TMI warning – talk of boobs and nipples and other things, I’m sure. Might be some graphic language. Read at your own risk.
Baby J and I had some breastfeeding issues early on. I had some minor complications after birth (I’ll post on that soon), so although we got some immediate skin to skin contact and he did breastfeed right after birth, we were separated for several hours afterwards. I can’t help but wonder if that hindered our progress, or if we would have had issues, regardless. I know some women/babies simply don’t take to it, so maybe that was the case here.
While in the hospital, we had a really rough time latching. Baby J would come on and off the breast multiple times – it seemed we just couldn’t get him to stay on. The nurses would come in and help, and we would get a great latch, but then a couple of minutes after they left, Baby J would come off and we’d be back to square one. It was so frustrating, especially at night when Stephen wasn’t around to help. To make matters worse, Baby J had to be put on blue lights for jaundice, so we had to start bottle feeding him, because I couldn’t feed him in the allotted time he was allowed to be off the lights. Luckily I was able to pump, and I was told by multiple nurses that I had “beautiful milk.” So at least I had that going for me…
After we left the hospital, we continued to have some issues, but it got better. Or so I thought. Yes, Baby J was latching on, but he wasn’t latching well, and my nipples were paying the price. It got to the point where I was crying before each feeding session, just from anticipation of the pain. He would latch on, and I would feel nauseous, my toes would curl in pain (I would actually need to brace my feet against the coffee table), and I would lose my breath, sometimes for a full minute. It was excruciating.
Then I watched a video that changed everything. Bam, just like that, Baby J was latching, and I felt no pain. It was wonderful. Except, I had a hard time doing it myself. The technique involves holding the baby’s head right at the ears and pushing the baby’s back with the heel of your hand, causing the head to tilt back. But I couldn’t hold the head and push the back at the same time with one hand, my hand just wasn’t long enough. So Stephen would position Baby J while I did the nipple sandwich, and it worked great – except that Stephen is gone 10 hours a day, five days a week. So then I started using both hands on Baby J and just aiming my nipple in the right place, and that seemed to work out okay, for a while. But then Baby J’s neck got strong enough to fight the head tilt.
In addition to the nipple pain, I had a lot of back pain, mainly in the space between my shoulder blades, and I know it’s from my breastfeeding position. I have a doomoo pillow, which is kind of like a boppy but longer. So long that it’s really cumbersome sometimes, and it, like the boppy, gaps at times. I finally broke down and ordered the My Brest Friend (worst product name ever) from Amazon.uk, then waited a month for delivery (thanks so much, customs). I was so excited when I finally received it, and my back was instantly happier. But my nipples didn’t like it. I’m not sure why. I haven’t heard of anyone else having a problem, but when I started using the pillow, my nipples took a definite turn for the worse. My bad nipple stopped healing, and my “good” nipple got bad. And to be honest, I find the MBF pillow to be difficult to maneuver – it’s hard to burp Baby J, and hard to switch sides (mostly the covering and uncovering of the boob part). I keep trying the pillow, but I’m back to using the doomoo most of the time.
So we’re back to, if not excruciating nipple pain, at least unpleasant nipple pain. Yesterday morning I was on the verge of giving up, throwing in the towel and going the expressed breast milk route. My nipples hurt, my boobs hurt, and although we’re better at latching, we still don’t do it well very often. I’ve tried Lanolin, I walk around the house topless most of the day, I’ve rubbed expressed milk on my nipples. I’ve seen the LLL leader in my “area” (an hour away), and she said the latch looks good and Baby J isn’t tongue tied. “Just keep working on it,” she said. To my knowledge (based on online reading) I don’t have a blocked milk duct or mastitis or thrush. I just have tender, raw, flat nipples and Baby J has no coordination.
But I continue to persevere. Some days are better than others. Baby J is 7 weeks now, and I’ve read that the 6-8 week mark is the turnaround, the time when things start getting better. So I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. And in the meantime, I’ll survive. I’m lucky in that I have plenty of milk and am able to feed my baby. Despite anything else, Baby J is thriving – up 3.5 pounds since birth to 11 pounds at his six week checkup. He got a clean bill of health, has perfect skin, and is growing well. When the nurse measured him at 57cm, she did a double take and remeasured, because she didn’t think it was right that he had grown that much.
I don’t plan to stop breastfeeding at this time. I just wish it was easier.
(While writing this, I stumbled across this post and thought it was great. I can certainly relate to the inability to move my hand/arm fast enough to shove Baby onto the boob while his mouth is open wide enough! And I did find some new advice that I plan on trying.)