I nursed my daughter for 13 months, and it was both one of the most amazing and one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Breastfeeding was really hard for me in the beginning; so hard that I would cry over the phone to my dad (yes, it was so bad that I cried about breastfeeding to my father). For the first four months, my nursing experience read like a “troubles in breastfeeding” book. I had oversupply issues, near constant plugged ducts, severe pain, thrush, you name it. The lactation consultants at my daughter’s pediatrician were at a complete loss. The positioning was good, her suck reflex was fine, everything should have been textbook. But instead, I was reduced to tears nearly every time I nursed.
I tried everything that was suggested to me (hot compresses, cold compresses, Soothies, special supplements), and I spent what felt like endless hours at the computer searching for some thread of hope and direction. My daughter even ended up having a frenotomy (a procedure where they clip the little bit of connective tissue under the tongue) to correct her mild tongue tie in the hopes that that would alleviate some of our troubles, but it didn’t help. And then around month four, it just started getting better. I can’t even really say what it was that did the trick (I was trying so many things at once), but the point is it got better.
I am so thankful that I hung in there because, when it was no longer making me cringe in pain, nursing was great! I finally got it. I looked forward to those times with my daughter, and I will never forget the feeling of looking down at her and having her smile back up at me. When I finished weaning, it was bittersweet—I was glad to have some freedom back, but I still miss those quiet times with just the two of us. Now, I’m not saying what anyone else should or should not do—I think every mama needs to make the choice that is best for her and her baby—but if you are committed to breastfeeding, here are some resources and tips I’ve gathered along the way:
- Join a breastfeeding support group if you can (your hospital should have a list of groups for you). I think the encouragement and support I received there were, on some days, the difference between quitting and sticking with it.
- Find a pediatrician with lactation consultants on staff. Who knows if you will even need to use them but better to have easy access to the help if you need it.
- If you are experiencing plugged ducts, I feel your pain, quite literally. Try soaking in warm water and massaging in a firm, circular motion. Also, get the NUK Breast Therapy Warm or Cool Relief Packs. You can microwave them for warmth before nursing to help with the plug, and then you can use the cool function for pain relief afterward. Finally, talk to your doctor about taking lecithin supplements. I took lecithin three times a day, and it really, really helped. But again, talk to your doctor first.
- Try lots of different nursing positions to see what works best for you, and keep trying them. Doing this can also help relieve nipple pain because different positions apply pressure differently. Nursing seemed to get better for me when my daughter was old enough to nurse sitting up rather than in the cross-cradle position on the Boppy.
- Check out these online resources: kellymom, Breastfeeding.com, Ask Dr. Sears, La Leche League, and Dr. Jack Newman’s Breastfeeding Inc. I used kellymom ALL the time—there is so much helpful information there.
- In addition to Breastfeeding Inc., Dr. Newman also created an All Purpose Nipple Ointment that is amazing!! You have to get a prescription from your OB or your lactation consultant, and you have to have it filled at a compounding pharmacy, but it is worth it!
Note: I am neither a physician nor a certified lactation consultant, just a mom with 13 months of hard-earned breastfeeding under my belt. These tips and suggestions are based on my own experiences, but you should always consult your doctor and/or your child’s pediatrician before starting anything new.