time, none of that happened. Of course, I can say it’s because I’ve done it before. And yes, that’s partially true. Fifty percent of the equation already knew what to do. But, the other part is that Gwen is a different baby than Evalyn. She was bigger, hungrier, perhaps – and more interested in eating right from the start – which made a huge difference, I think.
It’s not to say that this time around was without any single difficulty. I did experience pain and discomfort. They say the after pains get worse with each baby and that is so true. The first few days the cramps I’d experience while nursing were intense. Also, I did have some bruising and scabbing and a lot of tenderness on my nipples this time. Even though I could feel that her latch was correct right from the start, my girls were no longer used to being slave to a tiny infant’s hungry mouth, and had to get used to it again. I had engorgement discomfort for a few days (still do, sometimes). But, overall, these difficulties were minor in comparison to the difficulties I faced the first time, and I was thankful for that. It also helped me to know from my past experience that these discomforts would pass, it would get better. As soon as the little’s mouth got bigger, it would be less painful. As soon as my breasts got used to the action again, it would be less painful. As soon as my milk started to regulate, it would be less painful. And all of these things helped to ease those first few days.
I remember commenting on day two or three how different it was, as I sat at the table eating corn on the cob while Gwennie was nursing. That never would have happened with Eva – not for a long time, anyway.
There are a few other things that are different this time, as well. My milk came in much sooner this time. With Eva it took almost five days until I was certain that it was there. With Gwen, it was there before 48 hours had passed. Similarly, with Eva it was a gradual process whereas with Gwen I had the climb out of bed with boulders on my chest experience. With Eva I never once felt my milk let down, even though I never had any supply issues and would leak/spray any time I was uncovered. With Gwen, I feel the tingly, pins and needles feeling that they tell you about multiple times a day.
Gwennie and I are just at the beginning of our breast feeding journey together and already, I’m loving and valuing it so much. To me, nursing my babies is so much more than just a means of nourishing them. It’s comfort, it’s bonding, it’s something that is shared between she and I alone. I don’t know how long I’ll nurse Gwen for. Maybe longer than Eva. Maybe shorter. We’ll see where the journey takes us. But for now, I am content knowing that we’re well on the way and are enjoying a thriving nursing experience.