“But is it supposed to hurt?!” New and expectant mamas listen up: you’ve probably already noticed that breastfeeding can be a very contentious subject. Some mamas sing its praises, some loathe it from the beginning, and many fall somewhere in between. Mama of two Jennifer had a particularly tough go of it the second time around, but still managed to come out the other end laughing. We know you’ll get a kick out of her reasoning …
FYI: This is not about which is better. It doesn’t matter. I don’t think anyone has ever said, “I wish my mom breastfed me. My life would have turned out so much better.” No more mommy wars!
I was supposed to be a breastfeeding ninja this time around.
Ninja Mommy Steps:
- Pop baby out the wazoo.
- Plant confidently on nipple.
- Experience the unparalleled joy of successful breastfeeding.
My baby had other plans.
No latching, not even a taste. I kept trying, no dice. I waited, tried again. Bupkus. More waiting, more trying. He finally latched on for a few minutes. The nurses all said, “No problem! He is a big (9.5 lb/4.3 kg) boy! He can go a few days before needing to eat”. He nursed for a few minutes about once a day for three days before extreme lethargy set in from the onset of jaundice, landing us in the hospital.
A few days of “tanning”, bottle feeding, and partial breastfeeding later, we were on our way to having a healthy baby.
Then came the INTENSE NIPPLE PAIN. I started to lose my mojo as baby refused to latch, screamed with hunger, and lost more and more weight (he was diagnosed as a shallow sucker). I fed my baby expressed breast milk and formula (I am a less than enthusiastic pumper, euphemistically speaking). Around five weeks, baby nursed without needing supplementation. Around eight weeks, I was able to nurse him without wanting to cry or scream or kick something (sometimes all three at once).
INTENSE NIPPLE PAIN was an issue with my first child, three years ago. I chalked it up to a bad latch from the start, followed by engorgement, blocked ducts (thankfully no mastitis), and thrush (yeast infection). Yeah. I learned a lot that year. Tons of education = uber ninja status. I was totally ready to try again
But my uber ninja status was of no use. A speech therapist (and mother of three) I spoke with said that it takes 6-8 weeks for most women to get their nursing relationship with baby on track. She was spot on.
But I couldn’t accept that. Four weeks in, I was desperate and my anxiety was through the roof. There had to be a REASON for the pain, a FIXABLE REASON. But there wasn’t. I ruled out thrush, blocked ducts, mastitis, tongue-tie, baby neck and jaw muscle issues, etc. My OB/GYN thought it was inflammation and that it would eventually pass. It did.
Anyway, what does it matter? I kept on keeping on. And why? For the love of all that is lovely and good in this world, WHY? I was told over and over to just quit, just bottle feed, just stop putting myself through the torture. And I would have, but…
Yes, it’s so good for the baby, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah. But my main reason?
I’m lazy. (And cheap. Have you seen the price of formula?!?!?!)
Breastfeeding requires no clean up of bottles and pump parts. There are no errands to purchase formula and no measuring out more when baby is extra hungry (nor is there wincing at money down the drain when you’ve made too much). Breasts are a handy pacifier while at restaurants and on flights. You never have to remember to pack breasts in your diaper bag. Breasts are always there. At least, mine are.
So yeah, I stuck it out. Twice. For me, the temporary pain was worth it for the convenience of breastfeeding. Bad as it was, l know I’m lucky. Not all moms even have the option.
Stuff to try
- Do your best to have a good latch: nipple pointed to the top of baby’s mouth, most of the bottom of the areola in baby’s mouth, baby’s lips flanged out, baby using tongue to suck on whole chunk of areola, not just nipple.
- Let the baby self-latch (sort of), by leaning back on pillows about 30 degrees and placing baby vertically on your belly over a nipple. Some babies (mine) like to have some control.
- Air those nipples out! And apply a great cream (I liked Earth Mama, Baby Angel brand, though I made my own the second time around).
- Change your breast pads a few times a day so things don’t get moist in there (encourages yeast to thrive, leading to thrush or infection).
- Take a shower. It’s good for your mind and your body.
- Give the baby a bottle of pumped milk or formula to let your nips rest.
- Everything should start getting better around 6-8 weeks, but try just doing it for one more day if you can, if you want.
- Just remember: no matter what, that baby will love you.