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This post is the first in a series…The Feeding Chronicles. This has been an adventure and I want to blog about the challenges we’ve faced and how things are going. I plan to blog about breastfeeding, bottles, products, pumps, and eventually solids!
One question that friends without kids have most often asked me is what the hardest part of being a new parent?
My answer? Feeding this child. My husband would likely agree with me. Breastfeeding was harder for me than labor.
During pregnancy, I read a lot about breastfeeding. I knew the mechanics of how it worked and about the importance of a good latch. I felt like I had good working knowledge of the information and while it would be work, we would catch on quickly. It shouldn’t hurt if I could get her latched correctly, right? Well, that’s not always the case.
The first 2 weeks were absolute hell. M was eating 12-14 times a day, and every time she latched, I had excruciating pain. I was recovering from delivery and also learning to care for an infant at the same time. Things did get easier, and I’m happy to say that M has been exclusively breastfed since birth, and now we have no problems breastfeeding—I can pop her on in seconds, and little piggy is gaining weight great.
Here is what happened, and what I would have done differently:
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. With the next kid I’ll probably encourage it more, but I’m glad I didn’t with her 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 said she was going to look closer at her latch, and once she did that, she said she was perfectly latched and wasn’t sure why I was in so much pain. She said it might 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 meds and she was only feeding every 3 hours so it wasn’t totally awful. The second day was a different story.
On day 2, her latch was checked again and again I was told it was fine. I worked through the second day, and 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, they took her to check her jaundice levels (they check 36 hours after birth) and she was gone for about 90 minutes and that’s the longest stretch of sleep that I got that night. They brought her back into my room, screaming her head off because she was hungry again. We fed, and fed, and fed. I struggled getting her latched, and most times my husband would help, but I tried to let him get some sleep since I knew he was exhausted too.
The nurse came to check my vitals around 3am and asked about her feeding frequency and I told her the truth. 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 and she would just scream in the nursery. She’s our kiddo, we needed to be the ones that took care of her.
On day 3, the pain was intense. I was developing sores and every article of clothing hurt the girls. My milk was clearly coming in, and I hoped 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 for improvement.
On day 7, I had a total and complete meltdown. I was in so much pain and it wasn’t improving. She was nursing 12 times a day and I was exhausted. My husband and I discussed giving up and giving M formula, or having me just pump (we hadn’t 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 whether or pump, give formula, or continue breastfeeding.
I finally found an LC 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 the 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 she did much, but knowing everything was ok and it would likely get better 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 one of the most stubborn people you’ll find.
The 2 week mark was tough, because she clustered for 3 days, but somehow we powered 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). I went through almost a whole jar of mother love nipple butter (lanolin hurt too much to put on). Slowly, things started to improve. At 4.5 weeks, the left side had zero pain. At 6.5 weeks, the right side finally had no pain. At 8.5 weeks, I can totally see us making it to 12 months.
It’s been really frustrating and I definitely would do things differently if I had to do it over again. I’m so happy that we’ve become good at it (too good, but that’s for another post), and my husband is thrilled he doesn’t have to see me wince in pain anymore.
Next Up: My Fave Products (so far!)