Adventures in Breastfeeding

My breastfeeding story isn’t unusual. Before having a baby, I figured that you put the baby at the breast and the rest was nature taking over. WRONG! Never has something so natural, been so difficult! I struggled…a lot! I thought about giving up nearly every day. I cried, cursed, screamed. I spent hours googling remedies for sore breasts. I joined lactation groups, had my own lactation consultant and became obsessed with finding out how I could make my misery end.

Let’s go back to the beginning. One of the questions I was asked repeatedly while pregnant was whether or not I’d breastfeed. My mom breastfed my brother and I, and since she is my guru on all things baby, I knew that it was something I wanted to do. Plus I factored in all the research; breastfeeding protects baby from illness, allergies, SIDS, as well as boosting your child’s intelligence and reducing mom’s stress levels and risk for postpartum depression. But other than that, I didn’t know what I was in for.

Naturally, being the Type-A person that I am, I signed-up for a breastfeeding workshop where nurses demonstrated how to get a baby to latch (i.e. suck your nipple properly) with a knitted boob. “Sure,” I thought, “seems easy enough!” I followed this up by reading my mom’s “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” and felt like I would figure the rest out once baby arrived.

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#NormalizeBreastfeeding

At the hospital, in the post-partum recovery, a sweet nurse helped me breastfeed for the first time. She literally squashed my gigantic 40DD boob into my little one’s mouth. As your body isn’t really your own post-delivery, I went with the flow and was encouraged when she seemed excited that the baby had latched. But, holy shit was it painful! I chalked it up to being a first-timer and continued this painful experience every 2 hours because Charlotte was a hungry little hippo.

The real drama began once the pediatrician told us that Charlotte had a tongue-tie. This means that the piece of skin that attaches her tongue to the floor of her mouth is unusually short. This restricts the range of motion and was the culprit behind the pain. She doctor offered to cut it for us and two minutes later it was done. But the pain in my nipples and breasts continued and was joined by a blood blister, bruises, bleeding and cracks.

When the nurse visited us at home the next day, she was concerned. Not only was the tongue-tie not totally revised, she told us that Charlotte was also lip-tied. Again, the little piece of skin connected the lip to the gums is unusually short and thick and prevents babies from flaring their lips when they breastfeed. Why is this important? A flared lip is what allows the baby to take your nipple deeply into their mouths and suck without causing you pain. To fix this issue, the nurse recommended a laser revision by a pediatric dentist.

Pat and I balked. We didn’t want Charlotte to suffer and it seemed a bit barbaric. I resolved to “tough it out” but after a week, I was in constant pain. Because my nipples were being re-traumatized each time I breastfeed, I developed vasospams. After feeding, they would turn white and burn from the inside. Nothing seemed to help.

I started delaying feedings because I was fearful of the pain that I knew was to come. Charlotte had lost nearly 10% of her birth weight and wasn’t gaining as quickly as desired. I cried and winced each time she latched. The beautiful, tender loving moments between mother and child were non-existent. Instead, my baby was a little devil, intent on destroying me. I knew I couldn’t continue on like this, so I started going to a local breastfeeding clinic. The nurses were incredibly helpful and sympathetic. They showed me how to compensate for the lip and tongue-tie issues. They suggested doing breast compressions while feeding, changing my breastfeeding hold, taking vitamin D, calcium and magnesium for the vasospasms. All of this helped, but still, Charlotte’s latch issues remained.

Finally, after discussing with nearly every parent I knew, we decided to have the dentist do the laser revision. I was scared – what if it burned my baby? I was sad – why am I putting my needs before my child’s? But I was hopeful. If this could change our breastfeeding relationship and I could continue without pain, then I would do it.

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Poor Charlotte pre-laser surgery, screaming her brains out. But looking so cute in this sunglasses…

The surgery itself was 2 minutes. The most awful part were Charlotte’s screams and the post-surgery exercises I needed to do 6 times a day to guarantee that the skin didn’t grow back. That was traumatizing for both her and I. But thankfully, I noticed a difference in breastfeeding  almost immediately. She was able to open her mouth wider and my nipples began to heal. And over time it keeps getting better and better!

