When I was pregnant with my daughter, breastfeeding wasn’t really on my radar. I was so preoccupied with the birth and the fear of a torn vagina that breastfeeding didn’t really enter my mind, apart from the fact that I knew I wanted to do it. I’d seen so many women before me just whip out a boob and feed so naturally that I assumed it’d be like that for me. I thought it would be cake.
My boobs were ginormous and my baby was only 2.7 kgs so right off the bat, it was physically challenging. I had a shitload of milk but despite loads of help from the midwives in the hospital, my Maternal and Child Health Nurse and a private lactation consultant coming to my home, my girl and I just couldn’t find our groove. I started to dread feeding time because my boobs were in bad shape and the pain, my God, it felt like someone was sticking a hot poker on my nipple for the ENTIRE time she fed, not just for the “ten seconds or so at the beginning” that they tell you to expect. My milk was pink from the blood and my breasts were constantly filled with rock hard lumps. I got mastitis and then over-produced milk because when she didn’t drain them properly, I expressed or cried under the shower as I tried to get rid of the excess.
Before having my own kid, I never understood why women would get so upset when they’d say that couldn’t breastfeed. I’d think, just give them a bottle of formula, big deal. As is always the case when you’re a Judgey McJudgeypants, it was a big deal for me. I felt like a total failure and so guilty that it had gotten to the point where I hated feeding my baby and would cry as my body tensed up and my toes curled in fucking agony.
The turning point came one day when my sister was sitting with me and as I removed one of my breast pads, a piece of my nipple came off with it. “You can’t keep going like this,” she said, “you’ve got to try nipple shields.” Every professional I had spoken to told me to steer clear of them – that they would diminish my milk supply and interfere with the “connection” between my baby and I, so I had been resistant. Mainly because I just couldn’t bear it any longer, I sent my husband out to buy me some and that next feed was like a gift from the Boob Gods.
From that moment on, nipple shields became my best friends. I used them for the entire eight months that I breastfed and while I can’t speak for every woman, for me, they made no difference to my supply at all. What they did do was make breastfeeding a relaxed and pleasurable experience for me and my baby; no more stress and no more toe-curling agony. The only drawback was that a) they had to be washed and sterilised and b) they made ‘discreet’ breastfeeding an impossibility; both of which I could deal with.
While I am definitely no professional on the subject of breastfeeding, what I will say is that for some women, it can be a challenge; one that can mess with you physically and emotionally. My advice to any woman struggling and wanting to breastfeed is to give them a go – even if it’s just to give your nipples a little relief and time to heal before you try again. Or keep persisting with support, or give your baby formula; just do whatever works for you so that you can actually enjoy feeding your baby without pain or guilt or pressure – because being a new mum is hard enough on its own.
By the way, my mangled nipple recovered quite nicely. And yours will too.
Sophie from The Young Mummy recently talked to Monty about the hard time she had breastfeeding, you can check it out here:
How was feeding for you?