A rocky start.
August 04, 2009

Charlotte was a sucker from the very beginning.

And that was the problem.  She latched on too well, she sucked too hard, and my poor nipples had no idea what hit them.  When Donald placed her on my chest in the delivery room, she rooted for about two seconds before she hit the jackpot.

I would love to tell you that our first breastfeeding experience was filled with light and joy and magic pixie dust, but it was not.  And I would love to tell you that breastfeeding came to me naturally, that I knew exactly what to do and that it felt RIGHT, but it did not.

My first experience nursing my daughter was horrid.  I swore more in the first fifteen minutes of nursing my baby than I did during the entire labor and delivery.  The searing, prickling pain that accompanied Charlotte drawing out my nipple for the first time was unfathomable.

The second and third and fourth experiences weren’t much better.  I swore and screamed and moaned and howled and kicked and squirmed about.  I panicked when I saw how my nipples had been transformed, when I realized that having Mt. Kilimanjaro attached to my breast was “normal.”  When Charlotte was still hungry AFTER a feeding, or when she was hungry TOO SOON after the last feeding, I cried.

REALLY.  The mere thought that I might have to put my hungry baby to my breast sometime in the next few hours MADE ME CRY.

To date, my only postpartum freak show breakdown consisted of sitting at the end of the hospital bed, baby wailing in my arms, while I blubbered on about how MY BOOBS DID NOT WORK, THEY WERE NOT WORKING, MY BOOBS, NO WORKIE WORKIE and my husband tried to pry the baby loose so he could shove some evil formula down her gullet.  It’s much easier to comfort a batshit crazy wife when the baby isn’t causing permanent deafness.

I’m kidding, by the way.  I really did have that breakdown, but I never thought formula was evil.  I actually begged the night nurse to bring a bottle of formula.  The night nurse WAS evil.  She refused.  Apparently the hospital staff are all undercover tit terrorists and they believe breast is best and do not hand out formula to new mothers with bloody scabs on their nipples.

But even the most heartless of night nurses cannot refuse a desperate new father.

And that is how breastfeeding Charlotte kicked off.  We started with blood and abraded nipples and lots of screaming and a nervous breakdown.  Oh, and a six pack of formula, with which we happily poisoned our precious bundle of joy.


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  1. By on August 04, 2009

    I totally remember those days… and I rather forget them! lol. but I did keep going and it did get better after a week. but OMG it was so painful! You would think something natural like that wouldnt hurt so much??
    Whatever works the best for you guys! She is so cute!

  2. By Jaye @ canadian-mom.ca on August 04, 2009

    Ugh, I remember the pain.  Try using nipple cream right after you feed her (if you are sticking to breastfeeding) , it will help with the chapped skin.  Also, the first 2 weeks are HARD, but after that things get better. It’s still no picnic, but my nipples began forgiving me.  Either way, we chose to supplement with formula on day 4 just to keep me sane (usually for those late night feedings when there was NO way I could put up with the pain while tired as hell and half asleep with sore, leaky nips). Oh my poor nips.

  3. By Julie Rivera on August 04, 2009

    I thought I was an amazing breastfeeder for the first two weeks…until the pain medication given to me for my c-section ran out. Then I realized that pain medication was also masking the nipple torment. :) As you saw in the delivery room, no one is handing out gold stars for much of anything in motherhood, be it a compete natural delivery without drugs, or only breastfeeding until the baby is 5 years old. Do what works and what keeps you from going insane!

  4. By Rebecca on August 04, 2009

    Just hang in there! I remember the agony… Mine lasted almost a month. If your insurance covers it, try Newman’s Nipple Ointment. IT SAVED MY LIFE. Or at least my boobs. And shame on that nurse! No one has the right to decide that for you. I would have kicked up a mad hormone-induced shitstorm.

  5. By on August 04, 2009

    When our daughter was born last month and the boobs were slow to work, the hospital pediatrician actually told me that we could be getting close to starving her if my milk didn’t come in soon.  Just what you want to hear with all of those hormones.

  6. By C @ Kid Things on August 04, 2009

    There is nothing wrong with formula, first and foremost. My first son was raised on it. No big deal. Breastfeeding didn’t feel right with him. Almost exactly what you said you’re experienced is what I experienced. My younger 2 kids have been breastfed, though. I can say with experience, the pain goes away after a few days. Your nipples get accustomed to it and you really don’t even feel the latch anymore. My nipples are like steel at this point. As for starving your daughter, believe me you’re not. It might seem that way, it did to me too, but once your milk comes in your body knows how much to make. Like magic! Seriously. Like magic!

