It's well past overdue for me to share my nursing story, my experience with my youngest. I had been meaning to post something or write something about it but nursing and breastfeeding is such a difficult area to navigate. There's always so much pressure put on mothers and families to act in one way or another or to raise their kids a certain way. It feels like if I come out and say I've nursed my three kids exclusively, I'm saying that that is better than someone who used formula for all of their kids. Really its just a personal choice. As long as the kids are fed right?
It wasn't until I recently was messaging with a good friend and new mom that I decided I needed to share our story. She was telling me how amazing and wonderful everything was with her new son. I'm said, "I'm so glad you're enjoying your baby so much, but just so you know, I've had three kids. I know how it is. Feel free to share with me the things that are a little harder." It was as if I gave her permission to share. While it was an amazing, joyful experience to have a newborn, she was also having issues with her C-section incision, and she was having nursing pain, and I said, "Oh yeah, I totally hear you." And she said, "Really? I thought that you went through the whole nursing with no issues."
So, I guess while I try to be as open on social media, I definitely fall guilty of failing to share some of the nitty gritty details. I think it's important that we all share both the good and the bad, and the ups and the downs. Because, even if we try not to, it's so easy to fall into this trap where we assume that everything we see on someone's social media, Facebook or Instagram, is all there is to it. I try to be as open as I can, but there are things that we don't even think about that we're keeping out of the limelight, and we are. No one wants to complain but in this case and in many cases with motherhood I think its important to do a little complaining so others know that they are not in it alone.
Even though the "problem child" was number three I'll start at the beginning. With my first one, that little monkey would not latch right away, and he always seemed to be so sure that we were somehow keeping milk from him. I swear, it felt like if we went more than three hours, we'd hit that 3:01 mark and he would be screaming and screaming, and it took him awhile to trust us. And I remember, he was born on a Thursday, and I was home on Sunday with my best friend and her mother trying to help me get him to latch. I'm laying in my bed half naked realizing my modesty has totally gone out the window. Once the milk came in he was good to go and that was it. I felt like I had conquered the difficult nursing and I was a master. Little did I know.
My second one was hungry and my milk hadn't come in right away. And this is where I always like to tell other women who are dealing with this that your milk will come in. For whatever reason, in the hospital, they've gotten behind this theory of telling women that your milk comes in in the first, the second day or the third day and if it doesn't come in, there's gonna be big problems. In his case it took four days. And sometimes it takes five or six days. It took four days. He was born on a Friday and it took until Monday for the milk to come in. Of course I didn't know it was going to come in so we're at the doctor's and they tell me its time for formula. I remember calling a friend crying, going, "I don't wanna give him formula." Because while I am all for women choosing to feed their kids any way they can to make sure we have happy, healthy babies and moms, and I believe in that 100%, with my own kid I was freaking out because I wanted to nurse them. Its a total double standard that we put on ourselves. I'm always for happy, healthy kids, happy, healthy moms. That's the priority. But when it was me, I totally freaked out. I was having this whole mental flip-out about the milk coming in. And of course, the milk came in that moment. The kid drank milk all. night. long. He gained eight ounces by the next morning. It was insane and he was on his way. My confidence in my nursing ability was boosted. Until...
Number three was a little different. And number three's problems lasted many, many, many months. It started just a few days in. I know that if you're a perfect breastfeeding mother, you will not have any pain when you breastfeed, right? That's what the books say. If you do it right, it won't hurt. And that very well may be true but I've never had that experience. It was always hurts for me for the first two to three weeks. Then you sort it out. Then your nipples get stronger, or whatever, and it's fine. I'd never used that many gels or creams. I always just used some breast milk and that's it. After number 3 I learned that I was just really lucky that it worked out that way.
The real fun started about one week in. I was in some pain, but nothing I felt that was out of the ordinary, and then he went a little bit longer one night and both my breasts got so filled with milk. Painfully filled with milk. It was very hard for him to latch on. I remember a moment where I'm holding him and I'm trying to nurse, and they hurt so much, and my two other boys were playing at my feet in the nursery, and I'm just sitting there crying and crying, trying to get the milk out. After what felt like hours (and what might have been hours)d I did eventually get him to nurse. I used heat to loosen the milk and I pumped a little and I cleared them out. Going forward however, any time my breasts, specifically my right one, got filled with milk beyond just the normal amount, it would be severely painful. It would be hot to the touch. And there would be issues, to the point that eight months later I was having residual problems. I was driving to an appointment for work and I can feel that they're filled. My plan was to get to the appointment early, pump in the car and then go into the training session. I could tell that I was starting to not feel very well, but I pumped in the car. I didn't get much milk out but I did what I could. I went into a training session. I actually told the people that I didn't feel well. And I said, "I'm sure it'll be fine. I've never had to cancel a session or cut it short. I'm sure once I get going, it's gonna be totally fine." About one minute into the training I had to sit down and about 20 minutes into the training I had to call it. I felt awful.
