One of the hardest things I’ve ever done – and certainly the thing I find the hardest about taking care of a baby – is breastfeeding.
First of all, I have to call bullshit on whoever said that breastfeeding, if done properly, should not be painful. I’m sure there are some people out there who have had pain-free breastfeeding experiences, but I know a whole lot more who have not.
I’m now four weeks into breastfeeding my second baby and we are only starting (yes, just starting) to get the hang of things. When I breastfed my first son, we were doing everything “perfectly” and yet I was still in constant pain for almost six weeks.
Prior to Bo’s birth, I tried to mentally prepare myself for potential breastfeeding challenges. I knew it would likely hurt me, at least for a while. I also knew that, like the first time, I would do my very best to stick it out.
What I didn’t expect was a tongue-tied baby who would chomp the hell out of my nipples, causing them to crack and bleed. Good lord, that hurt.
Once we got the tongue-tie diagnosed and treated, things started to slowly improve. My nipples have healed nicely and feeding Bo usually doesn’t hurt anymore.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, it’s still really, really hard.
Getting Bo to latch is sometimes a challenge. He dive-bombs my boobs, but straightens his arms so that he’s pushing against my chest, keeping his head away from my nipple. Then, once he’s finally on, I have a crazy strong letdown. He often coughs and sputters and pulls off the breast, sending a stream of milk shooting everywhere (often right into his face). That makes him more angry and makes it even harder to get him to latch back on. Usually, in these instances, he ends up coming on and off the breast a number of times, taking in way too much air and, ultimately, spitting up and gagging when he’s done eating.
Other times, it seems quite easy. He latches right away, empties one breast and gives me a nice burp. These times, he’ll often curl up into a ball on my shoulder or chest and doze off into a nice nap.
The calm, easy feeds give me hope. And then the crazy, milk-spewing, screaming feeds make me want to cry.
Bo is also a barfer. Littleman was too, but I guess I kind of blocked out that memory. With Littleman, the pediatrician called it “self-correcting”. He would eat too much and spit up the excess. For Bo, it only started about a week ago. Sometimes it doesn’t seem to bother him, but other times I can tell it makes him uncomfortable. It’s always worse when we have the crazy off-and-on feeds. Otherwise, he generally just spits up if we lay him down too soon after eating. This is easy enough to manage during the day, but in the middle of night, it can be torture. The other night, after a nice stretch of sleep, we had a terrible feed. Then, it took me an hour and a half before I could get him to stop spitting up so I could lay him down in his bassinet (which, we have propped on a rolled towel so he’s on a bit of an incline).
Finally, there are my breasts themselves. As I said, the actual feeding doesn’t hurt anymore. But my boobs aren’t totally pain-free. I seem to make a lot of milk and my breasts get very uncomfortable when they are full. Sometimes I feel like I could feed a small country (thirsty, anyone?) And then there are the random letdowns throughout the day (sometimes when I’m feeding Bo, sometimes just any old time) which still hurt like hell. There’s the fact that I haven’t found totally comfortable bras yet. And, of course, there’s the leaking. I hate nursing pads but I have to wear them if I don’t want to leak all over the place.
So, basically breastfeeding is freakin’ hard. But I will keep with it in hopes that Bo and I can grow into it together.