After surviving 4 months of bed-rest and a completely unmedicated childbirth (not so much as a blood draw or IV during labor & delivery), I’m trying to tame a whole new animal: breastfeeding. Throughout my pregnancy, women were more than happy to share their “horror” stories of birth, but no one breached the subject of nursing…I was left to discover the ups and downs of Booby Town myself.
From Day 1 latching was a problem. My sweet son was much more interested in sleeping than eating. Several different nurses and two different hospital lactation consultants instructed me to work through the pain and gave me techniques on how to wake him up to feed. I figured the first few weeks would be uncomfortable, but I never imagined the amount of pain I’d be in trying to feed my baby. He lost 10% of his birth weight in two days, so before I left the hospital I already had an appointment with an LC for the next day for a consult and weight check. After the consult and weigh-in, the LC told me to go home and pump; she also let me know supplementing with formula was next on the list.
At his one week check-up, the pediatrician encouraged me to supplement with formula – which I did. Honestly, I was happy to have that advice. By this time, my nipples were cracked and bleeding…the word “sore” didn’t begin to describe my pain level. Compared to breastfeeding, drug-free childbirth was a walk in the park. I decided to nurse him during the day, then pump and feed (supplementing with formula) during the night. In spite of the few hours of boob-rest throughout the night, the pain was incredibly intense as soon as he latched on the next morning. His weight was still an issue, and at his two week follow-up, the pediatrician said, “Breastfeeding works for some, but not others. It’s time to switch to formula.”
I was equally relieved and devastated at his words. He had given me permission to release myself from the incredibly painful ordeal of nursing, but I felt so guilty and inadequate as a mother. My body was made to feed babies – how and why was it failing me?! I went home and cried. As much as I wanted to give up, my stubborn personality wouldn’t let me. Had the doctor never told me to quit, I probably would have given up nursing on my own soon after because of the unbelievable pain I constantly endured. However, I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to be told “No.” After receiving much-needed encouragement from a few ladies from my Bible study, I decided to press on.
I started researching reasons that nursing would be painful. I called and emailed lactation consultants outside of the hospital. I reached out to other women who’d experienced issues. Through my own devices, I figured out my sweet boy was tongue and lip tied. On my own, I set up a consult with a pediatric dentist. When I brought up the issue with his pediatrician, the doctor shrugged it off and said, “Who told you that?” as if I had been misinformed or didn’t know what I was talking about. He never even looked at my son’s mouth…even after I told him I’d set up a consult with a pediatric dentist and that an LC said he had class IV ties. Once I realized the pain of nursing was not temporary, I quit putting him to my breast and focused on pumping. I lost sleep…I shed tears…I came to hate the sound of my pump. Time pumping was time not spent snuggling and taking care of my newborn.
Finally, the day of the laser procedure came. I was so excited my son’s mouth would be fixed and that we’d be able to experience pain-free nursing! The pediatric dentist and his assistant assured me that he would be able to achieve a successful latch just minutes after the procedure. Well, minutes after the procedure I received a sleepy, swollen-mouthed 5-week-old who was not interested in anything but being snuggled and NOT using his sore mouth. Understandable. A few hours later, the miraculous latch and comfortable nursing were nowhere to be found. Turns out, it would take a few more weeks for him to figure out what to do with his “new” mouth. After all, he’d developed those sucking patterns in the womb.
He was 7 weeks old before I could say nursing was no longer painful. I still couldn’t call it comfortable, and it definitely wasn’t efficient. At 8 weeks old, we now have a better experience – much less pain, mostly comfortable, and a little more efficient. My supply took a huge hit because he never was able to latch and empty my breasts for over a month, and the original pump I used contributed to my low supply. (For the record, I don’t recommend Medela’s Freestyle pump…the Pump in Style is much better.)
We are now moving into his 9th week, and I’m 50/50 nursing and pumping. It’s so much better than it was before, and I hope in a few more weeks I can say I’m 80/20 nursing and pumping…and that it is completely enjoyable. So, for all of those experiencing nursing issues and choose to stick with it: IT GETS BETTER! To those who have given up and switched to formula: I DON’T BLAME YOU! This is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done – and I’ve been in the military for ten years.