I posted several weeks ago looking for help for my daughter's excruciatingly painful latch. We've been nursing exclusively for a little over 3 weeks now, and thought that my story might help women who are frustrated or in pain. If I can succeed, anyone can!
I wanted to share my struggles, story and advice. I've definitely had more than my share of struggles with breastfeeding and want to share that just when you're ready to give up, you might want to give it another shot if breastfeeding means a lot to you. This is going to be long, but I won't be offended if you don't read every word.
My daughter, sweet Bettie, was born 7 weeks early. At that point, I wasn't sure whether or not I even wanted to breastfeed. I was leaning towards not doing it. No one in my hospital was pushy, but they did let me know that because Bettie was in the NICU, if I wanted to breastfeed, I needed to start pumping. I had Bettie on 12/21 and started pumping on 12/24. My milk actually started coming in on 12/23. I knew something was up because my boobs felt like rocks!
I had a great postpartum nurse, who encouraged me to at least try pumping if I was unsure about breastfeeding. I felt more comfortable with her than the lactation consultants, so she worked with me and showed me how to pump. She got so excited when I started getting a little trickle, I started getting excited. It was pretty neat to see my body doing something I had been so horrified about during my pregnancy. I got less than a half ounce during that first pump session, but it was enough to take to the NICU and give to my sweet daughter. The folks in the NICU never gave me the opportunity to try putting Bettie to the breast the entire 2 weeks she was in NICU. The NICU folks actually seemed sort of anti-breastfeeding, which I thought was bizarre.
My nurse explained that if I wanted to continue and build my supply, it was important to pump at least 8 times a day, including at least 1 middle of the night session. My mission began.
I got home on Christmas eve and did my first solo pumping session. I had everything set up in my bedroom because I was too shy to do it anywhere else in the house. I turned my hospital pump up to about 8 and pumped for about 20 minutes. In that 20 minutes, my nipples turned black and started bleeding. I did some research and learned that with pumping it's not necessary to have such intense suction. That lesson caused me several days of residual pain, and I learned that Lansinoh lanolin is a pumping mama's best friend!
I kept pumping and was still not getting much more than an ounce or ounce and a half. We were supplementing with formula in the NICU because my supply was so inadequate. I kept wanting to meet with lactation consultants, but none of them kept their appointments, so I was on my own.
I was getting to be best friends with my pump. I was starting to get carpal tunnel from holding the horns. I was spending so much time washing and sterilizing pump parts. It was so exhausting. Like clockwork, I was attached to my pump at least 8 times a day, sometimes as many as 12.
It became my personal mission to ensure that Bettie had nothing but breastmilk, but my supply STILL sucked. I have to admit that it did get easier once Bettie was home and I didn't have to leave the house. At least that way, I could pump more. The down side was, I was spending more time with my breast pump than with Bettie! I'd pump while my husband fed her. I was feeling very isolated and left out. My nips were also always sore.
We took Bettie to her first pediatrician's visit and I met with their lactation consultant. She suggested putting Bettie on the breast. I tried it and it was excruciating. It brought tears to my eyes. I decided to continue pumping because as painful as pumping was, it had nothing on Bettie's latch.
The lactation consultant told me about Fenugreek (take 4, 3 times a day) and Blessed Thistle (take 3, 3 times a day). That did wonders for my supply. I started getting at least 5 ounces every time I pumped. I also noticed that eating oatmeal boosted my supply (even oatmeal cookies...YUM!). I kept drinking tons of water so I wouldn't dehydrate. Bettie hasn't had formula since she was 2 weeks and 6 days old. The herbals and pumping until I was dry and adding 5 minutes really did the trick. Lately I've been getting 7 or 8 ounces each time I pump.
I also invested in a Pump Ease (www.pumpease.com) so I could pump hands free. That saved my sanity. I kid you not. If you're going to pump more than a few times a week, I highly recommend spending the money. It makes a HUGE difference--especially if you aren't crafty enough to build your own hands free pumping device!
I changed pediatricians about 8 weeks ago and started taking Bettie to the onsite healthcare where I work. They have an awesome lactation consultant. She was amazed that I'd gone 5 weeks exclusively pumping and that I was making enough milk to feed Bettie breastmilk exclusively.
We worked on Bettie's latch. We stroked Bettie's tongue to teach her to put it down, then I'd get her to latch. It wasn't that bad. I was so excited! I just knew my pumping days were over (or at least I'd have to pump less).
I got her home and it was back to being painful. I gutted it out for two feedings that day, then couldn't bring myself to do it again. Bettie was fussy on the breast and just wanted to cry. I felt like such a failure and couldn't stop crying myself. I went back to my trusty breast pump.
I'd just about given up hope on actually nursing Bettie. Her due date rolled around on 2/7, and on a whim, one night she was rooting around and biting my shirt. It was between her "normal" feedings, so I thought, what the hell? I whipped out a boob and offered it to her. She latched and it wasn't any more painful than my pump. After about 2 minutes, it wasn't painful at all. I started crying and Adam thought I was nuts. I was crying because I was so shocked and happy.
It took us about a week to really get nursing down. I've learned that the Boppy pillow does nothing for me. It took me 2 nights to get the side laying position down. We've been nursing now at all feedings for a week now. It makes me a little teary to think that I gutted it out, but it's so worth it. People kept telling me that it takes time and that just when I was ready to give up, things would get better. Now...if only I could teach Bettie to let go before she whips her head back...talk about a purple nurple!
I'm living proof that if you really want to breastfeed, it can be done. It took us 9 weeks...NINE weeks! My pediatrician told me she thinks I should get a medal for perseverance. To me, the greatest reward is being able to hold my sweet little girl and spend more time with her than the d@mned pump!
I returned my hospital pump 3 weeks ago. It was a love/hate with my Medela Symphony, but I don't miss it one bit!