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Monday, January 10, 2011

Breastfeeding is hard


I started this post months ago and am now just getting back to it. These types of posts take me some time to sit and write... which doesn't happen often.Italic

I know breastfeeding is a hot topic so here is my disclaimer: I am just sharing my experience. I believe that breastfeeding, how to do it, how long to do it and whether or not it works for you is a personal decision.

Of all the things that come along with motherhood, breastfeeding was the most surprising. For something that is so natural, something that has been done forever, it just didn't seem to come that naturally. I mentioned the trouble with breastfeeding briefly in a post and was amazed and grateful for the comments and emails I received regarding the process.

First off, I'd like to shake the people that say it doesn't hurt if you get a proper latch. I mean, like pick-up and really shake them. As if it's my fault that it hurts in the beginning.

Come on people, there is an industrial strength Hoover vacuum disguised as an innocent looking baby trying to suck liquid out of my body through my nipples.

Tell me how that doesn't hurt?

All those nurses popping in and asking me if he has a good latch. Um, I think so, I mean my toes curl and I have to hold my breathe while he sucks but he seems to have my nipple half-way down his throat... does that count?

Eventually a pediatrician came by the hospital room and told me it would hurt for a few weeks until my nipples toughened up. He was right.

I never thought I would pray to lose the feeling in my nipples.


We weren't really sure how the whole breastfeeding was going to go because of my breast cancer history. I received 35 rounds of radiation to the left breast and didn't know if any milk would come in on that side. There isn't a lot of info for women who have cancer treatments and then have babies afterwards as it isn't that common.

At the hospital I diligently nursed on both sides and quickly noticed how incredibly painful it was on the left. Eventually it was dread-the-next-feeding, stifle-a-shriek type of painful.

By the first day I had my suspicions that nothing was coming out. I worried that the poor kid was putting all this effort in with no reward. I know this is a common fear for many moms. I knew that if he didn't nurse on the left, no matter what the milk wouldn't come in, so I kept plugging away.

The first few days were the normal blur but I was constantly worried that he wasn't getting enough to eat. In the hospital we documented every time he nursed, every time he went potty and I crossed my fingers things were going well.

By the 4th day I was positive nothing was coming out on the left and unsure if enough was coming out of the right. He was constantly crying and always wanted to eat. I mean, non-stop fussing and rooting around. He would latch on like a starved animal, suck voraciously and then slowly slow down. I would nurse until he fell asleep and start the process again 15-30 minutes later. He seemed hungry all the time and his tummy was making funny little noises. He kept giving this high-pitched cry and I was at my wits end.

Peanut had urinated only once since he was born. I made a few frantic calls to the nurses who would tell me that he was getting everything he needed. Then I would explain how he wasn't going to the bathroom. Nothing, no bowel movement, no urination. They told me to get ahold of the doctor as soon as his office opened in the morning.

I spent most of the night in tears and completely sick to my stomach that Peanut was hungry and I wasn't feeding him. B stood in front of me looking completely helpless and trying to comfort me. I didn't sleep at all that night. Not a wink.

I remember wondering how long this would last. I was so tired I was shaky.

It's an incredible responsibility being the sole provider of that which keeps your child alive.

When we went to the doctor in the morning it took her 2 seconds to tell me that he was dehydrated and that I needed to give him a bottle immediately. She popped one open right there in the office and he sucked down 2 ounces in record time.

I have never felt so relieved. I wanted to cry I was so happy. She explained that it might not have been my plan but I needed to supplement with formula until my milk came in and I produced enough.

My thought was screw the plan.. my plan is to feed my baby. Thats the plan. I was on the verge of having a complete breakdown. She loaded me up with formula and sent us on our way.

It was like having a new baby. He stopped fussing and crying. He ate, he slept and I felt like I could breathe again. Just typing this out, thinking about that night made my stomach flip.


For the record, do you know what happens when a baby continues to try to nurse while nothing is coming out? Your entire nipple turns into a blood blister and eventually a big scab. It's not pretty. It also doesn't feel very good. Poor little Peanut, he sure tried, but I never got milk on my left side.

I continued to breastfeed and eventually my toes didn't curl whenever he latched on. It would have been nice to have two working breasts to give the right one a break but you gotta work with what you've got. I would breastfeed, then bottle feed, then pump. Totally exhausting.

I'm exhausted re-capping those few days. The first week is just pure craziness. If I ever have another baby I'd like to skip the first couple of weeks please.

Rest assured that there are a lot of things I really love about breastfeeding and I'll post about those soon. Peanut is thriving and a happy baby now that we're feeding him. :) We've gotten into our own groove and the Peanut gets a combination of breastmilk, formula, bottle and breast.

