My mom breastfed me, as well as my sister and my two brothers, so when it was my turn, to nurse my son, I figured it was going to be easy like it had been for her. Well for him and my next two babies, each time nursing started off hard but ended so sweetly that I would do it all over again.
For each baby, I began the nursing journey with yeast infections and sore nipples. If you are experiencing intense pain while you nurse, read on, you’re not alone. If you are like my mom and find it naturally easy, well, be thankful and keep reading, you might learn something new!
When I got home from the hospital with my firstborn, I noticed a sore on one nipple. I called my WIC clinic for help, but during my pregnancy, they had terminated the lactation consultant position there. I was crushed.
My husband called a lactation consultant, but she no longer took new Medicaid patients, and we live in a rural area, so our options were limited. Finally, we found out that there was a La Leche League about an hour away and one of the leaders was willing to meet with me.
Be Bold and Brave
It took courage to nurse in front of her, a stranger, watching to see how my son and I did it. There was no way to be modest and I’m a girl who feels awkward in a bikini! Thankfully, she was there to help, to problem solve, and in my case, I needed that support.
Learn and Pass It On
It turns out my son was not latching on properly (my other two babies were tongue tied) so that was the root of the problem. I learned how to position myself and my son, and in the early days, I used several pillows and a footrest for support. I also had to train him to latch on correctly, so he often had to try several times until he got it right.
Do What It Takes
Latching on correctly helped, but now at week one both nipples were extremely sore, and I was still ready to give up. That’s when the La Leche League leader said something to the effect of,
"Nursing lasts for two years or so, but it’s a tiny bit of time compared to say eighty years of your life! This investment is so good for your baby."
I took her advice, didn’t quit and instead for a couple of weeks pumped breast milk from one side and nursed on the other. The next session I switched sides to give my body a chance to heal. I wore loose shirts and frequently applied a natural cream called Lanolin. The La Leche League leader was pretty sure I had yeast infections on the nipples, and she had a suggestion for an “All Purpose Nipple Cream” that a pharmacist could make. My doctor was willing to prescribe it, and we were able to find a pharmacy that could mix it. It was amazing, it felt so cool and gave me instant relief.
Another nursing expert suggested I cut out sugar, fruit, processed grains, and instead eat more yogurt and vegetables. I was on this diet for about two months with my first born and repeated it with my other two babies, until the painful letdowns went away. This diet was a challenge to keep, but it was worth the discipline because I could feel a difference if I started eating too many sweets again.
I also took several rounds of Diflucan. I prefer not using medicines, but this did help. Thankfully there are several ways to combat yeast infections and sore nipples, so do some research!
For several months I pressed on. I focused my eyes on something, often a clock, when he first latched on, since this was usually the most painful part.
I prayed, whispered encouraging words to myself, and when I was down, I called a friend who had been through a similar experience.
Set Goals and Evaluate
I decided I would evaluate nursing at six months. It was a key moment when I realized it was getting easier and nursing for a year was a very doable goal. I enjoyed watching my baby boy finish nursing with such a satisfied and sleepy look on his face, knowing he was full of the best nutrition possible and this milk was free!
By his first birthday, I was ready to wean my son. I had reached my second goal and he was happily entering the world of baby food. To celebrate this sweet ending to a tough time I threw a party, a weaning party to be exact.
I invited family, friends, and the nursing experts who had helped so much to a milk-themed dinner party. Dessert was a special Tres Leches cake, a cake made with milk, sweetened condensed milk, and frosted with whipped cream. My husband and I picked out a charity that gives dairy goats to poor farmers, and we and our guests gave money to it in honor of our son.
I hosted two other weaning parties, much like the first one, for my other two children when they were weaned. For my second son, we served ice cream sundaes and had a few simple activities for guests. An elegant tea party with berries, cream, and meringue desserts, was what I dreamed up for my daughter.
Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t breastfeed, there are plenty of legitimate reasons why you might not be able to nurse. However, before you quit, I encourage you to call around and see if there is something you can change to make nursing work. Be brave, set a doable goal, persevere, and when you reach that goal, I hope you celebrate!
Have you heard of a weaning party? Are you going to have one? I’d love to hear if you have a weaning party and what you do for it!
Rachel is a mother of three active kids and is married to a brave man who is about to start a new career. She enjoys gardening without gloves, turning leftovers into new dishes, rearranging rooms, and when she has free time you can often find her reading.