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Breastfeeding and I…

…are now friends. We’re still not besties, and yeah, it’s one of those friendships where I’m a bit wary, never sure whether or not I can really trust her. But when we first met, I never thought we could be friends at all. I guess we’ve been through a lot together, and it’s brought us closer. In summary form:

Week 1: bleeding blisters, increasing alarm, regular weeping
Week 2: bloody fissures, constant weeping
Week 3: religious application of my ointment, healing blisters and fissures, regular weeping
Week 4: religious application of my ointment, healing blisters and fissures, sprained wrists, occasional weeping
Week 5: the same
Week 6: the same, certainty that nothing would ever change.
Week 7: nothing changes, and yet, somehow it does. I feed Bun Bun STANDING UP. IN A BATHROOM STALL. That was quite a feat of coordination.
Week 8: I run out of ointment (see Figure 1) and am certain that I will instantly get thrush and mastitis.
Week 9: I don’t. I master the side lying (or the I’m a giant sow with one little piglet) position.

I assure you, I squeezed until I could squeeze no more.

It’s week 10, and it’s still not perfect, but I no longer dread feedings. For whatever reason, things are great with Left Breast, but not so much with poor Right Breast. With Left Breast, I can enjoy the cuddling, watch Bun Bun’s sweet little face, hold her fat little hand…With Right Breast, it’s all about gritting my teeth and bearing it until the pain mysteriously subsides (after a minute or so). But still, a million times better than my starting point. And as many of you suggested, nothing identifiable really changed. It just got better.

Well, I suppose one thing that helped was being told that if I still have pain during the initial latch, it’s okay. That allowed me to stop feeling like a failure, to stop panicking that I’d rip open my old wounds, to stop feeling like I had to take her off and try again a hundred times. And also being told that if the nipple comes out flattened, it’s totally fine, provided it’s not painful. That was a great relief, as nothing I could do would prevent the nipple from coming out flat, and the internet says it’s an indication of a bad latch and a bad mother and a sure sign that your child will never learn how to read and will be one of those kids that bites other kids constantly. Otherwise…I suppose she learned a bit, and the crazy milk fountains subsided (around week 7), and once I was healed enough I could stop using the football hold which was hell on my wrists…but it’s still a bit of a mystery to me how things went from pretty rough to pretty much fine.

I have a feeling that my experience is normal. I suspect women who have no challenges at all are in the minority. (And if they assume it’s because they’re just smarter or better mothers, may I suggest they kiss my ass. You know, in the friendliest way possible.) And I HOPE that women who have terrible problems with supply or infection or vasospasms or can never get the latch to work are also (on the sadder side of) atypical, but I could be wrong. I was never anywhere near giving up, and I think it’s because I was spared those experiences. So far. I absolutely expect to have at least a few episodes of something yucky (Please let it not be thrush!), but now that the latch problems are under control, I feel like I can face whatever develops next like a man.

POINT IS: I think there’s often a very rough initial period. And reading over my experiences (and particularly the comments on those posts–I was so deeply grateful for those) may be encouraging to anyone in the thick of it.

17 Comments Post a comment
  1. Coincidentally, I remember finding my breastfeeding groove right around the 11 week mark. It was right after I broke down and went to see an amazing lactation consultant. I realized after my visit that all I REALLY needed from her was the confirmation that everything was basically fine. I had a long list of reasons why it probably wasn't but after talking with her things improved tremendously. I imagine that a lot of it actually had to do with hitting that chronological sweet spot but a little extra confidence didn't hurt at all.

    July 8, 2011
  2. JB #

    I was given every possible reason why breastfeeding was going to be "difficult" by various lactation consultants while in the hospital. I was told my nipples are too flat (they're not). I was told he was tongue-tied (he is not). I was told to hold him this way, hold him that way. I didn't consult with another LC after I came home because I felt so let down by their conflicting and altogether useless assvice ("it's going to be difficult" is not an actionable or encouraging thing to say, assmonkey.)So I struggled on my own at home for about 2 months, and then a few weeks later….it just got easier. Somehow. The feedings became more enjoyable. I stopped dreading the 2-hour mark that meant feeding time. (And then I went back to work and got stressed and had mastitis seventy-eight times, but let's skip past that, shall we?)It is a subtle but sure transition. And I can tell you, it gets better still as it becomes second nature to just feed whenever the baby roots or looks at you with hungry eyes (you're welcome for planting that song in your head). Now that Jackson is eating 3 meals a day, and snacks (SNACKS!), he only nurses 3-4 times at most, and 1-2 times on some days. I am already starting to miss it. Which means I've started to forget what the struggle felt like when it was acutely happening. So, all's well that ends well.

