Breastfeeding, 3 weeks in.

Here’s where I continue with our honesty in blogging and also indulge in a bit of soul bearing and whining.  Breastfeeding is hard.  I don’t love it.  All those rose-tinted images that I had have been shattered.  Right now, I am sticking with it for intellectual reasons only.  If I based my decisions on convenience, emotions, or comfort I’d have given up 2 weeks ago.  Here’s a bit of a history on the past 3 weeks:

My breasts are very large and I am rather petite.  I’d have gotten a reduction years ago except I always wanted to breastfeed.  And THEN I’d have a reduction.  My breasts have been producing colostrum since my mid teens.  Clearly, I thought, breastfeeding was my destiny.

After my very difficult labor and delivery  I was still committed to get started right away.  Curly rooted on my bare chest as soon as he was placed there, 20 minutes after he was born.  He latched on and seemed to have the hang of it, though he was only getting a tiny bit of colostrum.  In the hospital, I got help with positioning and latch from the nurses and 2 different lactation consultants.  I was determined to succeed.  However, he wanted to suck ALL THE TIME. We couldn’t wait to get home and give him a pacifier so he’d stop screaming if he didn’t have the boob or a finger in his mouth.

Once we got home, I kept at trying to feed him.  It’s normal for the milk to take 3-5 days to come in.  That first night home he was clearly starving and my colostrum wasn’t enough.  My nipples were cracked and sore and one of them had a blood blister.  He screamed for hours.  For our sanity and for his comfort, we made him a bottle of formula (the hospital provided samples) and he finally fell asleep afterwards.

On the 3rd day, my milk came in but his latch was still quite painful.  For the next several days, he would nurse for hours off and on.  He’d sleep for 10 minutes, and then scream and flail and kick. Every time he latched on, he would choke and spit and pop off.  When he did stay latched, he would bite my nipple and leave it blanched white and cramping for hours afterwards.  I was a sobbing, hormonal mess.  Still, at the pediatrician, he was within 2 oz of his birth weight, so we were told everything was fine.

We began to notice that he was extremely gassy and that was what made him so uncomfortable much of the time.  He got hysterical if we tried to lay him flat.  I noticed that the longer he ate, the worse he was, so  I began to limit his time on the breast and things got a bit better.  Then, his poop changed from the normal loose seedy yellow/orange of a breastfed newborn to a dark watery green.  We looked this up online and found that we had all of the symptoms of a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance and an overactive letdown.  (I’ll let you look those up if you are interested, basically I was making too much milk and it was flowing too fast.)  The first cure for this is to “block feed” where you offer only one breast repeatedly over a period of a few hours and only express enough out of the other breast to relieve discomfort.  So I did that.  And I got engorged and was in pain and was leaking everywhere.  But slowly, over a few days, his poop changed back to the right color and my supply adjusted itself.

A visit with the lactation consultant confirmed that we were doing everything right.  It is still a fight to get him to latch properly.  My wrists hurt from supporting his head and my breast.  My nipples ache and burn and sting. The time I sit in my special chair and nurse him is boring.  But, he is clearly thriving and even sleeping in his crib for a few hours at a time.  And so I’ll stick with it.  3 months is my first goal.  That’s when I return to work.  If I want to give up at that point, I might.  If not, I’ll try to pump at work and go until 6 months.  After that, I can stick with it if I want, but I will have met my long range goal.  Right now, that seems awfully far away.

19 responses to “Breastfeeding, 3 weeks in.

  1. Hang in there. Breastfeeding has always been a challenge for me. Different issues, but I’ve been no stranger to pain in the breast area over the past two years. My little boy still asks to nurse just about everyday, and it’s nice to have that point of connection. It’s not been easy, but I think it’s worth all the effort.

  2. If I had a supply like that and knew I was returning to work I might pump daily to get a good supply just in case you decide to quit at 3 months….you might be able to have another 3 months worth in your freezer by that time.

  3. Thanks for the input MM, but both the LC and I agree that pumping right now would disrupt the supply/demand cycle and reintroduce the foremilk/hindmilk imbalance problem. I agree that it would be nice to stock up, but it just isn’t a good idea at this time.

  4. I had a lot of pain and frustration with breastfeeding. It really hurt and my baby wanted to nurse constantly. Everyone told me to hang on til 6 weeks and it would get better. I thought they were crazy because that was so far away. However, it started to get better by 5 weeks. I know it sounds like a long time away, but it stopped being painful and started being easy. And not unlike the rosy image. I did try these ice pack things for BF Moms that I found at T.arget and that helped a little for the rough times. Good luck!!

