Sunday, November 16, 2014

Breastfeeding 3.0

post nurse
When Sterling was born, I had 38 months of breastfeeding experience under my belt - 24 months with Miriam and another 14 with Magdalena. Over those months, I'd dealt with latch issues, sore nipples, engorgement, supply issues, mastitis, thrush, a nursing strike, and weaning, some a couple of times over. Breastfeeding had sometimes been difficult, but over those 38 months, I thought I'd learned just about all there is to know.

Then I had Sterling, and breastfeeding was a really painful struggle. I was shocked. I knew what I was doing - didn't I? Why was I having amateur-level problems? Why couldn't I just figure it out, like I had with my other two babies? Did those 38 months of experience count for nothing? There were many times in those first few weeks where I wanted to give up. It hurt so much, physically and emotionally.

I came to a few realizations that I will share with you here.

1. Breastfeeding hurts. Those people who say breastfeeding is natural and doesn't/shouldn't hurt? They are wrong. IT HURTS. Especially at first. After a while you and baby will probably get the hang of it and the pain will probably go away. But in the meantime, your nipples are basically being chewed off by a rabid animal and that is ouchy.

2. Every baby is different, so with every baby, you become a breastfeeding novice again. There is some carry-over knowledge, sure, but even those of us with months and months of experience should be prepared for beginner problems.

3. Ask for/accept help, even if it's not your first baby. When Sterling was just 10 days old, I ran into a neighbor at the grocery store who happens to be a lactation consultant. I mentioned off-hand that I was having problems nursing and she insisted on bringing over some DVDs and pamphlets for me. I said "sure" even though inwardly I was rolling my eyes because I thought I knew everything. But guess what? Those DVDs and pamphlets totally saved me! I learned some great techniques for improving the breastfeeding experience for me and Sterling and it meant the world to me. I am so grateful for my neighbor and her insistence on helping me almost against my will.

As I write this, I'm on breastfeeding month almost-14 with Sterling, bringing my total months of experience to almost-52. And I'm dealing with a (thankfully mild) case of thrush, and one side isn't producing as much as the other side so I'm all lopsided, and right after I gave away my breast pump, we figured out that Sterling is too sensitive to cow's milk to drink it, so I've upped his nursing, and so on and so forth. Breastfeeding is a new experience every time.


Aimee said...

Ooh boy! I hear ya! Before boy #3 I had 56 months nursing experience (28 each boy) and boy #2 was easy from the start. I humorously thought it would be just as easy. My third is so much more of a mover, had a difficult latch and never wants to settle down to nurse. Now he is teething he is beginning to chew on the nipple! Ouch! He is noise-sensitive though (not sure how in this house!), I gasp and he starts crying like I pinched him. He's beginning to look at me like: "this nursing thing sucks, I don't trust you!" However, he has refused every bottle we have tried with him.

On a different note, could Sterling have a tongue or a lip-tie? They can be difficult to diagnose, but your issues sound similar to what happens when there is a tie.

Jen said...

"But in the meantime, your nipples are basically being chewed off by a rabid animal and that is ouchy."


Crys said...

Wow, lopsided boobs...sometimes I just want to yell at body points and say what is your deal!!!! I like when you say breastfeeding just hurts. True, true. It hurt every time I nursed peach for two years....a mothers love...I guess is all I can say!

Kathy Haynie said...

You are a rock star hero mama. Hope the thrush heals quickly and the (ahem) cup sizes straighten themselves out soon. :) Wish I could give the breast pump sitting here in the corner of my house to you! Probably costs more to ship than to just buy new… :(

Nancy said...


Learning to nurse Rachel was like torture. It was so painful. For so long. But it did eventually get better.

Miriam was a breeze...but didn't want to wean.

Benjamin was a nightmare at first (prematurity problems, and then we discovered he was tongue-tied (lots of milk blisters, biting down, etc)) but things eventually got better, too (after we got his tongue clipped). And then he REALLY didn't want to wean.

It's been an adventure every time, that's for sure!

Ariana said...

"The Nursing Mother's Companion" By Kathleen Huggins saved my bacon with kid #2. I wish I had known about it with kid #1. Every nursing mom should have that book! Funny enough, it was my insurance company that sent it free in a little package of pamphlets and stuff. I had never heard of it.

Alanna said...

Amen, sister.

Although I will say, one of the biggest perks to having my kids so close together (oldest is 8, #5 is due in February) is that my nipples have stayed pretty tough, so I've never had as much pain as I did with that first one. (This probably isn't a good enough reason for most people to have so many kids close together, though!)

But it really is different with each baby. My first took a while to get it all sorted out (lots of pain and a cracked nipple in the meantime). #2 was easy-peasy. #3 was fine was he was latched on, but it would take him at least 20 minutes each time to latch! I remember thinking to myself, "It's a good thing I know that you're just doing this wrong or I would have given up 15 minutes ago!" As it was, I finally began chanting to him, "Open wide, suck hard! Open wide, suck hard!" Once a woman in my ward who teaches middle school overheard this and burst out laughing. #3 was also the first time I ever got engorged-- had no idea how painful that would be! It was awful and I instantly had a lot more sympathy for all the other women out there who have had that. Ugh.

And then #4 was easy again (except for those days of engorgement)! You just never know.

My oldest sister's first baby never did learn how to nurse properly. He would latch on for a minute, and then want to break off so he could look around. She was in so much pain and it was just awful for her. She just had her 2nd and he is the best nurser ever (a little too voracious at times, but at least he actually NURSES) and I've been so excited for her to have a little success this time! It's one of those things that shouldn't matter, but I think when you're starting out on a such a new and wild experience, it can feel sort of crushing when the thing everyone tells you is natural and easy and healthy just doesn't work.

Why are some babies so difficult???

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Like most people, my first one was a killer, pain-wise. The others were average nursers until #5, who just couldn't nurse. I remember one Sunday morning when he was about 10 days old and noticing his skin was loose and hanging; he obviously was losing weight fast. Got him to the doc that morning who recommended a lactation consultant (didn't know there were such people). Lost my milk that day.

Lactation consultant showed me how to get it back w/ an electric pump. And how to stimulate baby to suck by using a syringe to squirt milk in his mouth at the beginning of nursing so he would begin sucking. What an ordeal. It worked though.

Bridget said...

Aimee, he (like Alanna's baby) just had trouble opening up wide enough. The lactation consultant's DVDs were helpful in tricks to get him to open up wider.

Yes, Crys, lopsided boobs! It is bizarre! I remember years ago my friend Sharon telling me about this particular phenomenon and I didn't quite believe her. I thought nursing worked as a system, as a whole. Nope, it works as two separate boobs with their own supply.

Liz Johnson said...

I also had weird problems with my third. He had, as the lactation consultant put it, "a voracious suck." It felt like I was nursing a vacuum cleaner, and it hurt. Oh man.


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