Monday, May 23, 2011

Joys and a Big Disappointment

It's been a long 2 weeks. Our new little family of three got off to a great start, as I wrote in Gracie's birth story. But even with a good start, a few things have been rough. First, the absolute joys:

  • I love not being pregnant. I love laying on my belly. I love kissing my little girl's feet instead of trying to push them out of my rib cage. I love touching my toes and tying my own shoes. I don't miss pregnancy a bit, yet at least!

  • I love cloth diapers! They're easy and fun. We're only doing them part-time while we adjust to our sweetheart, but it's enough to know I'm NEVER spending money on disposables again!

  • I love "wearing" Gracie in her Moby. It's so much easier than a stroller while we're out and about. And at home, I can actually get a few things done. I think a wrap or carrier is a "must" for mommas whose babies are only happy being held -- like mine.

Unfortunately, there's been one, big, huge bummer with having Gracie here. Maybe someone can help me...

I hate breastfeeding.

As good as her birth went, we didn't get off a well on breastfeeding. Since she was born on Sunday, the lactation consultants weren't available until the next morning, when Gracie was nearly 30 hours old. She was asleep when they came in, so we just talked -- they didn't actually see her nursing. We met with another just before discharge when she was over 48 hours old. Now, in those 48 hours, she fed just fine... for her. But she did some serious damage to my delicate skin. My skin was cracked and bleeding due to her ferocious suck. You see, she's a comfort sucker. She'd go for HOURS if I let her.

Well, the LC helped me adjust her latch so she wasn't causing more damage. She also suggested I use a pacifier when Grace just wants to suck, at least while I heal.

Two weeks later I'm FINALLY starting to heal. I don't scream when she latches on anymore -- that was a fun few days (not). I'm glad Shaune was able to take off work because I needed him here to do counter pressure on my feet or shoulders while Grace latched on or I completely couldn't do it. We're past the worst as the skin starts to regrow, but I still hate it.

I almost broke the other night and went to a store to buy bottle feeding supplies. I get why women don't do this. I'm not sure what stopped me, but we're still here, still struggling through it with prayer and determination.

Does it get better, eventually? I really do want to do this for her health and mine, but I just don't know how much more constant pain I can put up with. The problem is that with her being constantly hungry, I'm not able to heal quickly. I have lanolin, and pH-balancing treatments, and "shells" that keep air flowing and clothing not touching. Everything helps a little but my nerves are still so raw. Breastfeeding is just downright exhausting.

I'm really disappointed. I wanted this to go well :( And it's such a big thing, it's overwhelming my joys of everything else. Anyone overcome this before?


Sarah Jane said...

Oh Jenny! :( I am so sorry this has been a bad experience for you. But just think of all the good things the Lord has done and He will get you through this as well.

I did have very sore/painful nipples with one of the boys but it doesn't sound nearly as bad as what you are describing. What I'd do is try pumping milk for a while and maybe cutting down on her feedings to however many times per day you feel up to it, and at other times give her breastmilk in a bottle. It may cause nipple confusion but I doubt it will be any worse than her having a pacifier to suck on. .I'm sure she would get the hang of it. Even if feeding at the breast does not work out this time around, you can still pump and give her exactly what she needs and you can still have a wonderful bonding time while bottle feeding. I have a pump that has various levels of "sucking" ability, so you can adjust the pull on the nipple to whatever is comfortable for you. That may give you time to heal and may give Gracie time to settle into a nice routine for feeding. Malachi nursed VERY hard for the first month or so and then no longer latched on so tightly or sucked so hard. Whatever you decide is best for you and Grace will be fine, I'm sure. You are a wonderful mommy with putting up with this discomfort and wanting the best for your baby! Problems with breastfeeding are VERY common and there is a lot of support out there!

The Stay at Home Wifey said...

It does get better. The early days are the worst as you are both still learning how to make this work, and with some extra tenderness it seems worse than it actually is.

My sweet little boy wouldn't latch in the hospital so I had to express to get my supply going. As soon as we were home he latched like a champ, but wanted to stay latched 24/7 and I got very sore. We did end up using a pacifier to give me a break and help me heal up.

Once we both got used to it I really enjoyed nursing. It will get better for you too. I have a friend who had the same issue as you and she ended up expressing for about a week so she could heal then went back to straight nursing. Once she got past the point of all the pain she really started to enjoy nursing too.

Hang in there and do whatever you need to do to get through this. You will eventually look back at this time and think it really wasn't all that bad. If you need to express so you can heal then it will be worth it. If you can manage without expressing then just keep going until it doesn't hurt anymore. Right now the more she feeds the better your supply will be, which is why it feels like she wants to nurse 24/7. As her tummy grows and she gets more efficient she will shorten her feeding times and you will eventually get a break, but almost constant nursing is very normal for the first several weeks (or longer)

Serena said...

