I remember when my second son was born and he first latched, in images capturing that beautiful moment, I’m visibly biting my lower lip out of pain. It hurt immediately for me. I didn’t know it then, but I had pregnancy-induced thrush, which is a fungal infection in the breast that hurts like heck! I had thrush with both of my sons, and it didn’t make breastfeeding any easier. Here are some other issues I dealt with, and some solutions:
- Fixating on milk supply. I had a terrible family member make some snide remark about how when you’re 40, milk supply is low. (Rude!) First of all, never visit a new mom and tell her things like that. Secondly, this family member was absolutely wrong. In fact, I was 42 when I gave birth to my second son, and my supply was upwards of 40-plus ounces a day. But I digress: it’s easy to fixate on the amount of milk you are feeding your child. Since I was pumping I could see how much I was producing, but that wasn’t always the best thing for my anxiety. So do yourself a favor and: try not to keep track!
- Thrush is a very real symptom. When I had thrush with my first son, it did not go away for most of my breastfeeding journey with him. So it was painful the entire time. It didn’t need to be that way, but the medicine I was prescribed, didn’t do much to get rid of the infection. Thrush is notoriously difficult to get rid of (and can be passed back and forth from baby to mama and to other family members) and the pain can put one off from breastfeeding entirely. With my second son, what worked and worked well, was a compound ointment that I spread on my nipples to heal and relieve the pain. If you’re feeling stabbing types of pain while breastfeeding, this might be what you’re dealing with!
- Latch issues seem to be a growing issue. My first son had a very small mouth and couldn’t latch properly. Because of this, he wasn’t pulling milk out as well as he should and it also caused me pain. If you’re dealing with this, it’s best to consult with a lactation specialist, though I’ll warn you: the person I consulted with was terrible. So if you have access to a free lactation specialist through your medical provider, go for it. They can help you discern whether it’s a latch issue, or something else.
- Deciding between pumping and breastfeeding. I was someone who did a mix of both, and eventually primarily pumping. I liked knowing how much my babies were drinking, and I couldn’t get them to stop hurting me once they grew teeth (the ouchie is real!) I managed to feed my second son for a full year and a half, so it’s entirely possible to do both. My suggestion is if you do become a sole pumper, to invest in handsfree pumping bras, a good handsfree pump, and find yourself some great TV show(s) to watch!
- Formula is not failure. I’ll be honest: I died a little death every single time I had to give either of my sons formula. But there were times when I had no choice (like the time I got mastitis and my supply plummeted). Invest in a good-quality formula at least as backup. Remember: even just one ounce of breast milk is highly beneficial.