To continue on with the theme of my last blog of the stuff no one talks about after childbirth, let’s talk about breastfeeding, and the stuff you just don’t ever hear about…
In pregnancy, you read all about breastfeeding in baby books, magazines, etc. and for me at least, it became a big source of anxiety. Aside from the positive nutritional benefits of breastfeeding, I also read that it’s a great way to lose the baby weight, so I was totally on board with this! That being said; there was SO much written about it, that I started psyching myself out for it.
From the minute the nurses guided my baby girl Annabelle to my boob to breastfeed for the first time, I felt the PINCH when she latched on. I guess I did read here and there that breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt if you have the proper latch, but I didn’t think anything of it before it became my reality. But now that I was here, with a baby hanging on, I was like; WHAT THE EFF THIS HURTS SO BAD!! Yet, the lactation nurses and regular nurses all took a look Annabelle’s latch and they all said it looked great! So basically, that whole “it shouldn’t hurt if you have the proper latch” bullshit is just that – BUUUUULLLLLLSHHIIIIITTT!
My nips became raw in no time. My baby has a strong suck and it was killing me one feed at a time! I quickly began to dread the feedings. And that’s not good because you’re supposed to breastfeed your newborn every 3 hours – and the 3 hours starts at the beginning of your feeding. So if you feed for around 40-50 minutes, you only have a 2 hour window to get things done around the house – or go to lunch, get a mani, etc. – before you’ve got to put baby back on the boob and start the process all over again. It’s exhausting.
By day two I already had a blister from Annabelle’s improper latch! So every feeding she was making it worse and worse. It got to the point where when we’d sit down to nurse and she’d latch on I’d literally get chills starting in my head that would shoot down to my toes. It was mind numbing!! And it didn’t get any better when we got home. Thank god I had pain killers to deal with the afterbirth. Hey, pain is pain! (P.S. The pain meds won’t harm the baby in case you were judging . 🙂 )
One thing that every new mom worries about when she’s breastfeeding is whether her milk has come in. They say it can take 3-5 days before it comes in (in some cases, maybe more), and so all your baby is eating in those first few days is colostrum. This is really amazing super milk juice for your baby, but as I mentioned in my previous blog, it’s only enough to line the baby’s stomach. So what did Annabelle do nonstop in those first 5 days? CRY, CRY, CRY! She was so dang fussy and Jeff and I were at our wits end. I of course had my tearful breakdown in the bathroom that every new mom surely has – I was at a loss for what to do!
The in home nurse came out for her routine visit 2 days after we left the hospital on Friday and gave me the news I was dreading… Annabelle had lost more than 10% of her birth weight, going from 7 lbs 5 oz to 6 lbs 7 oz. in 4 days. The nurse recommended I supplement her feedings with a one ounce bottle of formula. I cried. I wasn’t crying about giving her formula, it was more the feeling like I was starving my baby because my milk hadn’t come in yet. I was afraid if she had a bottle this early she’d have nipple confusion and prefer a bottle – which is easier to extract milk from than a boob – and she’d turn her nose up to breastfeeding. When I saw Jeff feed her a bottle for the first time and she sucked away excited as all hell to be eating something EASY and free flowing I literally had a guttural reaction and cried harder than I ever had. Jeff was shocked by my reaction – and so was I. I felt like I wasn’t good enough. But this reaction also was a result of raging hormonal changes that new moms go through after childbirth!
I’d heard that drinking a beer and using a warm compress on your chest can help with your milk letdown, so I settled into the couch on Friday night and had my first beer since November and heated up my boobies with a hot rag. And guess what….my milk came in! Whether it was a result of the beer or it was just that time, I was thrilled to the max. The first time I saw milk on Annabelle’s chin when I pulled her away from the boob I was over the moon – I even took a picture!! I supplemented her feedings with that one ounce bottle after every feeding and by Monday Annabelle was back to her birth weight of 7 lbs 5 oz! I quickly learned that a well fed baby is a happy baby – and a sleepy baby! Things changed for the better rather quickly after this feeding change up.
Ways to relieve nursing pain
1) Take a hot shower in the morning – or before a feeding – and that will help sort of numb your chest a bit.
2) Drink a beer at night before her bedtime feeding. It relaxes you and warms you up.
3) Find a good spot in your house with lots of pillows or a Bobby pillow that can help bring the baby to your boobs. Whatever you do, don’t slouch forward thinking your milk will pour out like a pitcher of iced tea! This is what I did and my back got so bad that I’ve already seen the chiropractor twice in the last 2 weeks!
4) Did I already mention pain killers? At least in the first week (or two)! And then Ibuprofen should suffice after that!
5) *UPDATE* I just discovered Medelo tender care hydrogel soothing gel pads for your nips! They provide a cooling sensation after a feeding, which is great, because if you’re like me, your nips feel like they’re sunburned after a feeding! Plus, there feels like a medicated effect as well. Two days after using the product, my nipples are a lot less sensitive after a feeding. AWESOME!!
Two weeks later, I’m just learning to toughen up with the breastfeeding. There’s always that little sting at the initial latch, but as long as I’m supporting the baby well then I quickly get used to the feeling and the pain fades to a tolerable amount – especially if I have a distraction, like talking on the phone, watching TV, writing thank you cards, etc.
Why stick with breastfeeding if it’s painful?
Let me just say that I was on the verge of formula within a couple days because I couldn’t stand the pain. But what kept me going was the look on Annabelle’s face when she was nursing. She just looked so content and happy. I have fallen in love with her profile because that’s the angle I spend so much time looking down at during the day. She just looks so precious and this has become our little mommy and daughter bonding time every day. Despite the discomfort of nursing, it’s also my favorite thing to do with my baby. So my advice to new moms who plan to breastfeed is to stick with it and you’ll get past the initial pain and suffering! I’m not in the clear in a pain free zone yet myself, but I hear I’ll eventually get there and I feel like I’m on my way, so I’m just looking forward to that time!
I hope this doesn’t scare expecting moms who are reading this blog, but I just wanted to share my experience thus far and keep it real for you. As I’ve said; everyone says it does get better and so second nature that you do it in a snap and don’t feel pain anymore. You just have to get over the initial hump! So keep with it, mama!
If you breastfed, do you have any suggestions for getting through those early days of nursing?
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