Breastfeeding hurts

‘If it hurts, you’re doing it wrong’ 

Not very helpful! Breastfeeding hurts. And to be told you’re doing it wrong because you’re in pain doesn’t do much for your self esteem. You’ve just gone through childbirth and picture your newborn happily latching on for his first meal with no problems whatsoever, but it doesn’t always happen like that. 

For some people, it does. My story is different and I wish I’d read some articles about people who’d struggled, people who’d found it painful. Instead I felt rubbish because ‘if it hurts you’re doing it wrong’. I kept latching, stopping, relatching, again and again. Which I’m sure made it worse. 

With your first baby, neither of you know what you’re doing, and you’ve never had anyone sucking liquid from a very sensitive area of your body before, so that initial latch will hurt. (For most). You’ve never breastfed before, and neither has your baby – you’ve both got to learn how to do it, even though it is natural. I wish I knew that before. Here’s my story:

I didn’t get the opportunity to feed my newborn for at least 3 hours after he was born. We REALLY struggled. He would latch but not suck. I had midwives and care assistants coming in every 3 hours squashing, squeezing & yanking at my boobs trying to get him to feed and after several failed attempts I had to give him formula. I was determined to breastfeed so managed to get hold of some nipple shields, but we still struggled. Every time, I would try. Every time, we would fail & have to give formula. The hospital stay lasted 4 days & I was desperate to get home so we told the midwife that we would be formula feeding. I was still determined to persevere. When we got home from hospital I tried the nipple shields again and he started sucking!! I couldn’t believe it – I was sooo excited! Within a couple of days we managed to get rid of the nipple shields. We had to continue with the formula top ups for a while until my supply increased, but within a few weeks we managed to drop the formula feeds. We had people tell us that once you’re combi-feeding you won’t be able to exclusively breastfeed, especially with a boy as they get too hungry. But we did it! 

It was extremely painful. I used to shout out in agony with every latch. Once he’d done his first few sucks though, it became comfortable & I could relax. This went on for a few weeks, and lanolin became my new best friend. My nipples were so sore and cracked, and at one point I even had a chunk missing (I wondered if it would ever heal – it did!). The health visitor checked my latch with each visit and said it was fine. I was convinced I was doing something wrong because ‘breastfeeding doesn’t hurt’. As I said though, after a few weeks and lots of lanolin, the pain eased and I grew to love breastfeeding. 

Now my son is 13 months old, he’s teething. He cut his bottom 2 teeth around Christmas time without too much drama. Now, though, he’s struggling. These top 2 teeth are causing him pain. He’s feeding differently and feeding is starting to get painful again. Nothing like the pain at the beginning of our breastfeeding journey, but painful because his mouth’s sore and so he can’t latch on the same way. It won’t last long (I hope!) as I can see one of his teeth is almost through. Let’s hope he doesn’t start biting once he’s got teeth top and bottom!

I hope my story helps someone else who’s struggling, someone else who can only find articles about how amazing breastfeeding is, (It is amazing, but it can take time for it to feel that way), someone else who feels like they’re doing it all wrong, someone else who can’t understand why it hurts when breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful.

Breastfeeding hurts…but it does get better with time. If you can persevere, do, but if you can’t, don’t beat yourself up about turning to the bottle (of formula).

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