Monday, March 25, 2013

Guest Post: Breastfeeding Is Hard

I haven't talked much about my experience with breastfeeding on my blog because I know some of my students (hi girls!) visit here and well... that's just awkward.  BUT, it is an important part of my journey in my first year of motherhood.  It was simultaneously one of the hardest things I've ever done and the most accomplished I've ever felt about anything before.  When new-mom Laura first emailed to say she wanted to post, she wasn't sure what to write about... BUT, I found this great series on her blog called "The Feeding Chronicles" and knew that was the angle she should take.  Thanks Laura for saying so many things I haven't been able to say here before! :)

Why I'm Breaking

Hi everyone! I'm Laura and I blog over at Stories from Austin. I met my husband on nearly 5 years ago, and we just had a baby girl (who I refer to as "M") in late November. I'm a huge college football fan and a lover of all things wine and cheese. I'm a stay at home/work from home mom trying to figure out how to balance love, life, and a baby! 

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One question that people without kids have most often asked me is "what is the hardest part of being a new parent?" My answer? Feeding this child. My husband would likely agree with me. For me, breastfeeding was harder than labor. 

While I was pregnant, I read a lot about breastfeeding and I have a background in public health so it was very important to me to do everything I could to make sure I could breastfeed my daughter. I knew the mechanics of how breastfeeding worked and about the importance of a good latch. I knew about thrush, mastitis, and nipple confusion. I felt like I had a good working knowledge of the information and, while it would be challenging, we would catch on quickly. Well, that's not always the case. 

The first 2 weeks were absolute hell. My daughter was eating 12-14 times a day, and every time she latched I felt excruciating pain. I was recovering from (a fairly easy) delivery and learning to care for an infant at the same time. Things did get easier, and I'm happy to say that my daughter has been exclusively breastfed since birth, and we have no problems breastfeeding now---I can pop her on in seconds, and little piggy is gaining weight perfectly! BUT, if I had to it over again, there are a lot of things I would have done differently that would have helped us establish a solid nursing relationship quicker. I wanted to share some of those things with y'all...

Within 2 minutes of M's birth, she was thrown on my chest. She didn't seem interested in breastfeeding, so we didn't push it. She wanted to stare at us, and we wanted to stare at her. It was an overwhelming time and I was not thinking that clearly. With the next kiddo, I'll likely encourage it immediately, but I'm glad I didn't with M since it was so painful. We tried again about 2 hours after she was born, with help from a lactation consultant. Holy hell, it hurt! I winced in pain so we delatched her. Tried again, and more pain. Again and again, pain, pain, PAIN. This didn't seem right. The LC tool a closer look at her latch, she said she was perfectly latched and wasn't sure why I was in so much pain. She said it may hurt a little bit, but I shouldn't be in excruciating pain. At this point, I honestly assumed that I was a wimp and wasn't dealing with the pain well (doesn't matter that just a few hours earlier, I had back labor, and almost dropped a baby out in the elevator and didn't get an epidural until I was a "good 7 cm"). The first day was painful, but I was on a lot of pain medication and she was only feeding every 3 hours so it wasn't awful. The second day was a different story. On day 2, I was still in a lot of pain, so her latch was checked again and again and AGAIN and I was told it was fine. I worked through the second day, but it was a struggle and getting more and more painful. Starting at around 6pm the second night, the cluster feeding started. Holy geez---M wanted to feed every 45 minutes, not even kidding. At 11pm, the nurse took her to check her jaundice levels (they check 36 hours after birth at our hospital). She was gone for about 90 minutes and that's the longest stretch of sleep that I got that night. They brought her back to my room and she was screaming her head off because she was hungry. We fed, and fed, and fed. I struggled getting her latched, and many times that night my husband would help, but I tried to let him get some sleep since he was exhausted. The nurse came to check my vitals around 3am and asked about her feeding frequency and I told her the truth--every 45 minutes! She was surprised since most babies apparently don't cluster feed like this that early, and offered to take M to the nursery so I could sleep. I said no, I knew she was trying to make my milk come in sooner, and doing that would delay the process. She would be screaming in the nursery, and she's our kiddo so we felt we needed to be the ones to take care of her. 

On day 3, the pain was intense. I lowered my dose of pain meds, and I was developing sores, and every article of clothing hurt the girls. My milk was clearly coming in (helllllllo engorgement!) and I crossed my fingers that I would see some improvement in the next day or so. On day 4, the pain was even worse. If I had it to do over again, this is where I would have called a lactation consultant. Instead, I suffered through, caked on lanolin, took pain meds, and hoped it would get better. On day 7, I had a complete meltdown. I was in so much pain and it wasn't getting better. M was nursing 12 times a day, and I was exhausted. My husband and I discussed giving up and feeding M formula or having me exclusively pump (we hadn't even bought my pump yet) for awhile. I decided to call every lactation consultant in Austin to see who could see me first. We would do this and then reevaluate in a few days whether to pump, give formula, or continue breastfeeding. After calling 12 Lactation Consultants, I finally found one who could come out the next day. She was wonderful! She spent nearly 2 hours with us and observed M and I through 2 feedings as well as examined her mouth and my girls. Turns out our biggest issue was that M was a tiny baby and therefore has a tiny mouth. She had a great latch, but it was shallow since she was small. I also had a lot of damage to the nips, which made it even worse. She gave me some techniques to help deepen the latch and said I'd see the biggest change once M grew a little bigger. I know it doesn't seem like the LC did much, but knowing everything was ok and it would likely improve once M grew a little bit made me feel much better. She also told me that most of the time, 80% of a successful breastfeeding relationship is dependent on the stubbornness of the mother. Well, I'm very stubborn. This comment made a lasting impression on me. 

I powered onward, and the 2 week mark was our next challenge because M cluster fed for 3 days; but, somehow, we made it through. I ended up taking ibuprofen for 4 weeks to help with the pain (and for 3 days, I continued to take the Vicodin due to breastfeeding pain NOT the delivery pain. Then I ran out of the good stuff). I went through almost a whole jar of Motherlove Nipple Butter (lanolin hurt too much). Slowly, things started to improve. 

At 4.5 weeks, the left side had zero pain--I couldn't believe it! At 6.5 weeks, the right side finally had no pain. We are now going on 3 months and I can see us hitting the 12 month mark down the road. Establishing a successful breastfeeding relationship has been one of the most frustrating and rewarding things I have ever done. It was such a struggle early on and I hope to be a source of support and encouragement to all of my friends who wish to breastfeed when they become parents.

I hope you all enjoyed this post! Please stop by my blog, Stories from Austin, I love new readers!

Stories from Austin


  1. I had a rough start with my second daughter because her initial latch wasn't perfect, causing sores and blistering. Mastitis came shortly after and it took everything I had to power through but I am so glad I did!

    Great story - thanks for sharing!

  2. I have wanted to blog about breastfeeding lately too. I had a horrible time with both my babies. I had mastitis during the first week of both of their lives. I ended up pumping after a week with my second because nursing was just so painful and hard. You don't hear stories about how hard it is very often, I definately think its the hardest part!

  3. I fully breast fed my second son. Didn't have the opportunity with my first because lack of knowledge, then mil production was low. Breastfeeding was a wonderful experience. For working mom, there will be a bit more efforts.

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