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Breastfeeding Success!! ~ Mouse's Breastfeeding Challenges
Written at 12 weeks
At 2 hours old, Emily latched on perfectly and nursed for a full 45 minutes before falling asleep. I thought everything was going to be ok; I had a champion nurser! When she woke up to be fed again a couple of hours later, I could not get her to latch. I called a nurse, and she got us started, but this time it hurt, and she slipped off 10 minutes into the feeding and wouldn't latch back on. It was like this every feeding that day, and by 4am the next morning, I finally let the nurse take her to the nursery so I could get a bit of sleep. She figured I was too tense to do any good, and I hadn't slept since I went into labour 44 hours before. She said she would give Emily one ounce of formula in a cup just to keep her hydrated, and I was so tired I agreed. I tottered off to bed and cried myself to sleep, and woke up bolt upright 2 hours later with worry for my baby. DH showed up a few minutes later, and we went to rescue Emily from the nursery.
The nurse hadn't been able to feed her the formula; she spat it out (smart kid) and fought the cup, so they just rocked her to sleep. We got her back to my bed and with a struggle the nurse got her latched onto me again, and she nursed for another 5 minutes before falling asleep. By this point my nipples were really starting to get sore, she was not latching properly and was just sucking the tip of my nipple.
We went home that day, and I managed to get her latched myself at home, but it wasn't easy. She would try, but she couldn't feel my nipple in her mouth, so she would get frustrated and start screaming, and we had to calm her down before we could try again. It was taking as long as 1/2 hour just to get her latched on, and she would slip off or lose suction so easily. My nipples were very sore by this time; one was cracked, the other had a blister. My mom got me a tube of Lansinoh; I love that stuff! It really helped, but I was still in a lot of pain, it felt like fire every time she latched on. That night was rough, so we called the 24-hour help line and they moved our appointment with the public health nurse to first thing in the morning.
A couple of hours before she was due to come Emily was screaming in hunger and frustration, so I got a cup and tried manually expressing some colostrum for her. After a bit of fumbling, I figured it out, and got around ½ oz in a cup, which she gobbled up. The health nurse asked me to show her how I was latching her, and wouldn't you know it, she latched perfectly right away! She fed for 1/2 an hour while the nurse talked to me, and when she was done, I noticed that my shirt was all wet. My milk had come in! I was absolutely drenched! She had 2 more good feedings that day, but that night she wouldn't latch again, and I was becoming so uncomfortably engorged I thought I was going to pop!
We ended up calling the help line again that morning, and they sent out an LC that afternoon to help me. When she arrived and checked us out, it took no time for her to figure out what was wrong. I have flat nipples and huge DD cup breasts. I was so engorged that she couldn't latch on. She was a fist sucker in utero, and was accustomed to sucking something hard; my tiny soft nipples weren't hard enough for her. And she had a temper, causing her to give up in frustration if she couldn't latch on right away. The LC gave me a nipple shield to try, and for the first time since she was 2 hours old, I had her latched on painlessly. She had a very shallow suck, so the LC showed me how to push down on her chin to help her open wider. She also suggested a medela manual pump to help draw out my nipples, and to keep trying her without the shield to see if she would latch. Of course she wouldn't, so when the LC came back a week later to check our progress, I was still stuck with the shield. She had nipple confusion with it and couldn't latch on to me without it.
It took 4 weeks of constant trying before I got her to latch without the shield, and 2 more weeks to completely wean her off it, and my nipples were getting sore and cracked again. I went back to the LC to try and find out what was wrong this time. She noted that I have a very strong let down, and Emily was slipping her tongue to the back of her mouth against the tip of my nipple to stem the flow. She was also shallow sucking again, something I had corrected while she was on the shield. She had me try a modified football hold with Emily sitting upright so that gravity would help keep her from being overwhelmed when I let down. She did fine in the office, but that night at home, she fought it and wouldn't latch until I had her lying down again.
The LC came over to check on this again, and as a final option, she gave me the number of a doctor at the university who was experimenting with hormone therapy to slow down a heavy let down. She also promised me that Emily would be big enough soon to handle my heavy let down. I decided not to fiddle with the hormones, and just took it one day at a time from then on. I tried the nipple shield again to try and let my nipples heal for a day, but she was used to my nipples by then and the shield just made her gag. I used tons of Lansinoh, and gradually the pain started to get better. She was pulling off less and less, and latching better with each feeding.
Emily is 12 weeks old now, and I have been almost pain free for the past 2 weeks. It isn't perfect yet; I have to use the cross cradle position all the time because if I am not supporting both her head and my breast she will "migrate" or lose suction. I can sometimes get away with the football hold, but I can't do it one handed or lying down yet.
Despite all these problems, I love breastfeeding, and would do it all again if I had to. I love the smiles I get when I lift my shirt. I love the way she gazes into my eyes as she eats. My baby is worth it to me to give her the best start in life. I do get very upset and frustrated by people who give up and switch to formula after going through less than I did, and use it as an excuse all the time. I don't want to hear about sore nipples, or embarrassment. I did it! My problems were NOT typical; so if there's anyone out there reading this and getting discouraged, don't worry! It's a lot easier than I had it, and
I still made it! I plan to let Emily self wean; if she wants to nurse until she's 5, fine by me.