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I Forgot to Help My Newborn: Breastfeeding the Second Time

It makes sense that things would be easier the second time around. I heard this from many Moms with more than one child. “It’s so much easier with the second one!” We are much more relaxed this time. We don’t try to be quiet in the house, we don’t listen to the advice and we don’t stress about every little odd thing that Exley does. It’s been smooth. A lot smoother than the early days with my first son, Jack.

Except for breastfeeding.

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Exley passed all of his meconium by day 2 or so. Then his poop turned green as he began to pass the “transitional stools.” But then they just stayed green. For like a week. I kept expecting that they would turn yellow, but each diaper change it was just seedy green poop. I e-mailed my friend Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA. She told me that once Exley came that I should reach out to her if I needed anything. I wasn’t going to mess around. When breastfeeding Jack I took every piece of bad advice and went home and cried that my breastfeeding relationship with him was going to end. I didn’t know where to turn except to the internet and that was just a huge wasteland of confusing information. So I was quick to get reliable help this time.

Nancy wrote back and said that the green poop wasn’t an issue in and of itself. As long as Exley was gaining about an ounce a day and having at least 3 to 4 poops a day then all was probably hunky dory. She suggested starting some breast compressions in the meantime just to help Exley get a bit more milk. A few days later I took Exley to get weighed with another lactation consultant friend of mine who ran a local breastfeeding walk-in clinic. He had gained 4 ounces in 10 days. My heart sank. How could this be happening again? Not this weight problem, Jack didn’t have that, but just breastfeeding issues in general. This was my second time. I was supposed to be immune to problems. I latched the baby on and I was supposed to trust my body and my baby. Isn’t that what everyone says!? (Including me). One thing was for sure. I was confident in the help I was getting from new friends. I knew that they wouldn’t steer me wrong. I knew that they respected my wishes to breastfeed and were going to work to make this successful for me. Even with all the worry I carried for Exley, I felt less isolated than with Jack because I had surrounded myself with people who put my wishes and my son as their top priority.

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My friend also did a check for lip and tongue tie. It looked as though Exley may be tied, but not severely. And even if he was it didn’t automatically mean that this was the cause of the problem; only about 25% of babies with lip and tongue ties have breastfeeding problems. I decided to try some other interventions first. I called Nancy when I got home and she said that he had gained some weight and so there should only need to be a few tweaks in order to get back on track. She asked how tandem nursing was going. I said, already having felt the magnitude of this decision, “it’s a cluster fuck.” She suggested being more mindful about when Jack nurses and from which breast so that Exley was always getting a full breast. Great idea, I had not been doing this. She suggested working on Exley’s latch. I had done a lot of work with Jack on this and knew how to do it. Awesome, done. She asked how the breast compressions were going. I described what I had been doing. She described back to me that I would continue to do this when I switched breasts. Uh, switch breasts? This very common, simple and necessary breastfeeding technique had completely left my brain. I forgot to be switching him from breast to breast! Ugh, how could I be so dumb? I was stunned that I could forget such a simple, almost instinctual, technique. Breastfeeding a toddler is mindless. I never think about what Jack is doing. He does it all himself. Even switching. He unlatches and says “Dis boobie,” and points to the other one. This had been my normal breastfeeding life for 2 years. “I think we may know what the issue is,” I said to Nancy.

Now I had a solid plan. I would do these things for another week and get him weighed again. That week was pretty bad. I was so anxious. What was wrong with Exley? Did he have some disease? What if he didn’t gain weight? What if there was something serious wrong? Even after identifying issues that were obviously leading to the slow weight gain I still became completely fearful and irrational. This may have been my second time around, but this was my first time with this new baby. I was just a new Mom. Like everyone else. Vulnerable, scared, confused. I thought back to all of the breastfeeding advice I had given. I was so confident and calm when it was someone else’s baby. I have so much faith in other mothers being able to get through the rough times. It’s all so different when it’s your baby. It’s so emotional. The fears are irrational. It’s hard to see straight.

