Friday, December 16, 2011

Nursing Challenges: Take 2!

I’m nursing again. I gave birth to our second baby more than three weeks ago and I started nursing him since day 1 as soon as I was transferred to my hospital room. I thought that nursing my second child would not give me problems since this isn’t my first time. I was confident because I successfully nursed my first born until he turned two years old. But three or four days later, I started experiencing pain in my nipples as I nursed my baby. I had sore nipples again! I wasn’t expecting this! I also had sore nipples at the beginning of my nursing adventure with my eldest son. Since I’m nursing my second baby, I thought that I would be spared now. I was wrong! And it hurt as much as before. I remember that I also cried buckets of tears during the first few weeks of nursing Yanthy because I continued to nurse him even with sore nipples. I did the same thing this time. Amid tears, I struggled to breastfeed Mateo. The difference now is that I got to use my nipple shields as soon as I experienced soreness in my nipples. My nipples still hurt even as I used nipple shields but using them early on prevented my nipples from getting damaged further. Thus, the soreness healed faster and I survived the first two weeks of breastfeeding.

Another challenge I encountered was breastfeeding every two hours, sometimes less. To say that it was tiring is an understatement. It made me sleepy, cranky, irritable, exhausted, and depressed all at the same time. Every time I had to wake up or struggle to stay awake after many days and nights of sleep deprivation, I asked myself why I’m going through all these trouble when I can take the easier route of motherhood. Why am I not giving my newborn son formula milk? If I feed him formula milk, my baby would sleep longer and will poop less often. If Mateo sleeps longer and poops less often, that would mean longer sleeping hours for me. That would also mean someone else like my husband or our maid can get up at night and feed my baby from the bottle. Isn’t that what I want? Isn’t that what every mother who just gave birth and who needs to recover from giving birth need and want? What stops me from asking our paediatrician what milk to give to Mateo?

When I was going through breastfeeding challenges the first time with Yanthy, I kept on reading literature about breastfeeding and the stories of mothers who breastfed their children successfully. My lactation consultant provided me with many reading materials that guided, helped and encouraged me. This time around, aside from reminding myself of the benefits of breastfeeding to my baby and me, I draw strength and inspiration from my eldest son. Just a look at him reminds me that breast milk is indeed best for our children. He is proof of the many promises I read in books. With him, those promises had been fulfilled. He didn’t get sick or have any illness except for colds a few times and if he did get colds, he recovered fast. He has not been hospitalized during his first three years of life. Some literature says that breastfed kids become smarter than their bottle-fed counterparts and are advanced in development in many aspects. I have seen these in Yanthy, too. To read more on the benefits of breastfeeding, click here.

So, when I sometimes question my decision to breastfeed again, I tell myself that Mateo needs my breastmilk as much as Yanthy did. I tell myself that I don’t want Mateo to be deprived of the best milk he could ever have. I remind myself that if I was able to do it for my eldest, then I can and should make the same sacrifice for my second child. These things are easier said than done especially when negative thoughts and fatigue set in after almost 24 hours of being awake and alternating between breastfeeding, burping and changing diapers. When your muscles at the nape, shoulders and upper back are already aching and hard from tension, it’s so easy to entertain these negative thoughts. But the fact and reality that deciding to stop at this point would not be the best for my baby jolts me back to breastfeeding again. Just the thought that Mateo might get sick gives me a little bit more strength to face and endure one more breastfeeding session or one more night.

I guess taking it one day or one night at a time enables me to survive. Setting short term goals also take some pressure off my already tense shoulders. Like I have made it a goal to breastfeed for one month exclusively at least. And I’m almost there… only three days to go and I would achieve that goal. Then, I can celebrate that small victory. My next short term goal is to breastfeed for six months. When I reach that goal, I will stretch it to one year. And then stretch it again to two years.

As I face these nursing challenges for the second time, there are also things that I wish would happen to make my journey a bit easier. I wish that I can just focus on breastfeeding and that someone else would take charge of burping or changing the baby’s diapers so I can sleep and rest longer. I wish that I can get massages regularly to ease my tired muscles and to help me produce more milk. I wish that I would have some “me” time every now and then so I can recharge. But while my wishes remain wishes, I do my best on doing what I can do. I focus my energy on the things within my control and influence while I continue to wish that somehow my wishes would be granted. I commit though to keep on keeping on regardless of what happens to my wishes. I survived my first nursing adventure anyway even though those wishes remained wishes until the end.

It also helps that I keep a journal or blog about my experiences as a mom. Reading my previous experiences and insights from my blog help a lot. They remind me of the lessons I learned in the past so that I would remember to put them into practice once more as I face challenges now.

I know that previous success does not guarantee current success. The knowledge though that I’ve been successful doing the same task before gives me greater confidence, courage and strength to face my present challenges. Knowing that I’ve been there before and I have emerged victorious makes a lot of difference. It doesn’t make things easier; however, it gives me hope that I can also win over my current challenges. To learn more about how I won over my breastfeeding challenges in the past, check out my article in my blog.

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