Breastfeeding Sucks

I have a long, detailed post in my drafts about the breastfeeding saga so far.  I’ve briefly alluded to the fact that we’ve been having problems getting this whole feeding thing down, but that doesn’t do justice to how ridiculously hard it’s been.

I know parenting is hard, but it’s not supposed to be this hard.  It’s not supposed to leave you in physical pain, with injuries that take weeks to heal.  With nipples rubbed so raw they’re scabbed and bleeding.  It’s not supposed to make you wish your baby would sleep a little longer just to avoid another feeding.

Baby girl had a tongue tie.  We were pretty sure that’s what was causing the pain and injuries to my breasts, but she had it clipped over a week ago, and it doesn’t seem to have made a difference.  The pain is getting worse.  Leaving me in tears at 3 in the morning while baby girl screams with hunger.

I don’t know what we’re doing wrong.  Even when I think we have a good latch, there’s still pain, and my nipples end up pinched.  The lactation consultant has suggested that perhaps baby girl’s mouth is too small for my apparently enormous nipples.  What are we supposed to do about that?

It’s frustrating for both of us.  And it makes me feel like a failure.

We go back to the lactation consultant on Thursday.  And in the meantime, I’m back to pumping (which still hurts my nipples–they hurt right now, just sitting here).  But today is a particularly hard day, and I just needed to get this out there.

Please tell me I’m not alone.  Please tell me there’s a way through this.

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36 thoughts on “Breastfeeding Sucks

  1. I have no advice to make it all work out but I was in this same place! It’s hard. I cried daily as I felt I was letting my son down. Just know that you’re a great mother and you’re doing everything you can for your baby girl. Hang in there if you can, but if you can’t don’t kick yourself.

  2. Also, between feedings I used huge amounts of lansinoh and medela soft shells. I bought them off amazon at the encouragement of my lactation consultant. Even the 1 1/2-2 hour break with those on in between provided some relief.

  3. Yes, it fucking sucks. And you need to enjoy your little girl. It’s admirable that you’re making it work, but please remember that you don’t HAVE to. If you want to press on – do. But if you feel like it’s keeping you from enjoying your baby – consider moving on from it. Nobody gives you a medal for how you feed your baby. These first few months are precious and you worked your ass off to get here – you should enjoy them as much as you can. As long as you feed with love, that is all that’s important.
    I’m not saying quit. If you think you can make it work – awesome. I’m just saying that if you want to – that is completely ok. You will not be a worse mother if you quit.
    Email me if you need anything.
    Hugs.

    • I agree with Mo. I went to crazy lengths with my daughter, supplementing with a tube at the breast the entire 10 months I was off work for parental leave (I pumped the other two months while my husband was at home). It made our relationship strained and not the joyful bonding I had hoped for. If I have similar struggles with our 2nd who should arrive in the next 4-6 weeks, I will be switching to formula and pumping to supplement some breastmilk by bottle. What I know is that most of the people I am friends with were formula fed as babies and they turned out just fine (including me). Please don’t be down on yourself. I would also suggest a breast shield if you don’t have supply issues.

  4. You’re not alone. It took a long time for us to get breastfeeding off the ground (went through 3 LCs before i finally found one that was able to work with me) and even now tandem feeds still are uncomfortable if their latch is off (usually in the evenings when they are sleepy).

    There is an amazing woman in Montreal who you should contact. Here name is Emma Kwasnica (https://www.facebook.com/emma.kwasnica). She’s suppose to be a breastfeeding guru and from what I hear a wonderful support. Please consider contacting her as she may be able to help.

    Even if you don’t contact Emma, couple of thoughts:
    1) If the LC you’re working with is causing you more frustration than good, find someone else. You need someone who will work with you, not make you feel like shit.
    2) Give yourself a timeline. I’ve met many mothers who talked about how they gave themselves a 8 week deadline. This helped them know that they have a point at which they could bail if things weren’t working out. Sounds stupid, but it helped them get through the hard moments.
    3) Speaking of which, if possible find a LLL. Having someone IRL to talk with and who can offer support is huge, especially in those moments where you feel you may lose it.

