Saturday, November 9, 2013

//Adventures in Breastfeeding- Nicole's Story//

I am so thankful for Nicole sharing her story on such short notice.  I've heard similar stories, and I think her story can truly encourage so many people!  This story brought the tears because I think it can help people to keep going and also, show them that the mystery can be solved.  They are doing everything they can and sometimes, we just need someone to help.  They can see something we can't.  I absolutely loved Nicole's story and she is seriously my hero.  :)  Thank you for sharing!  She blogs at The Indie Homestead and her instagram is @theindiehomestead .  Follow along!  <3

Before Milo was born, I knew I would breastfeed, just like I knew I would use a midwife and have a home water birth.  There was no room for discussion there.  My mom breastfed me and I wanted to breastfeed Milo.  She had always told me that breastfeeding for her was easy so I naively figured it would be for me too.  I did hours of reading on natural birth, co-sleeping, birthing tubs, baby wearing etc.  I did very little reading on breast feeding. 

When Milo was born, he didn’t latch on right away.  We had a beautiful, but LONG natural birth at home and I wasn’t concerned because we both needed to sleep.  When we woke, I immediately tried to get him to nurse and he couldn’t latch on.  I apparently had flat nipples, which made it hard for his little mouth to grasp.  My midwife gave me a nipple shield to help him latch and that worked.  It hurt, but it worked and I was ecstatic.  As the next few days went on, feedings became more and more painful.  Both nipples became extremely cracked, had blisters and bled.  Every time he latched was more excruciating than the last.  24 hours of labor was nothing compared to the pain I was in every 30 minutes to 1hr.  One side became so bad that pieces of the nipple were missing.  I had to start pumping it and giving him a bottle, which I hated.  I couldn’t wear a shirt.  If any type of even the lightest fabric breezed by my nipples, I would cry out.  I kept reading story after story online trying to find others who were going through the same pain that I was in.  The average story of breast feeding pain usually lasted about 2 weeks, so I literally counted down the days until my pain would start to subside.  At day 13 it was apparent that my pain wasn’t getting better any time soon.  At the time, we lived in a very isolated area and I had no access to a La Leche League (LLL) or breastfeeding group.  Around week 2, I got my first bought of mastitis in both breasts. I now had cracked, blistered, bleeding nipples, and infection.  I had dark purple lines leading from my nipples up each breast in multiple spots.  When it was time to nurse, I would break out into a cold sweat, shake uncontrollably and cry.  Because of the clogged ducts, I tried every hold known to man.  I would prop Milo up onto multiple pillows, get on my hands and knees and sob while kneading my breasts and feeding him.  He would cry too because of all the emotional stress.  It occurred to me more than once, that maybe I should switch to formula.  Maybe the emotional stress on him wasn’t worth the breast milk.  I felt like I was losing precious days because we couldn’t enjoy our new time together.  But then I would feed him, and look into his eyes and get that connection that you only get when you breastfeed.  It’s the most powerful, emotional connection in those first few weeks after birth and I knew that I had to power on and get through this trauma.  It couldn’t last forever.  In the mean time, I would continue to pray that I would lose all feeling to my nipples.  =)
I got mastitis 3 more times in the first 6 weeks after his birth.  I wanted to avoid antibiotics at all costs, so I followed a regimen that my midwife gave me of grated potato (you lay the potato on the red, sore areas of the breast and it helps draw out the infection.  It worked great), homeopathic remedies, Motrin and hot Epsom salt baths.  I would lie in the tub and cry while I dug my knuckles into the clogged ducts, milked myself and watched the milk stream until I unclogged the duct.   I was feverish and unbelievably miserable.  I would go to the doctor only to have her tell me that I had tried my hardest and that it was OK for me to give up and give formula.  I would leave infuriated because I didn’t want to give up.  I wanted to breastfeed my child, like nature had designed and was incredibly frustrated that I was having such a hard time.  A friend that had at one time been certified by the LLL, would come over and try to help.   She helped with the homeopathic remedies and would help him latch.  She even spent an afternoon kneading my breast to unclog the ducts.  She was amazing.  She was support I needed more than anything else.  
At 4 weeks, it was obvious that Milo wasn’t latching correctly.  I started to read stories of tongue-tied babies and they sounded a lot like my story, but my LLL friend would feel the inside of his mouth and not find anything.  Milo was also was gaining weight and didn’t seem to have the other issues that babies with tongue-tie had.  I also started to suspect that I had Raynaud’s phenomenon, which causes sudden vasospasms in the extremities. When nipple vasospasm is caused by Raynaud’s phenomenon, the nipple blanches and turns white from loss of blood.  Every time Milo would unlatch, my nipple would blanch and it was very painful.  

Ultimately I was at a loss.  What eventually made it so that I could wear clothing again and feel human was a combo of homeopathic remedies, medicated topical cream for my nipples and meticulous monitoring of his latch.   At month 3 it still hurt like hell, but I was managing.  We moved back to California and in the first week, I went to a LLL meeting.  The leaders watched him latch and couldn’t see anything abnormal, but one leader suspected that he was tongue-tied.  She also confirmed my suspicions about Raynaud’s of the nipple.  A few days later I was sitting on the edge of my bed, breastfeeding Milo and was still in a ridiculous amount of pain.  Milo was now 4 months old and I couldn’t imagine continuing with the pain for much longer.  I decided to call a local children’s dentist to see if she could look in his mouth.  They got me in that afternoon and my heart leapt when she confirmed that he had a type 4 or posterior tongue-tie.   She clipped it and he cried for 5 minutes.  Later that day, when he latched on, I could feel a difference.  It was subtle, but I could feel it.  Within 24 hours, the pain was substantially better.  I remember crying with joy while looking down at him nursing.  It was the first time that I could really enjoy breast-feeding him.
As time went on, the pain became less and less.  I do have Raynard’s phenomenon, so breastfeeding has never become completely pain free, but we manage.  Milo is now 19 months old and we are still going strong.  I love our breast-feeding relationship.  I look back at that time and I am so proud of myself for sticking with it.  I feel empowered.  I hope my story can help other new moms who are struggling and hope it gives them the inspiration to stick with it.  
It was all worth it in the end.  


  1. Lovely photos and really great story

  2. I saw pictures of you on instagram, i will follow your blog. i am a mdwife and also like to carry my baby, breastfeed him...

  3. Thanks for sharing good and helpful article with us. This is very helpful for me.
    Induced labor pain



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