The kid is like his father... he doesn't care what type of food it is or how he gets it, he just likes to eat. Thank God.

All photos taken by Adrienne Gunde


  1. This is why I love you! I've never posted about breastfeeding cos I'm scared of the disapproval and patronising comments from people who have had a great time with it.

    I'm completely fine with my lot being formula fed (with a happy mother) but still every now and then there's a moment of sadness when other people talk about how awesome it is and I sometimes want to smack smug braggers who talk about how easily their baby learnt to feed!

    You're amazing. Completely amazing! Peanut is clearly thriving with all the goodness you give him from your milk, formula and above all the adoration, snuggles and utter dedication you and B lavish him with. Keep doing what keeps you coping and you'll continue to be the best mummy your little peanut could ever want.


  2. My daughter is expecting her first baby in two months and I have warned her---repeatedly---that breast feeding hurts---REALLY hurts!! I honestly have a scarred nipple because of HER breastfeeding---scabs, yes, pain, YES---so glad you found a groove that works for you AND your sweet baby. So glad you posted---because you KNOW there are other mommies out there who are going thru what you went thru---

  3. You are a wonderful Mom!!! luvuallbye

  4. So proud of you for telling your story! It's SO not easy. Happy you've found what works for you- and peanut!

  5. Thank you so much for this honest post! As a first time mama-to-be in a matter of weeks it is comforting to know that if I experience the same path I'm not alone. I'll definitely be thinking of you, and this post, when my toes curl the first time. :) Glad to hear it doesn't last forever and your little Peanut is one happy baby now!

  6. You poor thing. I can't imagine your first few days. And you are absolutely right--as long as your baby is thriving-isn't that what really matters? I thought breast feeding was so easy, but I'm not a breast cancer survivor. I had friends that bottle fed. Breast feeding was a nightmare for them. And ALL of our kids are healthy! It's all good. I'm proud of you for sharing. I'm sure you made a lot of Mom's feel releived today.

  7. BF'ing hurts like nobodies business. I thought it wouldn't hurt as bad with the 2nd, but oh my word. It took a week of intense torture, and I'm pretty sure I grew new know, kinda like a starfish does when it loses a foot (star point? tentacle? whateva?) - I had a hard time nursing Q, and the only thing that kept me sane was knowing he ultimately wouldn't starve...there is always a bottle! He eventually figured it out -- and sister was a breeze compared to him. still hurt!

  8. DO NOT feel guilty about breastfeeding and if you do it or don't do it. I did it for 4 weeks when Caden was born. It was THE HARDEST thing I did. It didn't come naturally and Caden had a big appetite. After 4 weeks of no sleep, postpartum, and people telling me I should breastfeed, I made the decision to stop. I wrapped my breast up, went through days of pain and stopped. People (my sil) would tell me I should nurse etc. etc. but I had to do what was right for us. At 17 yrs. old now, it didn't hurt Caden one bit. He is fine. I can't stress enough to you that "this to shall pass" and don't sweat a bunch of stuff. In the end, they grow up and make is just fine. Things that you worry over when they are growing up (like bottles in the bed at night:) just work themselves out in the end.

  9. i didn't breastfeed. i didn't want to. i did feel a little judged etc... but it was never something i wanted to do. i wanted to thoroughly enjoy every second and for me it was an easy choice. you have to do what works for you and not worry about what other people think. my girls grew up just fine.

  10. This is an awesome post. It IS hard. No matter what anyone tells you. You are doing what is right for you and your baby.
    My first was the same way. Took a bottle, or boob. Breast milk or formula. It made things so much easier.
    Now, the other two were a little more picky.
    Keep up the good work mama. Peanut is happy and healthy and that's all that matters!!

  11. Yep. Breastfeeding hurt me so much the first couple of weeks that I wasn't sure I could keep going - plus Lexie kept horking up everything anyway (turns out I had too much Iron in my supplements).

    You nailed it though...the point is to feed the baby, not win a prize for Best Earth Mom, and anyone who tells you different can go blow. Not to put too fine a point on it. :)

  12. I tried, I really tried because it was "the right thing to do" but when he was getting up every 2 hours because he was still hungry... After 1 month I had enough. I switched to formula and he took to it so quickly that my feelings were almost hurt. Every baby and every mom is different. It's the first couple of weeks of breasfeeding that are the most important anyways (so I heard). :)

  13. Thank you for sharing! I had a difficult time breastfeeding my firstborn also and almost gave up when I had a bout of mastitis. I too had a few weeks of toe-curling pain and actually winced while reading about yours. Luckily I kept at it and am proud to say that I breast-fed my 3 little ones for a grand total of 26 months. I now tell all first time mom-to-bes that yes while breast-feeding is natural, it is also painful but if you can get past the first 2-3 weeks of pain then you will see the light at the end of the tunnel! You're a great mom and I truly enjoy reading about your experiences.

