Breastfeeding – the most natural, beautiful thing a mother can do with her baby and I was ready – ready to experience this beautiful cherished gift together with my baby. I was ready to love it and embrace it as so many of my mommy friends insisted I would. I was even mentally prepared for the first two week soreness that everyone warned me about, but also gave me hope would pass quickly. However, I would find out that such a journey wasn’t mine to walk. No amount of reading or classes could have prepared me for those first several weeks (or months) of breastfeeding.
The first two weeks came and went with minimal soreness, and I often thought to myself ‘I got this!’. I pressed on and was filled with hope that each day would get better. At about three weeks in, my hope was waning and my nipples were getting more and more tender, cracked, and consistently bleeding with each passing day. My sweet mom would tell me to stay strong and keep going, that soon we would get this. And I did, I stayed strong and determined through each toe curling breastfeeding sessions praying it would be over quickly.
At about four weeks, I wasn’t sleeping at night because I knew as soon as I woke up another painful breastfeeding session would start. I hated feeding my baby. I cringed at every hungry cry he made. He thrashed at my breast as he ate, ripping my nipples in the process. They cracked and bled, and, at one point, entire chunks were gone, seriously, gone. I was slathering on nipple creams, coconut oil, and salt water rinses, the whole time believing they would never be the same again.
I knew I needed help and saw several different lactation consultations and OB nurses. Each of whom assured me baby’s latch was perfect. I cried after each one, knowing something wasn’t right. At about six weeks, right as I was ready to give up and throw in the towel, I would hear my sweet Mom’s voice tell me to hang in there, that I could do this, and that soon, baby and I will figure this whole thing out and love it.
Around eight weeks, my mom encouraged me to see another lactation consultant. Through the tears I told her I would try again. I would see person number six who would tell me I was doing everything right and baby’s latch was strong. I knew exactly how the consultation would go and could almost play it out in my mind. However, this time I was wrong. This sweet, tiny, gentle, compassionate lady told me baby had a tie problem. Baby’s upper lip was so tightly tied that he couldn’t open up enough to encourage proper nipple placement. His hard gums were chomping down directly on my nipple. I immediately felt relief upon hearing those words. The diagnosis was so freeing. There was a reason- a reason for all of this discomfort and heartache.
I do wish I had realized that just because breastfeeding is natural, doesn’t mean it automatically comes without struggle. It’s such a simple thought really, but somehow I didn’t grasp it those first days when I was short on sleep and high on anxiety. I thought I was doing something wrong, because I didn’t have that beautiful experience early on that I’d heard about. But I’m so thankful we stuck it out, we are 16 weeks along in our journey and have no plans of stopping any time soon.
Photo taken by Jen Conway – http://jenconwayphotography.com/