My girlfriend says that if my life were a movie, my experience in Babies R Us when my husband and I set up our baby registry (as if I could have despised the process any more), would have been crystal clear foreshadowing.
What began as an exciting and enjoyable little outing quickly turned to doomsday status as soon as I hit the breastfeeding aisle. My heart pounded through my chest, my breath quickened and my forehead began to perspire as I was surrounded by products I never knew existed.
Nipple ointments, breast pads, breast hold/cold compresses, single-breast pumps, double-breast pumps, manual breast pumps, electric breast pumps, bottles, a hundred different nipples for the bottles, breastmilk freezer bags, bottle sterilizers…
As a sensitive, hormonal, 30-week preggo you can probably guess what happened next.
All the way home.
Fast-Forward Two Months
I’m lying in the hospital bed. I’ve just given birth. My son is lying on my chest. Skin to skin.
“They” say, that one of the best things you can do to maximize your breastfeeding success is to latch your newborn baby onto your breast almost immediately. So, after a few minutes of skin to skin contact, my nurse encourages me to breastfeed.
Bliss turns to pain.
WARNING SIGNAL #1.
You see, right from the get-go, from the very first latch, I felt pain. I expressed my discomfort to the nurse and she looked closely at the latch, peering at my nipple engulfed in my little guy’s mouth from every angle.
“Hmmm…that’s weird,” she said. “It looks like a great latch.”
“Is it possible that I’m feeling pain just because I’ve never done this before?” I asked her.
“Yes, for sure,” she answered confidently. “In fact, I know everyone says you’re not supposed to feel pain with breastfeeding but
I totally disagree. It’s painful. Especially at first because your nipples have to get used to it.”
But…in the moment, I listened and agreed.
How My Breastfeeding Pain was Addressed at the Hospital
I was at the hospital for a total of about 36 hours. Pretty routine. It took me about 8 hours from the birth of my son to actually get a “good feed” in – meaning, a good latch where I knew my little guy was getting more than just a few drops of colostrum. And while that moment was a big relief, by that time I already had significant nipple damage – we’re talking bruising, bleeding and scabbing.
Knowing deep down that this simply wasn’t right, I attended a breastfeeding class to make sure I was ready to rock before packing up and going home. And for every new nurse whose shift overlapped with my hospital stay, I pressed the button and asked for support each time I tried to latch my son. Every single nurse said the same thing: “Well, it looks like you have a good latch there. Your pain must be due to the fact that you already have nipple damage and it needs to heal.”
Makes sense right?
(Quick side note: believe it or not, even with severe nipple damage – yes, it got even worse as time went on – when I did manage to get a good latch, it didn’t hurt!
The Mistake I Made
What’s funny about my mistake is that for months prior to the birth of my son, I was preaching the fact that, according to what I’d learned from the books I’d read and the prenatal classes I’d attended…
Breastfeeding should never be painful.
AND, if it is, get help right away.
This is the golden rule. Even from the very first latch, when you and your baby have no idea what either of you is doing, you should not have pain!
What a liberating and relieving piece of information, wouldn’t you say?
So, I knew this. I told fellow pregger friends about this. I was prepared for this. And yet, regardless of the excruciating pain I felt, I listened to the people around me and was convinced that soon, very soon, my pain would be gone. Every day that went by, I thought to myself, any day now…just a little longer…
Well, after three weeks it got to the point where my nipples had open lacerations, where I dreaded the moment I recognized my son’s feeding cues, and where I cried at every feeding.
I hit my tipping point.
If You Have Breastfeeding Pain, Get Help Right Away
At the three week mark, after listening to a close friend’s urges to make a move and once my husband uttered the magic words “lactation consultant”, I called in the authorities.
It was a Friday and I’d taken a turn for the worse. In all honesty, I don’t think there is a pain threshold past the one I reached. I went on a rampage calling every lactation consultant from the hospital resource booklet and when unreturned calls and unavailability became the norm, I resorted to my best friend, Google. And here, I found my saviour. Or so I thought at the time…
My breastfeeding woes had only just begun. I’ve been through A LOT in the breastfeeding department since Brody was born. And I’m going to share all of it with you so stay tuned (it’s far too much to write in a single post).
For now, take this piece of advice:
Got breastfeeding pain?
I don’t care whether it’s the first latch or the hundredth.
Start by calling a certified lactation consultant.
What has your experience with breastfeeding been?