15 April (Day 1)
I missed being with Luca and Leonardo on our first night as 4 but I was discharged this evening and Leonardo welcomed me behind the hospital doors with the biggest smile. It hit me as we were driving home that we are now a family of 4. Complete.
My breastfeeding journey starts again. Even though I feel a lot more equipped and less black or white about giving myself a break (i.e. giving him a bit of formula if needed), the sensations are very similar to what I experienced with Leonardo. Very very very sore.
16 April (Day 2)
Leonardo at nursery is our means to breath, our chance to rest as much as you can rest with a newborn and only 4 pair of hands to do things for baby, mommy and around the house. We went to see the lactation consultant to make sure we are doing things right. I really want it to be less painful hence why I dragged my still weak body out of the house. I can walk slowly, but I feel light headed very quickly due to the blood loss. The consultant said he’s latch is good and we went through some positions. She warned us between today and tomorrow, I will be feeling very fragile as the milk comes in. And I did. In the evening I felt overwhelmed, like we had no help despite Luca being amazing at taking on everything in the house and Leonardo. Luca woke up with me during the night, and just that has helped me so much; I felt like I wasn’t on my own. Someone told me once, that somehow things always look a lot worse in the middle of the night.
The pain of breastfeeding and my prolapse getting worse, were two of the things I really worried about during my second pregnancy. Just showering would remind me of how painful the sprinkles of water against my wounded nipples were.
I wanted to get things right this time. With Leonardo I had completely underestimated how challenging that phase would be. A month before birth, I attended a really useful antenatal breastfeeding workshop online offered by Blossom Antenatal with a lactation consultant called Cordelia Uys . As a 2nd time mom, I had heard and read some of the things plenty of times before but I also picked up tips and more up to date advice and guidelines. For example the side lying position for breastfeeding which ties in with the whole co-sleeping method. This is something that I had never really explored with Leonardo as I was too scared to share the bed with him and risk squashing him.
I also went to see a local lactation midwife who sees moms at a children centre. Another mom recommended her to me as she found her very supportive. When I read her name, I realised I had tried to reach out to her 3 years ago too when I was struggling with Leonardo but at that time I was not very lucky and didn’t get to a chance to make an appointment with her. This time was different; she arranged for me to go see her before giving birth and soon after. She admired how resilient I had been when I carried on breastfeeding Leonardo and she was sure I would be able to do the same with my second. When I went to see her postnatally, she really made me feel confident and understood and she acknowledged my pain and challenges. We went through the latch, the different positions, she sent me loads of emails and content to look at. We tried cup feeding when my nipples were so damaged that I needed a break. The truth is that with your 2nd baby, you’ve been down that road before and the formula made its entrance into the scene a lot faster this time. We only gave him a little a few days, enough to let my wounds heal.
It surprised me to find out the percentage of moms who don’t breastfeed. I mean it with no judgment, we each decide what is best for us, but I would still choose breastfeeding despite the pain. Once the pain is gone, it’s so much easier. It’s always there, you don’t have to carry and sterilise bottles. It’s one of the best ways to sooth them and I’ve always felt that the bond created with them is like nothing else. It takes a lot of sacrifice, you are in physical service and often means if you are exclusively breastfeeding that you are doing all the nights. I am all for dads sharing the hard work but I never felt I needed to go out of my way and express milk so Luca could have a bottle to give him in the middle of the night.
Having Luca at my side really made a difference. He came with me to see the lactation consultant. On the most challenging initial days he would check on the latch specially when I was side lying to feed or he would rub the sides of my neck and my shoulders to relax them until the pain subsided.
The problem with breastfeeding is that it’s not a part of motherhood that is spoken about profusely: when you hear speaking about pain or difficulties with it’s not always clear what is painful or difficult. I had proper open wounds around my nipples and every time I would feed it was reopening the wound. It didn’t have enough time to heal and that’s when we introduced a bit of formula. I now believe that I was doing everything right but in those early days, when baby is also getting the grip with sucking, their mouths are so tiny, my breast very sensitive, I am bound to experience this pain no matter what. This time thankfully if was for a shorter time, maybe thanks to the support I had, maybe thanks to the Silverette cups I tried this time around. All I know is that yes it was hard, it was shorter, it will be a while longer till I feel my body is mine again and I can wear normal clothes that don’t necessarily have easy access to the boobs, but I am happy I have done it again for my second. The benefits are tenfold and I feel blessed to be on this journey again.