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I became completely obsessed with breastfeeding Exley. I hid from Jack sometimes so that Exley could eat even though Nancy assured me that Jack was doing nothing but helping boost my supply. All of my lactation consultant friends assured me that continuing to breastfeed Jack was a safe decision. I stared at Exley every time he ate to make sure he was getting milk. I played with his latch at every feeding to get it perfect. I immersed myself in breastfeeding.

I had become so confident in this whole “trust your baby and your body” mantra that I didn’t even lend Exley a hand to get him started. I latched him on and figured he was good to go. “He knows what to do! He’ll just do it all himself. I trust my baby!” Oy. I was feeling pretty down about it. But the amazing thing about reliable and trustworthy support is that they do believe in you. They won’t judge you or push any other agenda. I want to breastfeed and so Nancy was going to help make that happen. She said, “Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s pretty common for a second time Mom to forget how much help a newborn needs.” That comment really helped alleviate the guilt. It was true. I was so far removed from the newborn days that I just… forgot.

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I waited through each day until the following Wednesday came when I could visit my friend who would weigh Exley again. When that day came I had butterflies in my stomach. I couldn’t wait to put him on that scale. And when I did my eyes popped out of my head. He had gained 11 ounces in just 1 week! Holy moly! It worked! When you think about it I didn’t even do that much. A few tweaks as suggested from a professional and everything was fixed. Just like that. By his 1 month birthday the breastfeeding struggled had been sorted out. And that made the difference for me. Not that I was immune to problems or that as a second time Mom I was supposed to have all of the answers. Just that I had been down a rough road before and knew how to protect myself this time. And the answer to that was to reach out for help and be willing to accept it.

With my first son I don’t think I knew how to accept help. Even in the moments when I knew I needed it I don’t think I knew what it meant to accept it. I have always done everything myself. And I have always been pretty good at whatever I was doing, which, as a social worker, usually surrounded helping others. But me? Need help? Never. Giving birth rocked my world. Breastfeeding brought me to my knees. The process of learning how to breastfeed and then how to be a mother showed me clearly that this cannot be done alone. We need each other. I learned how to open myself up. To simply ask for help. And most importantly listen, follow through and accept what is being said to me.

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You might be reading this saying “well, we can’t all have Nancy Mohrbacher to rely on.” That’s not true! Nancy has developed an amazing, low cost, easy to use, app for iPhone and Android called Breastfeeding Solutions. I also wrote a review for it. I highly recommend this for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to get that reliable help early.

Abby Theuring, MSW

**Photos courtesy of Tiny Bubbles Family Photography by Leslie. Please visit her website and Like her Facebook page. 

**And by Maggie Cuprisin Photography. Please visit her website and Facebook page. 

 

 

Comments

  1. Great job, Abby! I read somewhere (probably your FB page) that breastfeeding is natural, but it is still a skill that needs to be learned by a newborn. Crawling and walking is natural, but those still need to be learned as well. Good for you for reaching out and getting the assistance you need so you can help Exley learn to breastfeed successfully! 🙂

  2. I am currently dealing with a completely new set of issues with my second than I did with my first. This is so great to hear that I’m not alone! Not every baby is the same, and boy is this little girl teaching me so 🙂

  3. Stephanie says

    Very well put Abby. my third son is now 7 months old and still bf well. All 3 of my boys have been very different and my third had severe colic for 3 months which was extremely difficult to cope with alongside breastfeeding. I never fed the first two beyond 6 months so am now trying to figure out feeding baby with teeth, since his first one popped through the gum at 6 months and he seems to like to bite 😐 I figure persistence is the key and I feel like I never want to stop feeding as this is my final baby 🙁
    Keep up the good work

  4. Very we’ll said Abby. I can very much relate to the helping others but not asking for help and wanting to do it without asking for help. I too dealt with many issues my first go around. After 15 months at my first daughters dentist appointment I found out she had lip tie which may have been the cause for the pain caused by her bad latch. I never asked for help and just thought that maybe it was meant to hurt me even though everyone said it shouldn’t. With baby number two… It was a different story… I knew she had pretty bad lip tie and then when I got that evaluated found out tongue tied too… We got them both clipped and went to see our lc from the hospital, a month after she was born. And bam in one session I had no more pain. I felt like a weight had been lifted off! I accepted help and it was the single best thing I have ever done. I can also relate to the when it’s not your baby it’s easy to talk logically…. When it’s your baby emotions are invested and your thinking is messed up by how you feel from day to day. Great post Abby and keep up the good work momma

