Today was our fourth appointment with the lactation consultant. Barring any new negative developments, our next one will not be for three more weeks. Here’s how it’s gone so far.
Appointment #1: Baby girl was two weeks old, and I’d been pumping for a full week. Still, my nipples were cracked, pussy, and scabbed. I was more than a little apprehensive that the lactation consultant would want to see me breastfeed baby girl, but upon examining my nipples, she agreed they needed to be left alone. The good news was she weighed the baby and, at 15 days old, she had nearly regained her birth weight. I was one happy mama.
We discussed the tongue tie. Hubby was anxious to have it treated immediately, even though we wouldn’t be resuming breastfeeding right away. The LC called in the doctor to look at the tongue tie. He had two med students with him. He looked at baby girl’s tongue, explaining to the students what he was seeing and what would happen next. They wrapped baby girl up tight, held her down, and snipped the frenulum. Baby girl screamed, turning bright red. They handed her to me and, rather than put her on my breast to put pressure on the wound, I gave her the bottle of formula I had brought with me. The last formula she would receive. She calmed down, and by the time she finished the bottle, she had stopped bleeding. The LC gave me some dressings to use on my nipples to aid in healing and sent us on our way with an appointment for the following week.
Appointment #2: Another week of pumping, applying dressings and ointment to my nipples, and they were still nowhere near healed. I was terrified of putting baby girl back on my breasts, but I knew it had to be done if I was really committed to breastfeeding my baby. I kept reminding myself that I was.
This time, the LC had a med student with her. “Do you mind?” she asked. “Not at all.” At this point, more people had seen my breasts in the three weeks of baby girl’s life than ever before in mine. It didn’t faze me one bit. We went through the same routine. The LC looked at my nipples, weighed the baby–who’d gained a full pound in a week!–and then asked if I wanted to try feeding her. Gulp.
She helped me position baby girl correctly, holding her high enough and with her mouth right at my nipple. She basically encouraged me to forget every piece of advice I’d been told, from flanged lips to lining up baby’s nose. What she gave me was perhaps the best piece of advice yet: Forget about what it looks like, go with how it feels. And putting baby girl to my breast for the first time in two weeks felt…fine. The mind-numbing pain was suddenly gone. She suck-swallow-breathed with no problem. Maybe it was clipping her tongue. Maybe it was two weeks’ worth of growth, or maybe the practice she got sucking from a nipple meant to mimic breastfeeding; but feeding my daughter had the potential to be enjoyable again. I left the breastfeeding clinic relieved and happy (and with another appointment the following week).
Appointment #3: My joy was short-lived. The night of our second appointment, baby girl and I had problems. My breasts had become engorged after a few hours of not feeding her, and latching was difficult on both of us. I was in a lot of pain. I broke down that night and pulled a bottle of milk from the fridge. After feeding her, I sat down to pump again. The following day, I couldn’t stand the thought of trying again, but by the weekend, we seemed to be back on track. Then Monday night rolled around and, sure enough, we had difficulties again. This time I was in tears because of the pain, holding my screaming child. It was the night before I wrote this post. I cried on and off the following day, partly due to the now-constant pain in my breasts and partly because I once again felt like a failure when it came to feeding my child.
I went into that third appointment feeling defeated. I explained the situation and that I’d gone back to pumping the the previous few days out of fear that breastfeeding was causing more damage. The LC looked at my nipples again, pleasantly surprised with the progress of my healing. There were still deep gashes in the flesh, but the scabs and pus were gone, replaced with healthy, pink tissue. Then she explained that because the wounds had been so deep, I was now entering a stage of healing where there were more nerve endings and hence more pain. She again asked if I wanted to continue, and I assured her I did. Knowing that the pain was from healing and not because of more damage made it easier to do so. (Healing hurts. I think we’ve all learned that one way or another.) I was instructed to take ibuprofen every four hours and push through the pain, as long as I could stand it. Our next appointment was scheduled 12 days out.
Appointment #4: Today. I expressed some concern that my nipples still weren’t healed. The LC looked at them and noted progress, but admitted it wasn’t happening as quickly as she would like and gave me more dressings. Baby girl was up another half-kilo (now weighing in at 9 lbs, 11 oz and positively chubby!). Latching on went smoothly once again, and the LC was pleased to hear that since our previous visit, I’d been exclusively breastfeeding. I no longer needed ibuprofen every 4 hours but would still take it throughout the day. When I asked about a newly-developed clicking sound baby girl was making on occasion, I was reminded again to go by feel. If it didn’t hurt, it probably wasn’t anything to worry about.
So that’s where we are. I’m much less stressed about feeding baby girl, knowing that I have food for her ready at a moment’s notice, no matter where we are. She is happy and clearly very healthy. Healing is a slow process, but we don’t seem to be causing more damage. At six weeks old (tomorrow) I think that’s about as good as I could have hoped for.