If you’ve read my blog before, it’ll come as no surprise that we had a hard time breastfeeding. Hell, I talk about my boobs often enough here to give Bill O’Reilly a stroke.
I was nervous about breastfeeding from the getgo, so I asked to see a lactation specialist both days I was in the hospital after giving birth. And when things were still hard at home, I saw another lactation nurse that same week.
At that visit, the nurse showed me a few minor tweaks with how my baby was positioned. I left heartened.
Each latch continued to be painful, though. I kept wondering when nursing would get easier. “Aren’t my nipples supposed to toughen up?” I thought to myself.
Around three weeks I went back to the lactation clinic. Again, I was shown different ways of holding my baby. I was reminded to make her open wide before latching. I was supposed to take her off whenever nursing hurt and try again. But it hurt all the time, and Baby was hungry.
A week or two passed. By this time I was bleeding. I cried half the day. I wanted to give my baby the best start at life, and for me that meant providing her milk.
So back to the clinic I went. By this time the nurses called me a frequent flier. Edith was bigger than all the other babies in the waiting room; we couldn’t seem to stay away.
In one visit, the nurse asked me to close my eyes. “Where does it hurt?” she asked, urging me to notice if the discomfort was on one side or the other, or the top or bottom. I closed my eyes. I tried to figure out precisely where Edie’s latch was going wrong.
But I just felt pain.
It was frustrating that not only did I have a hard time providing my child with nourishment, I also couldn’t help diagnose the problem. It seemed that when it came to breastfeeding, I couldn’t get anything right.
Yet I kept going back to the lactation clinic. I kept going to mom’s group and hearing my peers’ advice. I kept getting help.
When I was pregnant, I was deeply ambivalent about breastfeeding. I was afraid of the pain. I was scared it wouldn’t work. I didn’t want to give up a part of myself, a part of my sexuality.
When Edith entered the world, though, I just wanted to give her the best, even if that came at a cost. I surprised myself at how dedicated I became to making breastfeeding work.
I needed every ounce of that perseverance. Edith was about four months old by the time we were truly successful. I finally enjoyed her feedings. I finally had enough milk. She was finally gaining weight—not at the standard clip, perhaps, but gaining nonetheless.
I wish I had been more proactive at the beginning of my troubles. I believe that if I had caught and fixed our issues sooner, I wouldn’t have done so much damage to my nipples, and they wouldn’t have taken a full month to heal. I might have saved my family a lot of heartache.
As a brand-new mom, I didn’t know what I was doing in many respects. But looking back, I must give myself props. I knew enough to reach out for help.
So to any new moms out there, or even veteran moms, I ask you to consider continuing to get help as long as you need it. Ask questions. Get a second opinion. Follow up. Be persistent. As long as you think there is a problem, there is. You know your baby best; don’t let anyone brush you off.
Your issue may be breastfeeding, or it may not. You may have a baby who hates sleep or who cries until he’s hoarse or who spits up every meal or whose head tilts to one side. But chances are, you and your family will face at least one struggle. And I hope that you don’t suffer through it alone.
We mothers are experts at our own babies. A friend once laughed that she has a PhD in her baby daughter. But other experts are the pros at sleeping, breastfeeding, colic, reflux—you name it. It’s in our and Baby’s best interest to lean on them when we need it.
I’m so glad I finally got the help I needed. I love the quiet time Edith and I share as she nurses. Sometimes she drives me insane, like when she’s too busy grinning at our dog to notice the milk that’s spraying all over her face and shirt. Sometimes I’m plain worn out, like the final feeding in the night, mere hours before we get up for good and start a full day. Sometimes I’m exasperated, like when she pops off and tries to grab my nipple just for the fun of it.
But overall, I cherish the moments she and I spend together as she nurses. No one else can give her what I give her.
I am so thankful for the people who helped get us to this point. We would never have made it without the support, knowledge and troubleshooting of friends and experts.
Because of them—and the support we received week after week, visit after visit—I can look down at my darling baby and smile as she nurses. Sometimes she looks back up at me. She pauses a moment, smiles and goes back to nursing. That smile makes all the struggles worthwhile.
As I just wrote, it’s a tradition for women graduating from mom’s group to share what they have learned, how they’ve changed and what advice they have for other new mamas. This was my two cents of advice.