  14. OH my goodness, I can't imagine what you went through!! You must have been going insane with pain, no sleep and hormones! Breastfeeding is SO hard!! Not for some, but for me. It was painful for quite a while, and then after it wasn't, I kept getting painful blocked milk ducts. Ugh. Thank God for formula. That's all I have to say about that. And you know I'm a natural, organic, tree hugger type of gal. And yet...THANK GOD FOR FORMULA!! :o)

  15. Oh sweetie, I laughed when I read this because I had the scabs too! That said, when we finally got all the bugs worked out, it was AMAZING and I completely LOVED it!! I was sad when it ended, right around six months for both kiddos. I just flat ran out of milk and no amount of fenugreek could bring it all the way back. But anyway, it was a great experience with one, and a lousy one overall with the other, so I suppose it's like pregnancy- no TWO are exactly alike! I can't believe I came to see you in the middle of all that haze. You sweet thing!!

  16. I honestly don't know how I stumbled across your blog, but Im glad I did. I teared up as I read this, because I really believe every mother goes through this (although I think you had it much harder- given your BC history). It can be very difficult to bf your baby, and it's scary as all heck in the beginning- is he/she getting enough, is the milk they're getting enough nutrition, etc.
    I remember crying and holding my babe in the hospital because my milk hadn't come in, and she was crying and nursing nonstop (and I was tired, hormonal, in pain... you know the deal ;)) Bring on the Lanolin!
    I totally feel for you, and am happy that you are comfortable with the decision you made. I sometimes think there's too much pressure on women to breastfeed, and in the end, it all about what is best for you and your baby.
    :) Glad you both figured it out, and congratulations on your little Peanut.

  17. I didn't have too much trouble with breastfeeding and we settled in pretty quickly. I was lucky. That said, I can't even imagine criticizing someone over this issue. Every single person's body is different so what right does anyone have to criticize another? Do what works. Period. Guilt is a waste of energy. Please don't abuse yourself with it.


  18. You know, I had a very similar experience with my second child. He was really little (5 lbs) and I worried and worried that he wasn't getting enough milk from breastfeeding alone. Finally, called the Dr. who fit me in for an appt. the next day and he wasn't getting enough. So he went on a combination of breast milk and formula and did just fine! (He's 6 feet tall today and has a little boy of his own). Don't worry, just enjoy!!! It's all good....

  19. WIth my first little guy my milk took lots fo time to come in, and I too had blisters, scabs, pain that was worse than labour.. where your body actually runs away from you back up the bed or chair you are in to try get away, and then its better! Well done for pushing through. XXX SO wonderful that you are offering him the best start that you can!

  20. As a woman who someday wants kids, I absolutely love that you aren't afraid to post the nitty gritty. The real story. Not, "oh breastfeeding is this wonderful miracle and special bond with your baby and feels like angel kisses." No, you talk about the pain, the scabbing, the HOOVER. Ouch! You are amazing. You are pure motivation girl! So happy you, B and Peanut are into a nice little groove and things aren't as nerve wracking. Thank you for not sugar coating things and teaching me that I have a LOT to learn before I have a little one of my own. :-)

  21. Bless your heart, sweetie! Breastfeeding IS hard, I don't care what anyone says - and I didn't even have any cancer treatments! One of the best pieces of advice was from a friend of mine who had her baby 2 months before me - she told me that if nursing wasn't going great, just give him some formula, and go back to sleep! You are too emotional/stressed to add on the worry of that! And we did - that first night in the hospital when I was crying, and I didn't think he was latching on, we just gave him some formula, and everyone was happy (well, mostly happy - it IS hard to convince yourself you're not a failure when our culture is so adamant about this) But eventually, we found out what worked for us, and I'm glad you did too. The pressure we put on ourselves is crazy sometimes! By the way, nursing my 2nd child was an absolute joy - completely different experience (first baby actually nursed me out some nipples! heehee!) And it was just so much easier. (Of course we had them really close together, so that may have helped too.) Hang in there - the first baby was BY FAR the hardest for me - all the pressure you mentioned of being completely responsible for this other person! Love you and your little Peanut!

  22. I called our doctor after my baby went 24 hours without a wet diaper (she was three days old.) She told me to get formula into her in whatever way possible and that if she didn't pee within the hour I had to take her to the emergency room. I did, she peed. All was well. We're now nursing pretty well, but nursing DOES hurt in the beginning, no matter what. It hurt less the second time around if that's and consolation. What I intended to say when I started writing this was, we all feed our babies. That's all that matters. The method doesn't really matter and why anyone makes it their business is beyond me.

    Thanks for writing this!


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