Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Last week we went to a breastfeeding class. The instructor asked us to introduce ourselves and name a benifit and a concern we had about breastfeeding. Being at the end of a row of about 15, I figured anything I could think of would be said by then. But you know what? The only one to bring up my number one concern was a man who made the introduction instead of his wife, who was Japanese and clearly had a more limited vocabulary. "Um," he offered unsurely "well, it might hurt?"

Duh! Is no one else afraid of this?

I stopped by a friend's place the week before that, and she had just finished feeding her 4 month old daughter.

Jamie: How is the breastfeeding going?

Friend: Really well!

J: I am so nervous about it!

F: Well once you get through the begining... (don't remember exactly what she said here...)

J: It's more the pain. Labor pain? Not so worried about it. Breastfeeding? Freaks me the f*ck out.

F: It's worse.

J: (quiet)

F: Labor was the worse pain I had ever experienced or could imagine, and breastfeeding was worse.


F: BUT only for the first ten seconds you feed, for the first weeek.

J: Right. So. For one week I will just have to get through ten seconds of terrible pain 8 to 12 times a day.

F: Yes. Just take a deap breath, tap your foot and count to ten and it will be better.


  1. Jamie...granted breastfeeding hurts at first, but in no way do I think it's worse than labor pain. The thing is you really do forget how much pain you were in during labor. It's incomprehensible. And you understand that going into it. What I wasn't prepared for is how much pain I would be in after birth. Not just with breastfeeding, but I also tore. I think because I hadn't prepared myself for pain AFTER labor it just seemed like a punch in the gut.

    One thing I can recommend is Lansinoh, HPA Lanolin. Keep those puppies supple! I would even recommend using it before you deliver if you start seeing you nipples drying out a bit. Seriously, that stuff is magic cream.

  2. i know. i did figure that was part of it. (the forgetting.) also, she had an epidural so she probably didn't get to the worse of the transition pain. eep a tear! i am freaked out about the STICTHING. that seems awful.

    i guess it just freaks me out as a different kind of pain, i can see labor so easily as work you know? where as a sore nipple... well. i guess it is work, too....

  3. The least helpful thing I heard when I was trying and trying to breastfeed was, "If it hurts, you're doing it wrong." It's lucky my hands were full of baby, or someone might have gotten a punch in the face.

    It might be true, but it is neither helpful nor supportive. I ended up using a nipple shield for six months, then nursed normally and easily for another year.

    All I can say is, good luck! And find out how to contact a lactation consultant now, so if you need one later, it'll be easy to make it happen.

  4. there are many things that scare me, but the pain is definitely up there for me too. perhaps this is a little tmi, but i have a feeling i have the world's most sensitive nipples. i've always said my boobs are for looking, not touching (poor joe). i have heard about keeping them moisturized BEFORE birth (which i've been doing), so i think that is a good tip. i don't know... i think everyone's different. there are women who labor for 4 hours and then push for 20 minutes, but have the hardest time breastfeeding, and vise versa. i guess we'll just have to wait and see...

  5. OK, I'm going to let the cat out of the bag and you will all get to know how crazy we are around here (by our culture's standards). I am still breastfeeding my twins and they're, well, a LOT older than most breastfeeding kids in this country. I regularly attend La Leche League meetings and have seen sooooo many moms go through those tough beginnings.

    What I can say about the pain is that yes, there could be some initial discomfort as your nipples adjust to the new kind of stimulation. The first 6 weeks are a time of major adjustment. But if there is actual pain you ABSOLUTELY should get it checked out. An LLL Leader will help you for free or can recommend a great IBCLC in your area.

    You're right, to say "If it hurts you're doing it *wrong*" is a terribly unsupportive thing to say. But to say "If it hurts, you need to get everything checked out" is practical and realistic. It could be anything from tongue-tie to thrush to needing a tweak of positioning. But it does NOT need to hurt.

