She Says… Breastfeeding, Take 2

Those of you who have been following for a while know that Owen and I had just about every breastfeeding issue in the book. Undiagnosed tongue tie. Reflux. Low milk supply. Weird nipples. Thrush. Undiscovered food allergies/sensitivities. Lipase. I struggled through and allowed (forced?) Owen to nurse with a bad latch that resulted in blisters and cracks that didn’t heal for months. Figuring out our breastfeeding issues completely consumed me and I was like a crazy person trying to fix things, some of which probably didn’t even exist. Even after giving up feeding from my actual breast at the doctor’s orders, I exclusively pumped for another month or so, which nearly broke me.

Needless to say, once I switched him over to formula and the dark cloud that had been hanging over my head dissipated, I could finally see clearly enough to see that IT WAS NOT WORTH IT. Keeping formula out of my child’s mouth for those months was NOT worth the strain it put on our relationship or our lives.

This time around, the ONE thing I promised myself I would do differently was not to put the same pressure to breastfeed on myself or my new baby. I would give breastfeeding a good, solid try, but if it didn’t work out, I would nourish my baby however I needed to, and would move on. No drama.

You already know that Emmett’s birth was quite different from Owen’s. Emmett came flying out at shocking speed. He was facing the right way and didn’t have a cord wrapped around his neck. I actually got to experience that moment of having my newborn put right on my chest seconds after he was born. The cord pulsed. I cried and cried. Immediately, instinctively, he bobbed his head around and shimmied himself over to my nipple mere minutes after his birth. He sucked. Just the way he was supposed to.

Now any mother will tell you that having a good “sucker” does not perfect breastfeeding make. There’s a lot of work involved. But I will say that right off the bat, Emmett seemed to be really, really good at his part of the relationship. I asked for help at every turn (nurses, doctors, midwives, lactation consultants at the hospital, lactation consultants out of the hospital, attending a breastfeeding support group, etc.) and told each person that although this is my 2nd child, I want to start from scratch. Help me. Teach me.

In the first few days before my milk came in, I was diligent about getting Emmett on my breast every 2 hours. He sucked and sucked and sucked and every time a medical professional came in my room they praised both of us on a good latch. Still, when I left the hospital, my nipples were red and blistered. And it hurt. It was worlds better than what I had ever experienced with Owen, though, which gave me the confidence to keep trying.

Since my milk has come in, it’s gotten easier. We’ve found positions that work. I’m learning more about my boobs and how they work. I have one side that makes very little milk and has a slow letdown. Sometimes Emmett has the patience to work it out; sometimes he doesn’t. The other side makes a lot more milk, but unfortunately is the side that has a crack that hasn’t healed and hurts like hell when he first latches on (even when the latch is “correct”). If I count to ten, though, the pain dissipates and I can actually discern what lactation consultants describe as “tugging/pulling sensation, but not pain”. Something I never felt with Owen.

So we’re going to keep on keepin’ on. I’m getting some APNO (all purpose nipple ointment) to heal that crack, and hopefully that will stop the searing pain I feel when he latches on. We’re also going to introduce a bottle in week 3 (next week), and while I’m going to start pumping during the day to make that bottle out of breastmilk, I’m not opposed to possibly trying a little formula at night to get us through his hardest feedings that are beating up my nipples. We’re figuring it out together, and I’m doing my best to stay far, far away from that dark place I went with Owen. I’m just going to feed my baby.

The most helpful resource I have found on breastfeeding (aside from a one-on-one consultation) is Isis Parenting‘s breastfeeding webinars. They have a live webinar every Thursday at noon EST where you can ask questions to Nancy Holtzman, a certified lactation consultant as well as my personal friend and guru about just about everything baby-related. (If you’re on Twitter, TOTALLY follow her. She knows everything.). They also record the webinars so you can listen whenever you have time.

Last week I wrote to Nancy with a list of questions about my breastfeeding issues and she invited me in for a personal consultation and asked me to be a guest on the live webinar. It was hilarious, actually: Nancy propped me up with pillows in a conference room and helped Emmett latch, and then we chatted about boobs and milk and positions and the joys and sorrows of being a brand new mom live with people all over the country. Here is a recording of that webinar if you want to listen in.

