Breastfeeding: the journey
I haven’t talked about breastfeeding since This post, when the weather was scorching, Redmond was a newborn, and I was struggling with the difficult (for us) task of nursing. Almost five months later, things are very different. I wanted to write about my experience because during the first nearly THREE months of breastfeeding, it was not easy for me. It hurt. I got mastitis. Twice. I had blisters. It took forever. I spent so much time trying to find examples of proper latches. Or latches that got better. Or nursing that improved. Everything I found included things like multiple specialist visits (which I tried a few times to no avail) surgery for tongue ties, or exclusive pumping. Honestly, I just wanted to find a story of survival even if it didn’t get better. I told myself finally that I could handle the pain. Red was getting plenty of nutrition and growing by leaps and bounds and the discomfort wouldn’t kill me. But I still cried over him when he nursed sometimes and I still wondered if it would ever get better. I stressed about whether I had thrush, whether he had thrush, and whether my blisters would ever go away. I stressed over weaning him off the nipple shield, stressed when he tried to nurse without it and my over-active letdown choked him, and stressed that I was a bad mother for just sticking with the nipple shield.
But then suddenly (really suddenly) at around three months, the pain went away. The blisters heeled. His latch got deeper. He stayed on without me having to hold my breast for him. It was easy. Almost over night. He started going three hours or more between feedings and finished up in ten minutes when he ate. I could hold him to me with one arm. We still used (and use) the shield, but other than that we nursed like normal people.
Now we are nearly six months in and at last it truly is easy. And I enjoy it, which I honestly wasn’t sure would ever happen. I still sometimes feel like a failure for using the nipple shield, but it works for us. My supply is high, and my baby is in the 97th percentile for height and the 75th for weight. He’s doing fine. We are doing fine. It just took time. Time for his mouth to get bigger to improve his latch, and for my nipples to get tough enough to handle it all. I truly considered giving up during the second month when it was still frequently excruciating to nurse. I thought it would never change. I was so frustrated hearing people talk about the magic of breastfeeding and how natural it all was because for me, I didn’t experience those things. It wasn’t magical. It sure as hell didn’t come naturally to me. But I’m so glad we stuck with it.
All this to say, if you’re having a hard time but want to continue, don’t give up. Give it some time. Maybe a lot of time. If, of course, you’re baby is getting the nutrition he needs. Those first 11 weeks or so that I struggled already seem distant and unimportant. All that matters now is seeing Redmonds sweet, milky smile when he looks up at me in the middle of a nurse just to see me. Because he loves me. And my goodness, I love him.
Nursing cover c/o Cover me poncho (it also converts into a car seat cover, a poncho, and a scarf. Plus it’s pretty)