I'm amazed by the differences with breast feeding this time around. With LL, I had horrible problems getting him to latch for the first 3 weeks or so -- a combination of my nipples being completely inverted and LL being rather lazy. During LL's early days, I saw no less than FOUR lactation consultants, all of whom said, "I'm sure that your nipples aren't truly inverted; it's very rare." And then they examined me and said, "Wow, yours really are! Um... not sure what to do next...." None of the first three LCs were any help at all, and then I struggled alone at home for a while, during which time LL barely gained any weight. S finally convinced me to go see another LC, and she was wonderful and helped us to pull through. By the time LL was one month old, we'd worked through the problems and breast feeding was great.
Kermit has been a completely different story. With LL, getting him to latch was unbelievably frustrating, and it required three hands, which meant that S had to actively participate in every single feeding for the first several weeks. But, I never had any pain. None. With Kermit, he latched on immediately, every single time. And I was so thrilled that I didn't have to fight so hard for a latch, and I could do it without S's help, that I didn't really pay attention to whether he had a good latch. By Day 5, it became clear that he was mangling me a bit when he ate, and by the end of the first week, I was in a lot of pain. This time around, though, I knew what to do -- we immediately called the LC who was actually helpful the last time, and once again, she was sympathetic, and she made it clear that she was considering both my interests and Kermit's interests, rather than ignoring me and just focusing on the baby.
Everyone told me that breast feeding my second child would be a lot easier than it was the first time around. And indeed, it has been a lot easier. Still, it hasn't been easy, and I hadn't really thought about that distinction before. There has still been a lot of frustration, and a lot of physical pain, which is something that I didn't see coming, since it hadn't happened at all with LL.
It turns out that Kermit did a lot of damage to my right breast in particular during those first two weeks or so. The LC told me that I needed to rest it for 2-3 days, pumping that side while feeding Kermit just on the left. She assured me that my milk supply was sufficient that he'd get plenty of food from just that one side, but by the second day of that plan, it was clear that she was wrong -- Kermit was ending each meal by screaming his little head off because he was still hungry, and once I clued into that, I started topping him off with a bottle of the milk that I'd pumped from the other side. In the mean time, he had so continuously and vigorously nursed exclusively on the left for those three days that he managed to damage that breast as well. So by the end of the third day, my right side had healed a bit (but not completely) and my left side was now sore as well. I went back to nursing on both sides, hoping to let my left side rest a bit, and the very next day Kermit got inexplicably frustrated at the beginning of one meal and bit down, hard, on my newly healed right breast, re-damaging it to the point of being even worse than it had been before the three days off.
We went back to the LC at that point, who offered a few more suggestions, and things have improved since then. My left breast got better quickly, but I continued to have a fair amount of pain on the right side during each feeding, and the damage to that breast was still visible, for a full two months.
With LL, all of the breast feeding frustration felt like it involved teaching him to do the right thing, which was very very stressful, but I always felt like we'd pull through it. This time around, all the frustration was within me -- will I be able to suffer through the intense pain I was feeling at each and every feeding, 9-10 times a day, for however long it would take for the pain to go away. It was a completely different kind of frustration. The worst part was how ridiculously sensitive my right breast was. When Kermit was seven weeks old, I still couldn't sleep on my stomach, because I couldn't put that kind of pressure on my right breast. Same thing with sleeping on my right side, which is normally how I like to sleep. Sleeping on my left side was okay, but only if I cradled my breast carefully with a pillow and avoided resting my arm on it.
It was like that for a full two months, and then all of a sudden, it just got better. No more pain. Yay!
Of course, it got better just in time for Kermit to enter his I'm-too-distracted-to-eat-well phase, where he eats for ten seconds and then needs to turn his head to make sure that he's not missing something interesting at the other end of the room. (He even does this in the dark -- what does he expect to see when he turns his head?) He latches and unlatches himself a gazillion times each feeding, and I have no way of knowing when he's truly done eating. And it's sad, because the part of breast feeding that I love the most are those long, peaceful nursing sessions where the baby snuggles against my body and drinks deeply and gives little content sighs. I feel like I was in the pain the entire time that Kermit was doing that, and now he won't settle down like that anymore, except occasionally at night, so I feel like I just sort of missed that phase. I only had a very brief period of time when LL was like that, too -- just a month or two, and then he entered this distracted phase as well, and then he went on strike and stopped nursing entirely.
Indeed, LL's nursing strike is hanging over me every time I nurse Kermit. I was so heartbroken when LL went on strike because it was so sudden. This time, each time Kermit nurses, I wonder if he's going to do the same thing. What if this is the very last time he nurses?!? He had a mini one-day strike a few weeks ago, and I completely panicked that he would never nurse again. So, I'm trying very hard to relish every breast feeding session we have that goes well. I'm also being a bit paranoid about anything that might have caused LL's strike. With LL, we dutifully gave him one bottle a day, as recommended for babies that need to learn to eat from a bottle. With Kermit, he's only had two bottles in the past six weeks, as I try to make sure that he believes that all milk must come from Mommy, at least for now. We'll see how it goes. In the mean time, I'm just relieved that nursing is pain-free for now, and that Kermit is growing and thriving.