When I was pregnant, I received lots of well-meaning advice, but nothing about breastfeeding. It included the following:
- Go on dates now; babysitters are expensive.
- Sleep while you can. You won’t sleep through the night for the next
- Enjoy every moment. It goes by so fast.
- Take time for yourself.
- Nap when the baby naps.
But what no one warned me about was how lonely and ostracizing breastfeeding can be. This is my real and raw account of breastfeeding.
Before my baby arrived, I earnestly signed up for a breastfeeding class, read breastfeeding books cover-to-cover, and bought all the necessary accessories: a breast pump, nursing bras, bottles for breastfed babies, etc. I even created a breastfeeding nook in the corner of our baby’s nursery, complete with a comfy chair, a nearby table for water and a book (ha!), a foot rest, and a noise machine with soothing music. I was ready.
And then my son arrived, my perfect 8 lb. 6 oz. angel with a head of black hair and beautiful blue eyes. We did skin-to-skin contact within minutes of his entrance into the world, and we helped him find his way to eat. He seemed to understand latching almost immediately, and I felt so lucky to have such an intuitive little person to call my own. For the first 24 hours, I kept gushing about how much I loved breastfeeding and how well he took to it.
But after a day, I could tell that Kevin wasn’t getting any milk, despite the fact that I was producing. Milk came out, but it wasn’t making its way to his belly. My hormonal, sleep deprived, just-gave-birth self felt anxious and scared. I called my lactation consultant for a one-on-one consultation to solve the problem. After examining Kevin and me, she determined that there were several issues at play. Kevin had a lip tie and a tongue tie, which would require surgery before he could continue to eat, and I had flat nipples, which meant that I needed to use a breast shield to feed him. Within in 48 hours, Kevin had lost almost an entire pound, and my nipples were cracked and bleeding. I was in pain and terrified that my two-day-old son needed surgery.
We called a pediatric dentist, explained the situation, and, because of the serious nature of our situation, they were able to get us in within a few hours. With the help of my parents and my husband, we took our son to get his first surgical procedure at two days old. I’ve never felt so helpless in my life. I sat in the waiting room feeling like a total and complete failure. My heart now existed outside of my body, and I was handing it over to a doctor to perform surgery.
Kevin made it through surgery flawlessly and hardly cried, which is more than I can say for myself. I thought all the worst was behind us, but once we got home, I discovered that I was wrong. While my parents, in-laws, and husband took turns feeding Kevin from a syringe because he wasn’t able to take a bottle yet, I pumped every two hours. I felt chained to that soul sucking machine. I pumped, despite the fact that my nipples were bleeding. I pumped, despite the fact that I was in so much pain, it felt worse than giving birth. I felt totally and completely alone.
I was too tired to articulate how I was feeling during those first few weeks, and I contemplated switching to formula daily. Something in my stubborn personality made me stick with it though, and as time passed, I slowly rejoined the land of the living. We transitioned from syringe feeding to bottle feeding to breast feeding, and after about a month, the pain completely went away. Now, almost seven months later, breastfeeding is something I cannot imagine missing out on, and I feel incredibly thankful that I stuck with it, despite our grim beginning. We do, however, continue to feed using a nipple shield, and although it makes me feel a little embarrassed, especially when I feed Kevin in public, it reminds me of how far we’ve come and how much we’ve both grown in the process. Breastfeeding is not for the faint of heart.
Beautiful, Katie. I also had to use a breast shield with both of my girls (I had never heard of one before needing one). I prefer to use a cover when nurse in public, and trying to manipulate the shield, the cover, and a squirming baby was pretty defeating. I opted to stay home for many months. I, too, felt isolated and alone. Fortunately, my second girl was able to latch without the shield at 4 months. It has made all the difference! Good luck with your continued breastfeeding!
Thank you for sharing this. Yes, it is a not often talked about situation, but I felt the same way. My daughter did not have the lip and tongue ties, but she did have a tiny mouth, withdrawn chin, and silent reflux which caused her to scream every time I tried to feed her. We resorted to the shield from which I was never able to wean her. Plus it took her over an hour per feeding for the first 4 months. And she would get disturbed if people made noise around her. Seriously isolating. Seriously depressing. But then one day she seemed to get the hang of it and we are still at it at 16 months! I feel like such a success story and so glad I pushed through. But the emotional toll was intense. And the embarrassment at having to use a shield…all I can say is now that we have made it nursing this long, I almost brag about that! Plus, I realize, it wasn’t my fault. Way to go for being stubborn. We can only hope the next time around is a bit easier. 🙂
Comments are closed.