A Breastfeeding Story:: Not for the Faint of Heart

"THE BOOB BLOG" 

written by: Alyssa Nitz (Mom Squad Member & Volunteer of The Mother's Nest) 

Whenever I am talking to another mom about breastfeeding, whether she breastfed for three days or three years, one thing resonates with us all—breastfeeding is a journey. It is a highly individual, deeply personal journey.

And this journey can be blissful and brutal.

Beautifully bonding or heartbreakingly painful.

Or both.

Every breastfeeding story is different. This breastfeeding story is mine.

I was determined to breastfeed. Before I had my baby, yes, but after my peaceful, unmedicated, birth-without-fear birth plan ended in a c-section, oh I was gonna freakin’ breastfeed. She latched just fine, and I was happy. I honestly don’t remember much about those early colostrum days other than my husband meticulously writing down how many minutes she spent on each breast: 15 minutes right, 11 minutes left. Thanks, babe. That and the fact that it took about two days for my nipples to look like they were mauled by a small, woodland animal. During this time I also remember a lot of talk about the latch. 

The LATCH. It is all about the latch. Get the latch checked. Is the latch too narrow? Is she latching well? Should we have a lactation consultant come and check your latch? Ya know, if your baby has a bad latch, it is very hard to break that habit.

Then they warned me that soon and my milk would come in. Let me tell you when the milk comes in, it comes in. Balloon boobs. Boulder boobs. Squirt gun boobs. It is a phenomena unlike anything I have experienced. Sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the night in a puddle of my own breastmilk. 

I remember, in those early days, holding my giant boulder boob and looking down at the teeniest, hungry-baby-bird newborn mouth, and wondering at the physics of it all. When I went for her first weight check, and she had gained several ounces, I marveled at the fact that my body had supplied this whole person with the food she needed. How incredible. 

As miraculous and awe-inspiring as my baby’s weight gain (and my milk squirt gun boobs) were, all this extra milk led to mastitis. Which, if you don’t know, is the devil’s sickness. It’s an infection in the breast that makes you shake uncontrollably, have a high fever, and look up at your husband and whisper hoarsely, “is this what dying feels like?” It is possible I am a dramatic sort of person.

Antibiotics, of course led to thrush, which is a whole other problem. At this point I was overwhelmed. I couldn’t believe we had another issue. But thrush goes away, and so does mastitis. Our issues, however, did not. I couldn’t figure it out. Every time she would nurse she was constantly pulling off and screaming. 

I felt like I had to force her to eat—so unlike her mama. It was like this every day, every time she nursed. She was so frustrated. I was so frustrated. I thought babies were supposed to like nursing. I thought it was supposed to be a peaceful, snuggly time. Why did my baby hate it? Why did she scream and push me away every time?

After one particularly frustrating attempt, I sat on the couch in my living room and stared down at her screaming while I watched my tears drip drop onto her chest, I realized something may be really wrong. Almost immediately after visiting a lactation consultant she pulled up her tongue and her top lip and discovered she had a severe tongue and lip tie, making it close to impossible to do the motion she needed to do to get milk out. How frustrating to be so hungry, and so close to food, and be so limited in your ability to eat. 

Fortunately there is a procedure that can be done to fix this. A pediatric dentist snipped both the tongue and lip tie, and as brutal as that sounds, it takes about five minutes and is nearly painless, or so I assume considering she didn’t even cry! I cried, though. I cried when she latched the first time after the procedure and happily ate her first full meal with no tears or frustration. I could feed my baby now. 

Then we entered the golden age. I ceased having oversupply, a.k.a. a truly absurd amount of breastmilk. 

My baby actually enjoyed breastfeeding and something happened that for months felt impossible; it became easy. That’s what everyone tells you in the beginning. Don’t worry it will get easier. I waited about four months for the seemingly mythical easy breastfeeding, and it was all the magic I wanted it to be when it finally arrived. I even stopped looking ridiculous when I nursed. 

When you think of a breastfeeding woman you may think of a woman tenderly cradling an infant looking down with a sweet, relaxed smile. Up until a few months ago, that was most certainly not me. I donned a nursing position that I titled “the awkward flamingo.” I would hunch over and lean as far as I could to meet her mouth. I would cock my arm back and use one hand to hold my boob, then use the other to hold her head. I was also a slave to the Boppy. Could. Not. Nurse. Without that Boppy. This lasted for a long time. She was a pretty big baby laying on that Boppy. And the look on my face? Pure focus. Eye of the tiger.

I’ll never forget staring with envy at a friend who emptied her dishwasher while nursing when I was in my awkward flamingo pose. Oh you got tricks, huh girl? And I won’t lie, when I ditched the flamingo and the Boppy and started looking like a normal human when I fed my baby, I felt pretty spectacular about myself. Yeah, that’s right. Look at me here just sitting up straight in this chair feeding my baby.

My golden age has faded in and out of sight as I have encountered plugged ducts, another round of mastitis and thrush, biting, and a very distracted baby doing backbends across my lap as I try to nurse. 

As crazy as it may sound, when I reflect on my journey of breastfeeding, I feel joy.

I loved feeding my baby this way.

I loved cuddling her and holding her close and knowing that I was doing something good for her.

As my plan to wean at a year draws closer, I feel a mixture of sadness at losing something I loved sharing with her, and relief at the prospect of having my body back again.

Breastfeeding seems so simple, but it can be hard.

It can be all-consuming.

It can be comforting, and it can be maddening.

For every woman it is a journey.

For some it is an easy one.

For most it is a complicated one that includes a varied spectrum of emotions.

For me, it has included more highs and lows then I ever could have imagined.

When people ask me how breastfeeding is going, it is so hard to know how to answer. Good? 

Bad? If people really want to know about a breastfeeding woman’s journey, they’d better clear their schedule.

 



FOR OUR BREASTFEEDING MOMS: 

-Upcoming Breastfeeding Class- Taught by our very OWN Lactation Counselor (Sharon Dailey-- Read more about HER & our Lactation Help HERE) is on JULY 25th from 10AM-12PM at The Mother's Nest!