All of that to say… breastfeeding is going. It’s not perfect, but Emmett and I are doing our best to make it work. I’ll keep you posted.


*Please note: Breastfeeding is still a very personal topic for me. If you’re going to leave a comment that is negative about my decision to give my baby formula, or telling me if I “just work harder, breastfeeding will work out”, just don’t. I will delete it. I do not write this to open myself up to criticism; I do it to share my story and possibly validate the others out there who experience a rocky road to feeding their baby.


27 responses to “She Says… Breastfeeding, Take 2

  1. I would just like to commend you for trying and tell you that I love your sane and balanced approach to breastfeeding this time round. I am expecting our second in January, and with our first, breastfeeding consumed me and for a variety of reasons it just didn’t work. I can’t tell you how much I relate to your descriptions of being in a ‘dark place’. It was the same for me – I was so sad and stressed and I am sure I made Abigail stressed too. When I finally made the decision to feed her formula I too never looked back and actually began to enjoy first time motherhood. The guilt and regret dissipated. She was happy and fed, and I was happy. This time round I wasn’t sure I was even going to try to breastfeed, but I will. But if it doesn’t work out I am not going to become a miserable person over it. I know breast is best and all that, but frankly what is really best is a calm and happy mother. I think the demonisation of formula makes it that much worse when mothers just can’t carry on breastfeeding. I wish you much luck and enjoyment in your breastfeeding journey this time round and I admire your strength in giving it an honest try. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Ouchie, cracked nipples are no fun! So glad that things are different this time around though. My first was a an amazing breastfeeder and I can’t lie and say my second wasn’t pretty darned good but he was SO much more aggressive and while still in the hospital my nipples got creases and cracks.

    Lanolin was my best friend. I globbed that stuff on after every feeding and it made the next feeding SO much better than if I didn’t. Hope your nipple cream does the same!

  3. I read this article after your blog post this morning and had to come back to share. Cracked me up 🙂

  4. Oh I remember that “toe-curling” pain all too well. I wanted to punch anyone that said “it’s not supposed to hurt if he’s latching correctly”. To that I say bull sh*t! I kept saying 2 weeks, 2 weeks because I had read somewhere your nipples catch up after 2 weeks and the pain starts to subside. I counted down every day…and luckily for me the pain started to be a bit less around 1.5 weeks in. It still wasn’t comfortable for a while after but it was manageable and I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. We are 13 months in now and planning to encourage weaning soon. Good luck!

  5. I had terrible pain (cracked nipples, shooting pain, etc.) all three times, but with the first and third, the pain went away after about two weeks and then it was fine. My supply evened out after a while, too. My second kid had a slight tongue tie and it took me over a month to figure out that the pain wasn’t going away because there was something actually wrong. The tongue tie wasn’t actually affecting his intake so we didn’t snip it, but it did make him latch incorrectly. I worked hard to “retrain” him and the pain finally disappeared.

    Hopefully since Emmett seems to have the hang of latching, you will heal and your pain will go away. If not, don’t torture yourself. I think your outlook this time around will help you too, since you’re not stressing so much about the whole thing. Whatever happens, you’ll take it in stride. Good luck!

  6. Kate I love how you’re so chill about breastfeeding now, typical second time mom! My left boob is my overachiever, and that’s where I had my worst crack. India HATED that side when she was Emmet’s age and feeding was SO painful. But now that she’s a little older (13 weeks) and hungrier it’s her fave. I used a nipple shield for a couple of weeks to reduce the friction (under the supervision of an IBCLC). Sounds like you’re doing an awesome job. More pics of those two cuties please!

  7. Go get some Lansinoh Soothe gel pads. I kept them in the fridge and put them on between feedings. I swear they worked wonders for soothing and healing tears.