    As I said, though, there is nothing wrong with formula. Nothing at all. As long as Charlotte and mommy are happy, that’s what really matters.

  7. By Natalie on August 04, 2009

    My baby is due in two weeks and I’m TERRIFIED of breast feeding. Freaking out over here!

  8. By Vicky on August 04, 2009

    Did you keep breastfeeding?  It gets better.

  9. By Homeslice on August 04, 2009

    do yourself the best favor you ever can and go to a lactation consultant.  nursing shouldn’t hurt. if it does, there is something wrong with the latch, or the hold, or a million other things. it is well worth the money and had i known then what i know now, i would have seen a lactation consultant (and not the free ones that come with the hospital - you get what you pay for) within moments of arriving home.

  10. By Alias Mother on August 04, 2009

    With all respect to Homeslice, I think the “nursing shouldn’t hurt” line is a lie foisted upon us by the La Leche League in a misguided attempt to encourage women to keep going.  For some of us, nursing hurts like hell and no one can establish why.  Nursing is definitely going to hurt if your nipples get abraded and your kid is sucking on scabs.  But do keep at it and it will improve.  I spent two months doing yoga breathing through the first brutal minutes of pain until my nipples toughened up enough to take it.  And that was after plenty of consultation.  I just have sensitive skin and the Buddha was a barracuda.

    Formula is fine.  I also found that pumping was helpful.  It hurts a lot less than nursing so it gives you a break, gives you the benefit of a bottle, and it doesn’t run the slight risk of diminishing your supply that you can face with formula.

    This is a long way of saying: yeah.  I hear you.

  11. By Joanie on August 04, 2009

    Oh you poor thing! I’ve been there. With one of my boys, there was a CHAP under my one nipple that was so deep I was starting to wonder if it was just going to fall off my body. It hurt so bad whenever he’d nurse. I had Lansinoh cream, which I slathered on an inch thick after every feeding.

    That being said, formula is not a bad thing. When my youngest son was born (he was an unexpected surprise of a baby) I knew in my heart that I couldn’t nurse him happily with my 2 year old “problem child” running around and destroying the place while I tried to get a good latch and hold, so I just formula fed him from the first day. He is just as healthy, strong and smart than his breast-fed siblings. Happy mommy = happy baby, whichever feeding style you choose.

  12. By Elizabeth on August 04, 2009

    So glad that it is better now.  I’ve been blessed with problem-free nursing experiences with my first two… I’m a little nervous and hopeful for #3.

  13. By on August 04, 2009

    Nursing hurts like hell. But it doesn’t hurt forever. Women should be WAY better prepared for the reality of nursing. It’s super tough. Definitely definitely get a lactation consultant. Don’t even waste more time. I wasted way too much time before getting one, and those two weeks of pain and hell were so agonizing. I had read every single book on the subject, had tried a million different holds and positions, was positive that no one could possible give me any advice I had not already tried. But, remarkably, the LC came and my world changed and I was able to establish a long and beautiful and painfree nursing relationship with my baby. And with time, my nipples toughened up. THat helps too. Good luck!

  14. By lceel on August 04, 2009

    having been through all all of this (from the boy side of things, obviously), I was still cracked up by “undercover tit terrorists”.

    I hope things are better now between you two and nursing is (should be) easier by now.

    My wife used to use something called ‘bag balm’ to soothe her nipples when she was breast feeding.  Her sister’s husband is a farmer - and HE got her started on it.  Best thing ever for sore boobs.

  15. By laura @ peacoat on August 04, 2009

    i am loving all your new posts because i’m due with my first in october and have no idea what to expect.  no. idea. 

    sure i have mommy friends and a sister, but there is something about your complete honesty that makes me feel like i can do this.  and even if i can’t, well, it’s kinda too late now.

  16. By red pen mama on August 04, 2009

    When I started nursing my second daughter, it was clear that you really do repress a lot from the first time around. Because those first two weeks were brutal on my nipples. I did stick with bf’ing, but I also pumped and supplemented with formula that first year (for both girls). Despite what the lactivists out there say, it really doesn’t have to be all boob juice all the time.

    And Lansinoh makes an AWESOME cream that helps. It does get better. Good luck.

    ciao,
    rpm

  17. By gretchen from lifenut on August 04, 2009

    As someone who has nursed seven children, I have to tell you that “nursing shouldn’t hurt if you are doing it right” is a lie.

    Sometimes, it hurts. It always got better, but at first it usually sucked. Knowing the pain was temporary got me through it, though.

