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I’ve been documenting my life as a new mom, including my breastfeeding journey, on my Instagram account and it’s been wonderful to connect with other new and experienced breastfeeding moms. I love sharing tips and suggestions or commiserating when things are difficult.
Along the way I’ve had a clogged duct, marathon cluster feedings and accidentally exposed my breasts to an unsuspecting gardener. Breastfeeding isn’t easy. Yet when I see my son gaining weight and thriving I’m reminded why it’s worth it. Even on the days when I feel like my nipples were stuck in an industrial-strength vacuum cleaner for hours on end!
Minutes after my son was born he was placed on my chest and promptly scooted himself toward my nipple and began nursing colostrum. The nurses cheered and our journey officially began. He proved his proficiency (and appetite) over the next few days, at one point nursing for 47 minutes straight while the hospital's lactation consultant watched with pride. By day 3 my nipples were so raw that I would have to take a deep breath and grit my teeth as he latched on in order to endure the pain. I had to laugh when he held his hand like this, his tiny middle finger somehow capturing my thoughts toward the pain! But I knew I was lucky and was thrilled it was going so well.
My milk has officially come in! I am shocked at the size of my breasts, how they feel like rocks and the sweet relief that comes from nursing. My nipples are cracked and raw, I am making use of every cream and pad on the market and nothing is working. True, the nipple cream helps somewhat, but I have to wipe it off before I nurse and that feels like I am rubbing sandpaper across an open wound so it seems almost pointless to use any right now.
There's that finger again! This is what I think of breastfeeding so far. This, with lots of crying (me crying, not him). But we will continue persevering. The engorgement, the pain, the leakage, the pain, the cracked nipples. He's well latched, comfortable, not taking in air and getting a full feeding, which is important.
I'm just working out the kinks. Some very miserable kinks that left me squealing in pain and crying for nearly an hour. Last night it was so bad that I didn't think I could continue and was ready to send my husband out to buy formula. Thankfully I was able to FaceTime with a friend who showed me some tips and talked me off the ledge. This too shall pass.
Probably not what our gardeners hoped to see when they walked in on my topless sunbathing session in the backyard today: my engorged breasts, an angry rash that persists on my midsection and an adult diaper slightly visible through my hospital panties. Nonetheless I'm glad I treated my cracked nipples and welted belly with some natural sun therapy. Nature knows best!
New mom humor. I tried to schedule my day! My planned agenda for today: Nurse. Shower. Laundry. Clean house. Nap. Meet with car seat safety technician.
What really happened: Nurse. Soothe/burp. Stare in wonder at my son. Realize it's time to nurse again, repeat first three steps. Meet with car seat safety technician and fall asleep mid-instructions. Nurse, soothe/burp, stare. Realize I haven't eaten all day, grab protein bar. Check clock, notice it is 7:30 p.m. and decide to shower. Wonder if it is okay to go to bed at 8:55 p.m. Wait until 9 p.m. to go to bed because it somehow sounds less pathetic. Remember that the best way to make the universe laugh is to tell it your plans, especially your plans to keep a schedule with a hungry newborn!
I wrote my first post-baby blog post for BabyCenter! As I was making final edits someone decided he was hungry. I managed to nurse him while working on my laptop. I had one hand on the keyboard and one holding him. Things went slower than usual, but I feel a huge sense of accomplishment. And my first taste of normalcy in my new life. Today is a good day.
This is one of "those" days. My son has been feeding every hour. My breasts are engorged. My husband goes back to work on Wednesday. My throat hurts and I fear I may be getting sick. I'm still dealing with these postpartum sweats and I just sobbed during our fifth or so feeding this morning. Then I look at his face and it's all I need to keep going, plus my mom will return this weekend to help. My breast pump is currently en route and I can't wait to hand off one feeding a night. I know I can do this, but it is hard some days.
When you are SO tired of wearing a nursing bra or tank 24/7. When you are over feeling your breasts constantly sweat while in the confines of fabric (hey, postpartum sweating... feel free to skip town anytime now). When you just want to hang loose for a few minutes and you think, "what could happen?" THIS happens. Leaks happen!
My pain with breastfeeding has intensified beyond what I can handle and my son's pediatrician thinks I may have a clogged duct. I've hit a wall and am seeing a lactation consultant tomorrow. But for now, an observation on nursing breasts. I feel like my boobs exist in one of two states these days: rock hard like I have a 1970s-style implant inside and practically up to my chin (aka engorged), or saggy and deflated (aka empty, post-nursing) and nearly "dragging on the floor" as my grandma would say. And mid-feed I have one of each type! As seen in this photo, the right breast is like a granite boulder while the left is a popped balloon. And it will all change again in an hour or so. So goes the ongoing saga of my boobs, which I now seem to think about for one reason or another every 30 minutes or so.
The good news is I saw a wonderful lactation consultant yesterday and my clogged duct is on the mend. I'm going to continue working with her and I felt renewed. But today has been hard.
Sometimes I think I'll feel this way forever. Exhausted. Dirty, because, although I showered before bed, I sweat the entire night and can now smell myself. The nape of my neck and back of my hair is wet and gritty from soaking in sweat all night.
That almost indescribable feeling, which can only come from sitting on a maxi pad for hours on end (or in the case of a postpartum mother, WEEKS on end), let's call it warm and gooey, with a constant side fear that it's somehow leaking onto your clothing. I dread the nights because of the sweating and pain from breastfeeding, it's easier to manage the pain during the day for some reason.
I love him on a level I never knew possible and he makes all "this" bearable enough to push through to the next day. We've been cluster feeding again and I feel like I am drawing from an empty well to nurse, to nurture, to survive. I want to be a better wife, partner and friend but...exhaustion. This is all I can do for now, nurse and love my son.
Today I remembered to laugh again. I look like I was run over by a bus, but this is too funny not to share. I was massively engorged, losing my mind and HAD to get out of the house so we went to the store to get diapers. I had put my gel pads on ice and stuffed them in my bra before we left the house, but once we arrived at our destination it was still too painful to take them out. I learned early on in my pregnancy to stop caring what people think (public pregnancy behavior on my part included sniffing my armpits to check if my deodorant was still working AND checking my crotch for wet spots from bladder leakage!), and continued that mentality and wore my pads in the store.
My chest was huge, bulky and they were hanging out of the top of my shirt. People looked at me like...well, like I had things stuffed in my bra. I just enjoyed the cool feeling and knew it was helping my engorgement, and did NOT care. I realized that I had stopped worrying what anyone thinks around month 3 of my pregnancy, and it will continue into motherhood. I love how much more confident and less uptight pregnancy and motherhood has made me. To my fellow moms who have sniffed their armpits, worn gel pads in public or spent a day wearing clothes covered in spit up, we earned this feeling of confidence in ourselves!
Breastfeeding isn't easy, but it is worth it. I know I can do this. And I will continue to endure.
This post was originally published in November 2016
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.