  8. Good for you Kate. Good for you. I’m glad that things are going better, but I’m also glad that you aren’t putting that pressure on yourself again this time around. You know what is best for you and baby and you know what you have to do to make things work for you!! Go get’em momma! 🙂

  9. Caroline s.

    At my six week check up with my obgyn she asked me “how the nursing was going”… and I said… “Oh you know, just feels like little jolts of lightening…” I think that just about sums it up. I used the lansinoh nipple cream that they gave me at the hospital and it worked great for the soreness. I remember looking at them after about a week and thinking “ummm, are they supposed to look that way?” I had blisters and cracks and it hurt like hell when she latched on. I found the football hold worked great for me as I could control her head and pop her on when her mouth was open wide enough. Good for you for giving it a second try, whatever works for you is the best!

  10. Hey Kate I don’t know if anyone has suggested this to you but my favorite position to BF was Heart to Heart – google it, I was shown YouTube videos on it my a lactation consultant. I use it now sometimes with patients as an OB nurse and for some it is the best latch and all that. Also, with my little man I hurt every time he would initially suck for at least 2 months. I wasn’t cracking, he had was happy eating but I kept thinking I was doing something wrong. Finally, I talked to a friend with many kids and learn that first suck can hurt and it is normal, toe curling we called it. Lots of professionals will say it is not suppose to hurt, hurting is a sign something is wrong. I think that is too much pressure on patients. And as long as it goes away, you don’t get cracked I think it is ok to hurt early on as your nipples just use to such a powerful suck. Hope this helps!!!

  11. Well, as I have told many a new Mum – I have five children (now ranging from 22 to 11), and I challenge anyone to work out now which child was fully bottle fed, which one was fully breastfed, which one was breastfed and supplemented with soy formula (allergies), and which two were breastfed and supplemented with milk formula … pretty much guarantee you can’t tell the difference now!! From my experience, some babies are born to breastfeed, and some struggle – and there is wayyyyy too much guilt put on mothers who struggle to breastfeed!

  12. Wow! You are an amazing woman. I have been a Lactation Consultant for 20 years and it breaks my heart when my colleagues and I cannot find ways to make breastfeeding more comfortable for motivated women like you. Please know that you have my utmost respect no matter what decisions you make.
    I will definitely listen to the webinar.

  13. I hear you sister! Lol
    I too went to a very dark place breast feeding Eve. We had very similar issues, tongue tie, reflux and an over supply which meant I pretty much choked her. After 3 months Eve shut up shop and went on a total nursing strike. Drinking from a bottle was just more comfortable for her especially as she could control the flow, not get ‘hose piped’ by my breasts and her tongue tie was less of an issue. To say i was absolutely devestated is an understatement, we tried EVERY avenue but Eve just wasnt having it. I was so upset to lose that amazing bond that i was in tears 3-4 times a day (even now my eyes prick a little…..good grief!) So I pumped until she was 8 months old, 6 times a day, 7 days a week. Looking back I think I got a bit depressed during that stage and if it wasn’t for her eczema I should have stopped earlier just to regain some sanity.
    Anyway! After that emotional brain dump, I just wanted to say breast feeding is such an emotional personal experience (add a pinch of hormones and a dash of pressure and blend until nutty) you should do whatever feels best for you and your family. DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP (hypocrite? Me? No!……oh ok) A happy & tear free Mama is what really counts. I wish I could go back and tell myself that rather than have memories clouded by ‘failure’ and tears.

    I hope you and Emmett continue to kick breast feeding ass. Enjoy your new ‘breast friend’ and if it doesn’t work out? The world will keep turning and you will both be fine.
    Big hugs

  14. BFing DS2 is SO MUCH better than BF with DS1. We’re almost 11 months in to our EBF relationship. He nurses, he eats a lot of solids, and has never had a bottle (because he hates them, not because we didn’t try.) I hope you find whatever success looks like for you, and don’t be afraid to try a few different nipple creams. I loved the little tiny tube of lanisoh they gave me at the hospital – it lasted forever, but I also really liked this stuff by nuk that came in a stick.

