June 26, 2012

Nursing Woes

First things first
The birth story is coming, I promise you that.  But right now, I'd like to talk about nursing RH.  Or rather, the hazards of nursing RH.

She's a good nurser.  She gobbles down milk like no babe I've ever seen.  She chugalugs mightily.  You can hear her little glug glug glugging from across the room.  It's incredibly adorable.

Her latch?  Horrific.

Nursing in the hospital
Utterly terrible.

She has a few problems when it comes to latching.  For one, she holds her tongue to the back of her mouth when she opens up her mouth.  Even when she screams.  No, she has no tongue tie.

That means that, once she latches, she does one of two things.

A) She pushes the nipple out between her gums while she sucks it back and forth.  This is excruciating.  She also sometimes manages to catch a bit of areola in between her gums and lip while she's doing this.
B) She scrapes the front of the nipple incredibly hard with her tongue while she sucks.

Sometimes she does both.

This results in purple and blue, scraped and bleeding, achy nipples of constant misery.  Sometimes with blistered areolas.  Yes, that it every bit as painful as it sounds.

Of course, once she's had a few gulps and starts to get sleepy, I can disengage her and re-latch.  A couple of tries in and she's latched fine- happily chugging away and not causing anybody any pain.  At that point, nursing becomes positively lovely.

Before that can happen though, there is the first part.  The part where I am terrified of putting my nipple into her mouth, lest she mutilate me some more.  The part where I scream and cry and thrash, trying not to cause any more damage before I can get her the hell off of me.

Four nurses in the hospital evaluated our feedings.
My doulas watched this procedure.
RH's pediatrician has chimed in.
They all agree.

There's basically nothing I can do.

The girls know that this is how babies eat
She's getting better, but as she gets better, she also gets stronger.  And as she gets stronger, she gets more aggressive.  She has over the last thirty six hours (or approximately twenty nursings) discovered that she is a speed demon.  She is now capable of snapping her jaws just and beginning to suck so fast you can't even see it happen.  So fast, the my nipple ends up caught perpendicular in between her gums while she begins to suck hard enough to move a golf ball through a garden hose.

There is nothing I can do to fix this, but to wait.  To try to be patient and keep correcting her latch.  While my nipples swell and ache and bleed and maintain a vivid purple color.

The thing is, this isn't exactly unusual.

This is the third baby I've nursed, and the second who seemed determined to inflict pain in the early days.

SI?  She was vicious.  Entirely different, though.  She would get her latch, she would nurse perfectly for a few moments, and then she would clamp her jaw shut like a vice.  There was no opening it.  And I would scream and cry and beg and plead, and do my best to pry her tiny jaw open, all to no avail.

DD was a perfect nurser, almost from the word go.  She never did anything to cause me pain until the day she weaned.

So I know how this goes.  I went through six weeks of agony with SI before she just nursed like you always assume a baby is "supposed to."

And now here I am with RH.  Who keeps fixing one problem, only to invent a new method of torture.

Only this time, DD and SI are around to watch.

DD is terrified whenever I start to nurse the baby.  She wants to know if RH is going to hurt me, if she's biting me, if I'm going to cry, if I'm okay.

She's making cute little noises!
I feel so guilty.

And Grandma and M... they don't like it either.  I wouldn't if I were them.  But frankly, their repeated suggestions that I pump and let somebody else take a turn feeding her for a day just make me mad.  I don't WANT to take a break.  I worry that taking a break is just going to set her back instead of moving her forward.  But it's tempting.  Because my nipples?  They're usually in agony.

Yes, I want to pump.  That's because I have such ridiculous over supply.  Because frequently, RH will torment my nipples and then have nothing to eat.  But I *like* nursing.  You know, once the ungodly awful part has passed.

I'll snap at M about it.  But I won't snap at my MIL.  I'm too grateful that she's here, taking care of my home and my toddlers while I'm recovering.  (The three of them baked delicious sweet potato muffins today.  Who could complain?)  But I'm just going to keep up putting my nipples directly in harm's way and trying to stifle the screams.  And trying anything I can think of to make them hurt a little less.

Gel nursing pads keep them raw, but help with the bruising.  They make my nipples ache each time I take them off.

Cloth nursing pads stick tot the drying blood and then peel away the scabs when I try to take them off.

No nipple shields mean that I'm constantly leaking milk on myself.

Every time a cool breeze goes by, my nipples scream.  Every time I step into the shower, each drop of water makes me wince.  When DD or SI or even M try to give me a hug, a flinch away from the pressure against my chest.

Nursing?  Not so glamorous.

I know it's going to get better.  I know it is.

I know how to get us a good latch.

Me and my girls- you'll be seeing a lot more of this picture
I know what a good latch feels and looks like.  I know how nursing works- I was an awesome cow for almost ten months with my twins.

But I am a sore and tired cow this time around.

One week down.  One week of improved nursing, one week of improved attacks.

Hopefully this time next week things will be better.


And if not, I suppose at least I have one recourse when it comes to bolstering my spirits that was denied to me for most of the last year.

At least now I can pour myself a drink.

FYI- My MIL is awesome.  As I type this, I am eating pigs in blanket (with fake pigs) and a spinach/strawberry/raisin/almond salad with black currant vinegar, she has put my children down for a nap, and she is snuggling my infant.  She is awesome, and I mean no disrespect whatsoever.

...also, I have spoken with a lactation consultant, who is perplexed enough that she's making a house call this week.  Here's hoping I'm doing something wrong and she can fix it.


  1. It just occurred to me - you can't use lanolin, can you? Oh dear. Look, don't snap. Yes, the kid doesn't know better and your family just wants you to stop being in agony. Give the kid another week - if she doesn't get it - please pump. I promise she will go forward as your twins did.

