-Excerpt from Tina Fey's Bossypants
Feeding this lovely baby of mine has been quite an adventure so far, and when I say that, I unfortunately don't mean a pleasant one. As wonderful as every other aspect of motherhood has been, breastfeeding has, up until now, proven to be very challenging, and all in all, a source of grief.
The few times that I have nursed Rafael without pain and with breasts that were full of enough milk to satisfy his hunger were beautiful. The look of contentment on his face, his little hand touching my hand or chest, the sound of him gulping down warm milk happily, holding him to my breast and studying every line of his face...those are amazing moments. It makes me pretty sad that I haven't had many of those moments, and I hope women out there who breastfeed their lucky babies without pain or problems are aware of what a blessing that is!
It's been a frustrating and pain-filled journey from the beginning. The first week of Rafael's life, my nipples were cracked and bleeding, which is normal for a first time mom, so I just took it as part of the package and didn't complain.
As many of you know, I was then diagnosed with endometritis, an infection which can end in being steril or even death. I had to take heavy antibiotics to treat it, and was of course relieved when it was taken care of.
What I didn't know then was that either the infection or the antibiotics caused me to have a very low milk supply. Rafael ended up being underweight at five weeks because he wasn't getting enough nourishment, and I had to begin supplementing with formula.
Supplementing gave me mixed feelings. I was really glad that Rafael was getting the nourishment he needed, and was grateful that I at least had some milk, however little to give him. But I also felt like a failure. It was so frustrating to not be able to do that which should come so naturally to a mother. Every time I was at the cash register with a container of formula, I felt like the cashier and the people behind me in line were thinking, "Why doesn't she breastfeed her baby? Doesn't she know breast milk is best?" I always felt like yelling, "I know breast milk is best! I don't have a choice! This isn't how I want it to be!" Every time I pulled out a bottle to feed Raffi in front of other people, I felt the urge to explain the situation. I didn't want people thinking I'm a bad mother.
Friends and family would keep asking, "Are you still supplementing?" The ones who were for the bottle would urge me to continue, the ones who were against it would assure me I must have enough milk by now. All were full of best intentions, but I was getting so tired of talking, thinking, living, and breathing the breast milk/formula battle. (This post is, I guess, me letting out all of that built up frustration.)
Now, what the antibiotics I took for the endometritis also did was compromise my immune system, and Rafael's. He ended up getting thrush, a type of yeast infection, in his mouth, which is very common for babies. It was taken care of within a few days of medication, but in that time, my left breast got infected with thrush without me knowing it.
I began having this severe shooting pain deep in my breast and burning on the nipple both when he latched on and for a couple hours afterwards (and since there are only a couple hours between feedings, the pain was basically constant). Since he had started on the bottle, I assumed he had what they call 'nipple confusion,' and was having trouble switching between the bottle and me. I thought his latch was the problem, so I would fumble around with his lips, making sure they were sufficiently flanged, all the while in horrible pain and in fear he would pull or bight down and make the pain even worse, which he did sometimes.
The really bitter thing about this situation was that, my left breast was the one that actually had a fair amount of milk. When I would pump, about 50 mm would come out of the left breast, and about 10 would come out of the right (a baby his age needs about 160 mm of milk to be full, just so you can get an idea of how much my milk supply falls short). So, if I wanted to continue breast feeding, which I of course did, I had to give Rafael the breast where I was experiencing horrible pain.
To make matters worse (if you can believe it gets worse), I was also getting what are called 'blebs' on my left nipple: little blisters at the openings of the nipples which then block the milk and cause both stinging pain and clogged ducts. I won't go into further detail, but I don't think I need to.
Needless to say, I have pretty much been a mess these past few weeks. I owe my sanity and ability to laugh most of this off to my sunshine of a son and my loving, supportive husband.
When I was sure his latch was alright, I thought the nipple just needed to heal and the pain would eventually go away. But when it only got worse, I finally started researching discovered that my symptoms matched up with having thrush. The pain was so intense yesterday morning that I finally dragged myself to the doctor. I hate going to the doctor, and I have the bad habit of waiting until something is unbearable before I go.
I refused antibiotics and am trying to treat the thrush with homeopathy and natural medicine. It's been two days and I am beginning to feel some relief.
Aside from using this post to vent a little, I also hope it will let you all know that not every woman in line for the cash register with formula in her hand is buying it because she just doesn't feel like breast feeding, and doesn't care that it's not as good for her baby as breast milk. Not every mother automatically overflows with lovely milk, no matter how much she wishes she would.
For some of us, breast feeding is a stony way.
But I'm not giving up!