Like I said at the beginning of the blog, my story isn’t unusual. But for some reason, nobody talks about the difficulties. The pressure that new moms feel to breastfeed and love it, is tremendous. When issues arise, we’re reluctant to speak out and seek help because we are ashamed. We feel like we’re not good enough, that we don’t love our child enough to be able to provide for them. ALL FALSE! FED IS BEST. Whether breast or bottle, what matters is that you child is being fed and thriving. My story had the outcome I wanted, but had I decided to switch to formula, that would have been fine too.

Did you have trouble breastfeeding? I want to know! Share your stories & thoughts in the comments below.

 

4 thoughts on “Adventures in Breastfeeding”

  1. My goodness, you’ve been through a lot! I just had my first baby on June 9 and I too have been shocked at how challenging breastfeeding has been. I had a negative experience with a nurse post delivery. She was very critical and taught me only one hold because my 38DDD breasts were “so large that I’d smother the baby if I tried anything else”. Yikes! You can imagine how scary that was to hear as a first time mom so I soldiered on but as time went on neither of us were comfortable with this hold, especially on my left side. This left me with super lopsided boobs, a nearly dried out left breast and an engorged right one. I finally decided to try different positions and my Snoogle as a nursing pillow and both have helped immensely. Babies definitely have to learn to feed from us as we learn to feed them and once I embraced it as a learning experience I relaxed more. My husband and I also made the decision to supplement with one bottle of formula at bedtime after a particularly rough day during a growth spurt. This has helped us all immeasurably. My husband gets to bond while he gives the bottle, I get a bit of a break and my supply gets time to replenish for my son. Motherhood is such a unique experience for everyone and we have to encourage each other more. Happy feeding!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You’re amazing Jen!! You’re right, fed IS best. That hasn’t been the motto for very long… when I had Zachy 3.5 years ago, I struggled A LOT. There were a variety of reasons that now in hindsight are obvious – tongue tie, untreated postpartum depression (a whole other taboo topic not much talked about), mastitis, bad latch and unclear advice from nurses. I too had some nurses try to smash Zachy on, and then others who were gentle. Some would say feed on demand, some would say not more than every two hours. Wtf which is it? Football hold vs. reverse cradle hold, i was dizzy from the lack of guidance. I had THREE LCs and went to a support group twice a week. I was SO hard on myself because even just a mere 3 years ago, breast is best was absolutely the moto. I felt so guilty because we supplemented with formula after every bottle, to the point that I would pump 8x a day on top of breastfeeding and supplementing. I rented a hospital scale and my heart would sink each time it would say he only took an ounce. I gave up after 2.5 months and then just couldn’t accept it, so after 3 weeks I RELACTATED with my best friend pumperschnickle. At 5.5 months I gave up again… and those last few days of breastfeeding Zachy were the only ones I enjoyed with him, because I didn’t feel guilty and i could just look him in his cute eyes rather than think ok after this I need to weigh, get a bottle ready and then pump and then start all over again. In my breastfeeding class, they even said hospitals don’t carry formula! How dumb was I to believe that. This time around, of course, with second baby comes greater wisdom. Dare I say it’s been easy… the nurses at the hospital were wonderful and consistent this time, and when my milk hadn’t yet come in on night 2, a nurse even helped me (and taught me how to) hand express, and even suggested that we give a bit of formula just to tide her over. I only pump to build up a bit of a stash, and my PPD is under control. Im actually enjoying breastfeeding Lina, hooray! I’m so proud of you Jen, you’re an amazing mama and Charlotte is lucky to have you as her role model. You have a great “village” and I can’t wait to see Charlotte again soon!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The guilt we feel is tremendous, and the physical toll is unbearable. Breastfeeding is our first test as new moms and we always figure out a way…whether bottle or boob. Look at how friggin adorable and sweet Zachy is…you’ve done good mama 😍 and Lina is delicious!

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