Monday, August 1, 2011

Uncommon Lessons Learned from Breastfeeding

When I was pregnant, I always planned on breastfeeding. My mom had nursed my brothers and me and was very supportive of my decision to nurse my little one. "It's easy," she assured me, "Just relax and get comfortable and the baby will know what to do."

She recently apologized. "I feel bad that I said it would be easy. I had no idea it could be so difficult!"

Despite help from my mom, nursing friends, and a lactation consultant, nursing has not come easily to me. I have had mastitis twice, innumerable plugged ducts, blisters, and over-supply issues. My breastfeeding experience has not been bad -- after all, no thrush and no difficulty producing milk -- but it has not been easy. Still, I am happy to say that Peter has never had formula. I plan on nursing him at least through age two and, if God sends us another child, will choose breastfeeding again. For next time, though, I will remember some lessons learned.

It is OK to gently unlatch him as many times as necessary in order to get a good latch. When Peter was first born, I was afraid that unlatching him would disrupt his eating and he wouldn't grow. If he latched poorly, I would just suffer through it until he was done. Within the first week, I learned that was a terrible plan!

Good latch! Hooray!

If you're nursing and suddenly have flu-like symptoms, you probably have mastitis. Thankfully, the antibiotic prescribed by my OB-GYN was very effective both times. When in doubt, ask!

Plugged ducts are best treated by heat and pressure. For particularly stubborn plugs, I've kept pressure on the breast with a hot washcloth or heating pad while Peter nurses. I've never had the duct stay blocked for more than 48 hours using that treatment.

Times like these easily outweigh the hard times.

Over-supply happens. Somehow in all my reading ahead of time, I hadn't heard of over-supply being an issue beyond when the milk first comes in. It wasn't until I put a variety of symptoms together that I realized that was the problem. Peter was routinely gulping while nursing, swallowing air that later caused painful gas. He would unlatch and relatch repeatedly during a nursing session. My breasts were frequently engorged, even weeks after my milk had come in. Peter was having green poop, which can be a sign of hindmilk imbalance.

Never remove dead skin from a milk blister. I was concerned that maybe the dead skin was still blocking the duct (which had gotten plugged again). It wasn't. The following nursing session hurt a LOT. Don't ever do that. It's dumb.

While you keep the baby hydrated,
make sure you're getting enough to drink, too!

Drink lots of water. At least for me, my ducts are more likely to get plugged when I haven't been drinking as much water. The leader at La Leche League said there couldn't be a correlation, but I'm here to tell you, there is. If you have problems with recurring plugged ducts, try increasing your water intake. Can't hurt!

Maybe if you keep these in mind when beginning to nurse, your experience will be as easy as my mom's was! If you have other tips to share, I'd love to read them.


  1. I'm not sure if I've had an over-supply but I had a quick let-down that caused us a lot of grief. I was also hesitant about unlatching my son too frequently when first born because I didn't want him to become frustrated and have a nursing strike. I was then educated by my lactation educator friend about that and everything got sorted out! Breastfeeding did not come easy for us but we persevered and now are still nursing at 14 months which is pretty awesome!

  2. I found that breastfeeding was so much easier the second time around!

    I'm impressed with the list of breastfeeding links--WOW!

    When I breastfed my first, the only help I had was the La Leche League BOOK. I had a huge milk supply too. And needed to put warm wet washcloths on to sooth and help things heal-- but we survived, got the hang of it, and it was so much easier with the later kids!

  3. @Wolfmother: So glad it worked out for you! We just passed the one year mark and going strong. :-) Keep it up!

    @Ann: Good to know there is hope for the future! And yes, I guess they weren't kidding when they called this blog hop WORLD breastfeeding week!