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Breastfeeding Advice From Moms Who’ve Been Through Hell

Sometimes it really hurts! And that doesn’t mean I’m doing it wrong!

It was hard and throbbing.

Oh you!  And your dirty mind!  I mean my boob.  My boob was hard and throbbing.

Wait.  That still sounds pretty dirty.

I thought I had mastitis the other night.  Nothing like the word mastitis to nix all dirty images from a breastfeeding mama’s mind, right?

The entire left side of my left boob was, as I said, hard and throbbing.  My nipples were dry and cracking and an unnatural shade of pink.  I kept having this horrible image of one of them crackling off into Henry’s mouth and him either choking on it or swallowing it!  Okay, listen, it was a long night. 

The hard throbbing part went away and the nipples are feeling better now but the entire scenario knocked me right off my perch on a fluffy cloud of breastfeeding success and back into the reality many women deal with all the time.  I cried, contemplated buying formula to supplement Hankster’s voracious appetite because oh, how my tired nipples could use a break!  I’m glad I didn’t react during those few days of pain because I toughed it out and everything is fine again.  But you know, I’ve often heard it said that if breastfeeding hurts, you’re doing it wrong.  I call bullshine to that.  Sometimes it really hurts and that doesn’t mean I’m doing it wrong!

Earlier this week, during Nipplegate, I read an article on CNN that contains ‘breastfeeding advice from moms who’ve been through hell’ and I thought I’d sift through and bring you the best advice:

Find the perfect latch: Toni Taber of Los Angeles

I was told breast-feeding shouldn’t be painful, but it was. Eventually, painful became excruciating. I cried while I breast-fed; I bled. The doctor said my daughter, Molly, wasn’t gaining enough weight, and told me to feed her on a schedule and record how much she ate. I pumped around the clock, and could only sleep 90 minutes at a time, because I had to pump to keep up with her needs. Once, I was so tired, my husband fed her formula. I cried. How could I fail?  I finally saw a lactation consultant who figured out that Molly wasn’t getting enough milk because she wasn’t latched on properly.

Use a little lanolin: Laura Wellington of Ridgewood, New Jersey

I don’t know any woman who would tell you, no matter how many children they have, that breast-feeding is “easy” in the beginning. Quite frankly, it’s a nightmare and does not come “naturally” to mother or child (sorry for the disillusionment). I have five children and the initial stages of breast-feeding sent me gritting my teeth with each one of them. So swollen were my breasts and cracked my nipples, I wanted to cry.

With my oldest child, Ian, I was exhausted, feeling like a failure and the worst mother in the world in trying to do what I believe is the best for my baby. Thankfully, it was a man (my brother-in-law, Mark) who talked some sense into me, recounting the story of how his wife experienced the same thing. So I wasn’t a freak after all! Eureka. He told me she literally wanted to kill him every time their daughter clamped down on her nipple. But then, she learned the value of lanolin to help soothe cracked nipples as well as her own breast milk’s healing properties (a little rubbed on her nipple after a feeding coupled by air drying… it made a difference).

Breast-feeding is like sex: Candace Chang of Philadelphia

As “natural” as breast-feeding is, I quickly learned that neither my baby nor I knew what we were doing. We had latching issues from the very beginning. Instead of really taking in the nipple and areola, she’d kind of suck it in like a straw. For the first time in a long time, I felt truly dumb. How could I not know how to do this? C’mon, a baby opens up and sucks on the nipple. What could be so freaking difficult about that?

 

Apparently it is, and the hospital lactation consultants (AMEN to them) helped us sort out our latch issues, but the very best advice on breast-feeding I received was from my pediatrician. He equated breast-feeding with sex, meaning the more relaxed I was, the better it would be. He told me to stop thinking about it, just do it, and it would all sort itself out in the end.

Remember, when it comes to breastfeeding, sometimes the experts who should know the answers — pediatricians, lactation counselors — don’t.  “We’re getting better at training residents to learn more about breast-feeding, but we still have a ways to go,” says Feldman-Winter, a professor of pediatrics at Cooper University Hospital in New Jersey.

If you have a breastfeeding tip you’ve discovered during your breastfeeding battles, no matter how small you think it is, please, add it to the comments section!  It would be great to get a bunch to bolster the struggling breastfeeding mom contemplating giving up!  If you know someone struggling, send them this link!

Image: flickr.com/myllissa

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