I realize I don't talk about my nipples very often on this blog (okay - never) but it's such an important part of the experience of having a baby. And I have to say that my increasing disappointment with the experience thus far was crushing. Helen's first 6 weeks were a disaster. Every time I fed her, I cringed from the pain. Often it would take my breath away. Pumping was no better. I was so tense and worked up over trying to feed her through the agony, I cried at the slightest thing. I finally weaned her when I went back to work, and it was the best decision I ever made. I could actually relax and be happy with giving her a bottle.
This time, I really wanted to nurse for two reasons: formula is expensive, and breastmilk is best for the baby. I know that every baby is different, and I wanted to see if this time might be better. Last time, I was too proud to call the hospital for help. This time, I was more than willing to make sure I had every resource to make it work.
Plus, it really blows Helen's mind, that the baby gets her milk from me. So, an added bonus there.
I got home from the hospital on Friday around lunchtime, and spent the weekend trying not to cry every time Alice nursed. I had a product called Soothies that I wore between feedings, and I cannot recommend these things highly enough. They'll be in every single baby shower gift from now on.
But despite all of this protection and care and continual checking that Alice had the right latch (she did), I had a scab across each nipple from significant cracking from those early feedings. Once the engorgement hit on Sunday, it became even more difficult to get her to latch (imagine trying to nurse on a large boulder) and created more damage. One side was significantly worse than the other. And nursing on that scab 10-12 times a day didn't do much to heal it quickly. In fact, it just made it worse. So on Tuesday, I broke down and called the lactation consultant back.
Best thing I ever did. I sobbed on the phone with a complete stranger for about 20 minutes, and she had some great tips. She suggested that I pump for about a day on the one side that was in worse shape, and then try again with Alice. That first week of breastfeeding is crucial for establishing milk supply, and my pump wasn't strong enough to make that happen. She said it's fine for maintaining supply only. If I didn't get better in a day, I would have to rent a hospital-grade pump to help establish the milk supply.
So after a day of trying to find time to both nurse and pump, I cautiously entered the fray again. To my great delight, it worked. I spent the next two days nursing her from that breast first, in order to create more demand and get the supply going again. I have to say, that last bit was my own instinct (not the lactation consultant's advice) and it worked like a charm.
A week later, we are rolling along at full speed. Many times I have to wake her up to feed her, because she has a tendency to sleep about 4 hours. Now that I'm over the engorgement period, it's much easier, but I still need to establish a good schedule with her. Other times she will go for more cluster feedings, which can be frustrating if she wants to eat continually, and I need to cook dinner. But if the only thing I'm dreading these days about breastfeeding is timing, then we are definitely doing well.