Thursday, October 23, 2008

Breastfeeding: Let me count the ways

Disclaimer: this post is not meant to scare you or deter you from breastfeeding. It's simply an honest account of my own experience thus far.

Let's consult some of my breastfeeding books to consider a few of the challenges some women may face while breastfeeding.


Check. I got painfully, horrifically engorged when my milk came in during my second night in the hospital. Panicked, I called my nurse, who took one look at me and then RAN from the room to get me a pump. Mind you, I had a generous rack before becoming pregnant, and it became more generous during pregnancy. When the milk came in, my cups didn't runneth over- they were too rock-hard for that. They just hung there like boulders.

Anyhow, I didn't sleep at all that last night in the hospital, between pumping for dear life and trying to get my baby latched on every two to three hours. By the next morning I had at least 25 ounces of milk pumped and I was sobbing uncontrollably for the lactation consultant. I was told that she knew I was in dire need of help and that she was on her way. When she still hadn't arrived after two hours, Mike went upstairs and found a different lactation consultant who wasn't supposed to round on my floor, but came immediately. I think the words "boulders" and "hysterical" were used.

When we left the hospital, I didn't have a bra or a regular shirt that fit. I was wheeled out wearing a stretched-out tank top and sweatpants and looking like death warmed over. Out front, I was parked next to two other new moms who were wearing cute, coordiated outfits and looked like they'd hired professionals to do their hair and makeup. I sat there, gingerly holding the baby and trying not to move, blinking stupidly in the sunlight and wanting to ask them how they'd managed to look so good.

At home, it took lots of cabbage, cold compresses, and pumping n' nursing to make it through the next three days. But make it I did! And I was proud of myself for sticking it out! And then came the

Nipple Trauma

The second week home, I developed cracked, bleeding nipples. For a while I was able grit my teeth and nurse through the pain, but eventually I broke down and went to see yet another lactation consultant. It was enormously helpful and well worth the money, and I felt really optimistic about breastfeeding. However, that was before I got the

Yeast Infection

No sign of thrush in Lion's mouth, but the midwife took one look at my boob and was positive that it was a yeast infection. This meant a prescription for me and a call to the pediatrician so I could also get one for the baby. After a few days, things were looking up! I was able to stop pumping that side and latch the baby on, and it was good! That is, it was good until I got a visit from my old friend


It was not nearly as bad as what I experienced when my milk came in, but nonetheless, the breasts randomly got really full and hard and for a couple of days it was hard for Lion to latch on. Instead of pumping a bit prior to nursing (to soften the area and make it easier to get a good latch), I just grimaced and let Lion chow down. This was really stupid of me, and I would live to regret it when I saw the return of the

Nipple Trauma

More bleeding, more pain. I nursed when I could and pumped when I couldn't bear it. Finally, they healed yet again. Cats may have nine lives, but my breasts apparently have fifty.

All was well until I got


I knew it was mastitis when I went to nurse Lion and suddenly thrust him at Mike, saying, "Ow, ow, owwwwww." Within minutes I was shivering under five blankets and I couldn't get warm. My skin hurt, my muscles ached, and Mike had to take emergency leave the next morning because I could hardly lift the baby without weeping. For the second time, I found myself sitting on an exam table and gingerly peeling the nursing pad away from my gimpy breast as a midwife clucked sympathetically.

The dramz! The dramz never ends in this house!

Or maybe it does?

Knock wood, I've recovered from the mastitis and so far have not experienced any other issues, other than some relatively minor pain at the beginning of our nursing sessions. Of course, it's barely been a week, but I'm feeling optimistic. Again! I guess I just have a lot of


While the pain and frustration of breastfeeding has sometimes made natural childbirth seem like a walk in the park, I have not quit. Not that I would blame anyone else for quitting, for any of these reasons or for none at all. I'm not a martyr or a masochist; I just don't believe that I can't be successful at this. It's natural, for godssakes! Wild animals birth their young in the bushes and feed them just fine without ever having to apply lanolin to their nipples or pay lactation consultants $85 per hour or use nursing stools or nipple shields or double electric breast pumps.

I know that it's not this difficult for everyone. I think it's important for moms who are considering breastfeeding to know that there are many women who never suffer even a single sore nipple. And man, I wish I were one of them, but I'm not.

But I'll go ahead and put the Victories label on this post. I'm persevering, my son is healthy and thriving, and life is good.

Life is really good.

Cheeky onesie a gift from Babelbabe.

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Blogger His suzy said...

I hope your boobies stay feeling good.

And that is such a sweet picture! His little smile is adorable. That little onesie made me chuckle. :)

1:27 PM  
Blogger Kay said...

Oh my gosh, cutest picture EVER! Lion has the cheeriest smile I've ever seen a baby have -- he's going to be a heartbreaker when he grows up. (Side note: I almost thought he was giving the thumbs up in that picture!) Sorry to hear about your breastfeeding trials. Thank goodness the process is getting easier.

1:34 PM  
Blogger Bearette24 said...

Cute onesie (and baby, of course :)

Looking on the bright side, at least they wheeled you out of the hospital. For some reason, I ended up walking (even though my legs were shaky). Next time, if I'm not as out of it, I'm gonna ask for a wheelchair!

2:31 PM  
Blogger Caro said...

I got the cracked nipples and they would not heal. No amount of lanolin would fix them. Finally went to the doc and it was thrush. That healed but they still hurt all the time.

Not sure why I didn't give up. They are probably like shoe leather after three kids. LOL

You are doing an excellent job of hanging in there. I hope they quit hurting soon.

11:52 PM  

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