    July 8, 2011
  3. N #

    I'm glad you are becoming friends. Maybe you will be brestfriends. ha ha., I'm a dork. BF is hard and lots of women have challenges. I don't know what kind of cream you were using but Newman's All Purpose Nipple Ointment is awesome. It is a compounded rx but seriously helps with pain and definitely keeps thrush at bay.

    July 9, 2011
  4. I always heard 6 weeks was that magic threshold when things got easier. Glad it seemed to be the case for you and Bun Bun!

    July 9, 2011
  5. I thought at first that we were in the norm to have problems, but the more I'm hearing, we are the majority. Which makes me feel better … I guess. I too have mastered the side lying position, which it is not very conducive when out and about. I took the baby to a drs appt the other day and it was feeding time. Uh, since I didn't think ahead or master any other position, know what I had to do? Tried to lay down on the reclined chair thingy in the appt room but it was too thin and I almost fell off. Baby had to skip that meal and wailed all the way home. Most stressful car ride of life, as i was convinced she was starving to death. Which is a stupid fear, as she has gained 3 pounds in the first four weeks and is a giant porker of 11 pounds already. I wish cute little bun bun lived near so she could have a play date with pippa.

    July 9, 2011
  6. ps – re the picture of the squeezed tube, in desperation, i have cut the tube with a scissor and scooped up any extra from the inside before :o)

    July 9, 2011
  7. Thanks for posting this. I think you're right that your experience was pretty typical, and I would imagine that just knowing it gets better (a la Dan Savage) would be a great relief to anyone currently going through it.

    July 9, 2011
  8. Being reading a long while…I'm on week 12 myself and am need of a new tube but am glad to hear of your current status and how things get better with time. Thanks for writing about this! I may be inspired to re-try side lying position now. Although I think about quitting everyday, there is something that makes me hold on to the tiny incremental increases in ease of feeding that make me hold out just one more.

    July 9, 2011
  9. Dearest Bunny, Thank you so much for posting the real shit. I'm 33weeks today and am devouring your posts. Well, to be fair, there isn't much I'm not devouring, but still.I appreciate you. Glad things are getting better – it does give me hope that it won't be as world-endingly miserable forever and ever as the negative nelly inside is convinced it will be.

    July 9, 2011
  10. Good stuff, I'm so happy things are going well on this front! I have hit a spell where Honey seems to have forgotten how to nurse but other than that, I am surviving BFing/pumping. I wouldn't say I'm in love with it, and I hate to call it "survival," but that's how I feel 50% of the time. The other 50% of the time nursing is lovely, I pump well, and I dig the calories burned. As hubs says, I am prone to oscillating on this issue. It's a trip!

    July 9, 2011
  11. So glad it's getting better. I always cringe when I read women's descriptions of breastfeeding woes. It sounds like you certainly paid your dues and hopefully it will be smooth sailing from here in.

    July 10, 2011
  12. I am so glad things are getting better. It seems to be a common story that I have read. I have to admit it hurts my girls just reading the posts. Best of luck for continued ease.

    July 10, 2011
  13. My poor Nips McGee. It just sounds brutal. It was such hard work for me, but the pain? I dont think I can do pain. Champs hats off to you, Iron Nips. I am delighted to hear of improvement.

    July 11, 2011
  14. I am so glad to hear that you're having a better time of breastfeeding Bunny! It settled down for me after it was so hellish at the beginning. The lovely thing is, it will probably get easier still. (I think that the growth of the baby's mouth has a lot to do with the betterness too.) x

    July 11, 2011
  15. AL #

    so glad you and bfing are getting along now. Hope it's smooth and easy part of your days with bun bun from now on

    July 11, 2011
  16. I'm glad it's going more smoothly (and hope that it is, again…I'm reading this belatedly). Encouragement is pretty damned important and I do think you're right on the money about most people having a rough period. Very few women I've met have said, "Yeah, I had no problems with that." Well, there was one. But she was subsequently set upon by a mob of other women. Haven't heard from her since:)

    July 17, 2011
  17. Ditto Ditto Ditto Ditto. Particularly about feeling like a failure until someone told me that "our" way was OK so long as I was OK with the level of discomfort. I didn't have to "perfect" my technique and unlatch relatch unlatch relatch unlatch relatch ad infinitum till I wanted to slit my wrists. I'm finally just giving in to the messy, uncomfortable cluster of it all and can give in to moments of utter tenderness with him.

    July 22, 2011

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