Breastfeeding is a full-time job, really. The hours are long and erratic, the client is extremely demanding and fussy…
For some moms breastfeeding the second time around can be an enlightening experience. And for others…it just reinforces everything they’d forgotten they hated from the first time around! Second-time mama Namita takes a cheeky look at the highs and lows of breastfeeding (and pumping), and provides a timely reminder that a happy mama and a healthy bub are what matter the most!
Just like that, my journey with breastfeeding came to an end a few weeks ago while we were on holiday in India. I thought nursing the second baby would be easier than the first time around when I was a total clueless and nervous wreck, but to be honest, it was a pretty rough journey even the second time around.
I could blame my lactation woes on a much smaller dose of perseverance on my part (having a baby at 40 means that I’m technically a ‘geriatric’ mum as my OBGYN explained to me) and overall lack of patience, or the fact that it was taking me away from my older child and I had so much more on my plate now as a small business owner. Well, I could blame it on a lot of different things, but the truth is that I simply wasn’t enjoying breastfeeding the second time around and I just couldn’t wait to be done.
Breastfeeding is such a tricky thing, and there are so many little details and challenges that go into it, that even the smallest thing can throw you off. The worst part is the expectation that the second time around will be much easier. To be honest, if I had to write a tagline for motherhood, it would go something like this:
‘Motherhood: When nothing goes as you planned, expected or anticipated’
or how about,
‘Motherhood: Life’s journey into tears, poo and more poo’
‘Motherhood: May you never sleep again’
or how about
‘Motherhood: How to quickly feel like a failure!’
Maybe this is why I didn’t get that copywriter job.
Bub 1 was a poor latcher and not a great sleeper…he loved to sleep at the breast, though (I mean who wouldn’t?), so was basically attached to the upper half of my body for 15 months straight. Bub 2 came with much more tenacity but the poor thing had a random salivary gland big bubble-like outgrowth below her tongue and a posterior tongue-tie, and so despite her best efforts, her latch was terrible and feeding was very uncomfortable for me. I had to pump like crazy to meet her requirements, and did I mention that I detest pumping more than anything in the world? Without the emotion of nursing and the physical bond, I felt reduced to a cow at a dairy farm. Those poor things.
I was ready to throw in the burp cloth at least once a day with Bub 2 and stared at the formula can longingly from the day she was born, but as any breastfeeding mom will tell you, nursing is such an amazing thing between a mother and child, and you really, really cherish the warmth, the closeness, the feeling of having purpose…and so you try really, really hard to make it work.
Plus, there’s the guilt that comes with bottles and formula. Why do we make it so hard for ourselves? Knowing she was my second and last baby, I knew this was it, my last chance at lactation stardom, and so despite the many challenges we faced and the hundreds of dollars I spent on lactation experts, creams and pills, despite the tears and the wails (mine, not hers), we persevered and lasted 8 whole months. My goal was to make it to 6 months, because of the baseline nutritional benefits to baby, and so we did good! In any corporate environment, this would go by ‘exceeds expectations’ at a performance review …so ahem, where is my promotion and raise? I outperformed my target by 33%!
Am I allowed to put ‘Nursed for two years’ on my resume? It’s a full-time job really. The hours are long and erratic, the client is extremely demanding and fussy. You are basically like a big story reporter on-call around the clock, not to mention that the moody client can easily have a meltdown at the drop of a hat. Oh and did I mention the client can often be gassy?
This is by far the hardest job I’ve ever had. The toughest client. With zero pay.
The thing about breastfeeding is that it’s such a rollercoaster and also, it’s so different for everyone, with different motivations. My sister and I are both fully formula fed babies and so I was adamant to do things differently for my kids in the hope that their immunity would be better than ours. Many moms make nursing look effortless; like, breastfeeding poster moms could literally be an ad. Good for them. Our struggling variety hate them a little bit… like how we feel about those celebrity moms who return to size 0 a mere nine weeks after giving birth.
Many of us have a cow moment at least once, if not dozens of times in the first 6 months of motherhood. Oh God, dear God, I was a corporate diva just last week, running a workshop in front of seventeen C-level executives. And now, how am I reduced to this? Why am I wearing this godforsaken nursing gown and trudging around the house in fuzzy slippers with my boobs touching the ground?! Why is everything stained with milk? Why is this baby crying so much? Oh, she must be hungry. Is she not getting enough milk from me? But all I’m doing is pumping and feeding around the clock. Okay let me try nursing her again. Oh gosh, I’m nothing but a miserable, fat cow…I have no life! Sob!
Cow moments are not pretty. I had most of my cow moments while pumping. I think every single pumping mom in the world has this moment at least once, and the sound of those pump machines (literally the worst noise in the world) is not helping anyone. It all feels so bizarre. I bow low to pumping mums—it’s next level dedication and commitment.
The 4am pumps are behind me and the countless hours of nursing while sneakily watching Netflix are gone. There’s a chubby, beaming baby in front of me (who thankfully loves formula, fruit and carbs), and my work here is done. Do I feel sad? No. Maybe I’m feeling a little nostalgic – not for those godawful nursing gowns or those hideous maternity bras (Ok, I admit, I might still be wearing some) – but for the snuggly hours we had together, just the two of us: Me, gently stroking her hair and….okay who am I kidding? I was mostly trying to distract myself from the discomfort of my nipples feeling like they were on fire by Instagramming or watching Friends re-runs, and trying not to stress about the fact that my baby was single digit percentile on the growth charts and not getting enough milk from me. Okay, okay, fine. The snuggly moments were there, too.
In hindsight, it all seems a little crazy and unreal. Like I was a supporting actor in a long drawn-out and highly dramatic soap opera but without the makeup assistants. What on earth was I so stressed about? Was that even me? Sleep deprivation is evil. My baby is probably going to be eating gummy worms and some highly processed kid-menu item in no time. Wow that was a lot of tears and worry. I will remind her that she owes me for the rest of her life. My boobs look like shriveled up raisins.
In the absence of peer reviews and a manager taking me out to lunch, I’m giving myself an A for effort and even booking myself a little kid-free trip now that I’m physically free. As I return to the world of underwire bras I think to myself “You did good, lady!”
Breastfeeding two kids—check! Well played cow mama, well played.