I promise every time you hear from me in the next 20 years it will not be about baby town USA. I swear! But a lot of baby-related things (like having one) happened in the last few weeks, so it’s on my mind more than usual.
We are going there. If this is a TMI moment for you now is your chance to run, run far away. For the rest of
you us (because I am a TMI-loving freako) continue on into the world of early breastfeeding and the mountain of lies that this time period involves. (Mountain might be exaggerating, there are like two real lies, but they are pretty major.)
I really had no idea what I was getting into with breast feeding. This seems to be the theme of my whole pregnancy/labor/delivery/wow-I-made-a-human thing. I wasn’t breast fed and I really don’t have any overly strong feelings about it either way. So this post is not anti or pro anything. I like the idea that I am fully capable of making and feeding another human. It fascinates me that my body can do something so basic and yet so incredibly important and I wanted to see what it was like.
So! We went to a breastfeeding class, watched some videos, learned some different holds with doll babies, and learned about pumping and storing and the stuff that comes in before your milk that sustains the baby in the first 3 days, etc etc. I was also told repeatedly that breast feeding, if done correctly, shouldn’t hurt. It is only when baby’s aren’t latching right, when all the sucking happens on the nipple and the baby isn’t taking more breast tissue into his mouth, that it will then hurt.
This is a big fat motherfucking lie. If you, by some magic gene-pool and/or fairy dust can breast feed for the first time without it feeling like your sensitive little nips are being chewed off by a wild animal, then I tip my hat to you madame. But there is nothing relaxing about (early) breastfeeding. I can’t speak to breastfeeding later down the road… I’m into my 3rd week right now… but, don’t let anyone convince you it is a pain free experience. The problem with this lie is that I thought I was doing it wrong when I wasn’t. We had lactation specialists who helped us with latching and holds and such while we were in the hospital and every time I would tell them it hurt they would look at me concerned and say, “It shouldn’t! You have a great latch and everything is positioned perfectly!”
My nipples had to get used to the constant demands placed upon them. For the first two weeks little scabs that would come and then go and then come again formed on each nipple. I also had a big bruise-like hickey around my right nipple because newborns are sucking for their LIVES. I never bled, nothing gross every happened – but I wish I would have been told a few things before I started breast feeding that would have saved me a lot of pain.
During our breast feeding class they told us that the little bumps around your nipple (they appear during pregnancy) naturally lubricate the area so you don’t need nipple cream. Nature is amazing, but it sure as hell isn’t nipple cream! So I didn’t bring any to the hospital and I didn’t bring breast pads either because I had read that it is a waste to bring them. Two major mistakes that cost me in the long run (or short run, but weeks of pain while feeding 8-12 times a day feels like a long run to me). While I was in recovery I would breastfeed, then put my tank top back on, then when I went to breastfeed again my tank top would be stuck on my nipples so when I pulled it off it created little cuts. If I had brought my breast pads and cream my nipples would have had some relief and the vicious cycle of having a hungry baby attack my sore sore sore sore nipples would have had moments of reprieve. But instead! I was just making it worse, but by the time someone told me that, it was way too late. So let me save you – even if you aren’t leaking milk, use a breast pad.
Also… nipple nipple nipple nipple nipple. I swear to god I never thought I would be writing that word so much on this blog ever in my LIFE.
When I got home from the hospital my milk started to come in and I became engorged. This means my boobs suddenly grew to the size of bowling balls (no exaggeration… none.) and became hard as cement. Everything I had been told was that engorgement was bad and could be prevented with consistent feeding, or using a warm washcloth to hot pack before nursing. Untrue!! Untrue untrue untrue. It just happens! And it goes away after a few days, but in the mean time, that latch that my kid had perfected was now totally fucked up because my boobs were now 5X the size of his head and incredibly hard. Like wrecking-ball hard. So the fist week that he was home we had to re-learn latching. Feeding was insanely painful because engorgement is like the worst sore-boob PMS you have ever experienced and then some and my nipples were still all fucked up. I really thought during that week that choosing to breastfeed was the biggest mistake of my life. I literally had to fight the urge to yank poor Gabe off of me every time he tried to eat, and it was very very difficult to sustain his eating because I could only handle the pain for a short amount of time. I was delaying feedings because the thought of having him yanking on my sore sore chest was too much to handle.
I fully realize and respect why women try to breastfeed and give up. It is incredibly difficult, time consuming, and in this social landscape, very very inconvenient (I wish I had a stronger word than that, but I can’t think of one).
So when we went to Gabe’s check up after bringing him home from the hospital and he had continued to lose weight, I knew that it was mostly my fault. Some of it was because babies just lose weight after they are born. They aren’t being constantly fed, this is normal. But I also knew that it was because I was dodging feeding times and rushing him through when he was feeding. I had 1 week to fix the problem or the doctor was going to have him start supplementing on formula. So I fed more, I pumped to make my boobs softer so Gabe could latch easier, and engorgement ended after about 3 days. By the end of the second week my nips were totally healed, feedings were much easier, and though breastfeeding is not cozy, it doesn’t make me want to cry. The discomfort is totally manageable especially if I have something to distract me, like The Amazing Race on Hulu.
I’m figuring it out, week by week. And to anyone who is thinking about giving this a shot – it’s ok to say it sucks. It’s ok that it doesn’t feel magical. I do not find it at all to be a “bonding experience” with my kid. He doesn’t even look at me when he is eating. His eyes are closed or he is looking elsewhere. Don’t be shocked when it hurts, but don’t feel like a failure either – this is hard and new for everyone involved. And if you say fuck it and throw in the towel, do it with gusto. And if you stick it out, know that for me it got way better and totally manageable after a few weeks. In April I’ll start pumping more and Kamel will be able to take over some of the feeding duties. This is just how we chose to handle things this time around. The whole thing has been an experiment and an adventure.