Why You Should Keep Trying to Breastfeed Even If It Didn't Work Out the First Time
by Gretchen Bossio
Photograph by Twenty20
On my 24th birthday, my milk came in with a vengeance. It was three days after the birth of my first baby and not exactly the birthday present I had imagined.
I spent most of the day forcing my giant watermelons into her tiny mouth. And then, while she slept, I massaged my breasts in the shower to try and get some relief from the extreme engorgement. My boobs sprayed alongside my tears. When they say breastfeeding can be hard, they were right. This. Was. Brutal.
It was a year of ups and downs as we navigated oversupply, excess lipase and pumping during my working hours. But when it was done, I cried even more than that day in the shower. Did I miss the struggle? Not a bit. Did I miss nourishing my baby, milk drunk smiles and sweet, post-nursing session snuggles? Absolutely.
But that chapter was closed. And another was being written. I was pregnant again and would soon experience a whole new breastfeeding relationship. When my second baby was born, I experienced a few new struggles, but overall, things were better—dare I say, easier. Then, my third baby arrived and, all of a sudden, nursing was a dream!
Perhaps I knew how to navigate potential issues since he was my third nursling, perhaps it just clicked with us from the get-go. Either way, until he was 17 months old (and I was pregnant with my fourth), we rode the wave of milky smiles and cozy snuggles—something I'll forever cherish.
All this to say, breastfeeding can be simple, sweet and, yes, even easy. Even if it wasn’t the first—or second—time.
The breastfeeding horror stories, some of which I’ve experienced and perpetuated, are real. Breastfeeding is a learned art—for both Mom and Baby. It takes practice. There can be physical issues. Emotional ones, too. All of which take time, support, and expert resources to explore and overcome. It’s hard work. It takes commitment. And sometimes, it takes letting go of ideals.
Breastfeeding is not the end of the world. It can feel like it, especially when emotions are high and postpartum hormones peak, but I promise that nothing beats the stress of the first time.
It took me three babies to feel confident in my breastfeeding abilities. Not because my boobs started to work better, but because I learned more about the science of breastfeeding over all those years and I stopped planning for perfection.
So, why should you keep trying to breastfeed even if it wasn't easy the first time? Here are my two cents.
You Know More
During round one, you’re a total newbie! Everything about breastfeeding is foreign. You trial and error over and over and hope your baby keeps tagging along for the ride. You’re learning (and Googling) and so are they! But, with subsequent children, you have a little more knowledge and even if there are road bumps, you most likely have an idea of where to turn for reliable help.
Your Baby Deserves It
None of my children have had the same breastfeeding “issues." They are their own people, hence, each breastfeeding relationship deserves its own equal chance at success. Advocate for your little one—like they’re the first, like they’re the last.
You’ll Be Less Stressed
Breastfeeding is not the end of the world. It can feel like it, especially when emotions are high and postpartum hormones peak, but I promise that nothing beats the stress of the first time. It’s easier to keep things in perspective the second go around, even more so every time after that.
Success Is on Your Side
I talked to quite a few moms about the range of experiences they’ve had breastfeeding their crew of nurslings. And, generally speaking, everyone agreed that breastfeeding became easier with each baby.
It Doesn’t Last Forever
The lactation years are limited. Whether you breastfeed for one day or a thousand, every moment really is worth it. Let go of how you think it should happen and the pressure of doing it perfectly. Enjoy the time you have and believe that you’ve done your best. You’ll cherish these moments, both the hard and the easy ones.