Have you heard others say “BF is so beautiful”? and so natural? and all the other things they say about it that make you feel horrible when you fail at it? Well, let me start by saying, BF can be EXTREMELY painful and now, I completely understand why people switch to formula due to the pain. I would too if I wasn’t stubborn and willing to do ANYTHING to figure out this BF thing. Let me add that NOTHING about what I experienced seemed beautiful or natural! Yet, 3 kids later, 3 months in (actually-right past the 2.5 month mark to be exact) I was able to nurse pain-free after trying EVERYTHING.
With my first two munchkins, I really tried to nurse but also knew that once I’d return to work, I’d have to pump. My first, Shoey, refused to nurse after being back at work for less than a month and so I began to exclusively pump. We had a rough start-she was losing weight and taking 45-55 minutes to eat at EACH feeding. She was sooo fussy and I had no clue she wasn’t gaining weight until a doctor visit we had when she was 1-2 months. I kept trying to nurse using the nipple shield (per the lactation consultant at the hospital who said her mouth was so little for a good latch). I tried nursing without it over and over again but the pain was too sharp/burning throughout the feedings. It just wasn’t working. I saw an amazing lactation consultant but before I can implement what she taught me, I already was dealing with mastitis and some crazy plugged ducts.
One night-I had crazy chills and my body was shaking; I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t know what was happening…thought it was the flu. We were down at my parents house that night and somehow made it through the night with a bunch of blankets on top. I would sweat right through my clothes and when I’d wake up to nurse, I would change again and again and again. In the morning, we stopped by the doctors office on our way home and was told that this “flu” was called-mastitis. I really had no idea what it was until the doctor explained it to me. I got through this phase with some antibiotics, warm showers, and massages to clear out the ducts. I thought everything would be great after surviving that-“I can just pump the last 9 months” -little did I know-that there was this thing called “thrush”.
Mastitis followed by thrush? I’ve read many books about nursing and caring for a newborn but I still felt unprepared. Thrush took FOREVER to beat!–ok not really forever but when you’re in it, 3 months seems like FOREVER! It was horrible- my milk dropped when I returned to work and then even more once I got thrush. Between some formula, pumping milk, and the frozen breast milk I had, I managed to make it to her 1st year birthday with giving her mama’s milk. With everything that I went through, I created a hate relationship with that pump and dreaded having to ever use it again. The day I packed it to store it in the attic, was what felt like the best day of my life 🙂
Well, the pump was tucked away in the attic and then we found out we were expecting 4 months later! Oh, how excited we were! Except the nursing/pumping part! I was determined to know how to latch baby #2 BEFORE I left the hospital with the help of the amazing lactation consultants there. Baby #2 came-Bella–and when the lactation consultant came to help with feedings, I got it! When she wasn’t there, the poor nurses that would try to help would just makes things worse—and I mean worse, like bleeding worse. It was manageable but by the time I got home, it was horrible. Every time I’d nurse, the wounds would open 😦 I know! Gross! It was dreadful..I cried every time I had to nurse through the WHOLE feeding. How was this even close to natural and/or beautiful?!
I ended up emailing 15-20 lactation consultants one night and getting one response! That lactation consultant come over to our house to help with the feedings and to show me different nursing positions so that maybe, maybe, I can succeed at nursing. Did it work?? I wish I can say it did but no, it didn’t fix the pain, the bruising, the burning, the cracks, and/or the bleeding! It was worse than the first time around! So I went back to the pump–that pump that I was DETERMINED not to use until I returned to work. I convinced myself that it wasn’t worth the pain and maybe this time around, the pump wouldn’t be so bad.
So I started pumping–this time, a few months into it- it started again–thrush and mastitis! Mastitis was worse this time around–it just started all of a sudden. One evening, I started feeling “flu” like symptoms…less than one hour later my body was shaking uncontrollably. I remember Shoey being in the room (she was just 2 years old) and I was screaming for my mom to come help me. I felt like I was going to die–I sat on the couch yelling for more blankets and comforters as my body shook uncontrollably. Shoey was scared saying “mommy ok?””mommy ok?” “help mommy?” as my mom came and took her out of the room. A day that I would never forget–I didn’t even know my body can shake uncontrollably just from mastitis. That evening, I was prescribed antibiotics (after we frantically tried finding a place that was still opened so late at night) and things calmed down. Unfortunately, as some of you may know, antibiotics makes thrush worse because it kills your probiotics which actually help fight the thrush. Oh was I in for the looooong haul!! I had thrush for more than 6 months–now, it really felt like FOREVER! I tried gentian violet, vinegar rinse, different creams, and many other things but it just wouldn’t budge (3 doses of antibiotics for mastitis probably did not help it at all).
I SOMEHOW survived that whole year and the day I packed my pump-I was soooo happy! I thought the first time I packed it was a happy day?! Well, let me say that I took pictures of the pump packed and send it to hubby and a few others because I was soooo excited to be DONE! I managed to give mama’s milk to Bella the whole year and I was so excited that I reached my goal!