    I went through a really awful beginning because my kids were vacuum extracted which affected their suck in a major way. I GET why moms give up on breastfeeding. But there is SO much help out there and SO many things you can try and it really doesn't have to hurt. Just "accepting" pain can cause you to overlook something important that could/should be resolved.

    And that oxytocin rush is great, so it is all worth the trouble in the end :)

  6. Hi Celia,
    Been reader for a while but here is my first comment.
    The labor... yes it hurts, yes you feel it will last for ever... but the beauty is: it WONT.
    The breastfeeding part? with baby #1, it was hard, but we got a hospital quality breast pump and a lactation consultant (all cover by my insurance) and it did wonders. Booth kids survived eating/drinking breast milk only for their first six months. No colic, no fuzziness, and to the date, pretty healthy kids.
    It's a big commitment, as i went back to work after a month of both being born. But i am glad i did it.

  7. Oh don't be too afraid! I never was in labor (had a scheduled C-section) so I can't really compare, but though I had a difficult first week breastfeeding it really doesn't have to be that bad! Maybe I'm already a bit forgetful (my baby is 12 weeks old now), but I found the first few days hard because I worried if my baby got enough milk, and yes there also was some pain, but it wasn't terrible or something. Within a little while you'll get used to it and seriously, after a few weeks there's no pain at all anymore (at least in my case, it's hard to compare of course).

  8. My (honest) two cents for what it's worth: labor pain is awful. I had an epidural and it still hurt like hell (but it was a complicated situation, blah blah blah). I was also TERRIFIED of tearing. I tore a bit and didn't even notice the tearing or the stitches. By the time that all comes around you have your sweet babe in your arms and you don't give a rat's ass about any of that anymore. And it really is true that you live through it and then the pain, the trauma, everything just becomes a story that you tell.

    Post-birth was a different pain, just more aching, especially in the tummy area. I wore one of those elastic belly wraps and it helped me a lot. I kind of feel like by the time you get through labor, etc all of the other recovery pain is just something else to get through and it's not as bad as you think it will be.

    Nursing hurts like hell in the beginning even if you're doing it right. It's just getting used to it and it sucks for a little while and then after a while you won't even notice when they latch on. I referred to it as the "toe curling" feeling. Deep breaths help. Again, with support (and lots of lansinoh) you'll be fine. Get a lactation consultant to help you and don't ever feel like you can't ask for help again and again and again.

    I had some problems in the beginning and it was tough but it's so worth it. It took a few weeks and then it's a totally sweet and wonderful experience. Never thought I'd say this but I really love nursing. I thought I'd feel mostly fine about it but I actively love it.

  9. My doula told me about breastfeeding : If there is real pain, well, there is something not "normal". Get some help! Don't wait until you think that breastfeeding is more painful than childbirth!

    This made me feel much better about it.

  10. Don't assume it will hurt. Pain is not normal. Not to say that mamas are doing something wrong if they experience pain -- babies can be tongue-tied or have a heart-shaped tongue, for example. Lactation consultants are great, as is The La Leche League. Read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. Trust that you will be OK. And not just OK, but great. XOXO.

  11. Both times, the pain was definitely there, worse the second time. But exactly as what your friend said: 10 seconds at the beginning of each feeding, starting at about the third day, peeking at ten, disappearing around 14. Breastfeeding is a steep curve. Even as convinced as I am, there were some moments when I really wanted to give up... There is no answer other than to take a deep breath and take it one feeding at a time, one day at a time.

    We have to help each other, to support each other as girlfriends, to tell each other that. The way I see it, is the longer you do it (one year the first time, four months in right now, if all goes well I'll also do around one year) the better the benefits you have. My most precious memories of it were the later ones, when my son was eating solids and I felt less pressure, I was back at work and finding each other at the end of the day felt really precious. Good luck to you two.

