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How I Overcame Breastfeeding Problems
Even when I was pregnant I knew that I wanted to breastfeed our son but I was not prepared for the difficulties that lie ahead. We did not get off to a good start from the very beginning and things seemed to get worse before they got better. Here is what happened and what I did to overcome the problems we had.
Everything seemed to be going fine while we were in the hospital. The lactation nurses said that some nipple pain was to be expected during the first few weeks of breastfeeding so I thought the pain I was feeling as normal. But as the pain began to get worse rather than better during that first week at home, it seemed like something must be wrong. I even began screaming in pain whenever our son nursed and my nipples began bleeding.
We setup an appointment for a lactation consultant about a week after he was born to see what was wrong. As it turns out, I had him positioned incorrectly. With a slight tweak of his positioning, he was latched on better. They prescribed what they called triple nipple cream for me to put on after each feeding to help prevent infection and help them heal. The problem seemed solved. But things did not get better. The nursing pain continued and sometimes was even worse. The cream did not help and was a pain to use. I had to mix together three different creams every morning. I applied the cream after nursing him and had to wash it off before nursing him the next time.
Luckily there was a lactation support group I could go to for free through our insurance. There were lactation consultants at the support groups to help. They helped me to learn how to latch on our baby better and offered suggestions to help me heal.
I started using lanolin on my nipples after every time our baby nursed. This helped them heal and it was something that I didn’t have to wash off before nursing our baby. Because of how badly they were damaged (I literally had holes in them), it took several weeks for them to heal.
Switched Breastfeeding Positions
I also switched positions from a cradle hold to a football hold. This change of position caused less breastfeeding nipple pain and seems to help our baby latch on better. Getting a nursing pillow also helped. It placed our baby at breast height for nursing so that I didn’t have to struggle with wedging pillows or blankets under my arms to position him at the right height.
Nipple Shield and Pumping
Because of the damage to my nipples, I also used a nipple shield for a few days. This was a plastic shield that went over my nipple while I was nursing our baby. This helped protect the fragile skin while it was healing. Lactation consultants told me that using a nipple shield meant that not all of my milk would get expressed while he was nursing. This meant that I needed to use a breast pump to pump after each feeding. Because our baby was typically hungry after each feeding while I was using this, I also had to feed him one to two ounces by bottle after each feeding. There were a few days where nursing him at all on the right side was causing too much nursing pain so I pumped that side all day.
By the time our baby was five weeks old, these initial breastfeeding issues were finally over and my nipples had healed enough so that nursing him no longer hurt. Those were five very rough weeks though and there were several times when I was on the verge of giving up and just feeding our baby formula. But overcoming these breastfeeding problems was worth the time and effort. I now have a wonderful breastfeeding relationship with our son.