I interrupt this blog to talk about breastfeeding. For those of you without breasts or who couldn’t care less about the topic, I will return to my regularly scheduled rambling in a few days.
Simcha suggested in the comments to my last post that maybe I should put my blog to good use and detail these “breastfeeding woes” I keep referring to in case anyone can help. This is a great idea. Though I think I’ve heard it all and that the only thing anyone could say that I haven’t already heard that would actually help would be “I have access to morphine. What’s your address?”, I’m willing to try anything. So here’s the scoop:
The first week or so of breastfeeding, for me, is extremely painful. Extremely. We’re talking up there with transition contractions during labor. On a scale of 1 – 10 it’s a “MAKE IT STOP!!!! AAAAAAH! KILL ME!!!!!!”. It’s tied for the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life, and I’ve done natural childbirth.
This is my third baby in three years, and it’s been like this with each one. The pain gets to the point of being sort of manageable after 7 – 10 days, and subsides entirely after a couple of weeks. It’s sad because it makes me dread nursing these first couple of weeks. I break out into cold sweats when I see the baby start sucking her fist because I know what’s coming. When she first latches on the explosion of pain literally makes my vision blurry. The pain gets a little better once she’s feeding but is still pretty bad for the whole time. Also, with my first pregnancy I think it made me depressed (I recently read somewhere that there’s a strong link between breastfeeding pain and depression). Luckily I discovered Vicodin when my last baby was born, and though it doesn’t do too much for the pain it takes the edge off enough that I’m at least not really depressed.
Over the past three years I’ve worked with three lactation consultants and two very experienced midwives to help me deal with it, and nothing has helped.
THE CAUSE (I THINK)
The first thing the lactation consultants always point out is that babies are supposed to feed areolas, not nipples. The baby’s latch should be well onto the areola, and slightly lower than center. You should tilt their head back to make sure they get the breast at the correct angle, and push them onto the breast (as opposed to bringing the breast to them). Some good resources on this here, and some good videos here.
I think I may have an issue with her not getting latched on far enough each time since her mouth is so tiny, but I’m doing the best I can. And I think that most of the time she does have the right latch, and it still hurts.
So what do I think the problem is? My dermatologist once told me I have a condition called S.I.S.: “Sh—y Irish Skin”. I have very fair, very sensitive skin. I bruise easily and seem to be extra sensitive to any kind of surface-level trauma (e.g. it really hurts if someone pokes me in the arm, or if I bump my leg into a table, etc.) When I see breastfeeding pictures or videos I realize that my skin is really different from other people’s. For me, I don’t think that there’s much that can be done to help in terms of improving latch or position or whatever. I think that the way I’m built means that breastfeeding is going to hurt until my skin toughens up.
Here are the options, as I see them:
- Pump breastmilk, feed the baby with a bottle: It is no small source of frustration to me that my $300 breast pump got misplaced in our recent move. Assuming we can ever find it, I will probably pump some. But exclusively pumping is out because it’s logistically impossible with two little ones to keep up with (and I don’t get as much milk that way), so I’ll still need to breastfeed some anyway.
- Supplement with formula: I’m not going to do this since the baby is actually getting plenty to eat, and since I’m prone to low milk supply issues I think that skipping feedings could cause more problems than it solves. Also, per the same point about pumping, it would only save me a couple of feedings per day, and I’d still have to deal with the pain for all the other feedings.
- Offer it up and power through: I think this is really the only option. If the pain doesn’t subside by Thursday or Friday I’ll have to consider other alternatives to breastfeeding lest I become addicted to Vicodin, but I think my best bet is to just grit my teeth and try to hold out until then.
So, there you have it. These are the mysterious “breastfeeding issues” I keep alluding to. Though I’m pretty sure that there’s not much that can be done and this is something I just have to deal with, I’m very open to hearing any thoughts / advice / suggestions.
On the plus side, I’ve been offering up my suffering and I think that Purgatory should be pretty much cleared out by now.
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