A recent birth of a friend's baby has prompted me to remember the many woes I've had as a breastfeeding mother. The first was definitely the hardest. Everyday I wanted nothing more than to quit. I endured everything from bleeding nipples, clogged ducts, overactive letdown, poor latch, constant engorgement, a baby who fussed every time he was put on the boob, clogged ducts, and mastitis - all of this in just the first few weeks. Every time, I went to the pediatrician, I'd explain all my nursing woes hoping that just maybe, she would suggest that my baby was lactose intolerant or anything that would make giving up breastfeeding guiltless. Nope.
I kept asking myself, just how I was going to bond with this baby if I couldn't resolve all these breastfeeding issues. Isn't breastfeeding suppose to just come naturally? I thought all you were suppose to do is insure a good latch and everything pretty much was suppose to take care of itself - at least that's the impression I got from the breastfeeding class we had taken. At the time, I didn't find breastfeeding to be this beautiful bonding experience I was told it was going to be. I was shocked to find out it was a very complicated process with a steep learning curve.
My nursing sessions at first went something like this..
1. Drain milk out enough to latch boy on.
2. Attempt to latch boy.
3. Boy screams, latches, screams, latches, screams.
4. Proceed to drain more milk out to reduce flow, but not so much so that it encourages more milk production and therefore more engorgement.
5. Attempt to latch boy.
6.Boy screams, latches, screams, latches, screams,latches, but finally stays on.
7. Realize that the pain I am feeling is due to poor latch, and reluctantly unlatch.
8. Boy screams.
9. Attempt to relatch boy, more boy screams, latches, screams, latches.
10. Still latched incorrectly, but endure pain since I am desperate to get the milk out and feed the boy. Will deal with bleeding nipples later.
11. Cringe a bit at the pain.
12.Unlatch, and hope boy is still interested in nursing. Pleeeease be hungry boy. There's a whole other boob ready to burst.
13. Repeat steps 1-12, if not partially empty other boob manually.
Eventually I incorporated the use of the breast pump, but soon found out I was clogged. Despite the engorgement I never became clogged before using the pump. To this day, I only use it in desperate situations, because I firmly believe the unnatural pumping from my imperfect breast pump somehow changed or stretched my ducts, so that now I suffer from chronic clogging. Especially if I don't get my engorgement under control - something I've only been able to accomplish by getting the boys on a loose feeding schedule because I've dealt with this even with my second child.
When I started dealing with chronic clogging, I had to add the following to the routine.
Before step 1. Hot compress boob for 10 minutes.
Between step 10-11 Manually massage boob while boy nurses to make sure boob drains evenly and completely.
Step 14. Deal with ducts that didn't empty, and do whatever needs to be done before mastitis sets in. For the love of god, not mastitis.
Eventually, the boy and I got better at the latching thing, I didn't get bleeding nipples anymore, and I got better about dealing with the clogged ducts. Through my experience, I learned that the key to successfully breastfeeding was to have a solid breastfeeding support network, to take it one day at a time, and to always be informed. I eventually grew to love our nursing sessions and even went on to nurse my son past my 6 month goal until he was 18 months when I was a bit sad about giving up the intimacy that comes with nursing. I am currently still nursing my second, and it's definitely much easier the second time around.
(I found the following website to be extremely useful when I first started off nursing. It got me through many, MANY of my issues.)