Ella Kate has been with us for almost three weeks, and for the first two weeks, we just couldn't quit saying how much easier things are this go round. Of course, part of the reason a newborn is easier is because we have some experience under our belt. We know how to swaddle, soothe a baby, install car seats, and generally know that we can keep another human alive. I think the other single biggest reason things are so much easier this time is that breastfeeding is totally different this time. Stop reading right now if that is way too much information for you because it's only going to get worse!
I had skin to skin with Ella Kate for over an hour after delivery, and she nursed right away with a perfect latch. A lactation consultant stopped by, observed Ella nursing, and said she couldn't improve on it. Jackson was too exhausted to nurse for hours after birth and had a terrible latch for weeks (and even after months I often had to correct his latch). We had numerous visits with lactation consultants, and we had an awful night nurse who stressed us out more about Jackson's inability to nurse. He had trouble breathing for several hours along with dilated kidneys, and I believe all of the testing/exams wore him out so much that when he was returned to me he was always too tired to eat. As a result I had to pump in the hospital and at home in an effort to stimulate my milk production. It was extremely stressful and painful. I really wish someone had recommended finger feeding him formula to get his energy up, so that he could nurse; my new pediatrician said that this method leads to a more successful nursing experience in instances like Jackson's. At the end of our hospital stay a lactation consultant finally told us about finger feeding, and we did that for several days. Jackson had jaundice, and we had to return to the hospital our first 3 days home to have his bilirubin levels tested. We also had several weight checks and appointments with the pediatrician.
Jackson also nursed very frequently in those first few months and for a very long time. Every other hour for an hour was not unusual, and I felt extremely confined by his feeding pace. I shed tears more than once about it all, and I thought about quitting breastfeeding frequently (like every time he latched the first two months because it was so painful; after two months we finally got a better latch going most of the time). I later realized that he had a lazy suck (for lack of a better term), and when I switched to pumping and bottle feeding he gained a pound in ten days and was so much happier. Pumping was exhausting, however, and I quit around Jackson's seventh month.
For the last ten days I've had an Ella on a pretty consistent 3 hour day-time eating schedule, and she never takes longer than 30-40 minutes to eat--and frequently eats in 20 minutes. What a difference! I often have to wake her to eat, and for the most part she just intuitively knows how to latch. Not having to latch and re-latch makes this so much easier and means I can nurse her in the dark and in bed, and while I felt some pain the first week or so, breastfeeding is now already pain free! All of this means I don't dread every feeding session and because she's eating well, I can often put off a feeding for a bit if I'm in the middle of something. I've definitely wished a few times that someone else could handle the night feedings because the lack of sleep is so hard, but all in all this has been such a positive, redemptive experience. And today Ella Kate weighed in at almost a pound more than her birth weight. Ella Kate cries a lot less and must just know that she has to be easy, so her mommy doesn't have a nervous breakdown :) Of course, one of the major upsides of things being easier this time is that I still have a lot of time to spend with Jackson. Since Ella is only up every third hour or so during the day he gets a lot of "normal" time for now.
p.s. I'm thankful things have gone so well this week now that Blake is back at work.