  2. Drink up, Mama. Hope babe starts to give you some relief soon.

  3. I'm allergic to lanolin and my boobs hurt from just reading this.

    Hopefully she becomes less of a little boob monster soon and they get a rest.

    You are super mom for trudging on where 100's..1000s would have quit by now!

  4. Ibuprofen? Alternate with Tylenol? I did that with my firstborn to get through the worst of the pain. I took 800 mg of ibuprofen every 8 hours and sometimes took Tylenol if that didn't do the trick during the worst of the pain. I had 15 weeks of pain with her, no idea what caused it, lactation consultant couldn't figure it out at all but I had soreness, thrush, nipple blanching, all kinds of fun stuff. She was doing something wonky with her latch that made nursing her hell (and pumping was horrible too, I can't pump for doo doo) and nearly gave up a few times, heck the lactation consultant told me to give up and I told her that wasn't an option, finally had to find extended nursing groups for help (moms who nursed past a year) and was told to keep going that sometimes it took a few months and I finally just got past that point but it wasn't fun, my nipples looked raw and horrible for awhile there too at the beginning. To this day, I'm still amazed I nursed her as long as I did because I honest to goodness do not know how I got through those first 15 weeks. I would call the lactation consultant crying, the pain was so bad at times.

    But back then, it was just her, I didn't have other little ones to worry about and I'll admit too, I struggled with post partum depression not long after that whole ordeal ended so definitely making sure to take care of yourself is of utmost importance. Hope you get something figured out though!

    1. Thanks so much for the support! We're doing much, much better now. A few weeks of working at it, and she's practically a pro. :)

  5. I understand perfectly. I couldn't my first to latch correctly and I'd gotten used to a routine of doing that over and over and I couldn't get out of the habit I put myself into. My nipples were miserable. I winced with each latch and I had to breathe through each feeding which lasted for 30 minutes each time. I ended only nursing for about 4 months, which I regret, but it was my own fault for not seeking help. When we were expecting our second, I expected to have problems. I invested in nipple butter which is perfectly safe for nursing babies & it's natural stuff. It's a cream and almost makes your nipples feel numb. It was awesome. However, I ended up not needing it for my second because she managed to get the latch right after the first few days. I had to not let her have her way when she was hungry & she wasn't patient either, but she was willing to do whatever it took to eat. Someone gave me a description of biting into a hamburger as far as getting the correct latch & holding my breast right & all of a sudden it clicked. Our only problem now is getting her to wean now that she's getting teeth & not gently "popping off". I know it's hard & painful, but don't forget your baby feels your anxiety & any tension you feel whether she's on or not which can contribute. Stay calm, invest in nipple butter, and you can do it Momma. Oh, I also read that either cabbage leaves or lettuce leaves help.

  6. Just shared this with my LC friends. Hopefully some will stop in to help! I'll be back later to add my 2 cents! Hang in there mama!
    ~Mama Pants

  7. Hey there! Wish I had more advice that others haven't probably already told you a billion times... I'm a friend of Colleen's and just thought I'd come over and see if there was anything I could offer. The only things I can offer are
    1) I've been told millions of times that breastmilk itself is one of the best healing agents... try to put that right back on the nipple after and let it dry.
    2) Do you have any kind of numbing agent you can use a few seconds before latching? Like orajel or something? That you can then wipe off right before latching on? It might help you keep from cringing right at that moment.
    3) I know it seems crazy, but a little education in behavioral therapy with the baby might help... if the latch is bad, break the suction right away. No matter how many times it takes.... try to give lots of positive reinforcement (petting, cooing, kisses etc) when the latch is really good. or even somewhat less painful. And the hardest part is conditioning yourself... it's crazy how our own tense-ness and stuff totally radiate. I don't want to go all "auras" and what not on you, but there is biological evidence of hormones and things that the baby can sense when you tense up before a latch. Maybe for a few days just dedicate a quiet subdued place without any audience to try latching and see if maybe the baby will be able to concentrate more on getting the perfect latch and less on all the surrounding stimuli? Might help the learning curve a little?

    I dunno - I wish I had more magic wisdom, but I'm really super glad the lactation consultant is coming for a visit!!!

    Oh... and crazy enough.... try sticking a washcloth in the freezer, and then sticking it in your bra instead of a gel pad for a little bit. Help to reduce inflamation of the raw parts. ;-)

  8. You are a stronger woman than I. I breastfeed perfectly for about a month before the agony began. My daughter drank me dry, completely dry. It was horrible. I tried to pump to get the supply up and take supplements and herbs to help, but nothing. Once the bleeding and constant pain began I was done. I hope you have better luck in the upcoming weeks. There is no shame in pumping, but I understand the loss of contact and touch with the little one. Though I will try to pump more with future little ones, I never liked it much.

  9. I don't know whether you read these or not. Your answer is a cranio sacral therapist. They massage while you breast feed and it all works amazingly. I am reading backwards so it comes to Ind that it could help terrible threes also.

  10. I only skimmed the replies.

    My FIRST suggestion is to offer the breast a little differently - cause your nipple to point UP, touching the roof of her mouth. That might cause her tongue to massage the proper place on your areola, and as your breast relaxes in her mouth it *might* actually help teach her the right hold. Worth a shot!

    I am a massage therapist myself, but I didn't even think of cranio-sacral therapy. Those are specialists, which I am not, but that is worth a shot also!

    I see you're allergic to lanolin, which I was going to suggest. Before lanolin cream, moms used vitamin E, which you can find in a vit store. Might google it; might be one you'd need to wipe off (not a pleasing prospect, I'm betting). I like the orajel suggestion though!

    Hoping and praying your LC can provide some help! I found you on MBC, and am a WIC breastfeeding peer counselor, as well as having nursed my own 5 children including continued current nursing of my twins. :)



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