The cycles of the breast

When we were in the hospital Ruby wanted to breastfeed continuously.  I know they say frequent feedings are normal.  But frequent implies that there are breaks. And my nipples just couldn’t handle it.

Every time a new nurse came on shift she would ask how breastfeeding was going.  I would sigh and say something like, “Oh…it’s a work in progress.”  This would inevitably lead to a more in depth discussion and another review of THE LATCH.  Because “it isn’t supposed to hurt.” (Oh, by the way, to the unconditioned boobie – IT DOES.  I don’t care how perfect the latch.)

Finally the nurses manager came in to check on things, and I explained the situation again.  She was the first person to offer a different solution.  “She’s pacifying!”  She recommended we try a pacifier, despite the controversy, in order to salvage my nipples.  And I accepted.

Now I’m sure every baby is different.  But nipple confusion turned out to be real in our case.  Within a couple days Ruby completely refused the breast.  Getting her to eat was pure torture.  Often we would have to wake her, which was a process in and of itself.  Once she came to she was inevitably upset.  And only then did the battle of the breast begin.

I felt like I was shoving a boob down her throat during our only “bonding” time. I was convinced that she would grow up with some kind of breast complex and probably hated me already.

We ended up supplementing with formula, buying a really expensive breast pump and making two trips back to the hospital to see two different lactation consultants.  She lost weight between the two visits, and I ended up crying in front of this lady.  With my top off. Wonderful.

That was week one.

So we ditched the pacifier, and began tricking Ruby into breastfeeding.  We would give her a little bottle or a little nipple shield and then slip in the boob.  It was difficult, but it worked.  Too well…

Ruby is now back to wanting to nurse continuously.  Pretty much all day long.  Some of this is probably pacifying, but I don’t know the difference. And I’m still concerned about her getting enough to eat. So we’re doing it.

I’m hoping this is a growth spurt or something and she’ll eventually ease up.  Because right now I’m pretty much chained to the couch. Either nursing her or holding her while she sleeps.  (Because she wakes up if you try to lay her down.)  I do love my baby, and I do love the couch.  But a girl needs a break every once in awhile. Sometimes, quite frankly, I’d rather be running.


13 thoughts on “The cycles of the breast

  1. I feel your pain! My first wanted to eat (or at least suck) all day, every day. Here’s my advice from almost 14 years later: don’t worry, just keep her attached to your boob if she wants it. Seriously, she won’t go to college still breastfeeding. And your nipples won’t actually fall off, even if they feel like they will. 🙂 You are doing an amazing job as Ruby’s mom!!!!

    • Thanks for your comment! It’s nice to know I’m not the only one. And if Ruby turns into a studly athlete like your son than it’s worth it.

  2. Woofta. I’m sorry. I agree with the nipple pain. No matter how great the latch or the nurser, IT HURTS! I’m hoping for your sake that it is a growth spurt and that it will pass quickly and she’ll move on to letting you have some time to yourself. Keep posting (if you can set her down) I love hearing how things are going.. Good or bad! Hang in there, mama!

  3. So I obviously can’t give you any advice, but know I’m thinking of you and am hoping that it gets easier for you soon.

    Also, thank you so much for actually writing about your struggles so that one day when that is me, I know it’s part of the deal.

    • No problem. I feel like I should be writing about roses and sunshine. Its of course wonderful having her. But the truth is its also really hard.

  4. I think I have overly sensitive nipples! It has hurt with all three! It does get better, but the first couple months when their mouth is so small and they want to eat all the time, it is no fun! I am pretty sure with Leah I just sat around on my couch with my shirt off for nearly 6 weeks because there was no point in getting dressed and keeping my clothes out of the way 90% of the day took too much energy! We did introduce a paci at about 3 weeks and she seemed to transition well between breast and paci, so maybe just let her get a little older and a little more awake and then try introducing it again perhaps? You do need a break once in a while! I remember with Leah it was just a miserable dark haze of nursing until she finally smiled at me. Mom’s are supposed to be selfless, but just that little smile to let me know I was doing SOMETHING right was sure helpful and gratifying! Hang in there!

    • Also, I have nursed the older two until 18mo and Kendra is still going. It is not horrible the entire time, it does get better, significantly after the first couple months, but I have had different struggles with all of them. At a year each time I have been really really thankful that I hung in there because at that point it does not hurt, it is not their only form of nutrition which takes a lot of pressure off and it is pure bonding and comfort. Those last months were the ones I enjoyed the most.

    • It’s definitely reassuring that I’m not the only one. I have thought about giving her the pacifier again and we probably will at some point. I’m just nervous after the last time. When did you give her the pacifier? I feel like I don’t know when would be a good time and when she actually needs to eat.

      OMG. I’m also looking forward to the smile. She always has this pained look on her face. It would be nice to know she’s occasionally happy.

      • Leah was about 3 weeks when we did the paci, I think Kendra and Nora were about a week. They are all different though, if you are nervous about her getting confused again just give her a little more time. Maybe your pinky can help give the boob a break!

  5. I always wonder if these nurses saying “it shouldn’t hurt!” have ever breastfed. Because even knowing how to do it and having done it before, the first couple weeks still hurt!

  6. You are amazing Laura, it so tough what you are going through! As someone who wasn’t a successful breastfeeder after 2 weeks of constant breast infections, bleeding, and emergency room visits because Cayden was losing so much weight – I am proud of you and your efforts! It was the hardest thing I ever tried to do, and I beat myself up over not trying harder. At some point, you may want to switch to formula – just know that you aren’t a terrible mom for supplementing or switching. I spent a lot of tears and had tons of guilt about it, so I try to spread the word that you aren’t a failure if you think about it 🙂 Cayden and Beckett seem to be just as smart as their friends!

    I sent a note to Jason too, let me know when you are up for non-family visitors, I’d love to bring some food over – and I would love to hold her while she sleeps 🙂

    • Oh Tifanie, you’re the best. I probably would have given up in your situation too. I was convinced we were done during the first week, and I’m still not sure if I can last. So I appreciate the permission to try something else if it comes to that. REALLY. I’ve thought about it, feel totally guilty and then ask myself, “What’s the big deal?” I don’t look down on other people that formula feed.

      I’ll send you a note about visiting. We definitely want to see you!

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