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Breastfeeding can build a precious, intimate bond between Mama and little one. It can also bring incredible challenges and stresses that you can be (at least mostly) prepared for as new parents.
Due to my awful, 9.5 months-of-misery, experience with my first, I am hyper-aware of how prevalent the first thing is. When I was a new mama, no one around me had much knowledge of them, so we suffered every feeding. Every. Single. One. That was every two hours if I was lucky, but most often he wanted to nurse every hour, especially at night. The first 6-8 weeks he would cluster feed for hours at a time.
If I hadn’t researched the importance of breastfeeding prior to his birth, along with the toxic ingredients of sugar, GMOs, and glyphosate (Round Up) in commercial formula, I know I wouldn’t have been able to keep going.
These are 3 important things I wish I knew way back when I was a new mama.
#1 Baby should be checked for tongue and lip-ties ASAP after birth
My first, Baby Boy, had BOTH.
They caused (in ME):
- plugged ducts
- severe nipple pain
- bruising and rawness
- unexplained fevers of 102+ with chills and severe weakness
- shooting, burning, itching breast pain that came on during a feed and lasted hours
Day 2 after his birth, it was like a switch flipped and he started screaming inconsolably. We scrambled trying to find comfort measures for him and ended up following the ‘5 S’s’ from Happiest Baby on the Block. He needed to be swaddled past 6 months to be able to calm down to sleep. My doula brought up the possibility of ties, but we dismissed it as we didn’t think he matched the symptoms.
However we didn’t realize how many of MY symptoms matched.
Finally, at 9 months and after texting her ‘this is worse than labor and delivery’, she brought it up again. She gave us the name of a doctor. We did an email consult with Dr. Kotlow in Albany, NY, and he determined that Baby Boy did have both ties.
The first time breastfeeding after his 5 minute laser surgery was nearly pain-free. I sat there, a puddle of emotion, shocked by the difference. We went on to successfully nurse another 7.5 months. I’m so thankful we finally figured it out, but I’m sad that I missed enjoying those 9.5 months of breastfeeding (or doing anything with) my baby because of the amount of misery I was in.
We learned our lesson and when Baby Girl was born we had her checked right away. She had a lip tie, but no tongue tie. Her laser surgery was 1 week after her birth. I was already getting plugged ducts during that time. We haven’t had any issues with her latch since and we’ve been going strong 16+ months so far. 🙂
#2 Breastfeeding might be uncomfortable at first, but not unbearable
Even if Baby does not have either tie, breastfeeding can still be a little uncomfy at first. Your body does need to get used to the friction from nursing, and some babies do have what they call a “Hoover suck”.
However, unlike I was and many mamas are told, if the pain is pretty intense, don’t just write it off as ‘wimpy nipples’. After having a lactation counselor check Baby Boy’s latch days after his birth, we determined I just had to get used to it. I cried and ‘labor-breathed’ through so many sessions. Hubby had to buy me a swimsuit bra so that I could shower, because it hurt too much to even have water run over them.
The hopelessness of the situation was incredible. I believe it contributed heavily to the Postpartum Depression I suffered with. Having to live in a high level of pain, 24/7, as if it is normal and without any relief from the pain can affect someone deeply. If I could save one mama from that same fate, it would make that whole time worth it.
A few other tips that can help with normal breastfeeding discomfort:
- changing positions of hold can help
- Earth Mama Angel Baby organic nipple butter – I highly, highly recommend
- A new lactation consultant – sometimes it takes two different sets of eyes to see the actual problem
- Nipple shield – use this only in extreme cases, it can end up causing nipple confusion in baby
- Medela Softshell nipple covers – I never used these, however if I knew they existed then I most certainly would’ve tried them
#3 Breastfeeding is worth sticking out
Even after those 9.5 long months of suffering, I believe breastfeeding your baby is worth it. Some mamas can’t produce enough milk or have health issues themselves preventing a good breastfeeding relationship. However, in most cases that’s not the case. Your milk is important for baby, and (normal) nursing releases feel good hormones to relax you. Scientists are also beginning to correlate breastfeeding with lower rates of breast cancer.
And lastly I want to say, if you end up being unable to nurse, DO NOT beat yourself up about it. I know amazing mamas who weren’t able, or didn’t have the support or knowledge to be able to continue nursing their little one. It makes them NO LESS of a mama. I would’ve been one of the statistics if I had just a tiny bit less knowledge, or one less person encouraging me to stick it out.
*In the case of being unable to breastfeed, I highly recommend looking into Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Childcare. It’s full of great info and ways to nourish your baby even if they can’t breastfeed.*
But, above all, please don’t give up, Mama. Find a support system of women who will encourage you through the tough times. Get baby checked by a pediatric dentist specializing in Laser Frenectomies if you and/or baby are having issues. At the very least, find a highly reviewed lactation consultant who can also advise you about them. Your midwife or OB should be able to refer you.
Whatever the case, it’s a worthy endeavor to make breastfeeding your little one a priority. I’m here cheering you on and can’t wait to hear about your experience. Hang in there, sweet mama!
What were your experiences with breastfeeding?