I thought that Breastfeeding would come naturally to me. I thought it would be easy because our bodies were created to nourish our offspring. I thought it would be this beautiful bonding experience. Everything I thought, turned out to be wrong.
I read lots of books about pregnancy, labor, birth and breastfeeding while pregnant with Jack. It was not even a question in my mind as to if I would nurse my baby. Of course I would, I was not going to give him an imitation when I had the real thing free and readily available in my very own body. I would never drink baby formula myself or even the first two ingredients – corn syrup & vegetable oil so why would I give that to my baby? So the decision to breastfeed for me was an easy one. What was not so easy, was actually doing it!
I had Jackson on a beautiful warm morning in October. My labor was a short but intense 6.5 hours resulting in a medicine free natural water birth. It seemed so easy and natural and as soon as I took my slippery pink son into my arms, he immediately began to root searching for my breast. I put him to breast before even getting out of the tub. I thought WOW! He’s already nursing like a champ, this is going to be great! We nursed a few more times before leaving the birth center to return home.
That evening it was my husband, myself and our new baby all alone. We had no idea what we were doing, and panic started to set in. Our baby cried all night long, he awakened every 30 minutes to an 1 hour around the clock. I nursed him on demand just like the book had said, and changed sides, just like the book had said. But something was just not working.
The evening of day four, my husband brought me a diaper and said “hey this looks kinda weird”. I looked at the diaper and saw my worst nightmare. A light red rust like substance lay there revealing the hard truth, my son was dehydrated. He wasn’t getting enough colostrum and my milk still had not come in. I felt defeated and totally lost. The next morning Jack had another diaper laced with urinate crystals and I was grief stricken. He was still crying day and night, hungry no doubt and it was all my fault. I contacted my friend Brigid who was nursing her sweet baby girl at that time. I asked her if she would be willing to give me some of her breast milk to feed my son, since I was not able to at that time. She brought milk over right away and even tried to nurse him herself, but he would not latch. We filled a small medicine syringe with breast milk and slowly filled his mouth. His face and whole body relaxed in satisfaction and he instantly fell asleep.
I pondered what I would do next? Would I start formula? Would I try to obtain more donor milk? What was wrong with me? Where was my milk?
Another friend visited me that afternoon to comfort and console me. As we were talking she looked over and asked me, “what is that on your nipple? IS THAT MILK?” Sure enough my milk had come just shy of 5:00pm on the 5th day after birth. What a relief! I could finally feed my son like I needed to. But my problems were far from over.
Over the following weeks, I continued struggling to feed my darling son. I suffered extreme nipple damage. Both sides were bruised, cracked and bloody despite the creams, soothie pads, and air drying, I was in constant pain. I cried every time I fed him, tears would stream down my face. It was so unbearable, I dreaded nursing him and he ate so often. Unknowingly I battled nursing a baby with a thick upper lip tie and light tongue tie. I was made aware of this after reaching out to a lactation consultant at a local hospital. Getting it surgically corrected at that time was out of the question. I was not in a proper emotional state to deal with that, so we waited.
And waited, and waited. I waited for it to get better like the ladies at the La leche league said it would. For the constant shooting pain to go away, and i waited to not HATE feeding my baby whom I loved with all my heart.
For two months straight, I took it day by day & nursing session by nursing session trying to keep our breastfeeding relationship alive. I stayed active on the local la leche league Facebook page and attended meetings for support. Finally around the 3rd month, I felt like things were getting better.
I practiced all the healthy habits to protect my milk supply. I never supplemented with formula to sleep, I drank water like crazy, took fenugreek, and ate a million lactation cookies. I also stopped eating dairy in an effort to help Jacks horrible tummy aches and extreme gas.
Jack is 6 months old now and he’s still nursing. It’s easy now and I don’t have any pain. The only problem I have is the occasional love bite, I say love bite because he’s always smiling when he clamps down on me. I’m proud of myself for enduring the pain and fighting for our nursing relationship. I am so grateful to be able to provide the best nourishment for him.
It’s hard for me to think on my breast feeding journey. I feel angry, robbed and ashamed. I feel angry because I wasn’t prepared like maybe I could have been. Angry because things did not happen like I wanted. Robbed because I did not get the deep intimate bonding that I thought I would have. Robbed of the enjoyment of my newborn son. Precious, unrecoverable time spent exhausted, in pain and constant despair. I had waited so long for him and then could not enjoy him, how sad?! Last of all I feel ashamed. Ashamed that I ignorantly allowed my son to get dehydrated before reaching out to someone for help. Ashamed because I hated nursing my baby, that I didn’t even want to look at him sometimes because of the pain I was in.
I do not have birth trauma, I have nursing trauma. This experience has scarred my heart and makes me question having more children. I hope that my heart will heal over time and that one day I will be able to let go and forgive myself.
If you have trouble with nursing please reach out to other wise women who have nursed children, your local La Leche league and lactation consultants in your local area. Know you aren’t alone in your struggle and you can get through it!