If you’re reading this, I’m guessing that you’re having trouble dealing with the pain of breastfeeding. Or maybe you’re pregnant and wanting to nurse your baby after she’s born. Oh, wait. I know. You’ve done it before and you’re dreading the pain and frustration of having to go through it again. Been there, done that.
So, let’s just go ahead and say it. Breastfeeding can hurt. It’s one of those things many women look forward to when they’re pregnant, but after three or four days of nursing every two hours, they begin to question if they can keep going. The pain becomes just too intense and that, combined with pregnancy hormones, can be the means to an end.
I’ve nursed all six of my babies, so it’s a breeze for me now, but in the beginning, I dealt with a lot of the issues you can read about in any book on pregnancy or breastfeeding. Pain. Dry, cracked nipples. Bleeding nipples. Clogged milk ducts. I remember it like it was yesterday.
When I was pregnant with my first child, Maggie, one of my biggest goals was to breastfeed her exclusively until starting solids. I was not going to give her an ounce of formula if she was able to nurse, no matter how much it hurt in the beginning. I was determined to do whatever I had to do to make it work. End of story.
The first few days were fine. She was doing a great job…and I thought I was doing a great job, too, but then things started to change drastically. I started out feeling just somewhat uncomfortable, but that feeling quickly spread to a hurt I had never felt before.
The pain was unreal. Every single time I would get ready to feed her, I would tense up and just hold my breath while she latched on. Sometimes I would do a long little squeal with my eyes tightly shut & I’d try to count to ten. Seemed like it took forever.
In the very beginning, I was taking a narcotic that I was given in the hospital after she was born. It covered up the pain in a magnificent way. But, when I stopped taking it, everything became very real. The honeymoon was over.
I’m not going to tell you how to nurse correctly or how to successfully latch your baby on so that the pain is minimal. You can Google a plethora of information and you may, or may not be prepared enough, but before I go any further…
Not all mothers can nurse. Not all babies can nurse. Sometimes what’s naturally supposed to happen just doesn’t for some reason. If your baby is not gaining weight, or worse, losing weight, something is wrong. If your baby nurses & doesn’t fall asleep, but instead cries after every feeding, something may be wrong. The good signs in the beginning follow a pattern: fuss, eat, sleep, poop…fuss, eat, sleep, poop. And the scale should be going up.
Okay. Now I’m going to tell you what you can do when the discomfort truly begins because getting through the pain is the hardest part physically, mentally, and emotionally.
- Come to terms with yourself. If this is something you deeply want for your baby, you must mentally be ALL IN.
- Realize that this is a huge awakening for your poor boobs. They aren’t use to feeding a baby. Even if your baby is the best nurser in the world, there will probably be pain in the beginning. Your boobs have got to toughen up. And they will.
- Learn the tricks of the trade. I have a favorite: Get your nipples nice & cold with ice packs right before you get ready to feed your baby. This will numb the pain. It was the only thing that made latching on bearable for me. It really does work, girls.
- Remember that you are going to have a huge hormonal shift. Getting emotional is going to happen. Your going to cry…you’re going to doubt yourself. But you can do this. You can. If you decide to quit during your most vulnerable time, you may regret it.
- Don’t don’t Don’t give your baby a bottle just because you need a break. Pumping hurts worse, in my opinion, and the nipple on a bottle will cause nipple confusion. Pacifiers won’t. You can try one if your baby keeps sucking, but is clearly dosing off. Your baby won’t get confused when there’s clearly no milk coming out of a pacifier.
- Get to know your lactation specialist. They are wonderful and will support you in every way. Call them if you feel the need.
- Take a pain reliever around the clock. It will not hurt your baby, I promise.
- I don’t buy nipple shields or anything like that because I just feel like it prolongs the goal I’m trying to accomplish, but if you hear that it’s helpful, then by all means..
- Believe me when I say that one day soon, you’ll feed your baby & realize, Oh my gosh…that wasn’t so bad.
And it gets easier & easier. There is no magical potion. There is no set time frame. All it really takes is love and patience from you…
And a little bit of squeezing and high-pitched squealing from time to time…
And ice. Lots and lots of ice.