Sunday, August 09, 2009

Not That You Asked: Breastfeeding (1)

Or: You Can (Probably) Do It If You Really Want
First in a series of 15-minutes-at-a-time-after-baby-bedtime posts on nursing!

Breastfeeding! That favorite contentious topic.

First, let me say, less than 20% of women are still breastfeeding at all at 6 months. Most people give over after a few months; only 14% of mothers still breastfeed exclusively at 6 months. And I can totally understand why.

I go to a LLL meeting. I have lots of friends who breastfeed. My sisters and I nursed until we could read. And yet. I have had three months of nothing but pain and agony, followed by about a month of moderate misery. Fortunately, Pumpkin seems to be managing fine.

Figure 1: My Pumpkin is a chub-ball.

I think everyone can probably breastfeed- and I'm including, pump a little if that's all you have, and use a bottle. I also think it's frequently painful, difficult, and unpleasant. (I have now seen four lactation consultants and two specialists.)

Here's what I wish I'd known beforehand:

  • Yes, it will hurt at first, for at least a week probably. But if after a week, you're still thinking of having a stiff drink before every nursing session, gritting your teeth and barely bearing it, and wincing and pulling away, that ain't right.
  • Someone told me, if it hurts, see someone. They didn't really specify, though. Well, here you go: fissures and divots larger than 1 mm are not normal, and your nipples should most definitely not be an angry red color. Nor should they hurt after the baby nurses, especially not like a rubber band is being snapped inside your breast.
  • Not every good latch looks alike. That diagram of an 'ideal latch' may not apply to you and your baby. Particularly if you have shallow or flat or inverted nipples. Or especially if your baby has a tongue-tie, a high palate, or an especially receded chin.
  • If your baby's lower lip is not flared out, no matter how good the latch looks otherwise or how well he or she sucks or anything else, chances are that something is wrong. And that it will, eventually, HURT.
  • If your baby is making a clicking noise, or falling off the boob several times every time he or she nurses, or sliding down the nipple and losing the latch, something is wrong, even if it doesn't hurt. Fix it earlier rather than later, and save yourself a lot of pain. Because they get stronger, and suck harder, and then it really hurts.
  • If you really want to breastfeed and you're having problems, it's worth it to keep seeing people until it gets better. Only think of the savings in formula.
  • Persistent pain can be related to a staph infection. Antibiotics will cause thrush, though. But it may take you several rounds of fun drugs! Hurrah! (Fluconazole and penicillins- dicloxacillin is usually given- are both, generally, safe for nursing.)
  • Unpleasant itchy burny feeling? Feels like you've been sandpapered? THRUSH.
  • Chances are that your GP knows almost nothing about breastfeeding. More's the pity.
Please feel free to add your advice in the comments! The more the merrier.

Next time: Gee, Thanks For The Depressing Advice; What Now???