  15. Today was the first day in 9 months that I didn’t nurse. I feel like a kid on the first day of summer. So…um…yay breastfeeding? I found for early nipple pain that letting those suckers air dry as much as possible was the best way to heal them. Just pull the blinds down first (learn from my mistakes)

  16. Thanks so much for sharing this Kate! It is such a personal, emotional topic, and I am so happy to hear that not only are you having more success the second time around, but you also have a more relaxed attitude about it!


  17. So glad that things are going better so far with Emmett and that you’re approaching things with less pressure! I love all of the information you’re getting, too, about your supply and letdown. I feel like since I’m a second-time mom and second-time BFer, all of the nurses and lactation pros at the hospital kind of glossed over us … which is not cool because I’ve had the nipple pain/cracks that you described – I never had that with Elle.Wesley has an amazingly strong latch, but it tends to be shallow if he’s feeling at all lazy, and that’s what did the damage to me in the first few days. I’m at a point now where it sometimes hurts when he initially latches but then the pain goes away. I did some reading/asking of friends and was given some suggestions on allowing them to heal (using breastmilk/air drying whenever possible) and different positions, like the football hold for a deeper latch. I’ve always found it so fascinating that something so “natural” can be so freaking complicated, and just like with every pregnancy/delivery/child, every BFing experience can be so dramatically different as well. Best of luck to you and Emmett for continued breastfeeding success but most of all a happy, healthy mama and baby!

  18. How am I going to phrase this in a way that is supportive of breastfeeding without offense…it’s a difficult task, for sure. Let me preface this by saying I know you wont change your mind if you decide to use formula, and I certainly don’t operate under the pretense that an internet stranger can have any impact on how you parent. This comment isn’t necessarily directed toward you, but to your many readers who are soon-to-be parents, first- and second-time parents who want to nurse but might not be sure if it’s right for them, or people that are struggling with breastfeeding (because your blog will probably pop up in a Google search in relation to that subject). I see a lot of popular blogs that are basically advertisements for formula usage, even if the author doesn’t intend for their words to come across like that. Everyone has a choice, but I really feel like there needs to be more support in the realm of nursing, someone new parents can relate to (like you) who are seen breastfeeding, more coverage of normal breastfeeding (instead of the so-called “extreme” cases we see in the news), etc.
    I read your posts long ago while you were breastfeeding Owen. My take on it was that you were feeling a lot of pressure to keep going despite really wanting to relax about it. Then there was the guilt. I know you want to avoid that this time around. I don’t blame you. No loving parent should feel guilty doing what they think is right for their child and family.
    I am sure you’re aware of every other alternative to formula: donor milk that’s widely available (especially in a city as large as Boston– and to name two local banks). The arduous task of pumping (getting a great pump like the Medela Pump in Style Advanced–it’s what I use and I’m notorious for a low supply with pumping, but this really gets the milk flowing!) will let you avoid those pesky blisters and stimulate your milk supply in a similar suckling motion to a newborn’s feeding.
    There’s considering the possibility that you were struggling with a mild or moderate case of postpartum depression and your brain elected to focus on breastfeeding as the culprit (being a take-charge, problem-fixing kind of gal that you seem to be) so that you could feel in control of it. I get that. I experienced very strong PPD with my second and I looked everywhere but in my own head as the problem. Again, I’m not saying that was it–I have no way of knowing, but this is a more common problem than people think and it’s often misdiagnosed as something else–or nothing, alarmingly enough.
    The point is, yes, you should relax and let things go as they will. It sounds like, with the exception of the blistering, you’re doing great, he’s getting nourished, and you’re all happy. But for all the other mums out there who are worried they aren’t making enough milk, or are stressing about latch or positioning, or anything like that just remember–women have been breastfeeding since the dawn of humanity, It’s very rare (more rare than people think) for these issues to really impact the health of a nursing baby–otherwise, the race just wouldn’t have survived without the (relatively new) formula supplementation. I think some women go through breastfeeding like they do childbirth. They get to transition and think they can’t do it. It’s just too painful. They’re tired and aching and they’d rather be doing other things. But the baby comes out, one way or the other. And in most cases everything works out beautifully.
    Just like I know it will with you (and you, and you, and you over there).
    Sorry for the long comment, but I just had to pour my heart out here.