    I wish organizations like LLL would admit that it can hurt, but with time and practice it will (usually) get better. Sometimes, you have to power through those first few weeks of nursing.

    I too cried and cried when I nursed my first. It was harder than I ever imagined. It was bloody and painful and her latch was fine.

    I’ve cried with my other kids when they were nursing newborns, too. We are talking toe-curling pain, mastitis, thrush, you name it, I’ve dealt with it.

    Also? Formula is not evil. Some of my kids had some formula, some didn’t, and you wouldn’t be able to tell who was who in a line-up or while comparing their report cards.

  18. By Heidi on August 04, 2009

    Undercover tit terrorists! HAAAAAA! Bitches!

  19. By Beth in SF on August 04, 2009

    Breastfeeding is SUPER hard.  It takes so long to get into the groove.  God, I remember the bloody nipple blocked duct days.  It’s odd to me that a nurse could deny you food for your baby.  What a bia..

    The only flack I got was actually from the cafeteria lady.  I said she could have my carton of milk because I’m lactose intolerant and she said, “you have to drink milk so you can make milk for your baby!“  Uh, yeah.  That’s why you work in the cafeteria.

  20. By Mama Bub on August 04, 2009

    Amen.

    I had a similar rocky start that included my husband screaming, “You’re CHOKING him,“ and a very, very nice nurse taking my baby to the nursery so I could have my breakdown in peace.  The nursery nurse came in to tell me that he had a strong appetite and would likely need supplementation. Three days later, nursing clicked for both of us.  I never had to supplement unless I wanted to.

    The end.

    Good luck!

  21. By violetismycolor on August 04, 2009

    so sorry that your breastfeeding adventures started with pain…it was not that way for me, I loved every minute of it.  But everyone has their own experiences.  Hope it is going better now.

  22. By erin on August 05, 2009

    Definitely go see a lactation consultant.  You should not dread feeding your baby.  We also had a difficult start including sore and bleeding nipples.  (Those Medela? Lansinoh? cooling gel pads are AWESOME.)  At one point I told Brian that I hated BFing, there was no way I could do this for another day, let alone until she was 1 yr + old.  At her two-day checkup the nurse asked me if I wanted her to show me how to BF without pain, and I just about cried when it finally blessedly DIDN’T hurt.  Even so we had to go back to the LC a couple times when we lost the knack of it. 

    At this point we have pretty much got the hang of it.  BFing is not the most comfortable thing in the world, but it definitely doesn’t hurt and I am enjoying that intimacy with Hannah a lot more.  Just wait until Charlotte starts smiling and flirting with you with your nipple in her mouth.  I wouldn’t chose it over say a massage, but I don’t dread the next 9 months at all (except that I am really looking forward to having my body back to myself).  The Kiddo (and I) are really lucky we had that LC.

  23. By on August 05, 2009

    First of all Congrats on your beautiful little girl. I found your blog a few months ago and love it. This has been weighing on my mind for months now so this is probably more for me than you so I apologize ahead of time but I feel for you.
    I think I had your nurse when I had my daughter back in April :). I was begging anyone who would listen to give me a bottle for my daughter as she was having trouble latching on. All of the nurses and the lactation consultant refused to budge even though my daughter wasn’t feeding at all and screaming her head off b/c she was hungry. The kept on insisting that it’s okay if babies don’t eat right away and that I need to stick with nursing so I wouldn’t cause nipple confusion.  Luckily in the middle of the night, over 12 HOURS after she was born, my hubby tracked down a nurse who FINALLY gave my hungry baby a bottle.
    Baby girl and I never got the breast feeding thing down so I pumped the first 3 months. Mooooo. (Who knew nipples could become that huge). Now she’s on formula and I still have this horrible guilt that I failed her in some way b/c of these breast feeding “nazis”. But I’m not bitter or anything. ha

  24. By Elizabeth Mackey on August 05, 2009

    I think we all as a society lost the patience and know how to breastfeed. I have a good friend who is a Lactation consultant,and she is a god send to women. My sister almost gave up after a week of horrible pain. In steps in my friend ,and by the end of two weeks, she was an old pro and things were great. Point is….have a lactation consultant come to your home for a one on one,and don’t give up. It is very tough the first two weeks, but like everyone says on here says, it gets better, and then very easy! No cleaning bottles or fixing bottles. I breastfed both girls and the first time was super hard,and I had zero help from the hospital, and in 1985, there weren’t any lactation consultants. My oldest nursed until she was 18 months, second one lingered on there until 22 months!
    I know your a tough bird, so you hang in there!!