  12. It does hurt at the beginning of each feed while you adjust. For me, after a few days, it felt like someone had been roughing me up with sandpaper. Breathing through it helps, getting scared and tensing up will not help. If it keeps hurting after about 10 - 20 seconds into the feed, then yes ask someone for help. get as much help as you can. I read everything I could about breast feeding as this was the one thing I was most concerned about, so I knew it in theory, but my man insisted that a midwife check in on almost all of my feeds while I was still in hospital and this was invaluable! Sure they would often say conflicting and occasionally unhelpful things, but overwhelmingly it helped. They taught me better holds and latches and were able to see the little unique details that was me trying to feed my baby and not me reading generally from a text book.

    And yes lanolin and super soft bras and breast pads.

  13. oh holy hell.... I'd never even CONSIDERED that it would hurt! you kind of just terrified me! :-/

    I expected the tenderness, the chapping, etc., but not pain *during.*

    I hope all these women who have commented are right!

  14. It hurts. And then all of a sudden it doesn't and it's wonderful and you've forgotten that you used to cry through feeding.

    What is a million times worse and more traumatic than it hurting is it just not working. Some babies just don't get it and they cry and you cry and it's horrible. But I figure with one baby you probably just keep going and get through it, like you do with the pain. It REALLY sucks when they cry and you cry and there's ANOTHER baby sitting right there crying because she's hungry too. Two boobs and two babies is not the logical sort of maths that it sounds like.

    Fuck, breastfeeding was stressful.

  15. Hi Jamie,

    This is such a funny story because this exact conversation took place in my prenatal breastfeeding class last week. As a seasoned breastfeeding mom, and lactation consultant, I definitely had my share of pain with breastfeeding. Yes, it may hurt....my boys did quite a number on me. However, it is all about the support you have to get you through those difficult times. Knowing who to call to help figure out why things hurt is SO important, so definitely look for a lactation consultant in your area. You may need her, you may not. Find a breastfeeding support group where there are moms you can bond with, both about breastfeeding and just being a new mom. Lastly, your greatest resource is your amazing friend that you wrote about in your blog post. Your friend overcame her breastfeeding challenges and will be your biggest booby chearleader and advocate when you need it. Hang on tight to her and you will be able to meet your personal breastfeeding goals, whatever they may be.

    Best of luck to you!

  16. The best tip that no one ever gave me until I had raging mastitis and bleeding boobies is this:
    it's quite shocking just how much of your boob needs to be in their mouth in order for them to be latched on right...to be graphic your nipple is literally in the back of their mouth ideally.

    Don't, under any circumstances, let your babe latch on to just your nipple. Tease their mouth open, use your finger to get them to open wider.

    Lansinoh ointment helps with minor sensitivity and drying/cracking in the early days, but a good latch should not at all be painful.

    This "womanly art" is not handed down from mothers to daughters anymore...most of us need help and/or instruction. Get it sooner rather than later if you need it. Being a good mama doesn't mean you need to suffer ;)

  17. I second the comments from people that for the first couple of weeks, it hurt for the first 10-20 seconds when she latched-on. I joked it felt like being attacked by a rapid beaver. If it hurts longer than that I'd definitely get checked out. Also, I slapped lanolin on after every feed and never had to deal with cracked nips. Oh and ya, they need to take a bunch of boob into their mouths: it's called breastfeeding and not nipplefeeding for a reason :)

  18. Same advice the midwife gave me right after Talia was born: if it still hurts after 10 seconds, detach and re-latch. I'm so glad he told me this since other advice says "if it hurts, the latch is wrong" which is frankly bollocks. The midwife saved me a lot of concern that I was doing it wrong.

    All I can say is get help as much as you need and as early as possible. It will be worth it.

    (And lanolin after every feed.)

  19. Just thought of this: are you familiar with initiating breastfeeding with the breast crawl?
    Supposedly, allowing baby to find its own way to the breast for the first feed creates conditions for "the perfect latch". kind of fascinating info: http://breastcrawl.org/

  20. i just wanted to thank you two for this blog! i'm not a mom but i can't wait to be one day! you have taught me so much about what to look forward to in pregnancy.