  19. Oh man, those first six weeks for me were so painful with my daughter! My nipples hurt just thinking about it. I’m trying to delude myself into believing that since I know so much more this time around it won’t be as bad. I think you’re doing a great job of bringing in the support that you need. Too bad there isn’t an Isis near me! I’ll definitely be noting these webinars though.

  20. I am so happy that things seem to be going better this time around with breastfeeding. One thing that really helped me with Anita was smearing a little breast milk on my sore nipples after feeding. It really did help them heal up pretty quickly. Hope this helps with the pain, and keep being the amazing mother that you are!

  21. This brought back memories of nursing my first last year! I followed along your journey with Owen and referred to your posts a lot. I even found Nancy and Isis through you, it only makes me jealous we don’t have one in California!!

    You are doing an awesome job Kate. You know around the 8 week mark some of the breast feeding challenges get easier, and I love that you are just going with the flow and not putting pressure on yourself. I think since Emmet is your second you know that putting pressure and guilt on yourself isn’t healthy for anyone, but as a first time mom it’s really hard to see past the fog and haze. I know I will approach nursing differently with my second, but I will still try my hardest to make it work for as long as possible.

  22. I ended up being an exclusive pumper for 11minths and it is a very personal subject for me as well. We started off breast feeding and had to use formula for a couple of weeks to get his weight up (Andy preferred me as a pacifier lol). So many people tried to tell me what was best for my family and I am so glad my husband and I didn’t listen and we did what was best for us. I am a firm believer that you have to do what is best for you and your family no matter which direction you decide is best. My point is no criticism from this girl!! My god-mother had given me a helpful tip about the cracked and sore nipples. I don’t know if you have tried this, but she told me to rub a little breast milk around after the baby finished nursing or after pumping. It totally worked and was freaking awesome! Oh and good job mom!!! 😀

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  24. You rock for trying again, after everything you went through with Owen! And your attitude is great – being relaxed about it is the best thing (though it can be SO hard, when you’re sleep-deprived and emotional!) I had a hard time with Ethan and I took all the help I could get. We eventually got it right after about a month, but man, the tears I shed over this supposedly “natural” thing. Miles came out and took right to the boob, no issues at all. But he had horrible reflux, which added this new stressful element, because he still wasn’t gaining enough weight. I’m tellin’ ya, these newborns are tough! 🙂 Oh, and even with Miles’s great latch, for at least the first 2 weeks, every time he latched on, that initial pain was SO brutal. The things I have to look forward to again…. 🙂

  25. I had a much similar attitude about breastfeeding JAck– I did my best, supplemented from the beginning, and didn’t beat myself up (as much) when I felt like it was time to stop. Mentally, I was 1000x healthier the second time around.

    And I’m sorry, but I’m rolling my eyes at Sarah’s comment. You’re hardly advertising formula, you’re well aware of the existence of milk banks & you know how to pump. I don’t believe that your (many) difficulties breastfeeding Owen were really an undiagnosed case of PPD. I appreciate that her comments were expressed respectfully, but I don’t think that they are helpful.

    My ob/gyn said to me at my six week postpartum checkup: “The best thing you can do for your baby is not breastfeeding. The best thing you can do for him is to keep his mother healthy.” I was not my best, and several weeks later, I quit breastfeeding so that I could go back on my anxiety meds. Best choice for me & for my boys– they had a much healthier mom!

    So, you do your best. We all do. And if/when you decide you’re done, that’s ok. There’s always going to be someone who can provide you with a list of reasons you shouldn’t, but you know what’s best for you and E. Stay strong.

    Love you, sweet girl.

  26. Eli and I had an excellent breastfeeding relationship, but that doesn’t mean that it was easy! I remember that horrible latch-on pain… and I totally counted to ten, too! I remember it taking about 6 weeks or so for that pain to totally subside. Best of luck, and remember that we’re all behind you no matter what… you’re a great Momma!

  27. APNO is a miracle! I got mine from Skenderian last time and it made a world of difference. I hope it helps you too!

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