**Warning- this is a very candid post regarding breastfeeding that may make some uncomfortable. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!**
Before I got pregnant, I knew I wanted to breastfeed Miss A. Even as a little girl, breastfeeding was my choice for my baby dolls. That was what I always knew to be normal! I don’t remember having baby bottles for my dollies and I never thought anything of it. I was, without a doubt, going to breastfeed my own children.
And then I actually had to do it. My pre-birth concerns about breastfeeding were all regarding supply (what if I couldn’t make enough milk?) or difficulty latching (would Abby and I be able to connect the way that we needed to?) but nothing prepared me for the physical pain and emotional struggle of breastfeeding.
Thankfully, supply was the least of my worries. Abby was put right on my chest after birth, and she latched on easily. It wasn’t comfortable, but it didn’t hurt so I assumed we were all good and I would “toughen up” as time went on. Little did I know that the discomfort I felt actually was a problem with Abby’s latch. My super strong girl has a super strong suck and jaw muscles that caused her to “ratchet” her mouth shut as she ate, consequently tearing up my nipple. Couple that with my sensitive skin (common in red heads, according to my lactation consultant), and within 24 hours, I was in excruciating pain every time I nursed Abby, which, at the beginning, was every hour at least… I started dreading those moments that I was supposed to be enjoying. I did not feel the closeness with Abby but only the equivalent of razor blades on my nipple, tearing off the scabs that had formed since the last feeding. Every time Abby latched on, I was reduced to sobs. I felt inadequate, cheated, and sad. 48 hours after birth, J, A and I stopped in and saw my Lactation Consultant (life saving woman, in my opinion) and I put in a call to my birth class teacher who, after having exclusively breastfeeding four children, knows a thing or two about it. It turns out that not only was Abby’s strength causing difficulties, but I also had thrush.
After following both of their advice, I now had a prescription ointment to battle the thrush and help heal the open sores (APNO- a totally miracle!!), was using a nipple shield to allow myself to heal (helpful but an inconvenience, for sure), and preforming exercises to help Abby relax her jaw when eating. With these life changing additions to our routine, feeding my daughter was no longer a miserable experience. We managed to develop a rhythm, working together, and breastfeeding was no longer a burden. It certainly wasn’t enjoyable, but I could tolerate it. I set a goal to breast feed for six months.
Then, we discovered that Abby has a milk protein allergy and I was required to cut out dairy. Hopefully the lack of cheese in my diet will result in a decrease in my pants size… Our next hurtle was to ween Abby off of the nipple shield. I knew that if I was going to breastfeed past six months, I was going to have to get off the pesky nipple shield. Every day we spent one or two feedings learning to latch and feed without the shield. It took four months of dedication, work and patience, but we managed, and now Abby is five months old and nursing freely without the shield. I am no longer torn up and don’t expect it to reoccur (I do have some APNO on hand, just in case). We are still working on her latch; we are not completely pain free when she eats, but I can feel her improve every single day and I am finally enjoying those moments of closeness with my daughter that I so desperately craved when she was first born. I have no doubt that Abby and I will nurse to our six month goal and beyond!
UPDATE! Abby and I made it 16 months until she weaned herself.