Our Breastfeeding Experience

I didn’t finish writing up our story in time to submit it for the Carnival of Nursing in Public, but today’s theme is Personal Experiences.  Since this blog is all about my journey with my sweet babe and life as a new mom, I still want to add our story to the archives here.  It’s a post that anyone without a personal interest in breastfeeding may just want to skip on, but it’s here for anyone else.

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I had a wonderful pregnancy.  There were absolutely no complications and everything was textbook perfect.  The more time passed, the more I began to trust that my body knew what to do.  My fears about birth melted away and the final days were pure excitement.  I had never considered that I would do anything but breastfeed my child.  I never saw it as a “choice,” simply as something that comes along with having a baby.  I carefully wrote my birth plan to make sure that our time in the hospital helped facilitate the establishment of a great breastfeeding relationship.  My birth was more or less everything I could have wanted it to be and my confidence in my body’s ability to know what to do only increased as a result.  I could not have been happier.

I held Annabelle skin to skin right away and waited for her to initiate breastfeeding.  After twenty to thirty minutes had passed and she still was not interested, I grew tired of the corpsman (baby’s nurse) standing around looking bored and gave the okay for the husband to take her over for measurements.  I still wish I had just told him to go away so we could bond (the corpsman, not my husband!) and that we would call for him when we were ready.  Still, I got her back before long and she eventually nursed happily.  I was so pleased to see her eating that I paid no mind to her latch.  I was breastfeeding!  I was bonding!  I was thrilled!

The hospital was filled to capacity, so husbands were not allowed to stay the night.  I gladly bonded with my new love all night and nursed her every time she awoke.  By morning, my nipples were killing me.  One had some sort of blood blister in the middle of it and they were both shades of blue, red, and near black in many places.  My nurse gave me some tips on latching and positioning and I tried my best to follow her advice, but the damage had been done.

We went home after 24 hours and I was able to relax and continue to nurse on demand.  The pain only increased, however, even though I felt confident that Annabelle’s latch was great.  Had there been an IBCLC anywhere on this island, I would have paid anything to get her to come help me.  I loved our cuddly nursing time, but I began to dread latching the babe on. The husband commented on how I visibly tensed up and cringed for the first minute or so of each feeding.  Thank goodness for the internet!  I posted in a few breastfeeding support groups and got some great advice.

I found myself some lanolin cream, and some “soothies” to ease some of my discomfort and tried my best to relax through the pain as I healed.  It wasn’t until my sweet husband described my nipple as “necrotic” that I began to question whether it would ever heal.  One in particular was worse and began to look like it could quite literally fall off.  I was willing to put up with some pain, but when I realized that after nursing on the “bad” side, my daughter’s spit up was bloody, I lost it and burst into tears.  I decided to try a nipple shield next.

I was feeling defeated enough as it was, but then I read the package that the shield came in.  It listed all of the “problems” that the shield was designed to help with.  I burst into tears.  Suddenly, I felt like my body had betrayed me.  I had a problem.  I was heartbroken, but nursing with the shield did ease the pain.

My “bad” nipple began to look like it may be getting infected, so I decided to get in to the doctor to make sure I was okay.  The doctor looked at my breasts and had absolutely nothing to say.  He finally told me that he was going to go and “look some things up.”  He ended up prescribing Nystatin cream, though I still don’t think I actually had Thrush.  I used it anyway, because at that point anything that might help was something I was willing to try.  Things slowly began to improve — though I was still in pain, it was continually getting better.

Meanwhile, I was still using the shield and it made nursing in public a bit awkward.  Trying to get baby to latch on was challenging enough when I felt like all eyes were on me, but adding such a conspicuous device into the mix made me feel all kinds of uncomfortable.  As soon as things were really looking better, I decided to ditch the shield.  I made the mistake of leaving it at home the day I ventured out to get Annabelle’s birth certificate.  Waiting in the lobby of the public health office, I knew she was hungry and attempted to feed her, but all she would do was cry … and cry and cry.  She never acted like this and it broke my heart.  It didn’t dawn on me until that night that the source of the problem was the shield.  Annabelle had gotten used to it and had forgotten how to latch on to my bare nipple.  I also began to read that many babies struggle to get enough milk through a shield, as it causes milk transfer issues. Thanks again to some very helpful advice that I got online, we were finally weaned off of the shield a few days later.  I wished I had done more research before making the decision to use it in the first place, but I had been so desperate that I chose to read only what was on the package, which of course made it sound like the cure all for every breastfeeding problem and failed to mention the drawbacks.  Things were still not easy, but we were on the right track.

It was soon time for my six week postpartum checkup with the OB.  She did a breast exam and when she saw my “bad” nipple, her response was “Hm. You don’t see that very often.”  She gave me instructions for care of the wound and asked me to come back in a month.  She mentioned that if there wasn’t improvement, I would need to nurse on one breast only.  By this time, it looked so much better than it had, so I was confident that it would continue to heal and feeling much better.

By the time a month had passed, I hardly felt like I needed the follow up visit.  The pain had virtually vanished and we were doing great!  At the time of this writing, I have been nursing for 16 weeks and am so thankful for the things that helped me stick it out.

*I have had the good fortune of growing up around some wonderful women who breast fed and never treated it as anything other than the normal, natural thing to do.

*I was given two great books on breastfeeding and read them before baby came.  This armed me with knowledge, which did in fact, prove to be power.

*I have a loving, supportive husband who was willing to run out and get me lanolin, and to cuddle our sweet girl while I took a warm, soothing shower in those first days.

*I was introduced to kellymom.com – the most wonderful site for breastfeeding information and advice.

*I registered for an account in the La Leche League forums and sought advice there.  I only wish there was a chapter here on Guam so that I could have attended meetings, too!

*Lanolin, lanolin, lanolin.  It’s not vegan, but I was willing to give in on that one!

*Figuring out how to comfortably nurse while in the side-lying position was a life-saver.  Not only has it tremendously helped sleep for both of us, but it really helped me relax in the really painful days.

Annabelle Nursing in the Beco on our evening walk.  So much easier now!  

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