Now, the third time around…I knew things needed to change. I’m not really sure what I would have done if I would have returned to work after Baby #3 came (Madi) BUT I was blessed to be able to take the year off–you know what this meant? NO NEED to pump as I would be able to nurse the whole year. We were in the hospital for only 24 hours and it was past midnight when we arrived home. Between all the hospital interruptions and missing the girls, we thought it was best to leave as soon as we could. Little did I know what would come this time around. Nursing started off GREAT! Feedings stung for an initial 15-20 seconds and then the pain would subside and I was nursing pain free! I was stoked! The lactation consultant came to visit us in the 24 hour period to see how baby’s feeding/latching and she confirmed the latch to be good too! I had this down! FINALLY!
Morning of day 3 came and I was exhausted (as any new mom would be) yet I still was super excited that the initial pain was stinging for only about 20-30 seconds–a bit longer than when we were at the hospital but I just thought it’s normal. The pain was sharp, I would tear up, cringe my toes, bite down on something, and push through—but I was pain free after that. Determination and perseverance can really get you through A LOT! Things began to tumble down hill fairly quickly. By day #5, it ALL began. Cracked, bleeding, stinging sensational all the time, hot itchy patch, red dots…I had the symptoms for thrush AND mastitis. I even started using gentian violet in hopes that it would stop….ONLY 5 days into this little ones life! How can this be??! I’d kick the floor and scream when I had to nurse because it got sooo bad! It took much longer and often, the pain wouldn’t subside 😦 I went to see a lactation consultant and my fear was confirmed… I had BOTH and even worse was that my baby was tongue tied and lip tied! What?! Mastitis, plugged ducts, thrush, and now this?! I was recommended to use the nipple shield in hopes that it would help and once she grew a little more, she may be able to nurse better without the tongue tie affecting her….so I tried and tried and tried and tried….and 3 weeks later, I just couldn’t do it. No, I didn’t give up—I just found a specialist that would perform a tongue/lip tie procedure—went through so much to find one but that’s a whole other story! At this point, I didn’t think healing would ever occur and you may think that’s ridiculous to say but let me tell you, I had chunks missing—and I won’t go into ANYMORE detail because it’s simply gross and horrifying. I reached out to my fellow nursing moms and they’ve never heard of this! I googled this “missing chunks” issue and many moms said that they were deformed FOREVER because of the damage nursing caused them! OUCH! I felt desperate–didn’t want this permanent damage to occur to me just from trying to do something good for my baby! I, with a few other not so lucky moms out there, have experienced this HORRIFIC thing 😦 and if you’re dealing with it—-you can try everything I did—hopefully it helps!!!
I ended up taking Madi to get her procedure done right before she turned 1 month—and NOTHING changed after that! Everyone that I spoke with (including the ENT doctor) said that I should feel a difference and experience less pain. 1 week passed…2 weeks passed….I felt change —-she ate more at each feeding but the pain—STILL THERE! 6 weeks later and I found these little cups made of pure silver called silverette cups that claimed to heal and help with nursing. They are expensive little things so I searched online for reviews on them before committing to purchasing them but I really didn’t find much. If they did what they promised then I would have been willing to pay hundreds of dollars at this point for healing! I went ahead and purchased them anyway hoping they would help. I started using them and 2 days later I was starting to heal-wounds closing, etc. You HAVE to make sure the silverette cups are touching the wound directly for healing to occur! I also started to use a calendula cream and soft breast shells—together, the 3 things really helped! Unfortunately, healing didn’t occur overnight even though I sure deserved it…I was FULLY healed with minimal nursing pain right before Madi turned 3 MONTHS! Yes, from 5 days old until until 3 months, I experienced pain upon pain! I really didn’t think the day would come when I’d be able to nurse pain-free. I even thought about giving up, cried and cried through much of this pain, but through encouragement from my amazing friends and my stubbornness to succeed at nursing, I pushed through and experienced pain-free nursing!
The reality is that nursing can be EXTREMELY painful and there are many difficulties that can come with pumping also!! It may not be an easy journey but I can tell you it’s worth it. I was soooo happy to nurse with NO pain and yet, my issues didn’t even stop there! I thought it would be smooth sailing from then on but I experienced milk blisters 2 weeks later and have ever since. 😦 Yet, I still haven’t given up!! I’ve used warm compresses to help get rid of them and have been using the silverette cups straight from the freezer to calm the burning/stinging feel that comes with milk blisters. Madi is 6 months and yes, I still experience milk blisters 4-5 days a week. There are nights that the pain keeps me up and even though she’s not a good sleeper-which I think has a lot to do with nursing and not intaking in “x” amount of ounces before bedtime-BUT I am loving every minute of it! I am sooo grateful that I experienced pain-free nursing and hopeful that I can experience it again 🙂
The day will come when I will sleep longer than 2-4 hours at a time, when my house will be spotless, and completely quiet, and I won’t need to repeat directions over and over and over each day BUT until that day comes, I will choose to be joyful through the mess, through the pain, and through the chaos!