    Finally, She-beat also had a tie that is only now being recognized. It’s called a submucosal tie (also called a Class 4 tie).
    More info here: https://breastfeedingusa.org/content/article/tell-me-about-tongue-ties
    http://www.babyfriendlynl.ca/blog/when-breastfeeding-doesnt-feel-right-a-tongue-tie-tale-part-2/

    Resolving this tie for She-Beat didn’t make everything work right away, but it did resolve the pain from a poor latch within a couple of days. In addition, it resolved some other issues (torticollis, poor weight gain and even her constipation). If you have questions, let me know. I’m happy to share with you our story.

  5. Reading your post was a flashback to my first experience with nursing. Just wishing the baby would sleep so I wouldn’t have to nurse. The pain. The bleeding. The soreness, even when I was done…omg, I counted the days until it was over. I gave it 3 months. And if I had to do it over again I would have stopped sooner. I look back on those early days and wish my memories were not clouded by pain and frustration. My LC told me some infertiles (if hormonal imbalance was your issue) don’t have he right amount of hormones to produce a good supply. You may not be able to nurse. And that is ok. You don’t win a parenting award for nursing your children. Do what is best for you and her. If she is frustrated and you are too then switch. No one will judge you. And if they do… well, screw ’em. All three of my girls were nursed in the beginning, and when it got too hard I switched to formula. They are all smart, beautiful, and most importantly LOVED. They will thrive no matter which way they get their nutrition. ((Hugs)).

  6. Been there!! And totally agree with Mo. If you really want to continue, then definitely keep trying and see if you can find a LC that will help. But if you supplement or stop BF’ing, that’s fine too. I was so pissed to find out that breastfeeding is so hard and NO ONE TELLS YOU until you’re in it! And then it’s like, “oh, yeah, it can be hard in the beginning but…” Memories of how hard it is fade. It is one of the hardest things I have ever done and if I am ever lucky enough to have DC#2, I quite possibly won’t even try to BF. Good luck and you are doing great!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Oh my god I know how you feel. We have different issues–slow weight gain/low supply–but breastfeeding is hands down the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced. Harder even than infertility in some ways. I wish I could offer some advice or “it gets better” thoughts, but I’m in the midst of it right now as well. You have my empathy for sure.

  8. I can absolutely tell you that you’re not alone. Unfortunately I can’t tell you that it gets better. At least that wasn’t my experience. I does seem to be most people’s though.

    I ended up exclusively pumping for my son. I just couldn’t stand the pain anymore. Pumping still caused some discomfort but it was never as bad as when I was nursing. And I didn’t associate the feeling of pain with feeding my son, and eventually my son himself. At six months I stopped breastfeeding but it was never a positive, pain free experience.

    Sorry to not have the words of encouragement you were hoping for. I do think that for most people it gets better, but not for all of us. I hope you’re one of the lucky ones.

    Abiding with you during the frustrating and painful time. I have a VERY GOOD understanding of how awful it is. And I truly hope your experience improves markedly. And soon.

  9. BFing is hard and it makes you feel like garbage when it’s failing. No one tells you it’s going to be hard either. I had supply issues. I would recommend finding a La Leche meeting or a BF support group. I wish I had done that. In the end, it doesn’t matter how baby gets fed. What is most important is that you are bonding with baby. When I dreaded feeding Max and found myself getting irritated bc he wanted to eat, that’s when I knew something had to give. Incidentally, once I gave up on BFing, it actually started to get better.

