Tuesday, November 9, 2010


The truth is, I think we've finally turned a corner. (Note that I did not say, THE corner. Fate laughs at those who make such claims.) Things are improving on the breastfeeding front, but I believe it is no coincidence that today, in the mail, I received a free sample of infant formula. They just know, don't they - those formula people - that women whose children are about 10 days old and who are weeping with nipple pain are ripe for the "oh, screw it, this formula arrived in the mail and I think my nipples are about to fall off" reaction.

I'm on to you, Formula People. And I WILL NOT BE DEFEATED.

I know there are legitimate reasons why people choose not to, or cannot, breastfeed, so this is mostly definitely not a post judging anyone's choice. I really wanted to breastfeed, so I went to the class (I even dragged my husband along, who admitted later that it actually was pretty helpful). I researched pumps, so I could keep breastfeeding when I went back to work. I stocked up on lanolin (thank God) and I bought a box of breast pads for my newly-purchased nursing bra. I was set.

Unfortunately, they do not sell extra nipples at the Baby Industrial Complex Store. Now THAT would come in handy.

So far, our breastfeeding diary looks something like this:

Day 1: baby is born. Nurse helps us breastfeed within an hour of birth. Recommends the "football hold," which feels a little odd at first but works fairly well. All seems okay.

Day 2: go home with baby. No nurse to help. Husband and self manage to maneuver baby into football hold with relative success, six pillows, and four towels. Kind of time-consuming, especially at 2:00am. But baby seems happy.

Day 3: downhill slide begins. Baby does not want to latch on. Husband is worried that I am not producing enough milk. I am worried that I might kill husband for such suggestion at 2:00am. Milk has not yet arrived. Maybe child is starving to death? Panic. Burst into tears. Also, nipples start hurting. A. LOT. Post-partum appointment nurse says I have "short nipples." What to do about this? Can one elongate one's nipples? Sounds like medieval torture. Or Bush-era interrogation technique. Perhaps should call WikiLeaks for help.

Day 4: child seems to have developed allergy to left boob. Problem. Milk is now arriving and child is not adjusting to increased volume. Call hospital nurse line at 1:30am when child simply refuses to latch. Suggested that we should dribble sugar water on nipple to entice child. This works, although results in extremely sticky child and breast. Possibly we have glued child's eyes shut with glucose water. Oops.

Day 5: child seems to have recovered from glucose water incident but is still not a fan of left boob. Visit world's nicest lactation consultant (thank heavens for these people) who weighs child after feeding and assures panicky parents that child is, in fact, getting enough to eat. Consultant says short nipples are quite common (relief) and child will probably learn to latch just fine. Nipples, however, register routine complaint of EXTREME PAIN.

Day 6: "pain" now relative term, as nipples hurt like SONOFABITCH for the first few seconds and then pain subsides. Realize must stop swearing in front of child at some point but, fortunately, child does not understand that mother is whispering "fuckfuckfuckfuck" during midnight feedings instead of sweet lullaby.

Day 7: lanolin cream seems to be helping. Also, changing breast pads each time (huh: should have read directions earlier) is definitely good idea.

Day 8: if child could just eat every three hours instead of 2, nipples would be much happier. Also, milk is now flowing freely and child is gulping like piglet, probably to save herself from drowning. Results in much gas pain for poor baby. Fortunately, daddy has excellent child-burp-inducing skills.

Day 9: late-night scream-fest probably due to left-boob-over-production-gulping phenomenon. Decide to feed from left breast first and then right. Seems to help.

Day 10: pediatrician appointment confirms that child is gaining appropriate amount of weight. Nipples sigh with relief, as are willing to take one for the team as long as there is progress. First public breastfeeding in doctor's office reception area goes well, thanks to handy stylish boob cover. Very cool. Feel like chic mom. But would chic mom wince with pain and use labor-style breathing techniques to survive latch? Who cares. Screw chic mom.

It really is getting better. But it's hard. And "it doesn't hurt if you do it right" is up there in my book with, "early labor is characterized by contractions which are generally painless." I'm happy that my kid seems to have the sucking reflex of a Dy.son vacuum cleaner, but I also understand why people give up on this. We're just taking it one day at a time. One nipple at a time.


  1. If you've been able to keep this much of a sense of humor about the whole thing, I'd say you're doing fine.

    The doesn't hurt line is, well, bullshit. It won't hurt later, but "later" is variable. Chalk it up there also with "just relax."

    My older one got pumped milk, but my little one is a breastfeeder. Even at 9 months, she still likes one side better than the other.

    Oh, speaking of breastpumps, if you can stand the pain, sometimes it helps just to pump like 3-4 minutes. Gets the firehose-worthy pressure reduced to where it doesn't drown the poor dear.

    Feel free to discard my advice, as always.

    Hang in there, and it really does get better.

  2. Nipple shield! Best advice I ever received.

  3. I'm not going to lie- I usually avoid posts about breastfeeding, birthstories, etc... due to my own lack of success thus far.

    But this? I'm glad I clicked. Your post made me laugh. We all want this so much, but it is not all roses and... what is the other part of that cliche? Anyway. You know what I mean.