  25. By Amanda Brown on August 05, 2009

    What is it about night nurses? I have NEVER heard a good story about a night nurse. Good for you for doing what you gotta do and keeping a positive attitude when things don’t go exactly as planned. Viva la formula! :)

  26. By Dianna on August 05, 2009

    I think all I can say here, especially after reading the comments is wow.  And also, hell no.  I have commented here many times that I do not intend to have biological children and this just puts the cherry in place.  Bloody, huge nipples? A mouth attached to them for hours every day.  Again, hell no.  And really, what is so incredibly wrong with formula? I just don’t understand.  To each is their own decision.  Not some nurse’s.  Hope it is getting better for you if you’ve decided to continue down that path.

  27. By repliderium.com on August 05, 2009

    OMFG! I took a wee bloggy break and I come back and you’re squeezed a real live human!!!
    Congrats to you both!!!

  28. By Nin on August 05, 2009

    Yep, go see a lactation consultant. NOBODY finds breastfeeding easy. The first few weeks are always hard because they have tiny mouths and are still learning what to do. If you can make it through the first 3-4 weeks (the pain does get better) it’s all downhill from there. I remember not being able to feed properly for the first 24 hours, but for anyone reading this who is about to have a baby, THAT IS FINE, NATURE HAS DESIGNED IT SO THAT IT IS OK IF YOUR BABY HAS TROUBLE AT FIRST, THAT’S WHY THEY GAIN A LOAD OF BABY WEIGHT IN THE LAST FEW WEEKS SO THEY CAN BURN UP THAT!! Nature is clever like that.

    If you are giving formula now, you could try pumping to keep your supply up and then try breastfeeding again. I both breastfeed, and bottle feed with expressed milk, and all I can tell you is that the breastfeeding experience is wonderful, and I now almost cry on the occasion when he takes a bottle because the breastfeeding is so special. I still express so that we can have emergency reserves in the deep freeze that we can dip into if needs be,

  29. By Joe @ IrrationalDad on August 05, 2009

    Glad I’m a dude….

    Our first couple days were rough… but the her milk came in and we had a happy baby! He had NO interest in formula, so we relied on the boob. It was good until they started going dry and the milk hadn’t come in yet. UGH… memories.

    Hope your boobs start to feel better. Wife’s got very tender/sore/bleedy. I think she used cabbage leaves (seriously, go to google) to soothe the pain.

  30. By Marisa @ where's the party? on August 05, 2009

    When I had my baby six months ago I went through the same thing and doing it while trying to recover from a c-section was no party.  The other problem:  Austin wanted to EAT DAMN IT AND EAT NOW!  None of this waiting until the milk comes in.  He wanted a full three course meal, and he wanted it NOW.  So, yes, in order to keep my sanity while recovering from major surgery not to mention the rest of the women that just had babies in rooms around us - we gave him formula quietly offered by the nurses.

    I assure you he is still alive and well.  He also breastfed once my milk came in.  I still supplemented with formula though because, well, he could eat and my boobs just couldn’t keep up.

    Anyhow, long comment.  Congrats!

  31. By on August 16, 2009

    To Natalie and Laura and all the other moms-to-be reading this:  yes, breastfeeding will probably hurt in the beginning.  But it’s just one of the MANY sacrifices that we make to keep our babies healthy.  I say this as someone who struggled for 7 weeks, with the help of a great lactation consultant, and overcame numerous challenges, before breastfeeding finally felt “right”.  But my baby NEVER had artificial baby milk, and we’re still going strong at 6 months.

    The night nurse was doing the right thing—if you are planning to breastfeed, a healthy, full-term baby does NOT need supplementation in the first 24 hours.  Any supplementation puts you at risk of not developing a full milk supply.  Babies are designed to lose some of their birth weight in those first few days—they don’t need full feedings. 

    There’s a lot of bad advice in the above comments, about babies being “too hungry” and women whose breasts “couldn’t keep up”.  If you give a supplement, you are telling your body not to make more milk.  If you let the baby nurse as much as s/he wants, you are telling your body to make more milk.  Do these people even read a book about breastfeeding?  That’s the most basic concept.

    Artificial baby milk aka “formula” is not “evil” or “poison”, but let’s be realistic:  it’s made from cow’s milk or soy, neither of which are ideal foods for human infants.  Human milk for human babies—it just makes sense. If it’s absolutely necessary, then yes, ABM is obviously better than letting a baby starve.  But anything other than breast milk can be damaging to a newborn’s undeveloped GI tract.

    Sarah, you have celiac disease, right?  Have you read about the “virgin gut”?  I can’t post the links, but search “infant formula” on kellymom.com.


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