I slowly made my way down the hospitals hallways one day after giving birth, waddling and feeling hesitant to leave the baby for an hour. The loudspeaker had just announced a breastfeeding support class. I had spent the previous night with nurses coming in repeatedly trying to help latch my baby, checking her blood sugars, and eventually trying to give her formula just to sustain her. I felt so overwhelmed and unbelievably confused, wasn’t this supposed to come naturally? While dealing with my body trying to recover from childbirth, I also had these new emotions of having my very first baby that I was so anxious about how to care for. And now here I was, unable to feed her.
I rocked back and forth on the metal chair, trying to find a way to sit that didn’t feel like I had just given birth to a 10 pound baby. And I tried my best to listen to the topics covered in the breastfeeding class. They covered the description of a proper latch (Yes, that’s definitely what I’m aiming for but why can’t I achieve it??) how frequently you should breastfeed at this age (Yeah, I’d love to but I can’t get her to eat at all!) and finally, all the different positions you can hold your baby in to breastfeed (Spoiler alert- I can hold her in all of these positions and she still won’t eat!)
When the class ended I approached the nurse (NOT a lactation consultant) and said, “I really feel like I need a little bit more help. I can deal with the pain of nursing but are my nipples supposed to be cracked and bleeding?”
This was the first time after roughly 10 feeding attempts and all the painful chapping that someone actually told me, “Breastfeeding isn’t supposed to hurt at all.” Finally I was getting some more feedback but I was still lost, what was I doing wrong??
The nurse looked at my shredded nipples and said, “Your baby has an incorrect latch and that’s causing you pain, here use this nipple shield.”
To this day I look back to this moment, at myself as a first time mom, deep in the trenches of motherhood. I want to yell, “LEARN ABOUT BREASTFEEDING!” What is the root of your problem?
We spend the next 6 months of Ellie’s life exclusively nursing with a nipple shield. This meant keeping it clean every two hours, NEVER losing it, breastfeeding for 45 minutes each time, dripping and leaking of the milk, and a slow and steady decline in her weight. The weight decline is what finally brought a specialist in to look at her breastfeeding and tell me- she has a lip and tongue tie.
WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME ABOUT THIS SOONER??
Any time a new mom-to-be has asked me for advice I tell them learn about breastfeeding! I could have been spared so many sleepless nights, so much fear and worry, and so much pain by having more knowledge of breastfeeding and the potential problems that come with it before giving birth.
This post is in partnership with Medela. They have an excellent new resource for moms and moms-to-be called The Moms’ Room that offers FREE breastfeeding education and personalized support! I encourage you all to take advantage of the help and make the motherhood transition a little bit more smooth for yourself.