On the last day of National and World Breastfeeding Month I come to you with a tale of the (my) boobs. It is a sad tale of physical pain, mental anguish and 7 weeks of torture.
While pregnant I did not think for one second breastfeeding was a thing that I needed to be anxious about. I watched a few videos on Youtube about positioning and latching just to get the basics down so I could be semi-prepared. But what got me the most was that I really assumed it was a natural action that came easily to mother and baby.
All of the emails I had received from The Bump and What To Expect When Expecting did not prepare me for what was in store. Maybe they don’t send emails out with the headline, “What to expect: Breastfeeding – cracked nipples, mastitis, boobs as hard as rocks”, to try and not terrify women, but I felt REALLY taken aback with how hard it actually was.
For me breastfeeding was, and continues to be, the hardest thing about the whole process of being pregnant, giving birth and recovery. And I know I am not alone, I follow a bunch of instagrams that remind me daily that my self-worth isn’t based on if I can breastfeed or not. I know there are other moms out there who had the same struggles and more than me!
In the hospital I felt like I had it totally under control. He seemed to latch and although my nipples were a bit sore I never thought, “oh I need help”. Problem #1 and the advice I will give to every first time mom, when the lactation specialist/consultant comes to your room throughout your recovery, let her in and let her help. Even if you think you have it down, she might be able to give you tips on angles, keeping the baby awake while nursing and more. This was a resource I did not take advantage of and think to myself, if I had spoken with her would it have made a difference?
Moving along to our first week appointment with the pediatrician. She weighed him and said he needs to be back up to birth weight by next week or we will need to think of alternative feeding options to supplement. I was bound and determined to get him there and as a semi-competitive person (understatement) I took it as a challenge. Kade and I against the world!
That week my milk “came in” which is when your full blown milk comes in after colostrum. My boobs were SO HARD that I could not wear a bra or shirt and I had to soak them in a bowl of hot water before feeding because they were so hard he couldn’t even latch. All I am saying is this was fucked up. I didn’t get one damn stretch mark the entirety of pregnancy and I ended up with one on my boob because of the damn rock boobs. I ended up getting him to birth weight and was SO relieved that we were making “progress”.
It started to get real bad. I cried every time before feeding him and it got to a point where I literally DREADED Kyle bringing him over to me. That is not okay. I cried everyday, sometimes it was a good cry because he latched and it didn’t hurt too bad and other times it was a full blown breakdown because I could not handle the pain.
I decided I needed help so I scheduled an appointment with the lactation consultant at Hoag. I wanted to go that instant but with it being the holidays they were understaffed and overbooked so I had to wait almost a whole week before seeing someone. When I was able to go in I had a 30-minute appointment that basically went like this: weight baby naked, nurse one boob, weight baby, nurse other boob, weigh to see if I was producing enough. She watched me with latching and said, “that looks good” as I winced and moaned in pain. And the entire time she kept preaching about how amazing breastfeeding was and how there is a deeper connection between the baby and mother. It arguably made it worse because I was about to give up and this lady basically made me feel like I was a terrible mother if I stopped breastfeeding.
I went to two other consultants, a different one through Hoag and one group session at St. John’s. I talked to the pediatrician and my OBGYN. I got prescribed nipple ointment for thrush, antibiotics for mastitis, nipple patches used on BURN VICTIMS… No one had any answers for me and nothing was making it any easier.
My family was genuinely concerned about my well-being and my husband was getting scared of how upset I was all the time. All red flags. So I had to come to terms with the thought of stopping. Everyone around me who was rooting for me knew that I needed to stop, I just didn’t want to give up. And that is what made it so hard. I felt like I was just giving up, even though I had exhausted all resources and given it a solid seven weeks to work itself out. I felt like Kade and I didn’t have the special bond that was supposed to be so easy for mothers. I felt disconnected and hurt.
I started to supplement with formula and just pump to give my boobs a rest and what do you know? I was actually able to enjoy feeding my baby. I loved looking at him so peaceful and content while I too was more content than I had been since before birth. I cried quite a few times after that because I would fluctuate between being grateful he would even take a bottle and thinking I was a complete and utter failure. I knew it was the right choice for my mental health and the relationship with Kade. I didn’t want to resent him everyday, all day because we weren’t able to work it out. I also wanted to actually enjoy my days with everyone and not just be constantly thinking about the next feed and torture that was awaiting me.
As time has passed I have allowed myself some grace, which would have been nice earlier on in this process. Which would be my second piece of advice for to-be and new moms, give yourself some grace throughout the process. Be kind to yo self! You just spent 9 (really more like 10) months surrendering your body to growing your baby. You put yourself through an intense labor and delivery that was taxing on your body. And now you are trying to figure out life with baby on the outside! You can do it! And don’t let anyone tell you what is best or not, you are in control of your happiness and your experience with your baby, do what feels right!
Thanks for reading today!