Breastfeeding – My Little Slice of Hell

So as you may or may not have read in my first birth story, my son was handed to me just minutes after being born and I was asked if I wanted to try breastfeeding. Okay, (and to quote Bon Jovi) I’ll give it a shot. Well, what do you know, it kind of worked! He knew exactly what to do just like the baby that instantly started nursing on an oblivious Brooke Shields in Blue Lagoon. What was I so worried about?

When I was pregnant, birth didn’t scare me, breastfeeding did. My logic was one way or another they were going to get this baby out of me and I would only have to endure anything horrible for a short period of time, whereas, I was expected to breastfeed for a MINIMUM of three months. The thought terrified me and grossed me out all at once – I consider the word “suckle” one of the most disgusting words in the English language.

After having a good sleep and the drugs started to wear off, my son started to cry. Okay, no problem. Blue Lagoon! Although, it wasn’t Blue Lagoon. This time it kind of hurt and as soon as he was finished he started crying again. Now, I suppose all women are wired to react when their child cries so they don’t let them starve in a sock drawer somewhere but I can’t express the surge of panic I had when he started to cry. It was like chewing tin foil with metal fillings. So I tried the other side, then back again. Now it was really starting to hurt. A nurse came in and asked me if I needed help and I said, as casually as I could “yes, please” and she proceeded to show me her version of the perfect way to latch a baby. In the two days, I was in the hospital, five nurses showed me five different ways to breastfeed properly.

By the time I left the hospital I had five different versions of how to breastfeed, a tube system to attach to my breast to supplement feed formula because my milk hadn’t come in and nipples that felt like a cheese grater had been used on them. I was warned not to use a bottle because my son would get nipple confusion and not to use the tube system for too long because he’ll get used to that too. Then I was given a nice “Bye, bye now! Good luck.”

Once I got home, I got a call from Public Health who automatically checks in when you come home with a baby to see if you’re about to drink Drano. I told her about my breastfeeding troubles so she offered to come over the next day to help me out. She ended up showing me yet another way to feed him then proceeded to ask me a variety of questions including whether or not I was I afraid of being hurt by my husband – who had at some point fallen asleep while sitting upright on the couch holding the baby beside me. Then she left. It still didn’t get any better.

Finally, on the third day, my milk came in. I couldn’t believe it. My body was actually producing food. It was like dispensing jelly beans out of my elbow. I was still in severe pain but at least my son wasn’t crying constantly. So I decided to call Public Health again and see if they could tell me what was wrong with my latch. After all, everything I read said breastfeeding should never hurt. So the woman on the phone told me “No, it shouldn’t hurt but you should expect an exquisite pain.” Pardon? Exquisite pain? Is that like delicious death? No, I would just classify this as “pain pain”. Not only was she useless, I now pictured this 50-something sadomasochistic nurse in a gimp outfit undoing her zipper-mouth to take calls from us frightened new mothers.

Finally, I went to see a lactation consultant at the hospital. I wasn’t too keen on this as I had heard horror stories from friends about these breastfeeding nazis that essentially tell you to stop being such a damn baby and feed your child as nature intended and send you home with a “breast is best” brochure. I think I actually wore pajama pants to the appointment as this was day six of my living hell and I was looking like a worn out bowling alley whore.

She came in weighed my son and told me he was gaining weight then asked me to show me how I fed him. I whipped out my boob because, at that point, she was the only one in the free world who hadn’t seen my tits. (On a side note, I think it’s so unfair that when you’re the most embarrassed about nursing it’s when you’re the least experienced at it so you have to strip down to your torso, use two hands and a pillow just to do it.) Anyhoo, she took a look and said “You’re doing a great job. Your latch is perfect, you just need to get used to it. It’s never easy in the beginning.” Well, I felt like a rock star. I can’t tell you the relief I felt to know that I was actually doing it correctly and that I just needed to get my boobs broken in. It took about 3 or 4 more days after that and the toe-curling pain that went along with him first latching subsided and I ended up nursing him until he was around 16-months old. 16 MONTHS. Crazy non?!

The whole point of this post isn’t to scare you. I’m just so pissed that most breastfeeding material kind of fails to mention the bumpy start that a lot of women have. It’s a great way to feed your kid. Hey, I did it with both my kids but I don’t think it’s always a Blue Lagoon experience for everyone and women should be given the support they need if they are trying to get through those dark days to get to their very own Blue Lagoon even if it’s just a Turquoise Puddle.

What do you think? Do you know if there is great post-natal support where you live? Let me know because I know this varies significantly depending on where you are. What are you going to do, bottle, boob or both?

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