  10. Breastfeeding TOTALLY sucks! It is soooooo much harder than I thought it would be. Though we made it through the initial hump of horrendous tear inducing pain, I still wince when she latches on. And the messiness… I wake up shivering in a pool of milk most nights so that the “extra laundry” people talk about when they have a baby is just as much my stuff as it is hers. And the emotion attached to it all. UGH! I love Cristy’s comment above about giving yourself a goal to get to and then re-evaluating if you should continue. And also finding a support group and a LC that works for you (though I know that both of those are easier said than done). I plan to go to my first support group on Thursday and am really hoping to get some more info on how to address our issues (fire hydrant let down to name one), but I’m also trying to keep my expectations low since it really just seems that bf is inherently a challenge for all. Finally, I have a friend who now has switched to exclusive pumping… her nips have finally healed and she and her baby are much much happier. Her supply is well established so that if she decides to revisit bf later on she can, but for now she’s pain free. This is a strategy I’ve certainly considered at least once a day… Keep us posted on how things evolve. Sending good vibes for your boobies and your baby!

  11. Dear Daryl – You’re not alone! I went through a similar experience with my daughter who is four months old today. The pain is gone now and we both enjoy breastfeeding. I’m so glad I stuck with it. Please google «vasospasm» or ask your lactation consultant about it. All the best to you, don’t give up — Linnea

  12. Yep – it can suck.

    There is some evidence that breastfeeding can be much harder for women after IVF (article behind NY Times pay wall). As if we haven’t suffered enough, I know.

    I have a long and boring story about how I struggled and failed to breastfeed my twins and took medication recommended by a lactation specialist that gave me permanent acid reflux. I wish I hadn’t taken it in retrospect but I was so desperate to be that good mother!!

    The truth is YOU are a good mother no matter what. Don’t give into guilt or kill yourself to make it happen.

  13. Oh honey. Just thinking about the pain and bleeding makes me hurt. It’s hard. I know. If you can find another lactation consultant or LLL like Cristy said, I’d do it. I have a mini tiny baby and big ol nips and no one ever said anything remotely like that to me. Once I found a good lactation consultant, it became so much easier. She fixed a really small latch problem that was really my hold and gave me the best nipple advice ever. Stop with the creams and gels crap. After a feeding, express some milk and put it on your nipples. Then put breast shells on so your nipples can air dry and heal between feedings. Is swear to you it was so much better within a few days, and with the right latch it all got better from there. I also now put breast milk on all of her little cuts and it even worked on baby acne. I know that it’s so amazingly painful. No one can really prepare you for that.

  14. I hated breastfeeding to start with and was desperate to give up. For some reason I didn’t, and now, 10 months down the line I’m an addict and help run an online support group in my local area, (UK) With the right support it can get better, but I needed a lot. Be kind to yourself, the thing your baby most needs is a happy Mummy. IF stopping bf is the only way to get that, then that’s OK and there is no need to feel anything other than pride for making the right decision for your family.

  15. I’ve been meaning to write a post about my terrible experience with breastfeeding, too. You are definitely not alone.

  16. The crappy part is that even if the latch is fixed your nipples are still beaten and bruised. :/ I found Lanolin helps some – not sure if you’ve tried that. Hope the LC is able to help this time and YES breastfeeding IS hard!

  17. I had a similar experience with horrible pain every time I breastfed. I dreaded feeding my baby and it was just so painful, especially latching on. It was worse pain than giving birth, I swear. I was crying as I was feeding him, it hurt so much. But it did get better. I kept going to different lactation consultants and ultimately ended up seeing Dr. Jack Newman, who diagnosed my son’s tongue tie, which we had clipped, plus to increase my supply I went on Domperidone, which really helped. They also gave me some suggestions for dealing with vasospasm, and I got some APNO (All-purpose Nipple Ointment) by prescription, which helped. It was not one thing, but several small things that helped, and the pain went right down.
    Good for you for sticking it out even though it has been so incredibly hard. I hope you can find a solution to your pain.
    If you go to Jack Newman’s webpage (International Breastfeeding Centre, or something like that), he will answer questions by email sent to him. You fill out a form describing the problem and send it to him. I sent him a question and he wrote back to me the next day.
    Good luck! And I would agree with those who have said that if after all that you have tried the pain doesn’t get better, do not feel guilty about considering a switch to formula. Your baby is going to be ok. You need to look after yourself too.
    After all my difficulties at the beginning, things finally settled down for me and breastfeeding started becoming enjoyable. Seriously! It was hard to believe that I would ever feel that way, from how it had been when I started! However, after 11 months, just as it was going really great, I had to stop because I wanted to do another IVF cycle and my RE said I could not be breastfeeding. I felt so horribly guilty about weaning him off and trying to get him to take formula! But now he is totally fine with formula and he truly is ok. If you have to switch to formula it will be ok, too, just keep that in mind.