  5. Reading this now has me super confused.
    “She described back to me that I would continue to do this when I switched breasts. Uh, switch breasts? This very common, simple and necessary breastfeeding technique had completely left my brain. I forgot to be switching him from breast to breast! Ugh, how could I be so dumb? I was stunned that I could forget such a simple, almost instinctual, technique.”
    When my daughter was about 3 weeks I began worrying about my supply. I scheduled an appointment with my WIC breastfeeding counselor. We nursed in her office so she could give her advice and what not. When I bwgan to unlatch my daughter to switch her to the other breast my bfc said that I should not do that. She said that I should feed her only from a single breast each feeding so she got not only fore more but plenty of hind milk as well. Ever since that is exactly what I do. My LO is thriving perfectly so I’m not worried. I am curious as to why you are suppose to switch breast. Is this only for certain babies or is it important for all babies?

    • Began to* Fore milk*

    • I’ll jump in and answer!

      Generally speaking, you should let a baby decide how much to eat at the breast. Sometimes, that means they’ll eagerly take one breast, pop off, and root around more, so you offer the second breast. Sometimes, they may finish on one side and you offer the other and they aren’t interested. Sometimes they want to go back and forth between breasts for what feels like forever.

      The things you *don’t* want to do are time feeds by removing a baby from a breast after X number of minutes and regularly only offer one breast. Those things might lead to a baby getting too little milk, your milk supply not being as robust as it needs to be, or both.

      As far as the foremilk/hindmilk thing goes, babies will get the right amount of milk if they’re allowed to decide when they’re done at a breast. Milk doesn’t switch between two types of milk. It’s not a concern if your baby is growing well.

  6. Thanks for sharing this story, Abby. Each baby and each breastfeeding relationship is different, and I’m glad you asked for help and paid attention to what you were doing to find out the solution that matched your problem! Congratulations on your new little one.

  7. YOU ARE BLESSED AND SO FORTUNATE! Congratulations for reaching out and making your circle of support be what YOU need…not what your friends think you need…your confidence in who you are far exceeds who I thought I was…..read on for my broken up chopy story if you’ like…..

    Reading this almost 33 yrs after my first and 25 yrs after my second is like a breath of fresh air. First, like you, I have always done everything on my own or with the collaboration of my husband. Second, I never accepted help (‘that’s showing incompetence and weakness”) I always heard myself say in my mind…I had a mother who was not interested in breast feeding (she didn’t want to transfer her ‘nervousness’ to me???wtheck?) and well, didn’t see me for three days that she remembered…and a mother in law who thought it was disgusting…so, I had little support outside of my community (husband, friends/neighbors) that I lived in. My grandmother and grandfather were supportive ~ they watched our son when I returned to work at 7 mos, and within 2 weeks I gave up breastfeeding altogether…..he loved his bottle and independence…he was always looking around…still does! I could not pump,,,I tried and i never got it down, never got much milk…one oz at a time. I wish I had had some one to go to like this. with out second child, she weaned herself at 9.5 mos…she was much easier to nurse and I loved it…though I cried often because we were so broke and I needed to find work or figure out some from home work (graphics on the computer is what happened)…I had a few ‘friends’ who are not in my life now because they made me feel so guilty for bringing a child into the world when I needed to work…support my husband with my financial contribution….what a screwed up support group I had then… Gosh, I’d love to work through this with someone again…to put it behind me, the guilt…having our children 8 yrs apart is what happened, eldest was my 4th pregnancy, daughter was my 6th…so we feel blessed…and are so close to our kids…anyway, thanks having a place to speak my mind.

  8. I got PTSD from my breastfeeding experience. Individuals like yourself, lactation consults and doctors all told me my baby wouldn’t be healthy and bonded to me if I didn’t breastfeed. Those feelings of failure and the hormones caused me to get so sick I almost killed my baby . Where is the support for women like me ?

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