Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Breastfeeding: Challenges and Rewards

Jelani drops me off at the Lactation Clinic a few minutes early so I hurry Ella inside to stave off the cold. We walk into a huge building that houses a few different Providence clinics and stores. Our destination is easy to find; first door to our left.
Once inside, I find myself silently criticizing the poor layout of the waiting area, where the presence of 4 other parents causes the long, narrow space to feel overcrowded. I instinctually cradle my daughters head close to my body imagining all the tiny germs floating from person to person through the hot, recycled air. Since the only 2 chairs are already occupied, I lean against the wall and begin soothing Ella, who is startled by the sound of two screaming infants in the room. This is her first time hearing the sound of another child's scream and yet, surprisingly she does not burst into tears herself. She does, however, give me her "crazy eyes"look, which nearly cracks me up. (This is where her eyes turn into little saucers and she purses her mouth into a little "o".)
I finally relax a bit once the area cleared out and I am the only parent left. I sit down and bop Ella in my arms while thinking of my sore breasts and our upcoming appointment.
Yesterday my doctor advised me to make an appointment with a Lactation Consultant, since 2 weeks have passed and I am still experiencing pain from breastfeeding.

The past few nights have been a nightmare, since that is when I am most tired and less likely to tough it out for Ella's 40 minute feedings. I have come to dread nursing- the pain, the itchy, sharp pangs of Ella's suckling. Instead of feeling closer to my daughter through her feedings, I have felt tense, fearful and at times, resentful. What should be a bonding experience has become a daily ritual of suffering. Previous to giving birth, I thoroughly researched the pro's and con's of breast milk versus formula. What I discovered about a formula-fed child and their increased chances of developing asthma, diabetes and obesity were alarming. I easily decided that there is no excuse to deprive my daughter of breastmilk and it's irreplaceable benefits. I remind myself of these benefits as I painstakingly wait for the consultant to finally appear 10 minutes after my scheduled appointment, by which time Ella has finally cried herself into hysterics.
After introducing myself, I hand Ella off to the consultant for a quick bathroom break and when I return am surprised to already hear feedback about Ella's latch.
"She's hurting my knuckle right now," the consultant says. She quickly explains that after looking under Ella's tongue, she has discovered a frenulum. "A frenulum," she says, "is a little piece of skin under her tongue that restricts movement. It interferes with her ability to cover her bottom gums, so they are rubbing onto your nipple each time she sucks. This could be the cause of your pain."
In other words, my daughter is chewing on my nipples like bubblegum. And this might be the cause of my pain? I raise an eyebrow and keep quiet.
After a few quick questions about Ella's birth and growth, we sit down to feed. I patiently listen to the consultant tell me how to latch Ella onto my breast properly, which I feel I've been doing up till this point. I follow her example anyhow and force myself to relax as Ella gnaws into my skin causing sharp pains to pierce through my breast. Needless to say, the consultant's assessment is finalized as the pain not being caused by a poor latch, but rather from her frenulum.
I ask about and learn that there is an easy procedure to fix the problem that should result in a less painful form of breastfeeding. It is considered surgery, since they will have to use scissors, but the consultant assures me that it is a nearly painless snip for the baby from which she will recover quickly.
"We just don't want you to quit breastfeeding," she says passionately.

Photo of before and after frenulum procedure:

Ella just turned 2 weeks yesterday evening and I can't believe how many setbacks and trials we have already faced. Since I have already determined to breastfeed for the first year, giving up breastfeeding and switching to formula is NOT an option. But it sure seems tempting when the natural alternative is so painful! I am happy to know that it does not have to continue as it has, but that the healthy option will soon be the bonding option too!

Medically based benefits of breastmilk:


Heaven's Eye Phtotography said...

Lavenda...I have to jump in on this one. First of all...CONGRATS!!!! She is absolutely, to die for;) I have nursed all 3 of my babies for 18 months and I have been through it all. I just had a little red flag go up when you said that it is painful and itchy. I would feel much better if you ruled out thrush (basically like a yeast infection in the mouth and it can be caused by bacteria). If the baby is chewing and you are itchy...it NEEDS to be ruled out. I would call your doc instead of the lactaction consult. Just my 2cents. Call if you want to talk...I'm an open book. K

The Guerra Family said...

I ran across your blog through Jelani. He and I worked together at Wildhorse Canyon the summer of 04. I love all your pictures and your baby girl is adorable. I can totally sympathize with you about breastfeeding. I breastfed both my babies and with my first it was painful for 3 months. You don't want that. Make sure everything is working right. I wish you the best. -Jordan Key Guerra

Ryan and Lindsey said...

Hi Lavenda!
Congrats on your new baby girl! Motherhood is such a blessing!

I wanted to tell you that my baby Dylan, now 8 weeks, had the same problem with his frenulum. Our pediatrician recommended the procedure while we were in the hospital, she said it would help his latch and prevent any possible speech problems later on. Anyway, we decided to go ahead with the "surgery" and have his frenulem snipped the day we left the hospital. The procedure lasted all of about two seconds and he didn't bleed or cry! (I did, but that was due to my raging hormones!)Breastfeeding has been going great, and is an amazing bonding experience once you get the hang of it! :)

Good luck and congrats!


p.s. I used Lansinoh nipple creme religiously in the first few weeks and it saved my life!!

jenny said...

i love the nursing picture at the top :) you are doing so good! many people in your position quit nursing but with your determination you will make it :) i had tons of pain with my second baby. i felt the same way you described, definitely not a bonding experience, i got to the point where i would pretty much shut off during nursing and then one day i realized it finally didn't hurt anymore :) you'll get there too! after my pain stopped i realized a month or two of pain was well worth a year of bonding :)good luck, i hope you heal quickly and finally get to enjoy breastfeeding like you so deserve!

Erin said...

I know exactly what you mean! With our first I was in sp much pain the few days after we got home with cracked, sore, bleeding nipples. Whe I went to my Lactation appointment when he was 5 days old, I learned that I was never taught the correct method for latching, so luckily it was a quick fix for me. I had the exact same feelings and would be crying while trying to feed and just being in so much pain!

lavenda memory said...

Thanks for all the feedback ladies. I can't believe how little we are taught about breastfeeding before being sent home with our babies! Luckily, I was blessed with a few nurses who took it upon themselves to give me some pointers before leaving the hospital. They reminded me several times that breastfeeding, if done properly, should NOT be painful. It's good to know that so many of my fellow mama's are so passionate about this subject ( :