  5. Oh, honey, I hear you. I thought I would love it as well and I just don’t. At all. I’ve been pumping and having Greta give him a bottle at night to give me a break. I currently have at least 2 plugged ducts in my left breast. Holland is very lazy about nursing and loves to stop and start and take a ten minute break (when you think he’s asleep and put him in the crib). It’s so damn hard. Sending you strength!!!!!!!

  6. My first month breastfeeding Oscar was a nightmare. He had a poor latch, was a lazy nurser and happy to starve, and my milk didn’t come in for three days – his poor nursing didn’t help. I cried and cried and cried. But, after the first three or four weeks things did get better. I hope they get better for you, because when it works it really is magic.

    Don’t be so hard on yourself. “Breastfeeding is easy” is the biggest parenting lie they tell you. It’s hard. It hurts. It can be very unfulfilling and unstatisfying for mom. You are not alone in this.

    Do what you can – nurse, pump, supplement with formula. You are doing the best you can. Be proud of that. Strawberry – tell her how proud you are and how good she is doing. She needs you to hold her up right now.

  7. It hurts. Its painful. Its hard work. My first 6 or so weeks were horrendous- but then it went away. Now she latches on by herself and nursing takes 15 min max. Hang in there if you can. And if you can’t, know you did your best.

  8. I really appreciate your honesty, and do hope that things improve for you. All you can do is your best, which you’re clearly doing!

  9. sounds REALLY hard… i am so sorry. no matter what we read/hear from other women who say it is hard, there is always that thing in the back of our minds that says that breast feeding is natural, it should come easy, babies ”know” what to do… well that is obviously bull&*^t. thanks for keeping it honest.

  10. Oof. I really hope things get better for you! Thanks for your honesty.

  11. No one ever tells you about that foremilk/hindmilk imbalance. When Danny was tiny he suddenly started pooping bright green poop. We had no idea what in the heck it was. Nutella, I can’t comment on the experience of breastfeeding since Su gave birth to and breastfed Danny, but I can tell you that goals are great, but keep in mind your ultimate goal for your son and for yourself. So you might have a goal to breastfeed for a certain amount of time, but really your goal is to give your child a healthy start. There are many ways to acheive that and you are doing that right now. Hope you guys have a wonderful weekend and that Miles sleeps longer and longer every time. -M

  12. Oh Nutella, I am sorry it is so frusterating and painfull. I don’t have any great advice to give but I do have a sympathetic ear. I hope what the other ladies have said about it getting easier is true. Until then though, know that we are always here to listen as you purge some of your feelings and frustrations. Do what is best for you and your family because every woman and every baby is different.


  13. You’ve done great to hang in there this far. Every day extra you give him is a bonus. I think breastfeeding difficulties are another of those well kept secrets. Sure, we all know about them in theory, but in practise they’re HARD. I too had similar issues to start with, but within the last few weeks things have become much easier, quicker and rewarding – I hope they do for you too.

  14. um, this post scared me…
    sending hopes that things improve sooner rather than later.

  15. At three weeks I HATED breast feeding. Like you, I was only doing it because I knew it was good for Little J. I had horrible guilt at the thought of stopping, but it was thus far, the hardest part of parenting a new baby. I met with LC’s, I went to a support group, I vented and complained to friends and family. I asked for lots of support.
    I set my goal at 6 weeks.
    It got better. It really, really did. And here we are at almost 4 months.

    The whole thing is a learning curve, for you and Miles. If you were going to say, learn to speak Chinese by immersion, you might give yourself more than 3 weeks to even get the basics, but it would be frustrating and hard and isolating in the meantime.

    (((hugs))) It will get better, you will get the hang of it, and even if you decide that it’s not for you, you have already given him a GREAT start!!

    Email me if you need extra support.

  16. Good for you for keeping up with it. I hope it gets better.

  17. I remember when I was 10 and my sister in law was bf her first child she had some terrible times. That’s the closest I’ve been to bf so I guess I’m kinda expecting it to be rough when our time comes.

    I do remember taking a torch down to my Dad’s vege garden in the middle of the night to get cabbage leaves which she wore in her bra. I think it helped a lot but I was only 10 so I can’t remember what the problem was in the first place!

  18. I am happy you are being so honest about the hard parts as someone who is about to start that adventure. I hope it gets easier and if not then at least you have given it a really really good try. xoxo

  19. Sorry the first month is so rocky. I found the same thing. Things really settled in by 6 weeks for us. She got much better and so did I. In the early weeks I thought people who nursed for years on end were insane… but then it settled in and was easy and so we kept at it until we were both ready to wean. I truly hope things improve. It’s wonderful you have LC support and are doing what you can to hang in there.

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