After I had given birth and returned home I thought all the searing pain and toe curling agony was over. I thought I would be snuggling up at home to heal, take photos of my baby and peacefully nurse them as I drank copious amount of earl grey tea and enjoyed the flurry of visitors. Whilst all this still happened in the early weeks of having a newborn, I was really struggling with breastfeeding and was experiencing pain, upset and anxiety like never before. Quite frankly my labour had nothing on these burning, dagger-like sensations I was feeling 24/7 combined with bleeding nipples and soreness that left me in tears.
I had always wanted to successfully breastfeed ever since I got pregnant and began thinking about feeding my baby. I can become quite stubborn and obsessive about certain things and it soon transpired that conquering this breastfeeding malarky was one of those things! I was adamant that whatever obstacles I had to overcome, I would persevere. I respect every mother’s choice to feed their baby however they choose. Every mum has their own personal reasons for choosing breast or bottle, and they are doing a superb job at nourishing that little one whatever route they take. I am stubborn and sadly with the mix of hormones and heightened emotions that flood you in those first few weeks postpartum, I could not consider anything but breastfeeding, even if it left me wincing and curling my toes through each feed. So what problems did I encounter?
The midwife, health visitor and every other online, new mum type website, said the first few weeks will be painful. You will be experiencing an uncomfortable letdown and your nipples will be sore as they get use to this much attention, every other hour, every day! So for the first few weeks I rolled with it. It was intensely painful beyond words but I just persevere as everyone kept telling me it would get better. But it didn’t! If anything, it got increasingly worse. I watched endless youtube videos to try and coach myself the best way to hold Florence and get her to latch on well but it just seemed like something wasn’t right. It didn’t feel natural. It didn’t feel comfortable and it would often take both Rob and I to get Florence feeding on me. Her arms would flail and she would come off and on the nipple countless times. Every feed seemed to go on forever and it was clear that she was feeding very inefficiently as she would constantly seem hungry. All I wanted to do was comfort and feed my baby without feeling physically sick and nervous at the thought and I became so anxious I would hold her rigid and fear that first latch on.
After much much time spent googling I kept stumbling over the same thing. Could Florence be tongue-tied? The midwives had said she wasn’t after she was born but all my symptoms kept pointing towards tongue tie so I sought the advice of my health visitor and then a breastfeeding specialist. They visited me, observed me feeding and checked Florence’s mouth and both said that she wasn’t tongue-tied, told me to express when I could to give my nipples a chance to heal and left me with a handful of Lanolin and the promise it would improve.
Six weeks on and I was still struggling. My nipples would constantly bleed with meant Florence was taking it blood which was so distressing to see. I had blocked milk ducts due to her poor latch. I had developed thrush which meant both I and florence had to be treated and meant I couldn’t wear anything that rubbed on my nipples. Just putting a towel round me after a shower left me tearful and hunch over in agony. I felt I had hit a brick wall and was seriously questioning if I could continue with this. I could no longer hug Florence or hold her tenderly against my chest without searing pain going through my upper body. Even the vibrations of just walking outside with her was too much to bear. So I decided to give it one last chance and contacted a private lactation consultant to see if there was anything else I could do to help this situation improve as I was convinced I was doing everything right according to the text books but her feeds were continuing to give me trauma.
We were visited by the lactation consultant and within five minutes she has established that yes, in fact, Florence did have a tongue tie (a posterior one which is harder to spot but was still very much there!). She snipped the tight skin which left Florence and I in tears but then she encouraged me to nurse her to soothe her and helped me with her latching on and my positioning. Because she had been tongue tied for the passed nearly two months, my little one couldn’t properly latch on and take in all the breast. She was basically just nibbling and struggling to stay attached. I felt so relieved that there had been a reason for all my struggles and it wasn’t something I was doing wrong. The difference in the feeds was almost instantaneous. She seemed contented and I wasn’t in pain during the feeds. It did take another two weeks or so for me to fully heal and for Florence to relearn how to latch on properly but slowly we got there! I honestly never thought I would reach the point where I didn’t dread feeding my baby. I use to envy mums who talked so passionately and beautifully about their breastfeeding experience and how much they loved those long, loving feeds together. But now, three months on of exclusively breastfeeding, I can completely understand where these ladies were coming from. I feel nothing now when she feeds and don’t think twice about it anymore whereas I use to agonise over how to hold her, how to latch her on and would count every minute that went by until she was finished.
I now get it! Breastfeeding can be a beautiful, wonderful thing if it is problem-free. It is just a shame that so many women have to get passed those obstacles before they start feeling this. My advice to any mums out there struggling with breastfeeding would be to seek help early on and keep on at the professionals if you believe there is a problem such as tongue tie. Call it a mother’s intuition maybe but I knew that something wasn’t right after week three or four and just feel upset it took so long to get the issue sorted. The Medela website is a great place to start if you need to seek some support or advice regarding breastfeeding and they even give you the option to contact their lactation consultant, Sioned Hilton, for information and help on any problems you may be facing. I really hope this post has been useful and please do leave me a comment or chat to me on twitter (pinkpixiedoll) if you are experiencing anything similar – I would be more than happy to help or advise in any way I can.