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My Breastfeeding Experience: A Difficult Journey

My Breastfeeding Experience: A Difficult Journey

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!



7 thoughts on “My Breastfeeding Experience: A Difficult Journey

  1. Love this!!! I know that I want to breastfeed, but you never hear about the potential things that can go wrong. Thank you so much for enlightening me. As a future mother (someday) I am loving your new blog!!! Thanks JacksCrunchyMomma 🙂

    • That is exactly the reason I wrote it. I encourage all to breastfeed as it is the best nutrition for infants but breastfeeding is not for the faint of heart. Glad you are enjoying the blog.

  2. Oh, I could have written much of this myself. I am also a redhead, and fortunately a fellow redheaded neighbor warned me when I was 8 months pregnant that nursing could be really painful for me because it was for her (damn the pink nipples!). I cried every time my daughter latched for the first 2-3 months. Even in the middle of the night, before I would put her on the breast, I would take 3 deep breaths in anticipation of the needle shooting pains. I’d curl my toes, and breathe like I was in labor again for the first minute(which felt like an hour). I got the bruising/bleeding/cracking as well, and waited way too long to go to my OB and get some triple nipple cream (I had tons of anxiety about leaving the house with my baby alone and driving anywhere “what if she cries, and I need to stop the car and nurse in a parking lot?!?” so I had to muster up the courage to make the appointment). My mother never had the problems and painful nursing, and told me it was ok to switch to formula bc I was in so much pain. I hated her casual attitude about something I was so committed to. It was as if I was running a marathon with someone in a golf cart encouraging me to quit the race. But I persevered, pumped at work/nursed at home for a year, and we made it to 18 months!

  3. I’m sorry you had such a traumatic experience. 😦 You are amazing for sticking with it! It’s always good that people put their experiences out there ( good and bad) so others know what is possible. I had a hard time in the beginning, but nothing compared to your story. You are amazing for sticking with it!

  4. Wow, I never realized what a difficult time you had! I’m so glad you were able to work through it :). I usually have a ton of pain, but it only lasts for a couple of weeks. My poor little teenage sister got to sit across the room from me and watch me sit there and cry for a nursing session or two this last baby :).

  5. I want to encourage you that all babies and breastfeeding situations are different. After successfully breastfeeding six babies well past their first birthdays, my seventh child was born. My nursing experience was almost identical to yours. Nursing was excruciating and I needed help from a local lactation consultant. She diagnosed a light tongue tie right away. I was relieved to have some answers as to why this was happening. With the knowledge of what was going on, the help of a breast pump and time, we worked it out and eventually had a great nursing relationship.

    My point is that your next breastfeeding experience may be completely different. My situation was difficult for me because I thought I ‘knew’ everything about nursing. I was shocked to need to seek out help after successfully doing it so many times already. But, I had never had a baby with a tongue tie and I needed some guidance on how to work through the issues.

    I wrote a novel – but I just got saddened when I read you were questioning having more children based on your nursing experience and wanted to share that each baby’s nursing experience can be different. I hope you will find healing and be able to forgive yourself. Remember that you didn’t give up, you persevered for the love of your baby and your bond is probably pretty solid because of what you went through for him.

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