I had always planned to breastfeed. I worked as a midwife for 5 years before having children, helping hundreds of women with breastfeeding. I just assumed it would be a natural part of life with no complications. After all, weren’t babies born to breastfeed? And wasn’t it just a natural part of life?
Graduating from nursing school and having a baby 3 weeks later was a bit stressful. Needless to say, I had a long and complicated home birth attended by midwives, my husband and mother. I was fully supported and loved. I put baby Nathan to my wet chest, as he was born in the water, and held him. When he was dry, and I was out of the tub, I put him to the breast right away and he nursed. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
The day after the birth, I was exhausted and sore after 30 hours of labor, a hemorrhage, and tearing. My nipples were sore and I had a blister. In fact, by day three it was red and raw. My toes curled under, my belly cramped, and I cried whenever I nursed. My breasts had so much milk I was practically drowning the baby. He was fussy. I persevered. Cracked bleeding nipples, lanolin, air, trying to figure out what was going on by myself, because I was too embarrassed to ask for help. Wasn’t this supposed to be a natural thing? Wasn’t I supposed to know how to fix this for peats sake, I’d helped so many, couldn’t I help myself?
I carried on this way for 4 weeks. My nipples did eventually heal. I did figure out that I needed to get the baby fully on with a deep latch. My baby was colicky, he cried for 3 months. He was only happy in a sling, and that is basically where he lived for 3 months, and he woke every 3 hours throughout the night, had green poops and screamed. I tried everything, changed my diet, changed my life, but it just took the full 3 months for him to just develop his GI tract. Eventually he improved, I improved, and breastfeeding continued. My nipples overcame their soreness, I didn’t get a breast infection with the cracks, and I enjoyed breastfeeding.
This child I breastfed for 3 years; in fact, I breastfed through my next pregnancy, I was so afraid of sore nipples again. I breastfed my newborn and toddler 1 year together, and did not develop sore nipples at all. I basically just stayed that way for the next 6 years. I had 3 more children and no more complicated births either, all at home, all breastfeed, 2-3 years each. I basically had amenorrhea (no periods) for over 8 years and breastfed all 8 years. I think those were the happiest years of my life!
Now as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant I work with a lot of women. Women with quite a few breastfeeding problems; in fact, I didn’t know there were so many breastfeeding problems out there. Not sure when we developed so many breastfeeding issues, or if they’ve always been there, but have gone undiagnosed, or people like me, who just persevered and finally figured it out. There seems to be a lot of women who need empowering, affirmation and encouragement, so they too can enjoy the journey of breastfeeding. My journey would have been a lot easier if I had had a wonderful IBCLC to help me from the get go. My experience has impassioned me in my current practice to help women find themselves and their inner strength to push through and learn the wondrous and ancient art of breastfeeding.
Blessings to all breastfeeding mothers, Mishell Whitacre, RN, IBCLC