Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Breastfeeding the second time

It's World Breastfeeding Week. I have written before about my experience breastfeeding my firstborn. While we had a rough start, it was 'smooth sailing' after a couple of months and while I hadn't "planned" on extended breastfeeding, we continued until Katie weaned herself at 16 months (during my second trimester with Benjamin)--and I shed tears on more than one occasion after the fact.

When Benjamin was born, we had a much easier time starting out. I had very little soreness, he latched on really well, and since he was born at home I was able to begin nursing him within moments of his birth (perhaps even before my placenta was delivered?).

Benjamin in my arms just moments after his birth

Part of what made nursing easier the second time was the confidence I had from 16 sweet months of nursing Katie.

We also did things a little differently. During the first weeks with Benjamin, while I did try to make sure he got a full feeding every time he ate, I did not worry at all about a schedule. I let him nurse whenever he wanted, for however long he wanted--sometimes he'd nurse for a couple of hours at a time.

The result was that the first weeks of his life outside the womb were so much more restful than our first weeks as first-time parents had been. My milk came in much faster, my baby was content, and he got back to his birth weight before the two-week mark. Since I wasn't worried about making sure he didn't nurse too long, I got a lot more rest because I was okay with falling asleep while nursing him in bed.

And my little man loved (really, really loved) nursing. He didn't eat many solids at all until after 10 months, so for most of that time he was nursing every 2-3 hours during the day (he was a big boy!), and he nursed during the night too (that part was admittedly exhausting after a while--I got spoiled with Katie who slept 7 hours at less than 6 weeks).

As I approached my second trimester in this pregnancy, Benjamin was down to nursing just a couple times each day. Once we went down to once a day my milk supply began to dwindle, but he continued to enjoy it so much I kept going. I enjoy the sweet snuggles too--and the look on the face of a baby who's fallen asleep nursing is simply priceless.

Eventually, I had so little milk left that I was getting sore when he nursed. One day, I just didn't offer it to him and he didn't seem to miss it. And after 17 precious months, that was that. For a month or so, he would pat my chest most days and say, "All gone?" But he doesn't do that anymore either.

It was a wonderful 17 months. While I still miss the snuggles with my little man (who is just so busy these days!), the slow weaning process went really well for both of us--and I didn't plan to tandem nurse, so realistically, the timing worked out well too.

I have spent 33 out of the past 41 1/2 months breastfeeding. And truly, nursing my babes has been one of my most incredible, treasured experiences on my journey as a mama. I never dreamed before Katie was born that the benefits of breastfeeding would extend beyond free and perfect nutrition for my babies--but at least for me, that benefit, while certainly fabulous, was only the beginning.

And as I look forward to meeting this sweet little man growing in my womb (in just 9 weeks or so!), one aspect of life with a newborn I'm most looking forward to is having a nursing babe in my arms once again.

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