Keep at it. It will get better. The first few weeks are really, really hard. It IS worth it, though, to persevere! I know you want to be enjoying this time and it seems like it shouldn't be so hard, but with your first, it just IS hard.

Before I start talking too much, it's never too late to call a (good) lactation consultant and get help.

With my first, I was having pain while still in the hospital. I mentioned it to one of the nurses and she completely dismissed my concerns with a flippant "Oh, I remember it hurting when I first was nursing my kids." So we went home, where the pain got worse and worse (oh, and my milk came in realllllly fast) until, finally, at 3 am on the third day after she was born, I looked at my husband and cried wildly, "This hurts too much! I can't keep doing it!" Up to that point, I'd been completely dedicated to breastfeeding. My mom came in the morning and she recalled curling her toes with the pain in the first two weeks of nursing (basically suggesting, not unsympathetically, that I just needed to stick it out). But I wasn't willing to do that. I knew I needed help, so I called the main local lactation consultant. She came within a few hours--on a Sunday!--and the relief was immediate. The pain was still there (there was healing that had to take place), but it was bearable. What followed was a week of my husband pumping my breasts (it was a double hand pump, so I needed help), then nursing (my breasts were too full for my daughter to latch on without pumping first), and then using a tube on my finger to give her expressed milk. I would have kept pumping, and had who knows what happen, if it hadn't been for the pushy lactation consultant at my daughter's 1-week check-up. She insisted on checking our latch and making sure she was nursing well. I was not happy about it, but she undoubtedly saved me from a pumping to bottle-feeding slippery slope. After that appointment, I stopped pumping and just nursed, and it got so much easier. I nursed my daughter for two years.

It's so hard with your first. But it really is worth it to stick with it, and it will get better! I know how hard it is, truly.

Gracie is gaining weight, right? So she's getting enough. With my second, she had the same desire to suck, even when not hungry, and I had to give her a pacifier fairly early on.

I have a friend who is a breastfeeding peer counselor at our local WIC (which has the highest rates of breastfeeding in the state--I'm in CA). I could ask her anything you'd like to know, or just give you her email. She has direct access to the lactation consultant that helped me, since that LC is The LC at this WIC. :)

I've also heard that has helped mamas who were having difficulties breastfeeding.

I know it's so hard, but I think that breastfeeding is so wonderful and special that it's worth fighting tooth and nail for! Before my niece was born and I saw my sister-in-law breastfeeding, if you'd asked me how to feed a baby, I'd have answered, "A bottle, right?" And I've now nursed two children for over 4 1/2 years. (Though, not tandem!)

It does get better!!!

I'm praying for you, that this would get easier and enjoyable, that you would have joy and strength in this difficult time.

Mrs. G said...

You've gotten some excellent advice already so I won't write much. I had a Doctor when our first was born and he gave me the advice to pretend I was on a deserted island with the baby, nobody else was there or was *going* to be there, now you'll nurse that baby or he will die. End of story. He wasn't mean about it or anything and I took his advice to heart and have applied it many times since in all kinds of parenting situations. You CAN do this and yes, thankfully, it does get better. I've had breast infections so bad I was delirious, I had 4 babies in a row where for the first 3 months I had a new clogged duct every 3-4 days. That was so exhausting and disheartening! Nursing can really be tough but you'll see a difference in a little while, you're asking your skin to do something that it has never done before. It will take a while to get used to it.
I smiled about your "sleeping on your stomach" comment, that is so me!

Rachel B. said...

Jenny! Oh how I know your frustration and discouragement, but HANG WITH IT!! It WILL get better! Have you ruled out a tongue tie?

I ended up pumping for two weeks after my son was born and working on his latch during the day. He switched just fine when I was ready to go to the breast full-time! When we finally DID get there (even though is was only two weeks it seemed like an eternity!) it was SO AWESOME!! I praise God that I was able to stick with it and nurse him for 15 months!

Also, with my daughter (second baby), she latched RIGHT on after birth and NEVER had a problem with her at all! So just because you're having problems with Gracie, doesn't mean you'll definitely have problems with your next baby :) Though, I did do a lot of praying before she was born that our breastfeeding relationship would be better than with my son :)

I will be praying for you!

Dixie Sargent Redmond said...

It gets better. It's been a long time, but I remember this well and it does get better. Just keep in mind that any breast-feeding you do is giving your baby benefits. I remember reading somewhere to put Vitamin E oil on cracked nipples. Also, to encourage yourself, I would have a basket of comforting rewards for after you nurse....lotion for your hands, etc.

And I want to say, you're a good mama persevering.