I was hot, I was feverish. I felt nauseous. It was a mess, and I ended up taking awhile before I could even walk out to the car. I drove the 90 minutes home so slowly. When I got home, I put a hot pack on my breast to loosen up what was ever stuck in there, and took a nap. A three hour nap in the middle of the day. It was awful. It ended up happening two more times.
Now, I have no idea what it was. I have a theory, and I don't know if this is even medically possible, so just call me WebMD right here. I have a theory that what was happening was I had some sort of infection that my body just spent six to eight months fighting, and every once in a while, I would get engorged, the specific ducts would fill up and I would have this horrible, horrible reaction. Some sort of dormant infection, if that's a thing. We'll just call that issue number 1.
Issue number 2? The latch. The dreaded bad latch. I watched YouTube videos to fix it. (Often with my then 4 year old instructing me on what to do.) I went to a number of lactation consultants. I waited way too long, because I had two other kids and I remember it hurt when you nurse. But, it wasn't until I hit the six-week checkup that I was like, "Oh my gosh, it's been six weeks and I'm still in all of this pain." And that's when I realized, this was not your normal, a-little-pain-from-nursing-and-then-it-gets-better kind of thing. I should have been in a rhythm already. And I really wasn't. It really did not feel good.
After the six-week appointment, I ended up going to a lactation consultant. I actually ended up going to two lactation consultants. And they both said, "He doesn't have a tongue-tie, but it looks like there's something going on that's preventing him from latching."
We ended up going to see this tongue tie expert in the city, who looked at him and made the recommendation to have him clipped. This is where, by the way, I feel and will always feel incredibly horrible and guilty. I don't know that I made the right decision but it was the only way we were able to continue nursing.
He started nursing better and latching on better. Unfortunately there were a lot of side effects from going 4 months with him having a poor latch. First of all, I developed what they call blanching or vasospasm. This is when you don't get enough circulation to your nipples. My nipples, after I nursed, would turn white. I would have to cover under sweaters and blankets. I couldn't go into the frozen food section of a store because my nipples would turn white. It was excruciatingly painful. Circulation issues are no joke.
Plus, there's your normal nipple issues of cracked nipples, scabbed nipples, bloody nipples, all that good stuff that goes along with latch issues. And of course because my son was not good at collecting the milk, and getting milk and sucking it, my breasts decided to overcompensate by being full all of the time. All of the time. And so, they were full with apparently high-sugar, high-fat milk because my body recognized that this little guy just wasn't getting enough milk from sucking, because he couldn't latch and suck properly. So what was happening was, I got a chunker. He gained so much weight, he was this fatty little dude, very cute, of course, but this little fatty little dude, because he had fatty, sugary milk all the time.
So that's my story. My breasts were full all of the time, and I had white, cold nipples. It was really fun. Eventually, the nipple issue went away. Eventually, the milk settled down. Eventually, the cracked nipples went away. (Those took about 10 months to go away.) Now we're at 18 months, and we're nursing, and we're good. And I'm not gonna quit nursing until he quits nursing because that image of me having this bonding moment with my last baby and enjoying the nursing, I didn't get that until about eight months ago.
I am not sharing this to encourage anyone to go through what I did. If you're all in your right mind, it may have been better to in fact just go to a store and buy some formula and call it a day. So I'm not sharing this to encourage anyone to go through what I did. But I am sharing it to let people know that, first of all, my first two nursing experiences were so drastically different. So if you had trouble nursing your first, like I had trouble nursing my third, that doesn't mean you throw in the towel with subsequent kids.
I also share this just to let you know that it's hard for everyone. In our society, as much as they're trying to make it a good thing, it's still really hard to nurse. And I think, unfortunately, with the emphasis on nursing and breastfeeding, we've not only made it hard for women to nurse but now we've made it hard for women to give their kids formula. You know, there's no good way to do it.
I'm putting this out there just to let you know, it's hard for a lot of us. That's okay. You do what you gotta do to make sure you're happy and healthy and your kids are happy and healthy. What got me through a lot were some very wonderful women that were dedicated to nursing their own children and really provided a lot of support. I know there's the La Leche League. I've heard great things about it. I never ended up going there, simply because I didn't need to. But if you don't have women in your life who are committed to breastfeeding and it's something that you want to do, then let me know and I will try to help in any way I can. And if you have women who are judging you for either breastfeeding or not breastfeeding avoid talking to the about it at all costs. You just don't need that in your life when you have a newborn (or at all for that matter.)
So, that's my story. That's our story. Do you have a wonderful or horrible or wonderful and horrible nursing experience? Please share!