    • Just want to flag that Domperidone is the medication that gave me permanent acid reflux. And my GI has heard of others who had the same experience. Be careful with that one!

  18. Oh, I forgot to add that I also took Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle in a tincture, to help increase my supply. An increased supply helps to reduce the pain. The baby spends less time at the breast and less sucking when there is more milk flowing. The Domperidone really helped with this. Good luck!

  19. Before you even mentioned it, I was going to suggest that your little lady’s mouth might be too small. We had the same problem with Skittle. I was in a lot of pain and there was blood. The bad news? There’s not a lot for you to do. Except grin and bear it. The good news? It WILL get better as your girl grows. Most say it gets better after 2-3 weeks, but it depends on how big your nipples are and how fast she grows. A couple things that can help: breast shields (messy, but make it easier for her to latch), avoiding engorgement, breast shells in between feedings (so your shirt doesn’t rub on them), and Lansinoh soothies gel pads (so soothing!). Breastfeeding is HARD. I don’t know a single new mom who hasn’t struggled in one way or another. Hang in there!
    t

  20. Ok, now that I have a second…
    I had issues with Seedling. Only now, at 16 months did age finally get her lip and tongue ties snipped! I met with several lactation consultants. I pumped. I gave her formula occasionally (and cried, I felt like such a failure!), I found donated breast milk as I continued to pump and work through our issues. For me, breast feeding was HUGELY important, so for me it was worth it to keep trying and to work through the pain. We used nipple shields to help my nipples heal because a huge part of the problem is once they are cracked you are fighting the pain of a wound AND the pain of a bad latch and it can be hard to distinguish one from the other.

    But as others have said – I’m not trying to guilt you into continuing! I’m just trying to reach out and say I had a rough start, a really tough start. And eventually it did get better. And I’ve been able to continue breast feeding into toddlerhood! I know not everyone will have my same experience, just trying to offer a ray of hope 🙂

  21. I’m so sorry. I have no advice, but I know you’re not alone. Lots of women have trouble. I hope the LC can help. If not, there’s no shame in stopping. I forget how old your little girl is, but I know there are great benefits to breastfeeding for even just a few days or weeks.

  22. I’m so glad to hear how supportive everyone is! I wish that had been the case 16yrs ago when I welcomed my first daughter :/

    To all the mama’s out there who bf’ing didn’t work, for WHATEVER reason, I will tell you this, the two main reasons I was given 1. Health benefit – fewer ear infections etc. & 2. Smarter kids are breast fed. I can attest that is not always the case. My 16yr old has a 91% average and had 1 ear infection at age 3, from wax overload in her ear! My 14yr old, same thing, great in school, healthy childhood. Oh and they are both healthy weights, despite not being physically active beside gym! I was told by one bf nazi, my children were doomed to be obese!

    Do what’s best for BOTH of you, and bottom line, happy mom = happy baby. :). Enjoy your babies.. cause one day they will be grown and you wonder where the time went!

  23. I didn’t read through other people’s comments so I apologize if this was already said but I want to tell you that I was the breastfeeding advocate. I always knew I would breastfeed, I judged those who didn’t..and I’m sure you know where this is going. I had twins, preemies born early, in the NICU, they were started on formula there to help them grow, my milk only half came in….etc, etc. (I also drank lots of Mother’s Milk tea and it helped a bit) I did breastfeed for 8 months, but the twins only got about 1/3 of each meal in breastmilk and then I was empty. The rest, we supplemented with formula from the very beginning. I was so disappointed and mad at myself. And now, I have two fat and healthy babies, growing like weeds, and I can’t believe I was ever so upset about the idea of my babies not exclusively getting my own milk.

