When I found out I was pregnant the second time I dreaded the thought of attempting to breastfeed again.
A year earlier I failed to breastfeed my baby boy. For six weeks I desperately tried to feed him. I pumped every three hours to get my milk supply up. I visited several lactation specialists. We clipped my son's tongue when we discovered he was tongue-tied. I tried every old wives' tale and even took medication to increase my milk production.
After six exhaustive and disappointing weeks, my milk still hadn't come in and my baby still couldn't figure out how to latch. I gave up. It was my hardest moment as a mother.
Throughout my second pregnancy, I stressed to my doctor, nurses, my family, and husband how important it was for me to breastfeed this baby. I was determined to breastfeed. But I was also terrified I wouldn't be able to again.
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When my daughter was born the first thing I asked the nurse was, "Is she okay? Can I try to feed her?" The nurse replied, "Of course you can."
I was nervous she wouldn't latch and I would once again be faced with a list of breastfeeding problems.
I sat up and held her across my chest. Held my breast and guided it to her. She instantly latched. A perfect latch. And started to nurse. My heart skipped a beat when it happened. It was something my son never came close to even after weeks of trying.
No tricks. No pain. No begging. No changing of positions. No coaching from others. No pumping. No nipple shields. I looked over at my husband and through my tears said, "She's doing it. I'm really feeding our baby."
For mothers who have struggled to breastfeed, that first "real" latch is indescribable. It was one of my happiest moments as a new mother.
I was relieved that I wasn't going to have to battle to breastfeed this time. Yet a cloud of worry still hung over me. I knew first-hand breastfeeding wasn't this simple. What if I didn't have enough milk? How did I know if she was eating enough? What if she wasn't gaining weight? When you're bottle feeding you know exactly how much your baby is eating.
Even though my daughter took to the boob no problem and was gaining weight, I still worried she might wake up and stop. I panicked when my mom gave her a soother, afraid she would lose her superstar latch. I spent weeks debating with myself when to give her a bottle, asking everyone for their opinion - the doctor, nurses and other mothers. "She'll be fine," I was constantly told, "Just follow your gut."
And they were right.
But I still wonder: Why was breastfeeding my firstborn so painfully difficult, and why does it come so naturally with my second baby?
There are a lot of differences between my first and second pregnancies: the labor, delivery, and the postpartum support I received.
With my second, I didn't deliver as early, and I wasn't induced. I received better care and support during my labor, and my second baby wasn't born with a tongue-tie.
Most importantly, though, were the nurses. The nurses at the hospital helped me feed right away and checked my daughter's latch and never offered a bottle or formula. They constantly reassured my milk would come in and I would be able to breastfeed. They took the time to listen to my concerns and offered constant help.
Related: UNICEF And WHO: Don't Promote Use of Infant Formula Unless Medically Necessary
I'm sure all of these factors had an impact on my ability to breastfeed, but in the end, I think so much depended on my babies. I don't know if my baby boy and I would've ever figured out breastfeeding, and that's okay. Formula was there when my breast milk wasn't, and it allowed my son to grow into the strong, clever two-year-old he is today.
People often assume that formula feeding is an easy way out. Formula feeding isn't easy at all. True, my husband could give our baby a bottle at night, or I could be away from my baby for a few hours and not worry about him going hungry. But I dreaded getting up at night to make a bottle, and I still do. That said, I don't mind rolling over in bed and letting my baby nurse.
Without a doubt, breastfeeding is easier for me. No sterilizing, no bottled water, and no formula (I live in a country where formula isn't always available). No more dragging a bag full of feeding supplies. I just take my daughter everywhere I go and feed her when she's hungry. And still, after four months, my daughter won't drink from a bottle.
Motherhood is a funny thing: I have one baby who refuses the boob and another who refuses the bottle. In the end, I'm grateful that I'm able to feed both my babies in whatever way they need to be fed.