When I started out on my first breastfeeding journey after my daughter was born, I thought it would be so easy. It’s natural, right? So that means baby and I should be able to just automatically get the hang of it and we would have a beautiful breastfeeding journey together. Right?
Wrong. The first 6(!?!) months of breastfeeding were terrible. Mac was tongue-tied and by the time it was snipped 5 days later, she had done so much damage to my nipples that it took me months to heal. I’m talking super painful breastfeeding, cracked and bleeding, scabs being ripped off, not even being able to wear a shirt sometimes because it hurt when it rubbed and pumping part-time because it didn’t hurt as much as nursing.
Now, there is a happy ending to this story. I ended up nursing Mac until just past her second birthday. By then, it was only part of the bedtime routine, but it was a nice way to end something that started so painfully for me.
As I write this, I gave birth just two weeks ago to my son and our breastfeeding journey so far has been totally different. Of course there was some discomfort at the beginning and it took some time to get the hang of it. But we asked them to check Leroy right away to see if he was tongue-tied also. He was and we had it snipped while we were still in the hospital. And we are already totally in the swing of things.
Looking at my two stories, I was curious what the differences were. The one thing was flawed breastfeeding advice. Before I had my first baby, I read all I could about breastfeeding and there were two pieces of advice (one biggie!) that kept popping up. And the advice wasn’t wrong, but it was definitely flawed. So I’m hoping I can help some other first time mom and her poor nipples by correcting that advice.
I heard over and over again how breastfeeding would hurt. It was supposed to hurt. And that made sense. Nipples are very sensitive and all of a sudden you’re putting a vacuum on them. Of course it’ll probably hurt.
Wrong. I suffered for days because I thought it was supposed to hurt. It turned out it hurt because Mac couldn’t nurse properly with her tongue tie and while she was managing to eat, she was also damaging my nipples. I just thought it was normal to hurt that much.
If it hurts to breastfeed, and I mean like toe-curling hurt or you can’t wear a shirt because it hurts, you need to consult a lactation consultant or doctor to see what is wrong. It could just be an improper latch or tongue-tie.
The second time around was uncomfortable at the beginning. But after his tongue tie was clipped, we were able to move on quickly.
Every time I read this advice, I laughed. I think I would choke a newborn if I tried to get my entire areola in their mouth. What the advice is trying to say is that you need to get more than just the nipple in their mouth. You should have a good amount of areola in there too.
There are plenty of great lactation consultants out there. In fact, the one that came to my hospital room this time around was great. But not all of them are great and that ends up being very frustrating for new moms who need actual help with breastfeeding.
When I had a lactation consultant help me after my first birth, it seemed really clinical. She arranged a bunch of pillows around me and basically wedged the baby in there so baby had no choice but to latch on. She basically did all of the work of positioning everything. But once I was home, I wasn’t able to recreate that. I had a boppy pillow and no idea how to recreate it.
But the lactation consultant I worked with after Leroy was born worked with me on breastfeeding while laying on my side (which every mother should learn to do for her own sanity!) I utilized that position a lot with Mac and it was so nice to have a refresher. She also let me do all of the positioning so I actually learned how to do it.
If you have a lactation consultant who you feel wasn’t helpful, please ask for a different one! A bad consultant can be frustrating, but a good one can be invaluable.
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