    You definitely don’t have to quit. Just do what makes you feel best, and when you make the decision to keep going, quit, or do half and half, don’t beat yourself up for it because your little one is going to be strong and healthy regardless. Take the weight off your shoulders – you deserve it!

  24. Do yourself and baby and get nipple shields.they are brilliant and I used them for 10 months and counting.another option is to express and bottle feed your breast milk.i hope you get it right soon as it’s so horrible hearing baby cry in frustration.

  25. No, you’re not alone. It took me four months to get it right. Four months!!! I TOTALLY agree with displacedhousewife- get yourself a nipple shield and learn to use it (Youtube!) ASAP. Don’t listen to all the crap about it reducing milk supply… It can happen, but likely won’t . Lactation consultants will discourage you from using them, but if it enables you to continue to BF, it’s a good thing. It saved my breastfeeding ass- I used one for about 3 1/2 months before starting a rather painless transition to breastfeeding without. And then I breastfed totally pain free until the wee woman was 18 months old. Hang in there, hun- the early days are so tough.

  26. It is hard. And no-one tells you just how hard it can be. My husband got so frustrated since it ‘should’ be the most natural thing, right! I almost quit during those first weeks, while pumping to get my supply up, also because we struggled with weight gain. Try and get the help and support that works for you. And if it takes away from enjoying your daughter, don’t beat yourself up if you need to let go. Feeding and sleeping are all over the place the first few months but it gets easier overall. Thinking of you xx

  27. Oh, and i also got the same comment from a midwife… that baby’s mouth is small for my nipple. When I told another midwife this she just shock her head and wondered who had said that! she called it bullshit, mama and baby are made for each other so that shouldn’t matter.

  28. It can be so frustrating and overwhelming when things don’t go well. Another thing to have checked for is a lip tie. Many care providers and even lactation consultants aren’t trained in checking for them. They can definitely cause latching issues and can also cause milk transfer issues. I would also suggest seeing a different lactation consultant if you feel like the one you have been seeing isn’t helping. Independent consultants often tend to be better educated and often more helpful than hospital affiliated consultants. Don’t beat yourself up though, do what you can. You are doing a great job!

  29. Going through the exact same horrors myself Daryl. Was in tears all day. The pain is too much to bear. I’ve suffered enough on this journey to motherhood. Thinking of expressing and at least baby will get the goodness & I won’t be tortured at each latch. There are no medals for bravery here. I want to be able to enjoy my baby, not dread each feed as I do right now. Good luck with whatever you decide is best for your family.

  30. I don’t have much more advice than these other wise ladies. But I can tell you that I cried and cried over trying to get my son to BF. He never really got the hang of it and his suck was very poor. I tried for a couple of months while pumping and bottle feeding, but in the end for me, I couldn’t do it anymore. The pumping hurt too, but just allowing myself to quit trying to BF made for a happier and calmer feeding. I used all the gadgets and took supplements to bring in more supply as well, but in the end I was only able to make enough to give him one bottle a day. I was very disappointed in the way things turned out, but my son is doing so well and formula ending up being fine. Do what you feel you can for a certain amount of time, but if this whole thing is making your time with your baby miserable, you have every right to change paths. Hang in there, seek more help, and if you feel it would be better to stop, then feel no shame in it.

  31. ok. you may have already solved the problem or moved on…but one of the problems I had with breastfeeding was that, according to the LC, both girls had small palettes. Between that and not being able to get a good latch, I was in tears from the pain. I started to get really anxious and dread feeding times and that’s when I decided to switch to pumping exclusively. I didn’t love my LC and maybe if I had gone to someone more supportive of my needs and less of a BF nazi, I might have made it work. Who knows? Ok. Now I’ll read ahead to see what progress you have made.

  32. Pingback: Nursing | Something Out of Nothing

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