My Baby Doll was born in June 2015. She is now 11 months old and we are still breastfeeding. We’ve been breastfeeding right from the start. And it was hard.
Read Doll’s birth story!
For the first 6-8 weeks breastfeeding was the (second) most painful thing I had ever put myself through (the first being childbirth, obviously). I’ve heard some stories and I know that some women had it worse than I did and I applaud those moms. But I wasn’t one of the lucky ones who had it easy either.
This story is not to scare anyone away from breastfeeding. It is well worth the pain. I am sharing my experience so that any moms-to-be will have an idea of what to expect (among other possible experiences) and to offer encouragement to anyone who is currently experiencing breastfeeding pain.
My first couple days of breastfeeding didn’t hurt at all. Or perhaps the memory of the pain has been blocked out along with the childbirth pain.
I recall the nurse asking me if I was ready to breastfeed, shortly after birth (though I have no idea how long after). She showed me how to hold Doll then she rubbed Doll’s lip on my nipple and once she opened her mouth the nurse pushed her into my boob faster than I could blink. Doll was suckling before I knew it.
The first time it hurt was probably the second-to-last feeding before we left the hospital, 2 days after Doll was born. I had a hard time getting Doll latched properly and by the end of the feeding I had hickies (aka bruises) on both my nipples.
After that it really went downhill, especially once my milk actually came in. It became very painful and the public health nurse who comes to your home to check up on you a couple weeks after you’re home bumped up her visit to see me sooner once she found out that nursing was painful. I think she was concerned that the pain would deter me from continuing with breastfeeding.
I spent hours Googling nursing positions and techniques, hoping to find some little gold nugget of information that would magically transform painful nursing sessions to the comfortable wonderful bonding experience I was reading about.
I never found that nugget.
My husband was under strict orders to not speak to me while I was feeding Doll. This was because the pain caused me to have a dangerously short fuse on my temper. I would snap at him no matter what came out of his mouth.
It took all of my attention during these feedings to hold Doll with a gentle hand. I don’t know about you, but pain generally causes me to clench. So I had to really concentrate to not clench on her. However I did squeeze my boob pretty hard. Which was fine because it didn’t hurt nearly as much as the nursing and it actually helped for me to be able to squeeze something and it distracted me from the worse pain.
I actually cried on Doll once while she was nursing. Just once though.
My nipples were so tender to the touch. I almost couldn’t bear to wear clothing. I got a prescription for nipple cream from my doctor but it didn’t help, as far as I could tell. My nipples even bled , which horrified me because all I could think about was Doll sucking on the scabs and how awful that was.
The public health nurse came to see me twice more but there was simply nothing she could do. She had me try different nursing positions but since they took away my ability to squeeze my boob, I couldn’t deal with the pain in those positions. I used the cross-cradle exclusively.
I pumped a couple times with a manual pump but it hurt just as much and in a way it actually hurt more because I wasn’t feeding my baby; She wasn’t there with me, cheering me on with her happy chugging. That made it hurt more. Also, I found that feeding her from a really full breast was less painful than a not-full breast (which, I’ve heard, is the opposite of what some nursing moms find). So even though pumping would have upped my supply so that I would be fuller for every feeding, I would first have to survive feedings on “empty” breasts and I couldn’t bring myself to face that.
I loved Doll to death but I dreaded nursing her. I was determined to nurse though because breast is best and if I could push this chubby baby out my hoo-ha with no medication then surely I could deal with this tiny little pain of nursing. For her. I would do anything for her. All the same though, she started to look different to me. Not as cute. Not as innocent. I still wouldn’t entertain the idea of formula-feeding because she was her adorable, cherubic, little self when she wasn’t hungry.
One day when doll was about six weeks old something magical happened; we had a pain-free feeding. I almost didn’t notice because I was in my happy place. I almost cried with relief and happiness when we finished the feeding and I hadn’t felt any pain. I couldn’t stop talking about it, either. Until the next feeding which was just as painful as usual. A couple more normal feedings and I was convinced it had been a fluke. But then we had half a pain-free feeding the next day. And from there for about a week and a half we had half or one whole comfortable feeding every day.
I developed a theory that Doll had made some miraculous discovery, a new way to suck that didn’t cause me pain. Because I knew it wasn’t anything I was doing. Looking back I think it’s probably more likely that my nipples had finally started to get “calloused” (note: nipples don’t literally get calluses).
By the time Doll was ten weeks old we weren’t having any painful feedings and I was experiencing joy and closeness in our nursing sessions. And we continue still today. I often nurse Doll while lying down now, as we practice co-sleeping right now.
Nursing is a beautiful, wonderful, bonding experience. I wouldn’t trade it in for anything. And even though I’m excited Doll is finally becoming interested in food, I’m sad too because I know it’s the beginning of the end of nursing.
I plan to nurse her until she’s eating a full meals-worth of food when she eats. I will continue to pump though so she will continue drinking breast milk, but it will be from a cup.
Please share your breastfeeding experiences and questions below, I personally read every comment and I do my best to reply to every question.