    Hope the breastfeeding gets better. Glad baby is figuring out her part. :)

  4. As one who has been there, I so sympathize with your pain. And yes, it does get better. I just hope that for you will get better sooner.

    What I found very helpful were Medela hydrogel pads. Cool, freshly out the fridge, soooooooooooothing... I am willing to tut Medela's horn for free only for that, really. Although the hand pump and nursing bras are also very, very good. As I always say about this: darn Swiss, they do everything just perfect, don't they?!

    If you want to breastfeed, I would say you are on the right track. Watch out for overproduction, which is a rocks-sucking-pain(no pun intended, really).

    Best of luck!

  5. Amen sista'! The line about it not hurting is complete and absolute BS! I am still working on turning a corner and not crashing the moment I do...lots o' luck!

  6. My nipples cringe just reading this post! Great work though Mama!!

  7. I had a deep crack in my right side when my second son was only 3 or 4 weeks old so I know the temptation of the formula and the labor type breathing pains along with swearing while the baby latches!! I used the Medela breast shields. I wear these little suckers 24/7 and will not even think about taking them off! They allow the air to circulate around them so they heal much better than using breast pads (so I found.) I hope something works for you! I <3 breastfeeding but HATE the pain!

  8. Oh my god yes. I remember the first three works were full of curse words and curled toes. The "it shouldn't hurt if you're doing it right" line... I laugh, I laugh. It is bullshit!! Maybe some people find it painless. I certainly did not.

    The good news is that it does not hurt for too long. Their mouth grows bigger, making latching easier, and your nipples get a bit numb to the constant friction. At about 3 weeks I noticed it changed significantly. And after that it was no problems at all! The hard part is just getting through those first 3 weeks.

  9. Can I just say THANK YOU so much for all the tips and the sympathy - I really do appreciate it. You're giving me hope. :)

  10. This is a great post. Have I ever told you how hilarious you are? Breastfeeding is certainly an adventure...

  11. I'm sorry, I know it's so hard, but I was laughing hysterically. Because I can remember just how miserable the first three weeks were. I swear, the nipple pain was worse than 95% of what I went through in labor.

    But it will get better. And your supply is good, which is GREAT. Hang in there....and don't be afraid to flip the bird to anyone who tells you it shouldn't hurt.

  12. I will agree with those who say it does get better. . . . really it does. I began noticing less pain at about 2 1/2-3 weeks. . . but one thing that helped me too was nursing laying down with little one next to me. . . nice way for me to relax and baby seemed to enjoy and latch better too. I hated the football hold, but that's just me maybe. Hang in there! But, I also added formula for my babies at 6 months, so don't feel guilty about whatever choice you make-you know best.

  13. You are doing amazing! And your play-by-play gave me a good chuckle.

  14. my sweet babe is now 3 months old. Your post is my experience word for word! I gave up way too early at 6 weeks and wish I had stuck it out a bit longer. My best advice is exactly what you are doing....day by day...from one feeding to the next. I remember being in such pain, so exhausted and wishing someone else could take over and thinking OMG, I can't still be doing this in three months or six months. Of course, I think it would have been a totally different experience at three months than three weeks. I think I would have made it through if I had realized that! You are doing great!

  15. Are you married to my husband too? No kidding...the first two weeks at home G would be nursing continuously at night, probably unsatisfied, but surviving fine and my husband would just lie next to me saying over and over, "You probably aren't making enough milk. You should just give him formula." Twice I walked to the kitchen and mixed up a bottle. He always fell asleep by the time I got back to the bedroom....

    Hang in there...from one short-nippled girl to another. It does get better. Takes awhile. And we never quite got it perfect and I still have pain now and then---but it is loads better.

    Oh those days were rough. Rough. Rough. Rough. You are doing great.

    (I also received great comfort from reading the la leche league boards)....

  16. OMG - I'm so sorry it's so hard - but you are just too funny! :) I'm glad it's going better, one step at a time! I only hope I can be the champ that you are!

  17. do you have "the motherly art of breastfeeding"? my sem roommate had a TERRIBLE transition to breastfeeding (sounds like you're making much quicker progress!!!) and this was the best help she found. She gave it to me when I was 9 weeks pregnant.

    even when bf is going well the transition is hard. there is so much uncertainty and frequent pain and unclarity about what is normal pain and what is problematic pain...

    you've got LOTS of great advice here. you. can. do. this.
    you are doing this.
    sounds like you are doing everything you should be doing to realize the intentions you've set for yourself- seeking out support, trying, trying, trying again...
    and you rock!

  18. If you are having trouble already DO NOT USE NIPPLE SHIELDS!! It just adds an extra nipple to suck out of. I have never found them to work with anyone. It's just going to confuse baby.

    These were a godsend for me:


    You wear them when you are not nursing. I wore them for a month after my son was born. If I didn't have those, I would have NEVER been able to nurse. My nipples were too small. If you can get past the first 6 weeks, it is smooth sailing from there. I wish someone would have given them to me a month BEFORE I delivered, I don't think I would have had as much trouble, I ended up nursing him for 17months so all was well! Good luck! You are doing a great job!!